So, been a while…day job and family and existential dread. But I’m back…if only to point folks to a piece of mine up just now in The Boston Globe. Despite the headline, I’m not writing about current tech, nor do I argue that China has already won that race.
Rather, what’s got me going is the longer game that we’re playing — and possibly losing — in basic, curiosity-driven science. The TL:DR version of this is a quick recap of the 20th century story of the idea of government funded “useless” research that emerged in the US after scientists helped win the war with such science-derived developments as the atomic bomb, radar, and penicillin, to name the greatest hits.
I then point out that while US research funding hasn’t gone down much as a portion of GDP in recent years, others, especially China, have ramped up their investment, until now, when in absolute numbers they’re coming close to US spending, and by some measures are exceeding our effort. Add to that the tax we place on ourselves by becoming daily less hospitable to immigrants, and there’s a clear danger, ISTM, that US will cease to be at the forefront of at least some big areas of basic science.
Does this matter? Well, there’s this:
Though Nobel prizes are an imperfect measure, with 269 science wins through 2018, US-based researchers have utterly outpaced the second-place nation, Britain, with its 89 Nobels.
More importantly, money spent on basic research produces more discoveries, enhancing a nation’s soft power. US astronauts on the moon may not have affected the price of eggs, but did establish America as the most technologically culture on the planet for the next few decades.
Unexpected technological advances have also flowed from seemingly impractical pursuits. For one classic example, the polymerase chain reaction, a Nobel-winning discovery in the 80s that enables the creation of an unlimited number of copies of a stretch of DNA, is one of the basic, essential tools of the modern bioengineering industry. The key to the process was found in the 1960s, by two microbe researchers taking samples in Yellowstone’s hot springs, just to find out how bacteria could survive in the heat. Transistors, invented in the 1950s, turn on quantum theory. GPS relies on Einstein’s general theory of relativity to make the corrections needed to locate your phone to the stretch of sidewalk you’re passing. Some studies suggest that the economic return on science spending may range up to $80 for each dollar invested.
As in: science is both a cultural good and, even if the path from question to invention isn’t always obvious, an impressive driver of human wealth and well being.
The obvious outrages of Trump and the GOP fuel my daily rage. But it’s their less visible, but constant and insidious neglect and ignorant disdain for learning and inquiry that both carries me to the edge of despair, and astonishment at the reckless abandonment of one of America’s critical sources of power. It’s true that over the decades Democrats have mustered their own share disdain for taxpayer-funded science (anyone remember Proxmire), right now, we’re in an era in which Republicans have set the baseline…and it is, in its way, a surrender.
Fortunately, as I conclude in my piece, this is one folly that has an easy solution: more money. Not even all that much. It will still take time to make up ground abandoned in this know-nothing age, but it’s doable. If and only if we win in 2020.
With that…open thread.
Image: Joseph Wright of Derby, An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump, 1768.
Transistors, as we know them, were invented in the 1940s, not the 50s (although theoretical work along similar lines dates back to the 1920s).
I think we need more than money, although that would be a good start.
The phrase “curiosity-driven research” always chills me. It sounds self-indulgent and may even be part of the reason that our politicians have long been suspicious of it.
Organizationally, we are becoming less and less set up to do that kind of research. Too many kinds of research require too big an investment in large teams and elaborate equipment, both of which tend to work against both funding and the ability to switch direction rapidly, which is often the case in innovation.
We also value setting up money-making, share-selling companies far above figuring something out to make sense of something we don’t understand. They can go together, but we can see which side of things gets the most credit. And money.
That said, I think there is another side to things. I find much of particle physics pointless. Yes, we don’t know which of it will be The One Breakthrough That Tells Us The Secrets Of The Universe. At this point, though, it looks like there is no grand unifying theory of everything. Maybe this whole way of looking at things is just looking for the glory of Being The Guy (yes) Who Figured It All Out.
I have no objection to folks trying to unify gravity and quantum theory, but perhaps they should take a vow of hermitage and live in the woods until they have something that can be tested experimentally.
But yes, more money is not a bad idea, particularly since very little is needed in comparison to our weapons of war.
Tom, forgive me for twisting this thread O/T immediately, but I am not sure you’ve seen updates on efg’s memorial, from yesterday and the day before:
It sounds like this also points out how indescribably ludicrous the case against climate change is. “See, these scientists have gotten all scientists around the world to sound a scary, fake, alarm, because of the temptation of *this* pot of money, and you should believe me, in spite of my temptation by this luxury liner filled with money (and the one beside it, too – we couldn’t find pots big enough).)
Mike in NC
But Mike Pence says we’re going back to the moon in five years. Surely pious, creationist Mike has a high opinion of science.
@NotMax: argh. Knew that, brain bubbled, and then missed it onfact check. Will fix here when I get to my computer, and have asked the Globe to do the same.
This is part of the awful anti-intellectualism that has taken hold of the Republican Party and, truth be told, much of America. I cannot fathom the contempt for educated people, scientists, professionals I see every day.
So, it comes as no surprise that the Book of Faces ban on Nazi’s on Faceberg and Instagram is fake.
“Facebook Says White Nationalist Video Doesn’t Break New Policy Against White Nationalism
HuffPost showed the company a racist, fear-mongering video by Faith Goldy. Not a problem, a spokesperson said.”
Given how much efg matters to this community, I can’t imagine a jackal seriously objecting to these reminders. And if anyone does object, fuckem.
I liked this Texas Observer article on the election of 28-year old Colombian immigrant, Lina Hidalgo as Harris County, Texas judge last November. She’s a Stanford graduate who left a joint master’s program in public policy and law at Harvard & NYU to run against the 69-year old Republican incumbent and won.
Well said, my friend. Well said.
ETA: There is a little piece of me that would love to send an outsized wreath with a 6-inch-wide ribbon emblazoned “FUCKEM” in 4-inch-high gilded letters. Not sure the Episcopal priest would approve, although I may be doing him/her a terrible injustice.
“Saudi Arabia has launched a fresh round of arrests of activists and critics, many of them supporters of jailed civil rights campaigners, in an apparent rebuff to mounting international pressure over its treatment of dissidents.
Eight people, including two US-Saudi citizens, were detained on Thursday in the first such sweep of perceived critics of the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, since the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.”
“France has won the support of Spain and Belgium after signalling its readiness for a no-deal Brexit on 12 April if there are no significant new British proposals, according to a note of an EU27 meeting seen by the Guardian.
The diplomatic cable reveals that the French ambassador secured the support of Spanish and Belgian colleagues in arguing that there should only be, at most, a short article 50 extension to avoid an instant financial crisis, saying: “We could probably extend for a couple of weeks to prepare ourselves in the markets.”
The chances of Theresa May’s proposal of an extension to 30 June succeeding appeared slim as France’s position in the private diplomatic meeting was echoed by an official statement.”
Mike in NC
@FelonyGovt: They’re considered elitist snobs with fancy-ass college degrees. Pretty soon anybody who owns a pair of dress shoes will be called elitist.
The atomic bomb came out of basic research by Europeans mainly, the Curies, Fermi, the Bohrs, Einstein and Rutherford and others. Penicillin was famously discovered and categorised as an antibiotic by the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming in London. Radar was turned from a scientific curiosity to a working method of detecting objects at distance by another Scot, Watson-Watt in the UK (with a little help during the war from a certain Arthur C. Clarke).
There is only so much studying of climate change that will yield a dividend. At some point you have to apply what we have learned.
I get a little tired of nature documentaries that show scientists studying yet another species in decline, and habitat threatened. The armies of graduate students and professors documenting in ever more detail our threatened environment.
In some fields, research spending is an alternative to action. More study needed. Sort of like blogging instead of phone banking.
well, i guess for me is the issue that so many advances in science also would come from garage scientists, people simply curious and testing out a theory and trying to find a way to prove that something works in a certain fashion (or not), i.e. inventors of things trying out new applications of science getting new products or finding a new way of doing things… I could be wrong but I don;t see as much of that these days because of the gears of capitalism
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Climate denialism sucks. That is all.
Well, I’m a would-be medical researcher that was forced out of the profession because, after training 15 years, I watched the NIH hand over the dwindling supply of grant money to M.D.s who knew nothing about research because… they had money and we didn’t. The trickle-up theory taken to its logical conclusion in the sciences.
In the meantime, every non-academic job had hundreds to thousands of applicants, every tenure-track job tens of thousands. In that kind of environment, the only ones that actually succeed are the superstars and those with the best social connections (i.e.; the rich). The rest of us were used, abused (sometimes for over a decade) and cast aside without a thought when we no longer wanted to play the mark to their con.
I’m what science is in the U.S. now. Discarded.
I disagree. Since when does science research hinder action on issues raised by scientific findings? [Added: And what scientific interest is served by hindering such action?] I think that you need the continued research to help decide what actions to take and to judge the efficacy of those actions. And that the political forces that hinder action on, say, pollution or biological diversity come from economic interests outside science.
The smart people have been sold as the enemy of the common people by conservatives who didn’t want to pay, well for anything actually, but especially for stuff that they didn’t think they could make any money off of, like education and undirected research. And how could they make money off of something they didn’t understand after the title of the article in their local
newspaperfishwrap? And if their kids need an education, they pay for that, but other kids? They might grow up with some sense and not purchase the products that they don’t actually have any use for.
@piratedan: I Would say that there is less basic science to be discovered. There are few garage/barn science discoveries that didn’t turn out to have already been discovered several times over in history. Today we have a large body of archived and searchable peer-reviewed research. Several times a year I come up with a great new idea in my field, and then find where it already exists and is either being applied, or was supplanted by something even better. 40 years ago I’d have been a visionary.
@Jay: Ahhh, the US and Britain, flushing ourselves down the commode. Seems apropos of the thread.
I’m not sure what madness has gripped us (abetted by bad actors like Putin), but as I’ve commented since 2016, the end of the “American century” wasn’t gonna be pretty. I’m still sort of surprised by how fast the slide is, tho.
@piratedan: they went the way of the popular mechanics, shade tree car repair, voc ed, shoe repair shops, furniture makers, kids who waste time reading comics or at the movies and had a bit of time that wasn’t owed to someone else. . . .
Subaru Diane’s suggestion for a wreath with efg’s signature line is so wonderful to just imagine! Golf clap.
My father was a research chemist – organic chemistry – “One word, plastics!” My uncles designed the space suits and the Lunar and Mars Explorers. They were excited about science and discouraged by the anti-science trends in the GOP and business groups. They knew how important pure research was to the vitality of America.
Saint Ronnie and radical libertarian$ horrified my family.
I am the same flavor of Luddite. And it’s all so freaking EXPENSIVE!!! No sooner have we built one when along comes yet another underground 2-mile diameter accelerator. On another continent, because the Europeans can’t be outdone by the Texans and the Chinese can’t be outdone by the Europeans.*
* from memory and probably inaccurate. No physicists were harmed while making this comment. I think.
@Amir Khalid: Systems like the climate indeed need continued monitoring, but that has few basic research questions in there. We are a bit anemic when it comes to research on climate intervention. There is some. Those papers are take a lot of time to get over the finish line. Most climate research spending is doing yet more detailed measurement and prediction.
re: radar, yup. See, for example, the Tizard mission.
I grew up as a science dork. My dad is a research scientist dependent on federal grants for his livelihood. So it’s really painful for me to say, but… we don’t need government funded science. It’s expensive and the money is better spent on more immediate needs, like poverty reduction and guillotines.
Canadian Scientists discover this year that Canada is warming at twice the rate projected.
Researchers studing rare frogs discovered a mate for a male believed to be the last of his species.
Researchers studying Transient Orca predation on seals in California spotted and identified the Salish Sea’s L Pod of Orca’s off the California. For the first time in recorded history, they are migrating out of the Salish Sea and going over 1500 miles south in search of Chinook Salmon, because Orca’s are starving in the Salish Sea.
It’s up to the Government and Societies to enact effective change, and with out constant measuring, research and studies by Science, we won’t know if what we enact, is effective.
This quote reminds me of my own private cartoon history of the ambitions of MIT students from the time when I was an undergrad (’68 to ’72) to now.
When I was in school, the hot career path involved getting into med school. A few years later, when I worked in the admissions office, it was computers; we could have filled a class of admitted students with kids who wanted to major in Course 6 (to use the local lingo). A couple of decades after that, when one of my offspring was an undergrad, it was finance. Now, based on my impression from spending a lot of time in Cambridge, and from hearing stories from parents of current/recent students, the big deal is … start-ups.
The characteristics that people who have won the prize need to be cultivated in all areas of STEM–apart from having a high level of effective “intelligence”–not necessarily seen in standardized testing–prize winners also:
–look for solutions to difficult problems,
–have a creative/independent/flexible approach to thinking and doing,
–have tons of energy,
–are open to new experience.
And so on. I suspect most Nobel Prize winners love their work regardless of whether or not they win (not so sure in this “you’re a star” age, but still). And they are working with other people who are pretty much like them so the Nobel is a team effort–with a great PI.
That’s where science education that focuses on bringing greater diversity to science and research will matter–because I also suspect most Nobel winners were not impoverished, with all the psychological constraints poverty carries. You really need to be confident to work at that high a level.
When I was a lowly chem grad TA (I also didn’t have a lot of confidence), I noticed that students who struggled needed more time to explore the classic concepts in chem and learn that they could master them. It took time on my part (I was happy to do this), but those students who wanted to learn did learn, and were proud of themselves, and felt more committed to their goals in science.
STEM needs to make the ‘wealthy student/great school’ experience available to all students.
What is the experiment in the painting?
@Jay: I already granted that continued monitoring is necessary. There are not zero new discoveries about the climate and the environment to be made. I said there are few.
The problem with using federal funding for climate science is that the scientists taking federal funding are often required to not be political advocates. Scientists taking federal funds usually end up self-censoring. The people the understand the most about our peril are required to take a detached non-partisan stance when they contribute to reports, or testify. In effect, our funding picks up the brightest and puts them in the “lets keep studying things” camp. It is just easier.
Again, this isn’t across the board.
When you don’t have the politics to do actual basic research you don’t have them. We don’t have that. As well there are now other countries that believe in basic research and we have a monied class that is selfish in the extreme, seemingly unconcerned about anything in the future. Add in the evangelicals who think that everything they need to know is based upon religious tomes rather than any science whatsoever, the gun toters who think that projectile guns solve every problem that comes within range, and the bigots who would rather eat that sparrow off that curtain rod as long as a POC gets nothing and we have a serious problem finding the education and money for basic research into anything.
@NotMax: And they were invented by researchers at Bell Labs without any public funds, bankrolled by monopoly rents, which somewhat cuts against the thesis of this discussion.
We do have MSR nowadays, but they’re pretty much the only ones doing anything similar in the private sector, at least that I’m aware of.
I’ve been wishing I knew how to do old fashioned needlepoint. Fuckem in flowery script surrounded by flowers and such would be a fun combination.
Villago Delenda Est
Short term profit and instant gratification of greed drive so much of American polity right now.
Many heads need to roll to reverse this trend. We can start with Pence; his demands that NASA put a man on the moon again in five years is a perfect example of the utter stupidity of fundigelical, dominionist “Chrstianity”.
@Mike in NC:
I’ve heard it said that for Democrats, elites are people with enough money to influence public policy to their benefit.
While for Republicans, elites are people who know stuff.
@Cheryl Rofer: I’m not sure I understand your beef with particle physics. My understanding is that if funding for science is premised on the certainty of success, you will not have research that is ‘free’ with respect to ends (or unconstrained by goals established in advance). You will instead have modest-scale science that does not push the bounds of what we already know. A friend of mine is working on a book on the value of scientific failures–those things that didn’t pan out but led to incredible breakthroughs. Think of how valuable Hilbert’s effort to establish a grand unified theory of mathematics was, even though it failed.
The cost of doing experimental science is great but so too are the rewards. As far as I know, science funding still has among the highest returns on investment. I do think, though, that Congress may want to revisit the Bayh-Dole Act. It was meant to increase innovation by allowing scientists to apply for patents on discoveries made in publicly funded research. Times have changed. I’m not sure we need the incentive to privatize…if anything, we need the opposite.
Finally home, so I’m sitting down to season 2 of The Tick. I’ve been looking forward to this approximately 10 seconds after the credits for the s1 finale ended. Dot! Ms. Lint. F’n OVERKILL!
What was that sort of boring movie where Ethan Hawke played a man who was born into a “genetically inferior” family and therefore had to follow an elaborate regime of vacuuming up all his DNA, buying blood for the blood sticks that were the new security card so he could work an office job instead of hauling garbage? We are creating that world except with money. Upward mobility is a thing of the past. It’s all about how much money your family of birth has.
You’re not discarded here. I’m always very happy when I see your nym.
@Ruckus: I think many of those issues are more distinct. Spending on basic research and the quality of education are not very related, it turns out.
As a fraction of GDP, the US is one of the biggest spenders on research. Now, this is somewhat funny bookkeeping, but the result holds up across most ways of measuring it. We also spend the least at the federal level on public education. I would say public education spending is a better bet against rising anti-intellectualism.
So that’s your GUT feeling?
Federal Scientists don’t self censor, they are censored.
CDC, FDA, EPA, USFS, etc.
Years ago I could have done that, I think. At this point, my eyes are probably too shot to commit to a nice petit-point “FUCKEM!” tapestry. But it is a beautiful and pious thought.
Will this do as a facsimile?
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Liberal bias! Checkmate, libturd. QED! /s
Thanks for linking this
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??:
The Harper Regime in Canada gagged Science as well, so I am aware of the action.
“Vaccines and immunisation
‘Sentencing their dog to death’: how the anti-vax movement spread to pets
There has been a spike in people refusing to vaccinate pets against deadly diseases, including some that can infect humans.”
Oh my goodness. I just went in search of needlepoint sweats and discovered that Dame Judy Dench’s motto is fuckem fuckem fuckem about critics and she does needlepoint swears as gifts for cast mates.
@MomSense: That’s a very sweet thing to say.
The actual movie was called GATTACA – meant to resemble a strand of DNA. Those that were genetically manufactured in vitro were the new übermenschen; those that were born out of a random coupling the new üntermenschen. The protagonist was borrowing the blood, hair, and urine of a superstar swimmer that was permanently paralyzed in an accident, so the two formed a sort of symbiosis. The protagonist didn’t just want an office job. He wanted to be on a manned mission to Saturn, something no “natural” would get within 10 miles of. In the end, the rocketry director sussed out the protagonist, but let him board the rocket anyway, in quiet defiance of the system.
If there were a single rational government, NGO, or corporation on earth, there would be a hell of a lot more R&D in carbon dioxide mitigation than there is at present. At times I am very relieved that I don’t have children.
@JanieM: course six is back again. That’s why we’re starting up a whole new college of computing.
@Jay: It is a mixture of official censoring, and their own maintaining a safety buffer from the strict rules. The latter can often be a more pronounced effect than the latter.
The basic problem is that carbon capture doesn’t work.
And of course, we passed the point of no return a few years ago, so now the natural carbon sinks and methane sinks that were sinks for millions of years, are now taps.
Funny thing is the RSSA discovered that the fact that climate change was happening and was human caused by burning fossil fuels, was discovered in 1910.
@Jay: Yes, we have more and more accurately described the basic problem that was clearly defined more than a century ago. Let’s study it some more! Maybe the 20,000 time we find a new way to quantify AGW will change everyone’s mind.
But there is a lot of applied science that is making a dent into the problem. XCel in Colorado just signed up a solar power provider contract that has hit $0.02/kWH. That is less than every other power source. Year over year battery improvements have now made batteries a better peak power regulator than power plants. If these trends continue then we have a chance of ending the use of fossil fuels and leaving the rest in the ground (which is the only carbon capture that works…not removing it in the first place)
Remind me of that when you are dieing of samonella.
Scientists tend towards conservative findings in their studies because:
– releated results, preferably by different teams are required for confirmation of the findings,
– claiming you found evidence of cold fusion in a glass of cold water tends to blow up your reputation and career,
– 45% of ‘Mercins think scientists are witches and should be burned at the stake, and 99% of the Kakistocracy that runs all sectors of the US will gladly call them witches and have them burned at the stake if their science in any way, effects their looting.
The Pale Scot
I think it’s more to do with all the easy, low hanging fruit having already been picked.
Rutherford proved the existence of the nucleus with what would be 5Gs today, now to explore the Nano Space we need billions.
I think materials science is the most important field today. Any more deep science projects are going to rely on exotic materials not yet created.
@Tom Levenson: That’s interesting, and maybe encouraging? “Start-up” as an ambition is so, shall I say, content-free?
I made a conscious decision to pay less attention in the aftermath of Aaron Swartz’s death, so I haven’t been keeping up.
As I pointed out, we knew about Global Warming a long time ago. “We” did less than nothing,
The recent Canadian Climate Change Report notes that Global Warming is happening twice as fast as projected.
Trudeau still wants to export billions of tons of tar sands to China and India while doing less than nothing about Global Warming.
It is through continual research, studies and data, that we can tell if the changes made are effective, it makes no difference if you are mass producing a nail, or trying to mitigate Global Warming.
@tobie: As part of the Bayh-Dole experience, you generally are supposed to at least disclose all your possible inventions regardless of whether you want to or not. No more internets.
Also, NSF funding has become much more about innovation rather than curiosity driven science over the 25 years I have been a researcher. Basically, Congress wants achievements more on the time scale of their elections, which doesn’t play well with curiosity without a direct innovation path. Innovation-based research makes some sense for the mission driven funders like DoD and NASA, but not really for NSF
It’s not really encouraging.
“Start Up” means coming up with an idea that appeals to Venture Capitalists.
A few weeks ago I linked to a study that shows that by the time Private Corporations go Public, 99% of the growth and profit has already been tapped out.
”Start up’s” are code for “get rich quick schemes”, and sadly a comment on the accrual of wealth by the Kaikistocracy.
@Jay: Did you read what I wrote? You seem to be disagreeing with me while making my point all over again.
I didn’t say that start-ups were encouraging. I took Tom’s statement about Course 6 (EE and computer science) to mean that something with some actual content was coming back into its own in place of get-rich schemes, and *that* is what I thought might be encouraging.
@billcinsd: Didn’t Jonas Salk refuse a patent for the polio vaccine on the grounds that it belonged to everybody? It would be a shame if Dole-Bayh made it impossible to be altruistic in that vein any longer.
I’ve heard complaints from a lot of scientists that everything has to be applied to get funding these days. Whole fields will dry up because they’re not a priority for NSF or NIH funding, and we will be worse off for it. Sigh.
@Mike in NC: Depending on how exactly one defines dress shoes, I have five to ten pairs.
Back on topic: A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with a client who is doing a post-doc studying mold. She noted that, in order to get federal grant money, she needed to indicate some money-making or life-saving possibilities that could come from her research. She actually is interested in studying her type of mold because she finds it interesting.
“@Tom Levenson: That’s interesting, and maybe encouraging? “Start-up” as an ambition is so, shall I say, content-free?”
That was unclear to me,
@Tom Levenson: The Course 6 shift, that’s interesting, and maybe encouraging? “Start-up” as an ambition is so, shall I say, content-free?
Talking past each other on the web,
Sorry about that.
$1 buck for the insulin patent, but the Pharma Bro’s have figured out hown to loot that too.
@tobie: I’m not looking for “success” in particle physics. I don’t even know what that would be. I just don’t see that splitting quarks down into still smaller pieces is going to do much for what it’s going to cost. There doesn’t even seem to be a way through to put together all the pieces they’ve got now. Maybe the problem is that everyone is looking for a Grand Unified Theory and the reality is that it’s a bunch of scraps and pieces .
In “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” Robert Pirsig suggests that sometimes we just have to quiet our minds and live with what we’ve got. I think particle physics would profit from something like that now.
@Cheryl Rofer: Dog knows that particle physics is far, far from my wheelhouse, but isn’t there a certain George Mallory-esque “Because it’s there” aspect to this kind of thing?
DARPA (formerly ARPA) just had its 60th anniversary last year, along with the 50th anniversary of the creation of the ARPAnet.
ARPA funded its net, and the subsequent development of the internet protocols; they also funded the research that became GPS. They probably did a few other things, too (like a lot of AI research and a lot of research into all things computer).
On a budget of $3 billion or less a year (even in constant dollars).
So, total over 60 years: $180 billion (that’s kind of a lot). But just the taxes paid by people whose jobs are made possible by the Internet and GPS pay for that each year.
ARPA’s early history gave a fair amount of flexibility to its researchers. More recently they’ve been more focused on short-term movement of research into application (I’m not sure that change has been for the better, in terms of long-term results).
I suppose you could argue that what DARPA paid for was engineering, not basic science.
As to the “they’re all doing start-ups” — some of those start-ups are really ways to find venture capitalists to fund some fairly basic research, at least in biotech.
@debbie: The dove is in a bell jar from which the air is being removed. Not an experiment as much as a somewhat cruel demonstration that something invisible and barely perceptible as air can be very important.
@Tom, @JanieM — the college of computing isn’t really Course 6, is it? It’s more computing as a lubricant for all disciplines, I think?
A big chunk of particle physics isn’t the search for new particles, it’s a search for how particles move and interact.
That’s not the Science at Six infotainment, but it is where most of the money goes.
The applied aspects of this research usually happens a decade or two down the road and it applies to genetics, new materials, faster computing, even new energy.
@dm: I took Tom’s comment to follow on my 9:18 — “we could have filled a class of admitted students with kids who wanted to major in Course 6” — and to suggest that computing is regaining popularity again after sidetracks into (as I saw it) finance and “start-ups.”
I’m sure Tom can say more, but it looks like Course 6/EECS is going to be subsumed under the new college. There’s a lot of bureaucracy-speak at the link. Brings back memories. ;-)
@Jay: With due respect: Since their conversation was clear to me, I assume it was to each other. I don’t think ‘talking past each other’ applies here, if you meant you and her. It’s closer to what you first said — you didn’t understand their conversation. I could be misunderstanding you now, but it read as though you thought you needed to explain start ups to her? Instead of rereading or asking a question to better understand. There’s a lot of that going around, and if I’m wrong I apologize.
Lot’s of times, we have one on one converations, with added free for alls and non-responses.
I read JanieM’s reply to Tom as saying that “Start ups” was encouraging, where she meant that the shift from start ups to Section 6 ( which she didn’t include) was encouraging.
The joy of communicating on the web in short form.
It’s all good now.
Yes. I’m not opposed to research that seems pointless, although my personal inclination is otherwise. There’s also, as with Mallory, a macho flavor to that which I find inhospitable. The biggest problem with particle physics is that it has gotten very, very expensive at the same time it seems to be finding more it doesn’t know than putting things together.
@Jay: Particle physics needs very badly to understand how the particles interact. It’s not making a lot of progress there. I defy you to name anything applied that has come out of the last three decades of particle physics. That’s not fully an argument against, but it does lead to questions about the cost.
@Aleta: Thanks. :-)
(P.S. From the kitten conversation….I take it you’re in Maine? Maybe we should instigate a Maine meet-up sometime.)
@Cheryl Rofer: Everyone who missed out on a big effect that came out of basic research had that same thought about not seeing anything come out of it, so I guess you’re in good company. Innovation-based research has a lot to answer for, too. Most people don’t actually need a new phone every six months
MMPT regulation of solar panels came out of the TRIUMPH Particle Accelerator. MMPT regulation increases solar output from panels by 30%.
Microprecise acuator control via digital networks and PC based graphic controls and mapping also came out of TRIUMPH. That lead to Computer Controlled Industrial Automation in less than 15 years.
The Californian Partical accelerator greatly improved and contributed to fiber opticdata systems and broke the 2squared rules on data chips.
The East Coast one lead to graphine.
I’m most familiar with the TRIUMPH offshoots because I spent 20 years working for a Tech Company, ( one of 35) that were spinnoffs from either building TRIUMPH, running TRIUMPH, TRIUMPH discoveries, or all three. The hard glass touchpad on your laptop, kindle, ipad and laptop are all offshoots of TRIUMPH research.
The other path to development in YVR was satellite research and manufacturing.
@Jay: I’m not up to date, but here’s my understanding. Much of the big money is directed at looking for new particles. There’s something called the standard model. I don’t understand the standard model, but what it does is predict the existence of certain things. The standard model doesn’t tell you the mass of the predicted particle. (I think it might tell you a range or something else.) So they’re smashing things together, looking to see these predicted particles. They have to use a lot of energy (since a lot of mass). (Expensive.) So right now they’re trying to confirm the standard model by finding the predicted particles.
At the same time they’re always hoping to find something new. IOW hoping to break the standard model, and hoping something new will crop up.
And I could be wrong here, but so far, I believe, they haven’t really found anything that breaks the standard model, with the exception of dark matter.
If you look it up you might find something different, and I’d love to know. Don’t go by what I’m saying. But that’s how I think the search for new particles is going on, expensively, without so far giving huge return in discoveries. Other people here like Cheryl understand it better than I do.
@JanieM: I forgot you were in Maine too. It would be fun to meet you.
@Jay: Thanks. I think that these things (many of which I wasn’t aware of) come out of making the accelerator work, rather than from the discoveries it has made? There are several I can’t tell whether that’s the case. The side spinoffs are always a question – would they have been found in other ways? Hard to say. It’s like computing power being driven by nuclear weapons research, which was the case for many years, but no longer. Now it’s climate research that is the driver.
Yeah (this is more to moops), models still need a lot of work, and models need to be accurate to guide our actions. For instance, how accurate is this new model, which suggests that we lose stratocumulous clouds at 1200 ppm CO2, or equivalent (e.g. large methane releases from arctic permafrost and submerged permafrost, and/or methane clathrates)
At High Enough CO2 Levels, Clouds Will Start to Physically Break Apart (JOEL ACHENBACH, 26 FEB 2019)
Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming (Open, Tapio Schneider, Colleen M. Kaul & Kyle G. Pressel 25 February 2019)
And that +8K(==+8C == 14.4F, in addition to the basic +3-4K(C) basic warming) is baked in (pun intended) until CO2(equivalent) levels drop to around 300ppm, which would take a very long time.
Kinda important to know this, to know where the methane is coming from (e.g. would be nice to see a large scale sampling grid that measured C12/C14 ratios in methane, to get a clue how much is fossil carbon and where) the trends, etc. We don’t want to go there, even if it means geoengineering.
And yes, we should also be quadrupling or more applied research, development to make non-carbon energy cheaper, more reliable (storage, high voltage DC distribution, etc), etc. And effective industrial policies to break out of carbon lock-in. A carbon tax increasing rapidly over time could help pay for it. If you do the actuarial arithmetic, a reasonable lowball cost of carbon per human life saved (3d world life, at $125000 per (pdf)) would be about $500 per ton. (I have notes on such a computation I did, if anyone is interested.)
@Jay: I understood your misreading. Just not why you replied that way, as though (in my reading or mis-reading) you assumed she was wrong or misinformed rather than you. (The misreading and the joining in are normal here. No problem with that.)
What you see in media and science journals is not what most of the research is focused on. The teams looking for the Next Big Thing get all the press, they teams looking to micro define photon wave lenghts in translucent matter, get no press.
The latter guys came up with MMPT regulation which microaligns multiple solar panels input for maximum output, (30% improvement).
The Teams looking to develop and prove a Unified Field Theory, or see beyond the edge of the Universe, get all the press.
The Team that’s throwing lithium atoms to supersonic speed and then splatting them to make a better battery, get no respect.
Dr. Karl Brockhouse discovered Capacitance Resistence through TRIUMPH studies on copper ions. That’s why your touchscreen works and isn’t a malliable plastic overlay ontop of a sintered grid, working off of differential currents that can be damaged with a sharp object or wears out in months.
It’s hard to say if things would have been discovered otherwise.
All I know is that my 20 years of Tech in one Company, came out of TRIUMPH, and kept going back to TRIUMPH for research for years, and for several decades, the Recruiter’s Tech Question was TRIUMPH or Glenaire?
( Glenaire were the satellite boys)
I initially understood her comment to be “Yea! Start Ups!!!!!!!”
That’s not an uncommon sentiment, you know.
Late to dead thread and have not read comments, but two points worth considering if not addressed by others:
1. Having taught university students of virtually all nationalities over 18 years, I suspect that the percentage of innovative critical thinkers among Chinese students is quite a bit smaller than those who come from less authoritarian countries. (At least for now, and perhaps for a long time to come).
2. The possible bigger longterm threat to critical (and often disruptive) thinking in academia isn’t perhaps funding availability as much as the “business-ification” of large research universities and the resulting types of research that are favored and green-lighted, as well as the type of faculty that are recruited and rewarded.
Combine THIS phenomenon with limited funding and the recipe for disaster becomes even greater.
@Bill Arnold: I’m all in favor of better research that guides policy. Part of political paralysis is the impression that remedies are not quantifiable, and therefore we need to await…yet more study before we take bold action.
We’ve known for some time now what is destroying our planet, endangering our well being at every scale. Over population. From the grandest scales of global warming, to the medium scales of habitat loss and cratering wildlife populations, to regional biodiversity loss, resource depletion, pollution, social unrest. At it’s root overpopulation provides the necessary conditions for capitalism to drive income inequality to devastating levels that are a threat to democracy. Even the base levels of xenophobic proclivities in any population are mostly manageable and not subject to exploitation when population levels are low enough to provide enclaves where some can seek isolation. Huge racial and nationalistic forces were safety valved away from Europe with the discovery of the New World.
But we don’t know how to solve this problem. No species has ever had to consciously restrain their population. We delay the reckoning with technology.
@ArchTeryx: In a lot of ways current academic science looks like a pyramid scheme that is collapsing. I think that it is a bad idea to put significantly more money into it before carefully evaluating what structural changes are needed.
Probably a dead, thread, but what the heck.
You keep repeating the fact that you misread what I wrote, and then making excuses that suggest that it’s my fault, all the way to (in your first reaction) rewriting my sentence for me.
What does “it’s not an uncommon sentiment” have to do with it?
“Yea! Startups!” may not be an uncommon sentiment, but from my very first comment in this thread it should have been clear that I did not share it — indeed, was making fun of it. (And it was clear to Aleta, so I’m not imagining things.) I said “cheers” to you after your first semi-not-really-an-apology, because it is rare for people to say “sorry about that” on the internet, and I didn’t want to descend into a spitting match. But you seem to be in capable of stopping at “I misread what she wrote.” Why don’t you stop digging?
@Aleta: I’ve got some travel coming up that would make scheduling complicated, but at some point I’ll get one of the front-pagers to send you my email address and maybe we can have a Maine get-together.