Confirmation of the Higgs boson as a result of the experiments conducted on the LHC may have given some a sense that physics had reached its penultimate stage. Nothing could be further from the truth. The scientific groups behind the LHC are planning a bold initiative to break physics so they can learn more about what they don’t know. A consensus opinion that physics is settled, is asking for stagnation of the sciences and that is probably not what is expected. Another dimension to the reality of physics can be gleaned from this as well.
First, understand that physics is a first-level contributor to the other sciences. Medicine, chemistry, geology, astronomy, agriculture, and most of the engineering and technological disciplines have a reliable structure and base of knowledge due to the work of physics. A stagnant physics would inevitably show itself in the eventual restrained growth of these fields. But there is more.
Mathematics gains from physics in huge ways. That derives from some quarters of the physics realm that delve directly in a constructivist, intuitionist approach deduced into a formalist model. Such an approach allows those physicists who go about theory in this manner to potentially accelerate the confirmation of conjecture into theory that can be further examined as worthy addition to a small set of reliable laws governing function. I am not a scientist myself but study science and have a huge appreciation for what this approach means to discovery.
There lies the huge potential for LHC. It is a real, physical system. A modern tool that is a kind of constructive proof machine. As much as a software scientist has their tools to know, in real-time, if ideas in the structure of code work or not; these physicists have a tool of a more substantial variety to confirm science itself. Proofs need not remain only abstract proposals living only as non-constructive proof but can be put to the test and possibly known to be true. The model of the LHC is a model for science in general, a way to get closer to a more complete understanding of functional reality.
When I look at the LHC, and the renewal of that initiative, I see a vast project that involves participants of many kinds. The work of the machine itself is a magnet for attracting the kinds of discoveries and understanding of the elements involved in such machines. All the cabling, the communications, the power flows, the materials’ tolerances, and so on. The expertise that goes into that is instructional unto itself and is its own source of knowledge relating to those disciplines enacted to the task. Work on the machine may broaden and refine the knowledge in those fields as to principles and best practices at scale.
That is the final story. The effort that is the Large Hadron Collider has its residual effect in STEM and how that relates to the function of society. Expanded knowledge is not an end unto itself within a civilization. Properly pursued with the right motives, it can be a catalyst for the improvement of systems of various kinds. I have high optimism for their work and hope it leads to better knowledge that contributes well, directly or indirectly, to the condition of life.