Letter to the Observer

This letter was sent to the Observer on Sunday 25 September, 2011 in response to two articles that appeared in the newspaper on the same day. One was on Everest’s melting glaciers and one on the bizarre claim that neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. The letter posed the question as to which was the more important issue. The letter was not published.

Sir,

Pages 28-30 of  the Observer (25 September) contained some vital scientific observations. Suzanne Goldenberg reported on Everest’s melting glaciers whilst the reverse side of the page contained a brilliant analysis by Professor Frank Close of the claim by Cern scientists that neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light. You can relax Professor Einstein.  E still equals mc2. Probably…  The question arises: which is the more important observation?

That Everest’s glaciers are disappearing and will have gone completely in 300 years due to climate change is not really in dispute. Anyone who saw the BBC documentary which followed the route taken by Mallory and Irving up the North Face of Everest cannot have failed to notice that locations that were covered in snow and ice in 1924 were bare rock in 2010. The loss of glacier melt will have a serious effect on rivers such as the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, which in turn will have devastating consequences for the peoples of the Indian subcontinent. By contrast, what does it matter to the average Indian if Einstein’s famous 1905 formula has to be modified?

This all comes down to the relative priorities of  scientific communities world-wide. The answer of course is that both observations are of critical importance: the melting glaciers to climatologists and fast neutrinos to the nuclear physicists that operate the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.   But in their determination to plumb the intricacies of sub-atomic particles, is the world community becoming obsessed with the God particle at the expense of God’s creation? The Large Hadron Collider is the most expensive toy on God’s Earth but what will it really tell us about the world we live in? No more than going to Mars will tell us about life on earth.They are both hugely expensive and utterly pointless scientific endeavours. The answer to the future of this planet lies in the hands of those who are struggling to document the ravages of global warming, and their increasingly futile attempts to persuade politicians world-wide to actually do something about it. We need to refocus our attention on what really matters to the future of the planet and the future survival of the human race.

Yours sincerely

Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath

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