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Why Isn't the US Government Funding Research?

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the we-got-all-the-science-we-need dept.

The Almighty Buck 599

thesandbender writes "The recent post about GM opening its own battery research facility led me to wonder why the US government is pouring billions into buying companies instead of heavily funding useful research. You can give $10 billion to a company to squander or you can invest $10 billion into a battery research and just give the findings to the whole of the US industry for free. From a historical standpoint, the US government has little experience with commercial enterprise ... but has an amazing record for driving innovation. The Manhattan Project and the Apollo moon missions are two of the pinnacles of 20th century scientific achievement, yet it seems to me that this drive died in the '70s and that's when the US started its slow decline. To be true to the 'Ask Slashdot' theme, what practical research do you think the US government should embark upon to get the most return for its citizens and the world?"

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fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289281)

n/t

easy (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289289)

WITH JEWS YOU LOSE

only at the holocaust museum (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289645)

everywhere else they run the place

Fixed (5, Funny)

Serilleous (1400333) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289293)

From a historical standpoint, the US government has little experience with commercial enterprise... but has an amazing record for driving innovation during war-time.

obviously we need to get on the ball and invade china.

That's Obvious (4, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289299)

The Manhattan Project and the Apollo Moon missions are two of the pinnacles of the 20th century scientific achievement

So, extrapolating from those two points, we just need a big, old-fashioned war. (hot or cold, as desired)

Re:That's Obvious (3, Insightful)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289411)

War certainly has driven a great deal of innovation.

But I think the question is why doesn't the government fund research outside of war? I know people didn't like McCain but he did want to fund research and offer reewards for things like new battery technology. Why doesn't Obama?

Re:That's Obvious (1, Troll)

squiggly12 (1298191) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289503)

I know people didn't like McCain but he did want to fund research and offer reewards for things like new battery technology.

Citation please.

Re:That's Obvious (4, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289563)

But I think the question is why doesn't the government fund research outside of war?

Because it's pretty easy to get people to agree to spend the necessary money, if it might save their, or their children's, lives. And, there's really no other situation where that threat is quite as real, as during war.

Global warming might end up killing us all, but that's a diffuse and abstract concept. The guy pointing nuclear missiles at your city, or launching mortars at your kid is much more concrete.

Re:That's Obvious (2, Funny)

SB5 (165464) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289419)

Another part of the puzzle is the war must be against another superpower. Fighting non-superpowers has gotten has really nowhere, 'Nam, Iraq, and the South.

Re:That's Obvious (3, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289493)

Another part of the puzzle is the war must be against another superpower.

Of course. It has got to be a real fight to the finish. No one fights harder, or is more inventive, than when their back's against the wall. It's not like we're in any danger of Vietnam or Iraq coming over here, and kicking our ass.

Re:That's Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289427)

Good old USA...Hot and cold running wars. And drinkable from the tap too! Just add sugar, and maybe a little caffeine for that extra punch. You have yet to see a minute's peace and quiet through your entire history. You've been on the attack since day one.

Re:That's Obvious (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289759)

You mean since we were drawn into World War I

Re:That's Obvious (2, Funny)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289447)

So, extrapolating from those two points, we just need a big, old-fashioned war.

It worked for DS9 and Voyager...

Re:That's Obvious (2, Insightful)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289449)

well outside maybe the 1920's, I can't think of a particular time America has been at peace for 10+ years.

not that it's good or bad, just how it is... I'd say we have such internal peace cause we've always had external conflicts, not unlike Britain or Rome's rise and fall.

-maybe we will beat the fall somehow
--someone's gotta be the first

Re:That's Obvious (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289457)

eh, I'm not big on violent solutions as the end result can be horrible dictators, but I can't say that with the way the US is going that I don't expect a revolution or civil war in the next 10-20 years.

Re:That's Obvious (1)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289495)

... but I can't say that with the way the US is going that I don't expect a revolution or civil war in the next 10-20 years.

Ah, but can you say that you do expect a revolution or civil war within 2 decades?

Re:That's Obvious (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289581)

I'd bet on it.

Re:That's Obvious (1)

Starlon (1492461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289757)

Well, maybe, but it all ends Dec 2012 anyways, so what's with the plans?

Re:That's Obvious (2, Insightful)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289519)

War on Terror, War on Drugs, War on x+1.

What was that again?

Re:That's Obvious (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289629)

War on Terror, War on Drugs, War on x+1.

I specifically said, "we just need a big, old-fashioned war". We haven't had one of those since the end of the Cold War, and before that, WWII. To muster those kinds of resources, you need an enemy who can motivate everyone.

Re:That's Obvious (1)

perryizgr8 (1370173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289693)

like china, maybe. together with north korea.

Re:That's Obvious (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289709)

Yeah, China would fit the bill (with or without North Korea). Now that would be a war.

Re:That's Obvious (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289549)

It's true that warfare or the threat of warfare accelerates progress, but the cost is too great. I would rather have technology go a little bit slower in an economically competitive, peaceful environment, than have it go fast at the expense of billions of lives and the destruction of environment/society.

Re:That's Obvious (4, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289653)

The Manhattan Project and the Apollo Moon missions are two of the pinnacles of the 20th century scientific achievement

So, extrapolating from those two points, we just need a big, old-fashioned war. (hot or cold, as desired)

Just to keep the noise down on the other continents, could you maybe make it a civil war this time? Or maybe something with Canada and/or Mexico... Thanks!

Re:That's Obvious (1)

popeyethesailorman (735746) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289689)

Top #1 - thermo nuke fusion for clean, free electrical energy. Not cold fusion, but real tokamak magnetic bottle or big laser inertial confinement reported here recently. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe while the fossil fuels are running out. We'll never be able to support ourselves in the manner to which we'd like to become accustomed (much less lift most of humanity off the planet when the sun burns out) without an abundant energy supply. Shorter term, we'll be driving rechargeable cars (plug-in) and warming our homes on the waste heat of our personal datacenters.

Robot overlords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289311)

The government could be investing billions of dollars into robotics research. This will reduce our reliance on human troops and enslave us all to the robot overlords.

SEX ROBOTS!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289325)

AND Robot Zombies, and zombies for jesus.

Answer (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289313)

We ran out of German scientists =/

Diseases/nano (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289317)

We have to overcome diseases of all kinds, because that is the first step to immortality. The clearest path to this is through nanotechnology, because if we can deal with problems like cancer and infections on a molecular scale, we stand a much better chance of defeating them.

Re:Diseases/nano (1)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289529)

We have to overcome diseases of all kinds, because that is the first step to immortality.

Way to go man like there aren't enough people 'round even with built-in obsolensence! Anyway, if you live forever, how can you hope to get to heaven. ;)

Corporate research doesn't want to compete (4, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289319)

Raw research properly conducted on unexplored issues always discovers something. Either the experiment worked or it did not, and either way, something was learned. It always pays dividends - if not in new products and methods, in the avoidance of the repetition of failed experiments. This doesn't help the profits of the corporations that fund the election of political tools. That's progress. Progress is not the government's goal. The purposes of government are to ensure its persistence and toward that goal to deplete the surplus productivity so as to eliminate a surfeit of leisure. An excess of leisure is an invitation to insurrection.

TFS is correct that the US government forgot these things for a while, but they've remembered them since.

But... to answer the question: the big and the small. The fast and the slow. The literal, the virtual and the speculative. Most importantly, how to get offsite backup on the human genome. If we don't do that then nothing else matters.

Re:Corporate research doesn't want to compete (1)

Sir_Dill (218371) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289605)

This is an interesting point and reminds me of a conversation I had recently.

If not off site backup, we as a species need to get some planetary redundancy and figure out how to truly exist outside earth.

I think that we are destined to lose this planet, in fact I think its essential for us as a species to learn that harsh lesson.

Perhaps that's how it works, we either make it through or we don't. If we don't then wait a few million years....something else will popup.

Re:Corporate research doesn't want to compete (1)

Hangin10 (704729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289707)

Like say, Red Giantness? We're going to vaporize; it's only going to take 4.5 billion years to happen. We NEED to leave (at some point), because it's going to happen.

A lot of other things can happen before then, making it essentially, we need to leave NOW.

And damnit, I want to be beamed up.

One word... (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289323)

fembots.

Re:One word... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289509)

Yeah, I want one with three boobs.

morons in charge (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289329)

The house just passed a bill that is being advertised to encourage cleaner vehicles.

The requirement:

Trade in your 18MPG car (SUV) for a 20MPG car (SUV), ...and you get $3500.

Yes, 20MPG. The Model T got 20MPG, 100 years ago.

What exactly is the point of that?
Fill up the landfills with trade-in SUV's?
Help liquidate big auto's supply of bad vehicles.

Transfer money from taxpayers to well paying/donating companies.

Re:morons in charge (2, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289401)

Model T also had what, like 20 horsepower?

Now we can get 20MPG out of what, like 200 horsepower on something that weighs 2000 pounds more, is safer both to drive and less likely to kill pedestrians if it hits them (yes, they are engineered to be less pedestrian-fatal), start in cold weather, and generally run hundreds of thousands of miles. So remind me, where's the comparison here?

Oh, right. Back to reality. Research pays for itself more than investing in corporations. However, corporations have our society by the balls, so what is to be expected? In short, we have given corporations too much rights. We need to be investing in ourselves aka research.

Fusion (1)

DiSKiLLeR (17651) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289337)

Hot Fusion, not Cold Fusion that is.

We need to solve the world's energy problems, and as much as we all love green solar and wind its never going to scale to the levels needed to power the entire world like Fusion would.

Its simple.... (1, Interesting)

ZosX (517789) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289341)

The government exists to pave roads, protect the borders, pick up the trash (at least in my city), and maintain parks. Public water is a good idea too. Everything else is a waste of good tax payer dollars. The more dollars that are in your pocket the more you can spend on things that drive innovation. There is surely a market for long lasting batteries, and as in the case of GM, companies have been investing heavily in new technologies. How is getting some public governmental research entity started going to be remotely cost effective and efficient, because we all know that government departments are the model of efficiency? Oh, and do you just start from scratch? I mean there are scores of next generation batteries being worked on right now, with a lot of inroads being built behind closed doors. It doesn't really make sense to just start with nothing and try to compete with that. This is also market manipulation. A public domain battery concept would ultimately undermine any company's investment in battery research and development. Doesn't the government own GM anyways now? I mean, look at it this way, your tax dollars are already going to battery research.

At least the new cameros look sweet. There might be some hope left for good old gm....

Re:Its simple.... (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289365)

How is getting some public governmental research entity started going to be remotely cost effective and efficient

Of course you're right. Government research is always so wasteful and inefficient. Remember that DARPAnet thing? What a dumb idea! Fortunately, it sank like every inefficient government research program inevtably will, and we can now discuss the glories of the Invisible Hand here on free-market forums such as Compuserve, Prodigy, and GEnie.

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289393)

A public domain battery concept would ultimately undermine any company's investment in battery research and development. Doesn't the government own GM anyways now?

Yes... you appear to contradict yourself. The government 'owning' GM has exactly the undermining effect that you're talking about but without the benefits of making the research available to everyone. Public research programs would beat public bailouts hands down.

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289395)

What about fire departments, hospitals, police, and electricity? I would say that pretty much anything that a person "NEEDS" on a day to day basis should be government owned, and available to all at no cost. I would put police, fire, and health services above roads, personally. You need the first three to ensure a decent quality of life. Roads ensure a decent standard of living by encouraging trade. Which is where the submitter was going with funding research. It will help boost the standard of living by inventing new technology for the public.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289501)

available to all at no cost

Of course, you mean "available to all at someone else's cost," since nothing is free.

anything that a person "NEEDS" on a day to day basis should be government owned

So the government should own all food production, and all of the housing that we all live in?

Roads ensure a decent standard of living by encouraging trade. Which is where the submitter was going with funding research. It will help boost the standard of living by inventing new technology for the public.

Roads are not the same as basic research that may or may not go anywhere. Roads are a service, and are also central to security/defense (actual, real roles for the government). Basic research - with all of its dead ends - is not a service (like roads). Rather, it's a gamble. And it's better to let private sector companies with something at stake figure out early on whether an avenue of research is going to bear fruit. Government and academic programs are primarily interested in preserving themselves, not in the results.

Re:Its simple.... (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289641)

I think your forgetting the differences between state and local governments and the federal US government. Post roads is explicitly place under the domain of the US federal government where Fire and police services aren't. In fact, there are special rules that need to be followed before a US marshal or FBI agent gains legal jurisdiction over a violation of law.

All of this is spelled out in the constitution in which is outlines what the Federal government can do. The constitution wasn't designed to limit the government, it was designed to specifically empower it with the remaining duties being left to the state or the people respectively. The bill of rights and amendments either limit the government in obvious ways or change how some constitutional authority operates.

What is left is operated by the states or local governments and it would entirely depend on their constitution and laws to weather they are capable of doing something like that or not.

To further expand on this, the government has a duty to not waste the money it imposes the obligation for on the people. It would be just as risky of a bet for any government to tax the people and take the tax money to the horse track. This obligation is no different then you becoming the executor of an estate or trust when someone else is the receiver and having to be prudent in the investments or risk not only jail time but having to repay any losses in the process.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289643)

Of course, you mean "available to all at someone else's cost," since nothing is free.

Indeed. Same as any public service. I don't know where you were going with that?

So the government should own all food production, and all of the housing that we all live in?

Don't they already sort of do that? We pay property taxes, we pay for business licenses, and the government places a lot of restrictions on what sort of food you can or can't sell, as well as the quality of the housing that exists. Regardless, you the government does provide food for the extremely poor, and housing isn't a strict requirement, although the government usually tries to make sure that most people have a place to stay, through social programs such as Welfare and Employment Insurance.

Roads are not the same as basic research that may or may not go anywhere.

Yes, that's very true. It's an established fact at this point that roads are beneficial to society. The Romans proved that rather well. But in the Roman's time, it was a new and innovative idea. And like you say, the government was merely serving itself at the time, by providing pathways for the military, much like DARPA was serving itself when it invented DARPANet. That doesn't mean that all technologies need to be developed that way. There have been many government/university sponsored research projects that have become very important to society.

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289745)

I would put police, fire, and health services above roads, personally. You need the first three to ensure a decent quality of life.

Roads also let the fire and police services get to those who need them. And roads allow those who need health services get to those who provide health services.

Or did you expect to have everyone walk cross country?

*Red Foreman voice* Dumbass!

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289417)

I hate all the bitching about socialism this socialism that....hell, I bet if there were no such things as libraries and someone proposed the idea today you'd call that socialism. No? Really? Well, think about what libraries are: a system whereby the government buys a bunch of books and made them available for temporary loan to peple so that the poor can have equal access to the written word as do the rich...Rush would be all over condemning that shit!

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289627)

I hate all the bitching about socialism this socialism that....hell, I bet if there were no such things as libraries and someone proposed the idea today you'd call that socialism. No?

Yeah, well government funded libraries are socialism. If you can't see the threat public libraries pose to freedom you have clearly not been sufficiently indoctrinated into the Libertarian World View.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289683)

Most libraries except for the library of congress is funded by bond, grant, and private donation, rather then the government. This is where the people collectively decide to fund it by vote and not the government.

In early days, libraries were all funded privately, then when that started drying up, bond issues and grants backed by bonds were placed on the ballots in order to fund them. It is still true to this day with the exception of a few places and is certainly true in my county. This differs from socialism in that the people themselves provided the funding rather then the government owning the libraries and finding them. Very few libraries are actually owned by the governments. They are usually a trust in their own and the government has a share in it in order to allow certain laws to apply.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289705)

That has to be one of the oddest and most ill-informed rants ever. The modern public library system in the US was built by Andrew Carnegie with his own money, a philanthropic enterprise. Government attempts prior to Carnegie's private effort were spotty and somewhat less than wildly successful. It is maintained with public money today, but at least in the US the public library system was famously built by massive private investment. Carnegie built something like 2500 libraries, no small number.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289421)

I don't think the idea is to fund new federal government agencies to do research, but maybe to fund it at the university level.

Re:Its simple.... (0)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289545)

I don't know why you are marked as Flamebait. What you said is technically true and it's about time people started realizing the truth. The US federal government has absolutely no constitutional authority to own private enterprise and it has used the same stretches of constitutional authorization that allows welfare to exist to take over GM and Amtrak and other business bailouts.

At best, congress can build and/or provide for "needful buildings" but there a demonstration of need has to be made as in it's necessity of the survival or operation of the country. Buying out businesses to promote a pet project already being tackled by private enterprise is a hard sell on that.

In short, what we are seeing today shouldn't be possible if the constitution was intact. Buying businesses to give tech away would undermine the capitol system that our economy walks upon. It would end up doing more damage economically and constitutionally then it would do any good.

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289557)

During the depression, the government did nothing less than bring electricity to all of Appalachia, build Hoover dam to enable San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Salt Lake City, _invent_ the nation park system and its signature architecture, produced guide books for every state in the union, and build parks, theaters and commercial infrastructure all over the country.

This administration filled potholes to the tune of $1T USD in each of February, March and April.

My vote is to replace down-town civil government offices with virtual-presence facilities in every neighborhood, and then to extend that capability to every significant business office. The goal would be to provide neighborhood telecommute offices, reduce commute distances, time and costs, reduce fuel consumption, and begin to eliminate the 35000 traffic deaths each year that happen on our roads and freeways.

Consider: about $3k USD will buy a big flat-panel display, a computer with software, and more than a year's worth of internet connectivity. For $1B, that would be 300,000 telecommutors, and $1T would buy one for every man, woman and child in the country.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289579)

Paving roads? Car companies wouldn't exist the way they do now if we didn't have a huge road system. Every road we pave is basically a subsidy for the auto industry. We could've spent some of that money on railways. Perhaps if we had, we wouldn't be trapped in the sprawling suburban nightmare we have today.

Think about it: what do you see out the window when you're driving in the car? Where I live, I see parking lots. When I drive anywhere, I park in a parking lot that uses more land than my actual destination. If not for the proliferation of automobiles, we would not rely on them.

Re:Its simple.... (1)

TheJerbear79 (1316155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289623)

Government funded research programs are all over the place, the CDC, NASA and DARPA are the three biggest examples I can think of right now who have done vast amounts of research that has trickled to the private sector and expanded the economy of the country. Bigger/more profitable economy means more tax revenue for the government, less taxes you pay and higher wages you earn. Everyone wins if you spend money on pure research. This is proven time again in both History and every strategy game I've ever played. :-) The next time you use your microwave powered by a nuclear powerplant to heat your chicken sammich to 160 degrees so you don't catch the salmonella (sp?) that the CDC warned you about... question your opinion on the value of pure research. It does alot more for your quality of life than you apparently realize.

Re:Its simple.... (5, Interesting)

twostix (1277166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289671)

Why does the government exists to pave roads? Or pick up "trash" and maintain parks?

If you're happy to run road builders and private street cleaners out of business then why not battery research firms? Why is that tiny sector more deserving of protection than a large landowner who wants to build a dam, lay pipe and sell the water?

Bring a bit of consistency to your ideals for goodness sake, you say the government exists to do x,y,z someone else says that it exists to do a,b and z and someone else says they exist to do a-z. The truth is the government exists to do whatever the people consent to them doing. If that means researching batteries then that is the choice of the people. Whether it's a good or bad choice is another story.

- I await the people trying to figure out which political stripe they can flame me as.

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289685)

Just the opposite, roads should be paid for by their users (trucks, automobilists). The government does not get anything out of roads. By investing in research on the other hand, the gov't creates plenty of high-tech jobs, high-salaried jobs and larger tax revenue. It seeds the service and manufacturing sectors.

Many African countries invest in basic infrastructure, but not in education and research, whereas most industrial countries do. Education and research provide higher living standards.

Battery research is nowadays done in Japan and China. Companies will not invest in research for long-term goals. GM has been a long-standing obstacle to battery research in the US, it is well-documented that GM tried everything to stop battery advancements and keep the 100-year old Otto engine going. China is heavily investing in research to become the world's new research leader with good reason.

Re:Its simple.... (5, Insightful)

Capsaicin (412918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289699)

There is surely a market for long lasting batteries, and as in the case of GM, companies have been investing heavily in new technologies. How is getting some public governmental research entity started going to be remotely cost effective and efficient, because we all know that government departments are the model of efficiency?

You've answered your own question. For profit corporations are not good research vehicles, because they are too efficient at raising profits. This means they will efficiently allocate resources to researching technology with obvious (near) immediate commercial returns. So yes, you'll get research on longer lasting batteries (if only so that they can be patented and kept off the market as long as possible), and GM, etc. However the areas of science which might be today's equivalent to the physics of electricity or of genetics will not be discovered by this kind of effcient R&D.

Corporate research is excellent at delivering technological improvements, less so at fostering scientific innovation.

Re:Its simple.... (5, Insightful)

whistlingtony (691548) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289741)

In basic, the "Guvmint" exists to keep us safe and provide basic infrastructure. I would add in water, police, firemen... Oh, and the EPA, FDA, etc. we need those kinds of watchdog agencies.

Does the government own GM now? ... No. No it does not. It's just a big shareholder.

You seem to place great store in the ability of the "market" to innovate. You bash the government for being inefficient. Have you ever worked for a large company? Man.... Trust me, the government doesn't have a monopoly on being stupid and slow.

And so freaking what if government did open source a battery and undermined a companies research dollars? Really... so what? Who gave companies some kind of right? No one is guaranteed the right to profit.

I'm rather tired of this magic land where companies would do what's best for all of us due to the power of the "free market". You know what? The first thing most successful and large companies do is strangle the free market to death so they can retard innovation and competition. It's happened over and over again in pretty much every single industry I can think of. Don't go crying Commie on me... I love the theory of capitalism. It turns human greed into technological progress. It's awesome... but there has to be limits and consequences to the behaviour of large companies. And man, they do NOT need any protections!

Think of this... Big business pays almost no taxes. They create something, sometimes with government subsidies or loans. They sell it to us at a profit. Then they dump their waste into the public rivers. We pay for them to make stuff. We pay to get the stuff. Then we pay to clean up the waste from the process. W.T.F!

Oops... calm down... no ranting... It's ok..... Phew!

I love it when the government does research and puts the results out there. Everyone benefits and we all pay so very little for such a big gain. That's the magic of government. It doesn't have to be driven by the almighty Profit. It can do the right thing at a loss, just because it needs to be done. We all benefit, and our slice of the payment is so very tiny.

People whine about the inefficiency of the government, then they drive on the roads, enjoy the protections of police and firemen, use the public school systems, buy homes that aren't death traps thanks to building codes, reap the benefits of cheap shipping due to interstate highways..... etc etc etc.

ah, ah... calm... yes....

For my two cents, I would love to see the government do basic research in:
batteries and capacitors. We need this very badly.
infrastructure... build high speed rails so we can ship a house across the country for a nickel.
Power savings... Why isn't there an open source home design for builders to use? Seriously, something so simple....

I could go on, but those would be a nice start.

-Tony

Re:Its simple.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289743)

The CSIRO thinks you're uninformed.

Medical research (4, Interesting)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289357)

It seems to me that the first and heaviest place to go is medical research. Healthcare costs in the United States are so high that international health insurance plans generally just cover every country that isn't America. A huge part of the problem is the extreme expense associated with the opaque nature of the pharmaceutical industry. When it's actually profitable to run extremely long primetime commercials advertising certain medicines, it's blatantly obvious that there's something horrendously wrong with the system -- clearly the proper medication shouldn't depend on what you saw on TV last night.

Worse, a lot of drug research is publicly funded, but then the results wind up privatized. I'm guessing that if we got healthcare costs down on the supply end we wouldn't have so many problems with health insurance in this country.

Re:Medical research (5, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289379)

Lobbyists and insurance companies are what got us into this mess.

Doctors and medical establishments learned that they had insurance companies by the balls at one point. Approved procedure could cost whatever they wanted, and insurance would pay it. Then they got all butthurt because real people couldn't afford to pay that much at all. Then insurance companies got revenge when everyone decided that doctors were a blank check in terms of lawsuit money. Insurance companies then offered insurance against lawsuits to the doctors, for a very high price.

So now what we have is a system where it costs two weeks worth of pay for the average American to get a single fucking X-ray that department stores were doing for free in the 60s. Of course I expect the expert opinion of the doctor to cost some money, but its ridiculous. And one of the reasons is because of this never ending war between doctors, lawsuits, and insurance companies.

I say we research some way to break the cycle. Like maybe making doctors and medical establishments explain why that aspirin costs a patient $100, when the entire bottle of 500 costs them 5% of that if they were to buy it themselves at a wholesale pharmacy.

Re:Medical research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289585)

Aspirin costs a patient like $0.05. Way to ruin an otherwise mediocre argument with a blatantly false point.

Re:Medical research (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289413)

Worse, a lot of drug research is publicly funded, but then the results wind up privatized.

Fortunately the NIH public access policy [nih.gov] is doing a lot to reverse this trend, but unsuprisingly, it's meeting with a lot of resistance [insidehighered.com] . Mostly from the publishers, not the drug companies, but that's a matter of whose ox is being gored. If the FDA ever gets serious about its threats to open up clinical trial data, you'll see a real brawl.

Teach you "its" instead of "it's" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289367)

The US government should teach you when to use "its" instead of "it's".

Re:Teach you "its" instead of "it's" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289691)

Yes please. Hearing "opening it is own battery" in my head is about as painful as reading a press release from Yahoo with tons of exclamation marks inside of sentences. On the other hand getting "its" wrong tends to be correlated with retarded thoughts, which is a useful signal for readers.

Why Isn't the US Government Funding Research? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289371)

Do you really need to think about this?
It is simple.
We Don't Have Any Money!

Re:Why Isn't the US Government Funding Research? (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289639)

You haven't had any money for the past few decades (Not too sure when the debt actually started, not being an American and all) that $11 Trillion USD of debt didn't show up over night. It's just that now it's starting to catch up to you.

It is (5, Insightful)

Shipud (685171) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289373)

The National Institutes of Health annual budget: $29 billion. That money funds most of the university biomedical research in the US http://www.nih.gov/about/budget.htm [nih.gov] Current NIH funded projects include among other things the human genome, the human microbiome, almost all cancer research in the US, obesity, diabetes, communicable diseases.. The National Science Foundation has an extramural grant budget of $6 billion. The Department of Energy has an extramural research grant budget of $24 billion Among other things they fund alternative energy research, genomic research, You might say the US federal government should be funding more, but you cannot say it is not funding anything at all. The space race and the Manhattan project were both driven by wars: WWII and the Cold War. Maybe that is what it takes for a government to fund major research: fear of losing power and primacy to an opponent.

Because they're funding Iraq (5, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289383)

End of transmission...

corrupt congress (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289399)

The house just passed a "clunker trade-in" bill.
It is advertised to help encourage cleaner vehicles.

Except cleaner means going from 18MPG to 20MPG.

Then you get $3500 for your clunker swap transaction.

The Model-T got 20MPG 100 years ago.

I can think of no good reason for suck a clunker of a bill.
Is the purpose to liquidate the supply of big bankrupt auto,
or is this continued payback for political donors?

Baby Boomers (4, Insightful)

Herkum01 (592704) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289415)

I blame the baby-boomers, they were raised on idea of continual gain of benefits. Whether it was from capitalism, increased government benefits, or lower taxes. They continually have driven everything out of total self interest an screw society.

You say I am crazy? It was not my generation that,

  1. Came up with sub-prime mortgages and issued them to people with no money
  2. Speculated on do nothing on Internet companies in the hope of easy money
  3. Bought and sold under funded financial derivatives
  4. Removed bank regulations that were intended to prevent the current financial crisis
  5. Exported ALL manufacturing from the US to other countries
  6. Have greatly increased executive pay WITHOUT a corresponding increase in profits
  7. Paying the lowest tax rates in the last 70 years
  8. Issued the highest amount of government debt in 70 years
  9. Sharp cut social programs, especially for the poor

I may be generalizing about baby boomers as a whole, but the leadership from my generation has not become CEOs, congressmen or senators, the baby boomers have.

Re:Baby Boomers (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289615)

If you look at it closely, it really has not been the "boomers" either. Corruption and the like started well before they started to come into power... but I will admit that they seem to have made an art of it.

Technically, I am on the low end of the "boomer" age group... maybe slightly after it. And it was actually my parent's generation that squandered all the resources, had a good old time, and spent all the Social Security and other money that was supposed to be for their own retirement. They and THEIR "leaders", not those of today. But again, those of today do seem to have a talent for the same kind of bullshit.

Nanotech & Enhancing Renewable Energy (2, Interesting)

grilled-cheese (889107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289433)

I would think something like nanotechnology or enhancing existing renewable energy sources. It would be really cool for consumer-grade solar power to actually create competition with the electric utility industry. As well as the extremely broad applications of nanomanufacturing and biotech that could be gained by learning to manipulate/control objects smaller than any current instruments can match.

Strange story (2, Insightful)

imneverwrong (1303895) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289439)

why the US government is pouring billions into buying companies instead of heavily funding useful research. You can give $10 billion to a company to squander or you can invest $10 billion into a battery research and just give the findings to the whole of the US industry for free

You're linking two not-really-related issues. Bailouts for large companies are intended to avoid a chain reaction of collapses and thus preserve economic confidence. Publicly funded "Blue Sky" [wikipedia.org] research will provide for very long term improvements to the human race from scientific progress. If you're wanting to increase the money supply to prevent a recession, you're better off allocating the cash to areas that can absorb them readily (such as construction and consumer finance). Or just get Ben Bernanke a helicopter...

Food Production (1)

MaizeMan (1076255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289453)

The US funding for international plant breeding projects has dropped dramatically in the last decade. Dollar for dollar I'm pretty sure nothing else provides the same mitigation of human suffering as breeding crops that yield more, and fail less often (with greater tolerance or resistance to pests, drought, flooding, you name it).

And the great thing is when the government funds the research, the seeds go for almost or completely free to the people who need them the most around the world, instead of getting entangled in webs of patients and trade secrets.

No war means no motive (1)

sympathy3k21 (1574255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289455)

In order to get all the Taxpayer Joes out there to not shit their pants because you want to "cure cancer" or, god forbid, "develop alternative energy sources," you have to have a reason. A fake reason or a very important reason. The Apollo mission and Manhattan project weren't started in the spirit of scientific exploration, they were started first to destroy the Nazis, then to fight the Commies. US science has always relied on our conflicts. Do you think the King of Spain would have bankrolled exploration to America if he didn't think he could gain by it strategically? Same with Britain and France. Why do you think US combat robotics has advanced so rapidly in the last decade? It's not because DARPA thought that it would be cute to have a bunch of dog robots for us to pet. Nor did they think the internet was going to be the massive consumer and cultural revolution it was - merely meant to be a DoD network for further weapons research and emergencies.

There are exceptions of course but the bottom line is that if you want to get something done, you have to give people some kind of dire reason for doing so. The International Joint Commission was formed in 1909 and warned of heavy pollution and potentially catastrophic wildlife destruction in the Great Lakes region as early as 1920. It wasn't until 1970, when Lake Erie literally died due to eutrophication, that anything was done about it. Nothing like a good catastrophe or threat to national security to get the science gears moving - one of the reasons I'm hopeful the media takes off with this whole "China cyberthreat" thing.

It was not the 70's. (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289467)

It was the 80's. reagan and the neo-cons PURPOSELY cut the RD in science that we had back then. MASSIVE CUTS. The idea was that the large number of RD labs that we had would do the work. Bell Labs, Watson Labs, Ge Labs and nearly all major labs were killed, cut, or moved to other nations. Basically, the RD labs that we had were tied to the gov's huge budgets as well as our education, which was THE TOPS. Now, they are simply moved elsewhere and we have been witness to the largest 30 year dismantling of one of the few historical superpower nations.

The US Government IS Funding Research! (1, Insightful)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289481)

The US Government IS Funding Research!

The US has fantastic research. And, it is huge. Very few countries are in that ball-park, and can only compete on a per capita level, e.g. Switzerland, Sweden etc.

The scientific production in the US is great, and is the norm everyone else is measuring against. OK, again, a few per capita level runners up. But, in general, US research is well funded.

The Far East and Europe are catching up, but with the US economy as large as it still is it may take more than a decade.

Finally, the US Government IS funding research also through the system with tax reduction for private funds. Very few other governemnts would allow that, where research is funded via the tax bill only.

I'm a political economist (1)

seringen (670743) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289487)

All i can say is that I cry myself to sleep every night. I don't care what administration it is, we are flushing money down the same pit. A lot of people are going to be very rich because of all the give aways going down a black hole. Few people in washington even remotely know what they are doing.

Wrong premise (1)

steve_bryan (2671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289505)

"The Manhattan Project and the Apollo Moon missions are two of the pinnacles of the 20th century scientific achievement"

Nonsense. These are two great achievements in technology. Neither was an attempt to generate new science though the application of money and talent at such scales can have beneficial effects for science. The basic science for both existed before either project was initiated. Since both pertained to crucial strategic objectives, it made sense for the government to pay.

In most cases, for example battery research, the benefit of achieving the goal is rather clear and private capital is available based on the perception of likelihood of success and resulting payoff. Unfortunately this sort of calculation would almost never work in favor of what is called basic science. These are problems that are pursued because of intrinsic interest rather than expectation of any return on investment. For instance the search for the Higgs boson or the creation of Bose-Einstein Condensate. In such cases the research might lead someday to subsequent research that leads to more immediate economic return, e.g. Quantum computers.

The system that arguably has worked well is to fund basic science by the government and applied research by private companies (e.g. Intel doing research for next generation silicon fabrication). Of course the world does not always split cleanly into basic versus applied but it is fairly clear that battery research is closer to the applied end of the spectrum.

Re:Wrong premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289603)

Don't fall for the quantum computers trick. It's a pipe dream and anyone that's being honest knows it. Exponential power requirements = infeasible with any amount of research. Quantum computers are cold fusion 2.0 / perpetual motion 3.0.

Remember the General Motors EV1? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289511)

The big money is in replacement parts for your POS gas guzzler. Filters, oil changes, tune-ups, sensors, you name it, these all cost you money and car manufacturers are in business to make money. They don't want to sell you a car and that be the end of it. So it does not matter, if the Government gave the money to a company that produced electric cars, that company would get bought by a combustion engine car maker. (Just look at Tesla motors). Tesla was a good idea, but the Bitches sold out. It was nice knowing you Tesla Motors... bye.

Why Isn't the US Government blah blah blah (2, Insightful)

TopSpin (753) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289531)

17 days ago STS-125, the forth in-orbit service of Hubble, ended successfully
12 days ago Gov. Schwarzenegger dedicated the largest laser on Earth to fusion research
Last week the DOE produced video [nanowerk.com] of a potential carbon nanotube memory device in operation.
3 days from now 7 people will blast into orbit, rendezvous with the ISS and further the construction of a giant orbital laboratory.

No government in history has ever, is now, or will ever again (post dollar collapse) facilitate as much raw research as the US federal government.

Just STFU please. Thanks.

They spend billions already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289535)

I'm sorry, you think that the Government doesn't spend billions in research every year?

Just because GM is funding research doesn't mean that the government isn't.

It's not either or.

it is... (4, Informative)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289543)

The US government is funding research. A lot of it. So much that a giant company like GM opening a *single* research lab is big news. Either directly (through grants and contracts) or indirectly (through tax incentives) the government is funding much of the industrial research that is done anyway.

Why has science stalled since the 70s? That's when the number of physicists being trained exceeded the demand. The job market for physicists tanked and has never recovered (due to an excess of government funding for training). Physics became very competitive (rather than collaborative), and focused on making very small incremental changes in niche areas so that you could keep your job (big risks are bad, now). We've make tremendous scientific progress, but the system isn't designed for rock-star leaders and breakthroughs any more. More industrial labs will only change that until growth saturates again.

We need to either stop training too many physicists (and make sure we're not doing the same with other fields), or live with what we have (which does work well, for anyone who is not a physicist). To encourage risk (and thus greater... or at least flashier scientific rewards), we need more long term grants and contracts (long term being >10 years). If I know a several year project can fail, but I'll still be able to pay the rent, I'm more likely to try something new. To actually answer the question, I would put those grants in solar fuel research.

Research is not the function of the Fed Gov't (0, Troll)

bobbuck (675253) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289551)

I know they do it but it's not constitutional. It is the role of private companies and they would probably have made much more progress if they didn't have to give all their profits over to the IRS. The free market puts research dollars where they will be most beneficial. Politicians put research dollars where they will buy the most votes.

We gave it all to poor people instead (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289565)

Let's see, in 1965, we instituted Medicare and Medicaid, and that's an easy 500 billion a year

then, in 1972 we expanded SSI Disability and that's now 150 billion bucks a year

in the 1980s Reagan expanded coverage to include pregnant women

and lately we just added Medicare Part D...

If we all had our grandparents move back in and die in some quiet room upstairs, put disabled people out on the street with those old alms cups to beg for change, had pregnant women just have babies themselves or have more abortions, we'd have a lot more money for cool stuff.

Re:We gave it all to poor people instead (2, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289649)

You know, money given to the poor doesn't just disappear. The poor spend it, and actually spend more of their income than any other demographic. In fact, giving money to the poor is one of the best ways for a government to boost economic activity and help everyone.

Re:We gave it all to poor people instead (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289663)

The poor spend it, and actually spend more of their income than any other demographic. In fact, giving money to the poor is one of the best ways for a government to boost economic activity and help everyone.

You would be right if we did not have free trade. But right now giving money to the poor right now is just a big subsidy for China.

Re:We gave it all to poor people instead (2, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289717)

The trade imbalance, however large, is not even close to our total economic output. The multiplier effect is still in play. The poor still buy American-made food, get their hair cut by Americans, and so on. Your argument is essentially that the poor disproportionately contribute to the trade imbalance, and even if that were true, the money supplied in the actual trade mechanics (and industrial design) would be significant.

Second, it's quite rich to claim the poor would just subsidize China when, really, the reason places like Wal-Mart exist is that middle class incomes haven't increased in 30 years. With a robust middle class, our trade wouldn't be in such dire straits.

The Internet (1)

Louis Savain (65843) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289569)

The US government pioneered the internet and, IMO, this has been the greatest enabler of research and innovation since the the invention of the movable type. What we're seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg. I don't think historians will ever be able to comprehend the full impact of the internet on science and technology. The cross-pollination of ideas and the easy availability of information is so mind boggling, it's scary. You are living in truly interesting times.

let corporations do it (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289577)

3x the investment, 1/4 the bureaucracy, none of the political risk, none of the cost

As a point of fact... (1)

j. andrew rogers (774820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289589)

...US research is just fine and growing if you look at, you know, the actual numbers. As is Asia. Europe, by contrast, is in serious decline.

The vast majority of research in the US is privately funded, and has been for many decades. A half century ago this was not the case, but today it is. Furthermore, private research in the US is highly productive as such things go, so this distribution is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not so much that the US government is cutting research funding as it is that private funding continues to grow faster than public funding.

The US government is even a declining percentage of so-called "basic research", though still the majority of such funding at around 60%. These are all the pure science things that would nominally never get funded if the government didn't though obviously that is overstating the case given the stats.

On the upside, total US research spending continues to grow, just faster in the private sector than the public sector as it has for many decades, and the US still invests more in public and private R&D than anyone else by a large margin.

The most startling statistic related to R&D funding is that Europe runs a somewhat distant *third* behind the US and Asia despite its GDP and per capita GDP. Europe is arguably the most glaring example of a region not pulling its weight, though Germany is doing a decent job of it. A lot of European R&D has migrated to the US and Asia, but they should be a wee bit embarrassed about that.

ITER (2, Interesting)

stevedcc (1000313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289609)

ITER is the world's best chance of obtaining almost infinite amounts of clean energy. Most of the recent press about the National Ignition Facility has ignored one key fact - the NIF is about creating fusion explosions to model bombs. Sure, it can also be used for fusion power research, but that's not the primary reason it received it's funding. ITER is about developing commercial fusion using a tokamak.

Also, the way the US cancelled all funding for ITER for 2008 was pretty disgusting. If a country becomes a partner in such large science projects, they need to stick with it, rather than screwing everyone around

Simple. Anything that can replace coal, oil & (2)

jonwil (467024) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289637)

That means funding research into electric cars (including those that use things like biofuel powered internal combustion engines as a backup)
That means funding research into (and building) new nuclear reactor designs that can take all the harmful waste (both from power generation and nuclear weapons) currently sitting in cooling ponds, storage facilities and vaults all over the US and turn it into more electricity (and into waste that will become radiation free in a much shorter time).
That means funding research into sustainable biofuels (both for vehicles and power plants) including hemp and switch-grass but NOT biofuels like corn that replace food crops
That means funding research into solar technology (and covering all that empty desert in the southwestern USA with solar collectors)

Most of all it means telling all the vested interests to go jump. The anti-drug campaigners who refuse to allow hemp to be grown because of its ties to marijuana. The anti-nuclear campaigners who fail to see that its possible to build a new nuclear reactor with a modern design (which is far less likely to fail in a way that releases radiation than the dinosaurs operating today) and then (and the new reactors come on stream) shut down the old dinosaurs (the ones that the ant-nuclear campaigners love to hate). It means telling the corn lobby (who seem to have the misguided belief that corn biofuels should be part of the energy equation into the future), the coal lobby (who believe that coal can be made "clean") and others to get stuffed.

Gov't...errr WE are funding research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289655)

"Why Isn't the US Government Funding Research?"

They are! It's called GM, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, Chrysler, Telecom Giants like ATT, Verizon, Bell South, Wall Street. They are funding so many research projects that each of you are clearly excited to support and continue paying for it.

Angry Flower (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289703)

Someone needs to meet the Angry Flower.

""The recent post about GM opening it's own battery research facility "

Look at the Facts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28289747)

The AAAS publishes an annual report on government R&D spending [aaas.org] . If you look at it, you see that there is $140 billion per year going into R&D. While it is true that "federal research investments are shrinking as a share of the U.S.
economy," it's simply not true that the government is not funding research.

Next question, please (4, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28289751)

led me to wonder why the US government is pouring billions into buying companies instead of heavily funding useful research. You can give $10 billion to a company to squander or you can invest $10 billion into a battery research and just give the findings to the whole of the US industry for free.

Because the immediate problem is the recession.

GM can't build an electric car if the company goes into liquidation. GM can't sell an electric car if its dealers go into liquidation.

Mechanics can't service an electric car if they go bankrupt with their suppliers.

Infrastructure once damaged is very difficult and expensive to rebuild.

You have to stop the bleeding first.

Research isn't a panacea.

It would be easy to aquander $10 billion on projects that have no realistic prospect of success within a reasonable time frame.

The geek isn't an unbiased observer here.

It should be obvious that a very generous cut of that $10 billion he wants the government to spend will be headed his way - and not to the auto worker on the line in Detroit.

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