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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The Big Turn On: Not With A Bang

The BBC news (radio 4) had live coverage this morning of the turning on of the variously-named machine that will measure how the universe began. After the muted cheers and handclaps of the scientists (mostly, alas, men), champagne was passed around. It felt like the moon-landing, but somehow in reverse - all the fun was being had in the control room. This subterranean, coiled monster of an experiment may destroy the world, later today, or sometime soon - or instead merely explain how it was created.

In many ways, it recalls Eliot's poetry - the murder and create dichotomy is strong with science. Hopefully, our end will not, though, be in our attempt to find our beginning. It's been said, by the media, who like metaphors they can sleep with, that this is like a "cathedral", and that the search is for a "god particle" - but science, more often than not, peels back the layers where the onion god makes us cry, exposing less, not more.

What will the first things of the world be like? Meanwhile, let me suggest another sort of experiment. Take down and open an anthology of 20th century English-language poetry. Read its massive 1,000 plus pages. Tell me the mind and emotions of men and women are not engineered by souls. The spark of God is in language - poetry already curves us back to the big bang everytime it runs well, widely, true and around.
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