The news of the prizes to theorists and experimentalists are going to receive million-dollar prizes ($3M and $1M, details everywhere else -but see Peter's blog for insightful comment and discussion) are shaking the CERN experiments. While arguable (as in any case of a prize) whether they deserve the prizes for their work, nobody really ventures to discuss what they should or shouldn't do with the money. In the case of ATLAS and CMS spokespersons and past spokespersons, however, opinions vary widely.
While the current spokespersons Gianotti and Incandela have already declared that they are already thinking at ways to distribute the money to the young bright minds of their 3000-strong collaborations, I have not yet heard news of what the others are thinking of doing. In the meantime, the feelings in the collaboration go from enthusiasm for the well-deserved recognition to amazement at the narrow-minded choice to pick spokespersons (in Peter's blog somebody who really does not know what an experiment spokesperson is and what it takes to get there, argued flippantly "so why don't they give the money to the science reporters instead?").
I have my own opinion of course.
To understand where my mind is, consider. Do we need the Milner prizes in physics ? Sure, it is a very good thing that money from a philantrophist goes to fund -or make happier- scientists doing fundamental research. But I think any of us could think of better uses of those funds, while keeping them in HEP. So, the situation is: somebody throws money at you, for a good or a bad reason. You decide that the money is not dirty and it does not break any law or any ethical issue to take it, so you take it. Are you then obliged to think of ways to use them in the way that is best for your experiment ?
I think the CMS and ATLAS spokespersons have no obligation of that kind. But I will say more: I think they deserve the money, and should keep it for their own sake. 333,333 US dollars will not make them rich, but will certainly pay a few bills. It is time we realize that basic research in fundamental Physics is important for mankind, and it is paid very, very poorly. I will not compare my salary with Incandela's - he probably makes four or five times as much as I do. But still, he has risen to the top of one of the most important experiments in current science, and he is recognized as a leader by 3000 among the brightest minds in HEP. He has earned the money. And so have the other spokespersons.
My two cents - no pun intended.
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