Sunday, April 7, 2013

Good Morning Jessicca...

Letter to my Daughter
Sunday, 7 April

Jessicca's Holiday Visit

They are shutting down CERN until 2015 for repairs.  The LHC, Large Hadron Collider, is the largest and most powerful of the world’s particle accelerators.  The Higgs boson, the subatomic particle believed responsible for holding matter together, was first isolated and identified through research at CERN.  It is thought to be one of a category that includes possibly up to six different subatomic particles responsible for the formation of physical matter and the phenomenon of gravity.  The LHC is providing the most extraordinary clues to the nature of existence itself and the technology needed to provide this information has to be invented as it is employed.  Consequently equipment sometimes doesn’t work as intended.  The LHC has been operating at half its intended power because of problems in its radical design.  The facility is being shut down to rectify these issues.  Once it returns online two years from now it should have the power to further break apart subatomic matter in an effort to further determine the nature of physical existence. 

Over our heads, circling the earth, a two billion dollar experiment on the International Space Station may have detected the first tangible evidence of what is called dark matter.  The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, AMS, is a particle physics machine designed to provide scientists some indication as to the nature of this mysterious matter that makes up nearly 27% of the known universe.  Another force in the universe is termed dark energy and it accounts for over 68% of the mass/energy density of the Universe.  That means we can detect with our scientific equipment only about 5% of what is known to be physical reality.  We know something of the effect these unidentified forces have on the shape and movement of galaxies but we have yet to discover what it is they are.  It is like Mendel seeing the evidence of inherited traits in peas but not having any knowledge of molecular DNA.  It is now apparent to scientists that the Periodic Table of atoms is, in fact, only the tip of the iceberg. 

The AMS particle device took 18 years to develop.  For many of the people working on this experiment that represents a good portion of one’s career.  Watching it launch on the tip of a rocket makes for an excruciating case of nerves.  A single malfunction and years of dedication are destroyed in an instant.  It has happened before.  If the venture accomplishes its mission a very small piece of information will be added to our scientific knowledge.  Human knowledge, civilization itself, is built in small increments by individuals committed to working in a disciplined, pain-staking fashion.  Society always reflects the efforts of many lives, of individual sacrifice and ingenuity.  The best of our efforts as people, you and I, is what drives humanity forward.  Some of us work daily with test tubes, others work on cars.  Some of us gather information from books.  Some of us are fascinated by the people around us and find what it is we need to know by communicating directly with others.  Some people find meaning in paint or through expression in the written word.  Others of us are motivated to just live fully through what it is we experience in our daily lives.  We pass on to others who it is we are through the display of our character, the theater of our example as one life well-lived. 

Life isn't a carefree drive down a pleasant highway.  Were it otherwise what value would there be for having strong character traits such as humility, determination and acts of selfless devotion?  Simply enjoying ourselves is all the reward we might ever need in a life free from want.  Can one born into such a situation be considered lucky?  I doubt it.  People sheltered from adversity and handed most everything their heart desires still find ways to complicate their lives to the point of misery.  We learn from example that endless self-indulgence is a stifling bore.  We do poorly when we fail to exercise our brain, our muscles and our humanity.  The exclamation points of our lives are best served infrequently.  It’s a fact!  It gets tedious!  Nothing is special!  How hopeless it seems to always have what you want!  It drives you crazy!  You quickly see what I mean!  Help!

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