If I had a billion dollars
Updated: Aug 24, 2019
One of you asked me a good question. I spent the last hour trying to answer it.
If I had a billion dollars (and for the sake for the question I’m going to assume I have to spend it all), I would spend it on the following:
1) Nuclear physics $750 million
2) Education ~ $248 million
3) Bees ~ $1 million
4) Bruegel ~ $200,000
5) A grilled cheese sandwich
Firstly – nuclear physics – $750 million
Apart from aesthetics, my other passions include nuclear physics and environmentalism. I’m not clever enough to do a PhD in nuclear physics or astrophysics and make a difference on an individual level with research and discovery, but, as there are plenty of amazing experts out there already, I want to help them.
I remember when I got to visit Cern’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland as part of my physics A-level course, before the Higgs boson was discovered there in 2012 – it was surreal. They were doing routine maintenance and we were allowed to step into the tunnel, as the beams were switched off. It was a celestial experience that ignited an intense curiosity about the fundamental questions of our existence.
Physics in general is an endlessly fascinating subject – for example – relativity and quantum theory contradict each other. And if you plug the Standard Model into the universe, it vanishes. Isn’t that insanely curious? And the more you study it, you more you realise how little we know about our universe and everything in it.
The second reason I’m drawn to physics, as Neil deGrasse Tyson puts in: “the power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether you chose to believe in them or not. After the laws of physics, everything else is opinion”.
And the third reason why physics is the coolest (yea, I said it), is that places like Cern (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) gifts us incredible inventions as a by-product of their research. While working there Tim Berners Lee invented the internet. Currently, scientist Manjit Dosanjh is developing medical research into affordable, low-radiation imaging that will advance detection and treatment of cancer.
Currently Cern is working on the Future Circular Collider (FCC) but that’s going to cost $25 billion. I’d like to make this a reality with a contribution to this organisation, or another worthwhile cause that has the potential to use our knowledge of nuclear physics to answer fundamental questions and also, cure our humans ills, and perhaps, even save this planet from ourselves.
Secondly – education ~ $248 million
I didn’t appreciate it at the time, in fact, I resented my time at school. But now, I can with certainty say that my education gave me the best possible foundation in life to build success and happiness on. Even though I have never used calculus in my adult life, I value that my school and university years have given me discipline; focus; an open mind; and analytical and problem-solving abilities that help me every day in professional and personal circumstances. For me, the importance of education lies less in conventional syllabus cramming, and more in building self-esteem through hard work; dealing with conflict; handling criticism well; and understanding how best to express your opinions on a matter, backed up with facts.
I believe so many of our human problems arise from ignorance and a lack of constructive ways to counter it. I believe this will be a step in the right direction. Education gives your mind architecture, and hopefully, the desire to continue advancing it.
Unfortunately, a good education is often expensive, and a great one, exorbitant.
So I would like to use my (almost) quarter of a billion dollars to:
1) create a scholarship fund in the UK and USA for promising and passionate high school students (of any background) so they can afford to attend the top universities they get accepted to
2) create a fund for PhD students, professors and research fellows so they can teach those students at those universities without having to worry about paying their rent
3) create an international literacy programme for disadvantaged young people abroad
Third – bees ~ $1 million
Felix Dennis is a high-quality human. He planted 200,000 trees on 500 acers of land in England. What an outstanding thing to do. I too, would like to buy swathes of woodland in Britain and just protect it, even plant some more trees there. No one is allowed to fell my forests and no one is allowed to build houses there either. But people can come walking and birdwatching if they want to. If they litter, they are banned for life.
Somewhere, on an area of flat land, I would like to create a bee-keeping network and employ some enthusiasts to maintain the hives. They will travel all over the country with my bees, pollinating areas where they are needed. I could honestly write a separate essay about the important of bees to the environment (and us), but trust me, in sum, without bees, we’re all fucked.
Fourth – Bruegel ~ $200,000
Once in Vienna my mother told me that ‘a Bruegel painting is so atmospheric, you can almost hear it’. Art is her life. I would like to buy her an original Bruegel. Elder or Younger, she likes both. She’s given me everything she could have to ensure my safety, comfort and continuous mental evolution and I want to express my gratitude.
Fifth – if there’s any money left over; I’d like Gordon Ramsay to make me the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
Some great books on topic:
Astrophysics for people in a hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
A piece of the Sun: the quest for fusion energy by Daniel Clery
The Fusion Age: Modern Nuclear Fusion Reactors by Richard Dinan
Who Cares about Particle Physics? Making Sense of the Higgs Boson, the Large Hadron Collider and CERN by Pauline Gagnon
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein
A World Without Bees by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum
The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping by Ivor Davis and Roger Cullum-Kenyon