The Importance of Science – My Visit to CERN

When we see science in its raw state, it is mind boggling and inspiring.

The researchers who dedicate their lives to science make our world a better place. Whether they are creating new medicines or devices or they are figuring out the fundamental laws of nature, they are advancing our ability to navigate and prosper on this spherical mass (technically an oblate spheroid) we call home.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit the team at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, based in Geneva. CERN is home to physicists and engineers who are helping us understand the structure of the universe.  For those of you who know me, you know that I did not visit to discuss the latest particle accelerator and I did not add value on the fundamental laws of nature. Rather, I shared insights into how CERN can reach the next generation of scientists around the world and discussed how their work can more effectively educate and inspire the current world we live in via effective use of digital media techniques.

We all know the intellectual power of CERN in our daily lives. The most prominent example for digital leaders is the worldwide web. As CERN states on their website, “(Tim) Berners-Lee had defined the Web’s basic concepts, the URL, http and html, and he had written the first browser and server software” by Christmas, 1990. Info.cern.ch was the address of the world’s first website and web server.  And the first web page address was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html.

You may also have heard of the Large Hadron Collider, launched Sept 10, 2008, which beams protons around a 27 kilometer area to understand what gives matter its mass and to identify what the invisible 96% of the universe is made of and much more. Wow! I can barely find the big dipper on most nights.

CERN is filled with knowledge that can lead to new ideas throughout our world. CERN serves as an inspiration for young people to focus on scientific research as a career. CERN  also reminds all of us to remain humble in our views of what our world is all about, knowing that we will be learning the rest of our lives about where we live in the universe.

From my perspective, scientific researchers at CERN represent the “quiet role models” of our world.  They don’t make movies, do anything flashy or even want you to know who they are to any great degree. Their body of work is what we need to know about. The key is how to share their knowledge and struggles and authentic lives and insights with the world in a way that furthers science.  That is really the only goal.

How will the next generation of scientists decide to make this commitment?

Can we inspire a much wider group of young women to enter the field of science and start to even out the gender gap in science and technology?

How and why will our governments decide to invest more in innovation?

What can we all learn by listening and reading the work of CERN’s researchers, even if we are not scientific people ourselves?

This is why I was asked to speak to the CERN team.  They are amazing and they do a very professional job of telling their story. But just like in science, whatever the status quo is is simply not enough.

The new models…the disruptive models…the new formulas..in the case of digital, the new algorithms….they unlock how to more effectively tell the CERN story….and a more effective story is simply good for science and our world.

It was an honor to speak at CERN in the conference room named for Georges Charpak, a Nobel Prize winner (1992) in physics for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber.

I know the closest I will ever get to a Nobel prize is visiting Oslo as a tourist. But like you, we can all see “noble efforts”, which is why we can all do our part to help scientists, researchers and technologists share their insights to make our world a better place.

Thank you to everyone at CERN for your pursuit to understand the unknown.

Best, Bob

Bob Pearson
Bob Pearson
Vice Chairman & Chief Innovation Officer
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