On July 4, 2012, Atlas and cms experiments of the Large Hadron Collider (lhc) announced that they had identified the beh boson. This led to award 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics to François Englert and Peter Higgs. As I write this, LHC experiments are continuing, while it is rising in energy levels. On August 6, 2014, the space probe Rosetta joined comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, dropping a module called Philae on it, among other experiments. This mission is at present still ongoing.
What is the common point between a particle physics experiment and a space science mission? They are both long time experiments: the first articles theorising the beh boson were published in 19641F. Englert and Brout, R., 1964. Broken symmetry and the mass of gauge vector mesons, Physical Review Letters, vol 13, n° 9, pp 321 – 323. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.13.321, available on line. 2P.W. Higgs, 1964. Broken symmetries and the masses of gauge bosons, Physical Review Letters, vol 13, n° 16, pp 508 – 509. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.13.508, available on line. and the design of the lhc began in 1994. Concerning the Rosetta mission, its starting point were in 1984 with the validation of the Horizon 2000 project.
Recently, Michel Onfray is asking: ‘where are our cathedrals?’ (this link lead to a French-speaking video). In saying so, he criticises the fact that our decadent civilisation is now no more than consumerist, unable to carry out long-term projects of great ambitions. Yet, the lhc and Rosetta are examples of long time undertakings that have needed longer durations than the careers of the individuals who have carried them. These are examples of achievements that are greater than their promoters, which not only led to material constructions, but also led to progress in our understanding of the world.
If we want to focus on architectural projects, it can be noted, for example, that the competition to select the building proposition which will become the Musée du Quai Branly (a French museum) was opened in 1999, while the inauguration of the museum took place in 2006. This building is much larger than Notre-Dame de Paris and is dedicated to the cultures and history. I am not sure we should regret the fact that modern construction methods lead in achieving even more ambitious buildings than cathedrals in much less time than was necessary before …
In my view, here are at least three examples that the spirit of cathedral builders is still alive, but I could give many others. By “spirit of cathedral builders,” I mean the will to achieve ambitious projects that are greater to those who promote them. Moreover, beyond any religious belief, that major projects are no more necessarily subject to a religion or the prestige of a political power seems to me a good sign in any way.
Moreover, I consider that at least the first two examples are clearly of European successes. Without Europe, it is doubtful that a coordination of so many countries over such a long period could have been as successful, even if it could have existed. If Europe shows, as I write this, serious problems – such as in the cases of Greece or of migrants –, it would be a pity if these objective difficulties lead to throw the baby out with bath water.
|↑1||F. Englert and Brout, R., 1964. Broken symmetry and the mass of gauge vector mesons, Physical Review Letters, vol 13, n° 9, pp 321 – 323. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.13.321, available on line.|
|↑2||P.W. Higgs, 1964. Broken symmetries and the masses of gauge bosons, Physical Review Letters, vol 13, n° 16, pp 508 – 509. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.13.508, available on line.|