Europe in My Region

Physics, the fascinating branch of science, had enthralled me from the very first class in school.

This is a repost of Fascinația științei, originally published in Romanian by Monica Tonea (Facebook), and submitted to the Europe in My Region 2016 blogging competition.

I was lucky to have as my teacher a complex, humane person, unlike the rest of our teachers proved to be (maths was a nightmare for that reason), which is why I was surprised to discover that my mind was not limited – on the contrary, it was open to a whole range of new, unexpected things and completely willing to absorb them.

He managed to make us love it too. That’s how I got a general understanding of mechanical physics. I didn’t focus on it, it got complicated and rather abstract along the way and I went on to follow another path anyway. But it did open my eyes to an inaccessible world, a universe full of oppositions, with the big question being: Is there a contradiction between the spiritual world and the scientific one?

I gradually started seeing the things around me in a completely different way. I consciously guided myself towards a permanent analytical state, granting myself the right to not readily accept what’s imposed by dogmas, by normality or because “that’s the way it must be”. The unrest, the questions, the dilemmas, the doubts started coming through. What am I to believe in?! Divinity or science? Can they blend well? In principle, I believe God’s nature and His distinctive note are beyond human comprehension, the sense of divinity transcends understanding, as we define it in our daily life. This entity we most often relate to is a complex, hard-to-penetrate, and, if I may venture to say so, even unproven concept, so all I can do is look sceptically to this universal given that’s valid for most people. What’s slipping between my fingers, what I can’t comprehend…

Following some personal experiences, I have come to believe that, regardless of how the world is depicted and what its relationship with divinity may be, there is a steep unbalance between scientific explanations and religious beliefs. Yet, I’m part of the small (or large) category that can express doubts in the end: OK, we know the theory (supported and explained by theorists of astrophysics) concerning the origin of the universe, we’ve all heard of the Big Bang (the TV series too, but I’m talking about something else now), we all have some broad notion of the planets, galaxies, matter, asteroids or space. But is it possible that there may have been a supreme higher force that sparked this whole colossal, minutely detailed creation so clearly defined by the specialists? Because there’s a contrary state keeping me restless, as it’s strongly connected with the following relevant questions: What was there before? Was there anything, anyone? I don’t really know why, but I strongly believe science will be the one to find the right answer.

atlas[1]We live in a world of great discoveries, science helps us to comprehend new things every day, to find answers where there used to be only an echo. The experts’ sustained efforts are impressive, and may look bizarre to amateurs at times. Not to mention the cataclysmal vision and illogical reaction based on a group of people’s fallacies when the LHC particle collider in CERN was started in 2008.

As a result, the world was struck by fear, as I was reading the “mind-blowing news” in 2012 about the discovery of the Higgs boson (metaphorically called the “God particle”), and my only regret was that I wasn’t skilled enough to participate, even in a very small way, in the most revolutionary experiment in the world of particle physics. That was the moment I really wanted to be a fly on the wall… Panicked voices said that, once the experiment was completed, a black hole capable of swallowing our planet would be created.

I followed the evolution, anomalies, tests, experiments, and I justifiably felt I was witnessing the greatest discovery to date.

And, moving on to what this post is really about, a few days ago I was “browsing” the budgets allocated by the Commission and got to the part listing the projects it is funding or has funded lately. Those supported economic or social development in our country caught my attention. I had already heard news about the world-class physics project hosted by our country, but I hadn’t paid much attention to it, for various reasons, as I’d been busy with other things lately. But now I paid a lot of attention to it, not because my heart was pounding with patriotism, but how could you not be impressed to find out there would be some huge experiments going on in the near future, which would have a surprising effect on scientific research in nuclear physics. Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI-NP), the pan-European project receiving financial support from the European Regional Development Fund, seems to me exactly what specialists are calling it: ground-breaking!

I’ll take my chances (hoping not to bore you) and let you discover some brief facts about the project and the funding, the states involved and the institutions coordinating the project, on the dedicated web page. The technical aspects of these things escape me and I invariably end up being lost in details beyond my knowledge – and that’s why I’m not the one in charge of the family budget…

laserul[1]I wonder: is rational thought destroying our soul or elevating us to the peaks of unparalleled scientific discoveries? I wouldn’t want this to stay at theoretical level, because it would help me see more clearly what Romanians back home are thinking about this project, how lay people (i.e. from another field than the scientific or political one) reacted when they heard the world’s biggest laser would be built a few kilometres from Bucharest. Was the general reaction similar to the one when the Geneva accelerator was announced? Are the consequences perceived as catastrophic this time too? Are Romanians aware of this laborious breakthrough? In the academic world, people say this is an innovative and stimulating project that will generate hundreds of jobs, bring together experts from all over the world, and contribute to radical discoveries in the universe of physics.

As I was impatient (I admit), I ran a brief search on Mediafax to check the nation’s pulse myself a little bit, right here. As there wouldn’t be any use in my raving exhaustively before I know the general opinion, I’ll end this quoting one sentence said by the project’s technical director, Mr Răzvan Popescu, Sc.D.: “The world of science has no boundaries.” In my humble understanding, this synthesizes the whole truth, with its double meaning. “No boundaries”, as it unites researchers from across the world – borders become interchangeable – and “no boundaries”, as the discoveries generated by these experiments will be just a fragment of the absolute truth we’re all more or less pursuing.

There will always be something else hidden out there, whose meaning we’ll never cease to search for!


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