The LHC taken with philosophy

"Whether or not scientists at the LHC will find the Higgs boson, they will learn something about the secrets of Nature that will greatly advance human understanding". These are the words of Anthony Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and presenter of the forthcoming BBC series "Exchanges at the Frontier". He visited CERN to prepare for his next interview with Jim Virdee, CMS Spokesperson.

Grayling’s interview with Virdee is part of a series of events at Welcome Trust Collection in London: five of the biggest names in the world of science will discuss the social impact of their discoveries. These events will be broadcast to over 40 million people worldwide in December 2009 by the BBC World Service in the framework of the Exchanges at the Frontier series.

Grayling has been following the LHC via the media but his tour of the CMS experiment increased his philosophical awareness of the international cooperation that has enabled it be built as well as the impact it will have on society’s understanding of the nature of humanity. "CERN is the greatest adventure that science has ever had, partly because it is the greatest example of international cooperation to crack the secrets of Nature and partly because, both in theory and experimental capability, it has brought us to the very brink of knowing some things that will transform our view of the world," says Grayling who believes the LHC is an adventure of humanity that will inspire and attract people to science.

"What I’ve learnt today is about some of the technological developments, some of the advantages to computing science and engineering and some of the possible advantages for medical science, which are already of such significance that they pay back the investment that has gone into the building of CERN many times over. The knock-on benefits to the whole of science and medicine, to society at large and to the education of people in science has already made this a justified enterprise", he enthuses.

The forthcoming discussion between the two professors of philosophy and physics will be an opportunity for individuals to hear about CERN, the LHC, the international cooperation that has made it possible, how it was designed and built, what can be expected from it and the spinoffs it will have for society. Grayling wants people to see that this is something they should be paying attention to, celebrating, applauding and sharing with others.

Rebecca Leam

Watch the video interview at: