That's the question people outside of science ask: "What's in it for me?" What do I get out of science or benefit from learning it?
Ernest O. Lawrence: you may not know him. He contributed to the atomic bomb during WWII. He worked on the suspension of atomic bomb testing internationally after the war.
What you may not know is that Lawrence (in his spare time) invented the cyclotron. It's first incarnation was primitive, but it used magnets to accelerate particles versus high voltages. With it, he was instrumental in the discovery of different isotopes and now something we take for granted: antiparticles.
Some of the things we credit to particle physics and accelerators in our daily lives:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI);
- Monitoring Nuclear Non-Proliferation (something I think he'd be happy with);
- Power transmission (try playing your Wii without it!);
- Bio medicine and drug development;
- Understanding turbulence;
- Low noise amplifiers;
- Analytic tools applied in other science fields and commerce;
- Ion implantation (introducing impurities during silicon processing to fabricate a semiconductor, and thus your iPod, iPhone or iPad);
- Jobs, jobs, JOBS!
And the most important of all that makes this post possible:
- CERN scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web to give particle physicists a tool to communicate quickly and effectively with globally dispersed colleagues at universities and laboratories.
Link to: FERMILAB Science: Benefits to Society.