Today is a date in history to note for humankind and for our understanding of the universe.
Scientists at European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have announced that they believe they have found the elusive Higgs boson – the particle that elementary particles interact with to gain mass. The search began nearly 50 years ago with the invention of the mechanism for mass generation by Phil Anderson in the context of superconductivity. Its existence as a sub-atomic particle was first hypothesized by Peter Higgs.
On behalf of the Liberal Party I would like to congratulate the more than 100 Canadian researchers who have been working for many decades on this international collaboration at CERN.
While research into high energy physics certainly does not come cheaply, and we don’t always know immediately what practical uses the results of that research will have, understanding the universe we live in is an important activity that has never failed to give us tools by which we might move humanity forward and improve the lives of billions.
Canada has a tremendous history of contributing to basic research that has revolutionized the world. The most famous example is perhaps the discovery of insulin by Dr. Frederick Banting and his research assistant Charles Best working at the University of Toronto.
Sadly under Stephen Harper the Government of Canada is steadily walking away from funding basic research. For instance, the Natural Research Council has been ordered to turn away from early stage research and focus instead on direct commercial applications.
Granting councils like the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) have increasingly lost funding for basic research. Since 2006 funding for Discovery grants has fallen from $420 million to $360 million.
I’m sure that today we will all see and read many stories about the years of effort it has taken to find the Higgs boson. As we reflect on the significance of this accomplishment, I hope we take a moment to consider the thousands of basic research groups across this country. It is the curiosity and dedication of these researchers, along with funding to test their ideas, and heeding their expert advice and warnings that will help us build a healthier, more prosperous civilization for everyone.
– Ted Hsu
Liberal Science and Technology critic