4 November 2012

6 billion dollars of R&D - more than for the iPhone

Look at http://arxiv.org/year/hep-th/11 and similar pages for other years. Then look at http://arxiv.org/year/hep-ph/11 and similar pages. There are now 8000 preprints on high energy particle physics per year.

My friend, a businesswoman working in a technology company, told me that a paper can be taken to mean 1/3 of a person year of effort, on average. Which makes a total of 2700 person-years. Let me correct this downwards to 2000 and multiply by 30. That makes 60 000 person-years of effort in the past 30 years. 60 000 person-years of effort and no result at all on unification. Could a statistics be more damning about the collective failure of particle physicists?

My business friend says that one person-year of research is worth more than 100 000 $. That makes the effort of the last 30 years worth more than $ 200 million a year, or $ 6 billion! (My friend says that interests would need to be included, which would triple the amount.)

6 billions wasted. My head is spinning. These physicists have wasted 6 billions and still did not succeed! My friend tells me that the worst R&D disaster she knew was the failed development of the Airbus 350 (first generation), which cost 2 billion and led to nothing.

3 times as bad as Airbus. That is damning. But wait, she said, there is another comparison: Not even the iPhone has this much of R&D effort inside it. And there are differences: the iPhone works. Unification does not. Plus: the iPhone satisfies a need and is useful to people, whereas unification ...

Help! What is going on here? We are feeding thousands of physicists who do not succeed? Since decades? They really give particle physics a bad name. Each of them. Unbelievable, isn't it?