The MINOS Far Detector
by Adam Robbert
“MINOS” is short for “Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search.” It is a large-scale particle physics experiment involving the apparatus you see in the first picture below. Wikipedia explains for us in short detail that: “the far detector has a mass of 5.4 kt. It is located in the Soudan mine in Northern Minnesota at a depth of 716 meters. The far detector has been fully operational since summer 2003, and has been taking cosmic ray and atmospheric neutrino data since early in its construction.”
Now, I’d like to think that my science literacy is of a reasonable level, but certainly nothing on par with the expertise it would require to actually evaluate the experimental data being generated by the MINOS detector. Thankfully my interest in this particular device lies elsewhere (you can see it exhibited quite clearly on the right wall of the picture of above). Its a painting by Joseph Giannetti designed to symbolize the scientific research happening at the Soudan Mine.
I couldn’t help but comment on the curious reality that, for at least the last 19,000 years (and surely for much longer), human beings have been taking to the treacherous depths of caves to translate their visions of the cosmos into visual form. Take the Caves at Lascaux for instance (pictured below). The images on the cave walls depict a variety of things: animals, humans, geometric shapes, and what appear to be astronomical charts of various constellations.
These paintings date back to 17,000 BCE. Are we still on the same mythic-scientific search to situate the human in relation to other beings and to the cosmos? It seems that way. As part of my recent devotion to the work of Alphonso Lingis I will leave you with a quote by the good professor on the subject of myth:
A myth is not simply the way a particular community organizes the environment into a meaningful pattern. It is not simply a map of the environment using more concrete symbols than those used in modern economics, sociology, political science, history, biology, physics, and astronomy. Myths are also visions, visions of visionaries and seers. Visions are not just just overarching conceptual frameworks; they are visualizations… The visionaries and seers do not simply map out symbolically and consecrate the established economy and politics of a community; they present another world (The First Person Singular, p. 107).
In order for a social re-orientation to occur, human beings need not just the relevant data collected by the sophisticated apparatus of a global technoscience, but also, and just as importantly, they need a vision with which to orient themselves. Climate science is a sheer testimony of this: we have all the data we need, but no one seems to be able to respond because the cosmological shift required to understand the entity called “climate change” cannot be coupled with the average subjectivity of industrialized humans. Here’s to envisioning a new story.