In the whole gamut of comments regarding the Higgs boson, there is a depressingly large number decrying the efforts of the ATLAS and CMS collaborations. Why? Because a lot of people think the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a yawning waste of time and money, an investment that serves mankind no practical purpose.
Well, here and here are some cases in point that demonstrate the practical good that the LHC has made possible in the material sciences. Another big area of application is in medical diagnostics: making the point is one article about hunting for the origin of Alzheimer’s, and another about the very similar technology used in particle accelerators and medical imaging devices, meteorology, VLSI, large-scale networking, cryogenics, and X-ray spectroscopy.
Moving on to more germane applications: arXiv has reams of papers that discuss the deployment of
- Advanced pixel-planar sensors (today used commonly in retina displays, DSLRs, high-speed motion sensors, and video camera tubes) for the ATLAS detector for during the HL-LHC years,
- Geometric scaling techniques applicable in construction and modeling,
- Magnetic spectrometers that are used by NASA to investigate the nature of dark matter,
- Resistive-plate chambers that are used in rapid data-tracking and analysis,
- High-luminosity electron-proton colliders that further our understanding of the proton’s structure and open gateways to advanced materials engineering,
- Gamma-ray tracking/measurement devices whose results could be used to find out our real place in the universe, whether there are other inhabitable planets or new sources of energy/revenue,
… amongst others.
The LHC, above all else, is the brainchild of the European Centre for Nuclear Research, popularly known as CERN. These guys invented the notion of the internet, developed the first touch-screen devices, and pioneered the earliest high-energy medical imaging techniques.
With experiments like those being conducted at the LHC, it’s easy to forget every other development in such laboratories apart from the discovery of much-celebrated particles. All the applications I’ve linked to in this post were conceived by scientists working with the LHC, if only to argue that everyone, the man whose tax money pays for these giant labs to the man who uses the money to work in the labs, is mindful of practical concerns.