Thursday, 19 November 2009

Cloud 9

Yesterday clouds came down to earth. Morning started with great white curls of clouds stretching along the Jura mountains, following every curve, bump and cliff, like an uncanny etcha-sketch echogram. The heartbeat of a November morning at CERN written in the sky. By afternoon, the purest clouds on earth were being created, when the CLOUD experiment went live for the first time. Pure elements of air were pumped into CLOUD's chamber, driven by delicate motors and filters. And there was CLOUD itself...the container which 3 weeks ago looked like a shiney bathyscope lying on its side, now shrouded in a metallic crunchy coating and transformed into something you would encounter on a moon-landing. So much has happened so quickly, with intricate rigging lines and a portakabin turned into a control room, full of the requisite monitors to control the experiment and with a dozen scientists in attendance.

There is alot of brilliance about CLOUD. It is an experiment in which Jasper Kirkby, a leading particle physicist, is working with atmospheric chemists - a unique collaboration. There is also the fact that cloud formation - that most ethereal of creations - is being recreated down here on earth, and that the effects of cosmic rays on the cloud droplets and even ice particles will be studied too. But most of all, there is the sheer enlightenment of the CLOUD enquiry. It is an experiment which may proove that the cosmos has a role to play in climate change. For some, who have battled so hard to get climate change accepted as a human-generated catastrophe, which now politicians accept, this is unpalatable and a knowledge which they dont wish to be publicised. Last year a Scandinavian journalist had her story on CLOUD spiked because it mentioned this fact. Censorship is an emerging phenomenon in the climate change era.

What CLOUD shows is a pure drive for truth and knowledge. Even in this fractured century, in which climate change is now threatening to become a new orthodoxy which no-one should dare effect in any way, CLOUD is going for the pure ideal. It is the real deal. The truth of the matter - knowledge contained in the secrets of a droplet.

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