what do we learn when experiments, like those at cern, are taped to be broadcast (like the documentary ‘particle’)? scientists get even more nervous than they might performing in a lab in front of only their colleagues. they feel as if they are being observed to closely (they should talk to performers: theatre, music, sport, academics(?). attention, cameras, and audience affect their science (again, should we say the same about synchronous and asynchronous online classes?). they want to do experiments once or twice, test runs, to practice before anyone watches them. understandable. but should that happen?
scientists are increasingly connected on scales transcending campus, country, culture, language, and paradigm. yet, many of these scientists will hear about first discoveries/results on twitter or facebook. and why is that bad in the sense that otherwise they might have had to wait for in-depth blog posts or, much longer, journal articles. the ‘data’ coming in, so heralded, lauded and fawned over, comes in very fast. so fast individuals and teams cannot understand–nor even would they have a chance to ‘observe’ it by looking at the recorded data in anything like what we would now consider a ‘reasonable’ amount of time (years, perhaps, not weeks or months). and algorithms to interpret the data are born. but the algorithms are a collection of current ideas. do the programs change themselves, adapting, without human intervention? human intervention would require reanalysis of the data. something no one likely wants when so much more information keeps coming in from new experiments.
and what is all the data about, actually? the scientists talk of nature being revealed: nature revealing itself. confirming, again, what i would consider a bane of much modern philosophy: the subject-object dichotomy. many scientists have a realism forged through faith: that there is a real explanation, if only we become subtle and attentive enough to listen. that there are laws governing, confining, reassuringly buttressing us, an edge to lean upon. belief. desire for a regularity yet hoping for more to discover and explain. test tube buccaneers. particle pirates. because they need rules/boundaries to push against. something to take from the unsuspecting.
the scientists would have to become media savvy. many likely don’t want that. so what? does it make the more social and outgoing of their number into better scientists? because they are exposed to more scientists from different cultures and groups? we could go into the idea that pluriculture is not just preferable, but actually the reality. that multiple cultures do not just exist independently of each other. the pluriculture, where separate cultures interact with each other, weaving technologies, ideas, religions, economic schemes, values, etc.
the cern experiment itself is fascinating in its social scope–countries, languages, cultures, values, paradigms, ethics. how much are they interacting? how much are they collaborating? how much should they be? is it only the data that are uniting them? without the experiment, would they not talk?
i wonder if there are more technologies at work on the project than there are people. likely so. yet humans made ways to integrate them (sometimes at least), enable them to perform seamlessly. from the size of a building to smaller than an eye can see, and then into a different plane–programming and computational–that is hidden (black-boxed and made opaque) from vision in a way that may, perhaps, mimic the microchip.
wild. sometimes things just align. just saw this article and line from Dr. Ben Goldacre:
“The world of public science is changing fast. Anyone can engage with the public, and this presents new challenges, but huge opportunities. There is now a vast army of nerds who are popularising science online and in pubs, theatres, cafes and more. They are often able to do pop science better than the big names of mainstream media. I look forward to working with the BSA to give this nerd army the respect, support, and love it deserves.”