Secret Project: The Supercollider

“God does not play dice.”

— Albert Einstein, Datalinks

This video is pretty cool. It’s a particle’s-eye view of what it’s like to be in a supercollider. The growth of the field of view to help indicate wildly increasing speed is a nice touch. And then it’s capped off with Albert Einstein’s famous declaration that God does not play dice, which was his basis for rejecting the Standard Model of quantum mechanics as it was developed in the first half of the 20th Century. The implication is that the Supercollider should be able to prove or disprove the statement once and for all.

In the game, the Supercollider is based on the Applied Relativity technology and grants a large science bonus to the base that it’s built in. The justification for this is that the history of particle physics has been marked by the ability of large, high-powered supercolliders to test theories that differ in their predictions only at very high energy states. The kind you can only get when tiny particles slam into each other at incredibly high velocities. So building a massive supercollider gets a faction more science at the cost of the substantial minerals and/or energy needed to build it.

One might argue that the benefit from this project ought to be the immediate discovery of a physics-like technology, instead. The logic would be that the Supercollider proves or disproves a key theory, enabling a rapid burst of new physics which then peters out as all the key experiments are quickly run. We’ve already seen that the game can give out technological advances as rewards, like when Unity pods contain technical data or alien artifacts, or when key technologies like Secrets of the Human Brain are discovered. And world wonders that enable technological advances have featured in other games in the closely-related Civilization series.

But that was not Reynolds’s choice. Which is another data point in favor of the interpretation of these secret projects that we’ve settled on since the Human Genome Project. The lasting importance of any given project isn’t just the immediate benefit that stems from creating it. It’s establishing the tradition that your faction is made up of the kind of people who would build such a thing. So the Supercollider might directly help with some future physics experiments. But it matters mostly because it supports a group of affiliated high-status research scientists who continue to get funding and make great progress based on the prestige that stems from having worked on the Supercollider.

Going further, we can draw another interesting conclusion. It turns out that the benefits of all these secret projects transfer ownership if the base that contains them is captured somehow. And they are lost to all factions if the base is destroyed. This is true even if the benefit that the project provides is seemingly global, like that of the Planetary Transit System. So, therefore, the key traditions or associated institutions must necessarily be localized to the base in which the project ends up.

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