Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Beer Price Of Colliders

£5bn rap video

Amid all the media excitement about Big Bang Day, we've been trying to pin down precisely what it's all costing British taxpayers. It's not easy.

The official website of the Large Hadron Collider says:

"How much does the LHC cost and who pays?

The direct total LHC project cost is £2.6bn, made up of:
the collider (£2.1bn),
the detectors (£575m).

The total cost is shared mainly by CERN's 20
Member States, with significant contributions from the six observer nations.

UK’s direct contribution to the LHC is £34m per year, or less
than the cost of a pint of beer per adult in the UK per year

The UK pays £70m per year as our annual subscription to CERN

Just a pint of beer a year, huh?

First off, they must mean some fancy premium beer, because as BOM readers will know, our usual tipple retails at just 28.4p a pint. And one of those per adult head only amounts to around £14m. Whereas they say we're paying £34m pa.

And what's that £70m pa sub to CERN (who run the Collider)? Is that in addition to the £34m? And how much have we paid overall? The collider has been under construction for several years in a 27 km tunnel originally dug for the Large Electron-Positron Collider (a Doctor Who episode produced in 1973). How much did we pay for that?

Unsurprisingly, other estimates of the Collider costs are somewhat higher than £2.6bn total quoted on the official UK site. In 2006, Physics Today put the total cost at $6.6bn (£3.75bn), and other estimates run up over £5bn.

Moreover, the cost seems to have put CERN into huge debt. And which joint and several partners do you think will be paying that off? Hmm?

Now OK, Tyler isn't a physicist, and can't feel the excitement of that bearded prof from central casting who tried to explain the Higgs Boson God Particle on Newsnight. But he's not at all convinced us we want to pay for his toys.

Sure, it's possible this may produce something that will yield untold benefits to humankind at some unspecified point in the future. But so might loads of things. Nobody knows - even the man in the wheelchair wasn't able to be any more specific this morning.

But never mind the money, when they throw that switch, what chance we pay that other price in terms of human existence?

Nah. Beer's not only cheaper, but a whole lot safer.

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