We take so many things for granted.
We flick the switch and the light comes on.
All the hard work of discovering how to transmit electricity efficiently was done by Nikola Tesla, a scientist regarded by many as the father of the 20th century. Despite over 300 patents and many discoveries - including those to do with radio and wireless communications - Tesla died a poor man.
But we still flick the switch - and the lights come on.
Another flick of another switch
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) has built a "Large Hadron Collider" - a 27-kilometer circular tube which is 50 meters to 175 meters under the ground, traversing the French and Swiss borders.
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The Collider was launched on September 10, when scientists circled a beam of protons in a clockwise direction at the speed of light. That was followed by a counterclockwise beam.
Scientists, note the news articles, were able to make the counterclockwise beam make several hundred orbits.
The Large Hadron Collider is designed to collide the protons in the beams so that they shatter and reveal more about the makeup of matter and the universe.
On the evening of September 11, the scientists were apparently just learning how to control the bunch of protons into a tight bunch - ready for colliding with the original beam fired in the clockwise direction - when the cooling systems failed.
They had to shut down the effort.
The flicked the switch to the off position.
But to replace the transformer was easy - they had an extra one above ground.
They flicked the switch on.
But on September 19th there was another snag: at least one of the 1,700 magnets that power the particles as they swirl around the Collider began to overheat. The scientists call this a "quench".
Some say there was an explosion as the overheated wires in the magnets came into contact with helium.
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ScienceNOW news has the following statement: "As I always try to explain, it's certainly not just hitting a button and the thing goes," Peter Jenni (the spokesperson for the 2,500 researchers) says.
Mr Jenni has an ally in Ms. Judy Jackson, spokesperson for the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, USA. Ms. Jackson recalls that when that lab started its Tevatron Collider in the early 1980s, "it was quenches to the left, quenches to the right."
CERN officials hope to have a better appraisal of the damage and any potential delays on Monday, September 22nd.
A global pastime? Flicking switches has become a global pastime.
The whiz-kids of finance seem to have indulged in it the most.
When consumers in USA wanted money to go shopping, the financial geniuses on Wall Street flicked a switch.
They had black boxes that allowed them to give loans to people who did not deserve any loans.
To ensure that their misdeeds went unnoticed, the financial geniuses flicked another switch - this one connected to the so-called credit rating agencies. The rating agencies, in their hunger for fees they earned from those they rate, happily indulged in what is now being seen as a criminal act of rating junk paper as good quality paper.
With junk being disguised as high quality, the rating agencies allowed the investment banks to dupe investors all over the world by packaging and selling ticking time-bombs in the garb of a solid Swiss-made quartz watch - reliable and accurate.
Nearly as reliable as the Large Hadron Collider.
The sound of flicking switches got louder and louder.
Consumers were borrowing, the banks were lending, the investment banks were selling, the rating agencies were lying, and the clink-ka-shing sound of money went round the world in a tizzy.
The protons in the Collider are still trying to chase the speed with which money moved.
The Collider has been created to prove the existence of Higgs boson, explains
Wikipedia. There is this one elementary particle which has no mass but when put together in to matter can have mass. Physics is obsessed with proving the existence of this elementary entity: we need proof. So governments have spent USD 7 billion on the Large Hadron Collider.
Yet, the flicking of the financial switches has done something which the Collider has yet to do: the financial switches proved that you can create many millions out of nothing.
For the favoured few.
For those willing to work with - and work for - companies with no ethics and no principles. The switch of ethics has long been flicked off.
Higgs boson - as the oversized bonuses of the Harry, Peter, and Pauls working for the
Wall Street firms has proven - exists.
And now the central bankers of the world are in "flick-the-switch" mode.
To save the financial world.
Someone needs to clean the helium gas explosions.
When Bear Stearns failed, the Fed stepped in - and flicked a switch.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - a big switch got flicked there.
AIG, another switch.
When the world stock markets took a beating - a very large switch.
USD 247 billion worth of fire-power to calm the markets.
Raw money colliding with fear. So far, raw money has won.
India may be short in power, but we have a lot of switches we can still use.
We should shut down the P-Notes: flick that switch to "off" mode. Permanently.
We should allow individuals to invest up to Rs 5 lakh every year in mutual funds and stocks under a Section 80 C umbrella. Encourage savings to move to financial instruments.
We should allow the Indian pension funds to invest their money into the stock markets. (And no cheating by giving this pool of money to a favoured few fund managers who may not even be good at their work!)
Yes, it is "flick-the-switch" time, for sure.
Turn off the bad music and turn on the bright lights.
Let's wake up to reality.
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Note: Ajit Dayal, the author is a Director in Quantum Information Services Private Limited and Quantum Asset Management Company Private Limited. Views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author and may not be regarded as views of the Quantum Mutual Fund or Quantum Asset Management Company Private Limited or Quantum Information Services Private Limited.
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