“the largest art project ever built”

Physics & pilgrimage (with its archetypal motley gathering of individuals), science & the sublime:

The L.H.C. is the largest machine and, after the Manhattan Project, the most elaborate scientific enterprise of all time, but it’s also, to my postmodern eyes, the largest art project ever built, as well as a quasi-religious undertaking. All sorts of people make pilgrimages to the L.H.C. simply in order to be awestruck, the way they visit Stonehenge or Machu Picchu or the pyramids. On one of the days I toured the L.H.C., I was joined by the art collector Francesca von Habsburg and her 12-year-old son, Archduke Ferdinand; the Icelandic pop musician Einar Örn Benediktsson, formerly of the Sugarcubes; and ex–Sex Pistol Glen Matlock. A quarter-century in the making, the L.H.C. is a 21st-century cathedral of science, where thousands of passionately devoted, hardworking physicists—monks by any other name—have gathered to experience epiphany and revelation, and continue writing Genesis 2.0. (Kurt Andersen, Vanity Fair)

Alvin Weinberg said as much back in 1961:

When history looks at the 20th century, she will see science and technology as its theme; she will find in the monuments of Big Science – the huge rockets, the high-energy accelerators, the high-flux research reactors – symbols of our time just as surely as she finds in Notre Dame a symbol of the Middle Ages. (‘Impact of large-scale science on the United States’)


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