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The Crisis of Government-Funded Science

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the not-without-a-million-dollars dept.

Education 194

eldavojohn writes "The New York Review of Books has an article penned by Steven Weinberg lamenting the future of physics, cosmology and this era of 'big science' in which we find ourselves. A quote from Goldhaber sums up the problem nicely, 'The first to disintegrate a nucleus was Rutherford, and there is a picture of him holding the apparatus in his lap. I then always remember the later picture when one of the famous cyclotrons was built at Berkeley, and all of the people were sitting in the lap of the cyclotron.' The article is lengthy with a history of big physics projects (most painfully perhaps the SSC) but Weinberg's message ultimately comes across as pessimism laced with fatalism — easily understandable given his experiences with government funding. Unfortunately he notes, 'Big science has the special problem that it can't easily be scaled down. It does no good to build an accelerator tunnel that only goes halfway around the circle.' Apparently this article mirrors his talk given in January at the American Astronomical Society. If not our government, will anyone fund these immense projects or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?"

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Why just OUR government? (3, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770133)

If not our government, will anyone fund these immense projects or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?"

I presume by "our government" he means the U.S. government. Why is it that that so many of those who lament science funding only talk about U.S. funding, as if the U.S. is supposed to fund everything by itself? He cites the SSH as a bad example of the U.S. cutting funding, but to me that's actually one of the better examples of other countries picking up the ball. Would CERN still have funded the LHC in 1995 if the U.S. hadn't cancelled the SHH in 1993? Maybe, but I tend to doubt it. And to me CERN is an excellent model of countries pooling their resources, rather than relying on one actor to foot the entire bill.

I'm not saying that the U.S. shouldn't be funding science at adequate levels, but way too many of these sorts of articles talk about science as if it's the exclusive purview of the U.S. Instead of asking if the U.S. can continue funding the big physics projects, maybe the question he should be asking is why more countries aren't POOLING their money to build these projects. After all, as long as the science is open and shared, why shouldn't it be in everyone's interest to fund these projects (including, but not *exclusively* including, the U.S.)?

Oops, meant SSC, not SSH (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770151)

In case anyone thought I was referring to the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Re:Oops, meant SSC, not SSH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770399)

I thought you meant the Secure SHell.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770191)

Slashdot has always been a US-centric site. It was even in the FAQ for a long time (note sure if it still is).

Re:Why just OUR government? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770223)

What US site isn't? ;-)

Re:Why just OUR government? (1, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770243)

Slashdot is U.S.-centric, but science (and science funding) shouldn't be. You would think a physicist, who relies on the work of so many predecessors or so many different nationalities, would recognize that. Why more scientists aren't recognizing CERN as a great model for the future is beyond me.

Re:Why just OUR government? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770409)

Because CERN is a terrible model for the future. Particle Physics has gotten so big that it is impractical for doing this research at the university level. That means you cannot train future the next generation of scientists. Further more you can't make a name for your self when each publication has 1000 authors.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772267)

Why is it so important to make a name for yourself? Why should the government be funding that? Fund the science, to hell with popularity contests. Yes i am a scientist.

Re:Why just OUR government? (3, Insightful)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770339)

In this case, it's reasonable for The New York Review of Books to be somewhat US-centric. After all, its primary audience is in the US.

However, there continues to be a strong case for pooling scientific funding (and projects and instruments and ...) across many countries, especially when those projects are very large. You're not going to get all the best people in the world working in one country in any mature field (for all sorts of complex reasons) and you do want the best people talking to each other. Once they start talking, they will come up with ideas for areas to research; those are the seeds of proposals and projects. Given all that, pooled funding also makes sense. Well, provided the various funding agencies agree; that doesn't always go smoothly...

Given all the above, the disappointing thing is that tNYRoB didn't pick up on this matter. It's a reasonably well respected publication that at least tries to be not too parochial. Pity they failed this time (if only perhaps in the choice of Steven Weinberg).

Re:Why just OUR government? (1, Informative)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771213)

Pity they failed this time (if only perhaps in the choice of Steven Weinberg).

You would expect that a physicist would know what's been going on in astronomy, yes? Almost all of the big telescopes for at least the last twenty years that I've been watching have been multinational efforts. Mauna Kea [wikipedia.org] , Chile [wikipedia.org] , ... Lots of countries chip in if only for the right to get their researchers into the game.

And now, I think it's time I fired up "Contact" again. :-)

Re:Why just OUR government? (2)

bitingduck (810730) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771399)

Large ground-based observatory development has also had significant private funding for much of history, and especially in the last century. The two large telescopes that are being developed now by US-led organizations (TMT and GMT) both have significant private participation.

High energy physics largely has been driven by the DOE in the US and has been generally government funded.

Condensed matter research in the US is sort of in between -- fundamental physics tends to be academic, but the semiconductor industry drives a lot of applied research.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772469)

And now, I think it's time I fired up "Contact" again. :-)

Large ground-based observatory development has also had significant private funding for much of history ...

... Which leads right back to "Contact". lt was a private investor that funded her projects when no-one else would.

The Keck interferometer [wikipedia.org] was kickstarted with private funding too, as were many others.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770263)

I think the history of US sole funding projects and so having sole control over them might make us less willing to chip in with others because we would lose that total control. It might make no sense given limitations in governmental science funding but for politicians big science is about the pursuit of glory, economic advantage or political leverage not about the pursuit of knowledge. They also don't seem to share well or work together much these days.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

captbob2002 (411323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770597)

Given our (US) history of working with others...who'd want to partner with us? We don't keep long-term commitments, we want to full control over everything

Congress says NASA should partner with someone for space exploration, then turns around and asks "why are you giving away the store?" - either way funding gets cut.

I fear the days of great scientific (or any other) advances coming out of the US are over. NO NONE - gov't or business, R or D, looks at the long term anymore.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771291)

LHC is the last collider, the benefit grows in low in size while costs grow linearly. The other problem with their complaints is that LHC cost billions of dollars while we know that particles hit the earth with about 10J/particle at about 1/(s m^2), while LHC is a wimpy uJ/particle. So the universe is giving away a 10 million times stronger source term that physicists could use. Could be build one this large? Not even using the entire mass of the planet. So why pay for more accelerators? Astronomy is the future of high energy physics.

Re:Why just OUR government? (2)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772315)

You don't get the brightness you need for the statistics. You would need to wait millions of years to detect the highs particle for example. Not all that practical.

A Pool is Unnecessary & Presents Its Own Probl (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770267)

From the second page of the article:

We saw recently how a project to build a laboratory for the development of controlled thermonuclear power, ITER, was nearly killed by the competition between France and Japan to be the laboratory’s site.

Also, put another way in the article:

What does motivate legislators is the immediate economic interests of their constituents. Big laboratories bring jobs and money into their neighborhood, so they attract the active support of legislators from that state, and apathy or hostility from many other members of Congress. Before the Texas site was chosen, a senator told me that at that time there were a hundred senators in favor of the SSC, but that once the site was chosen the number would drop to two. He wasn’t far wrong. We saw several members of Congress change their stand on the SSC after their states were eliminated as possible sites.

I think the counter argument to your idea of 'pooling' resources is that this isn't really necessary. We have the resources to do this as the United States or as the EU or probably even as China itself. I don't care what country/countries/bordered region does it, I just care that it gets done. It is, however, very easy to point out that the country that Weinberg is residing in has the resources to do it yet fails to do it. Even when bills are passed to fund it, it fails.

Even as the SSC's cost ballooned up from $4 billion it only hit $12 billion in 1993 or about $19 billion in today's money. US defense budget for 1993 was ~$350 billion but it appears that we can't rely on the military to progress particle physics any further.

Re:A Pool is Unnecessary & Presents Its Own Pr (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770815)

The military will advance particle physics when they can shrink the accelerator small enough to mount it in a turret.

Re:A Pool is Unnecessary & Presents Its Own Pr (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772337)

This would such a useless weapon compared to just about anything else. About the only thing it could do is kill everyone on the ship/whatever with cancer in a single shot.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

Severus Snape (2376318) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770343)

I don't think it is a problem with the CERN model not being recognised, I think it's more just the case of the U.S being huge, CERN is the answer to compete with the U.S. I hate to use the word compete, as I don't believe the way to move science forward is through competition, but hey, we operate under Capitalism at the end of the day.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772363)

The US funds CERN, in particular the LHC. The give quite a bit in fact.

Re:Why just OUR government? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770371)

You are exactly right about why should the U.S. government fund large science projects. We are already funding a war in Afghanistan and cutting
taxes for the wealthy. It's about time that China starts paying for large science projects as well. They already have first
class super computers and a decent space program. They should fund additional large projects and get credit for
the advancement of world science in the process.

Re:Why just OUR government? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772501)

That's not China's bag. All their technology is stolen/borrowed/lifted/cribbed from other nations.

And if my experiences with Chinese hackers tells me anything (both as colleagues, and defending a major US commerce site from constant attacks from the 'state funded omg cyber war hackers'), it's a nation that consists of billions and billions of uncreative folk who can't do much more than follow instructions and click on scripts.

China hasn't and won't do shit. I'd expect to see India muscling around the world of high science long before China.

The pools already exist (3, Informative)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770449)

Many of the big experiments (LHC, ITER, etc.) are already funded by many countries. Steven Weinberg is a US Citizen, so he deals with his government. Other scientists complain about their governments. It wouldn't make sense to do it the other way around. No one thinks the US should be solely funding all the experiments.

An example (1)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771725)

Here's an example of a pool for a medium sized project, IceCube -- an experiment that uses a large chunk of ice at the south pole to observe neutrinos.

Here's a list of the 39 organizations in 11 countries involved:

http://icecube.wisc.edu/collaboration/collaborators [wisc.edu]

The funding comes from 5 countries:

http://icecube.wisc.edu/collaboration/funding [wisc.edu]

Yes, the US's National Science Foundation provides the largest chunk of the funds, but it's a US based experiment (notice the wisc.edu) and the US is the world's largest economy to boot, so there's nothing crazy about that. Other experiments are primarily funded by other countries.

This is common for experiments that need large pieces of equipment. The notion that only the US funds science and the rest of the world are just funding parasites is simply false.

Re:Why just OUR government? (3, Insightful)

orasio (188021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770699)

The country that builds the large labs is the country that willl get the super smart scientists to tinker with it.
The world doesn't need the US to fund big science. China will do it, eventually. The thing is that it would give them a competitive advantadge over you, meaning better scientists, better universities and stuff. I wouldn't want to lose my edge if I was the US.

Re:Why just OUR government? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772389)

Fuck you statist. You want to believe in the "value of science" then DO IT WITH YOUR MONEY. Stop stealing money from the rest of us who are happy with the depth of knowledge we have now just to fund your pet elitist academic excercises. This is why I am a libertarian, to OPPOSE people like you who want to destroy the rich to prop up the lazy and the stupid.

Re:Why just OUR government? (4, Interesting)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770799)

I presume by "our government" he means the U.S. government. Why is it that that so many of those who lament science funding only talk about U.S. funding, as if the U.S. is supposed to fund everything by itself?

BTW, for those that weren't around when the SSC was being built, and then canceled, you should know that the firestorm over the SSC was not from anti-science budget cutters, but from other scientists... chemists, biologists, etc... that were angry that physics was getting so much of the budget pie. These other scientists went on TV shows and to the press complaining that the SSC was a boondoggle, and that it should be canceled and the funds spread out to other fields "equitably". One of their prime arguments was that, just like defense spending, post Cold War "big physics" should shrink as it was viewed as nothing more than a race with the Soviets for prestige. With the big military drawdown in the early 90's, that argument sold. And SSC died.

Rather than a desire to kill science, the SSC died in part at the hands of jealousy from other scientists.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771037)

I'm not enough of a sociologist to say how much, as a matter of particular historical fact, was purely jealousy/grant competition; but there is a reasonably compelling strand of argument to be made in favor of the anti-physicist's view:

Namely, that the need to build very large apparatus suggested that physics had exhausted(whether by superior study or by a quirk of the laws of nature) the low-hanging fruits earlier than some other subjects, which put it further up the unpleasant slope of diminishing returns. If the biologists, say, are in the situation where they can barely send a grad student anywhere on earth without turning up a few dozen novel species; or the chemists have a variety of plans that involve nothing more exciting than a small-bore NMR apparatus and a few tens of thousands in reagents, it isn't entirely illogical to feel slighted by multi-billion dollar plans to conduct ever more subtle bug-hunts for subatomic particles.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772139)

Yes, other sciences were against the SSC mainly because they only needed smaller dollops of public funds per project. However, what really irked Congress was Phil Gramm. When it was clear that Fermi Lab outside of Chicago made the most sense because the equipment there could be utilized for the SSC, Brother Phil ramrodded the language to choose Texas instead. As soon as that happened, other Congress Critters decided that they'd had enough and killed it.

Not putting a hefty blob of research funding in one basket like the SSC made sense, something of that scale should be international. However, Congress then proceeded to cut total research funding. This was made worse by the Republican Conservative Right who seem to think research is a conspiracy to overturn the truths they see in the Bible. And it was the beginning of Conservatives thinking that research was merely another political institution that could be made to say whatever they wanted said.

The Conservatives arguments are varied and specious. They would argue that any research worthy of funding will get it in the private sector...from Business School Product whose idea of research is the secretary's bra size. The controversy over global warming was merely the researchers telling them that while G-d told them humans inherit the Earth, the humans could still screw it up and G-d wouldn't be there to save them. The controversy over evolution was the researchers telling them that the Bible could not be read literally, that somehow G-d was screwing with them by burying fake dinosaurs bones, etc.

And worst of all, research was also giving women choices over their own reproductive systems, in direct contravention of G-d telling them that Man wore the pants in the family and hence they could order Women around as they see fit.

Re:Why just OUR government? (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771017)

According to libertarians, the tech companies of the world should spontaneousely fund it. Lol. I think we know how impossible that little fantasy plays out in modern society..... wait for the comical reply about how some free market would spur billion dollar physics projects.... yea right.

NOT cosmology! (2)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770217)

Cosmologists in particular should not complain at all for at least the next 20 years: look just how many cosmology missions get to fly. I think that point in the summary is kind of moot, since cosmology is a very fine example of how much money gets pumped into a field of science with presently zero practical applications; consider how many missions don't get to fly, for every cosmology one that does.

Other's will take over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770231)

It is more then evident that other countries, mostly Asian, will take science to the next level.

Grind to a halt. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770273)

or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?"

Well, the budget talks have been going during the last few years, and no matter whose in the White House next year, you can rest assured the physics funding will collide to an abrupt halt.

You can argue all you want, have points about "creating jobs", "keeping America in the lead of World Science", or any other thing you can think of. The people are going to ask why are we spending billions of dollars this and not on education or on the poor or healthcare? Others will ask, Show me in the Constitution where it says to fund science.

We have a population that's nervous about our country's finances and they don't want their projects cut - whatever it is. The Teaparty guys wouldn't dare us a big physics project for pork spending, either. I don't see much support for these kinds of things on either side of the isle these days.

Sorry guys, but when it comes to the future battles for Government money, science is going to be losing pretty big, I'm afraid.

Re:Grind to a halt. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770373)

The people are going to ask why are we spending billions of dollars this and not on education or on the poor or healthcare?

Then those people are idiots. Not because they think we should spend money on those things, but because they not only think that we can't spend money on all of them, but they aren't asking an important question: why the fuck are we spending so much money on defense and wars?

Re:Grind to a halt. (1)

Brian Feldman (350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770459)

... and the prison system and law enforcement, subsidizing unsustainable agriculture, funding propaganda-research...

Re:Grind to a halt. (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770511)

RE: why the fuck are we spending so much money on defense and wars?

Because the owners of "The Fed" also own military contractors and other companies (Oil, etc) on top of political property.

-They make governments buy weapons for war
-They tell them where to make war (to remove fiscal opponents)
-Wars break things and those need fixing
-Rinse & Repeat

Get rid of *career* politicians and most of these problems will go away.

Re:Grind to a halt. (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771435)

There's lots of political pressure to cut education and health care as well. What isn't being cut is the department of defnese, or the 17 different civilian agencies with people who carry weapons as part of their agent status. The same people who worry that someone from the health Education and Welfare will abuse their vast federal powers and take their home schooled kids away, don't worry about what happens when a BATF or DEA agent, who may be armed with a 30 caliber machine gun, abuses his powers to the same extent
Just look at your own post. Yes, you didn't mention the defense budget, but then you didn't mention the bank bailouts either. You mention the Tea Party that seems to be stagnating at present, or becoming a special sub-brand of the Republican party, but you don't mention any of the Occupy movements. It's like your whole post buys into a Right Wing only model, even though you don't particularly seem to agree with the Right.

Re:Grind to a halt. (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772245)

The same people who worry that someone from the health Education and Welfare will abuse their vast federal powers and take their home schooled kids away, don't worry about what happens when a BATF or DEA agent, who may be armed with a 30 caliber machine gun, abuses his powers to the same extent

This is so true. Another example is that the government's efforts to end racial segregation resulted in corporate personhood. This is how things work out in practice. Government is a tool that can be used for good or bad.

Business/Government Divide. (5, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770307)

The problem is the schism between Businesses and Government.

The Democrats go. We want to Keep Businesses out of Government, as businesses with their big money will corrupt government.
The Republicans go. We want to Keep Government out of Businesses, as government with their big money will cripple businesses.

For companies to have a True R&D department they need steady funding, During the cold war, the government gave businesses a ton of money to do R&D. The government prospered because they got new technology that can help expand our countries influenced, the business prospered because they got new technology which they have rights too.

Then as the Cold War cooled down and ended. Government started to separate themselves from Business, and Business from government. So those corporate grants have became less reliable. The companies now need to make sure their R&D is profitable, so less spending on just straight R&D and more focus on making sometime that brings profit. Other companies just dropped their R&D all together.

Business key motive is to make money (It isn't a noble motive but simple). The Government has many motives (many of which are noble, some not so, and it is very complicated), Business influence in Government makes sure the government stays efficient. Government influence on business, make sure the businesses do go too far.

I am disenfranchised with both parties. As they are on different sides of the wrong issue.

Re:Business/Government Divide. (1)

pscottdv (676889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770345)

I wish I had some mod points for you.

Disabusing you of false notions... (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770435)

The Democrats go. We want to Keep Businesses out of Government, as businesses with their big money will corrupt government.

You claim that when the Democrats have:

1) Had the government purchase a whole car company.
2) Wrote a health care law to funnel money from consumers to the insurance industry.
3) Given hundreds of millions in loans to green companies who donated sufficiently to the Democrats.
4) Basically dictated to banks they WERE going to take a huge sum of bail-out money, like it or not.

Never before have LARGE business and government been so twisted together, and that happened on the Democrats watch, mostly while it had total control.

The Republicans go. We want to Keep Government out of Businesses, as government with their big money will cripple businesses.

But not all Republicans. There are also Republicans willing to interfere in business or to prop up large companies at the expense of the smaller.

Also I have never heard a single person say you should keep government out of business because the government money "cripples" the business. It's more than companies that are over-regualted cannot function.

To label the two sides like that is absurd because you can find counter-examples in each party. You SHOULD NOT mention party when complaining about this kind of issue, instead you should point out both sides have flaws in this regard and it's up to the people voting to look and see what each candidate stands for when they are voting.

Basically you have I think way too simplistic a view of how the world is currently for what is really going on.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770545)

5) Created a "jobs council" that has the sitting CEO of a huge American-based international corporation on it.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770589)

You missed the subtle differences.
The Democrats don't want business to interfere with government but they want more government to interfere with business. "We are from the Government and we are Here to help"

The Republicans don't want government to interfere with they business, however they want business to interfere with government. "Don't tax me, and don't tell me what to do, as it effects my bottom line, however if you can change this law that gives me an advantage then all the better"

The issue is that Government the organization (Not the political parties) will try to keep their distance from companies as much as they can. As you pointed out it doesn't happen, however what does happen is more behind the curtains wheeling and dealing, not and R&D isn't the issue, as the Government wants to appear distant from the company, so R&D spending is quite visible, to citizens and share holders.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770743)

Heh.

Those four points you made?

Switch company names, and therefore party names.

I think you have way too one sided view of how things are.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770883)

Never before have LARGE business and government been so twisted together, and that happened on the Democrats watch, mostly while it had total control.

Huh. I was always under the impression that Bush was a Republican and that the Congress has been under Republican control through filibuster threats and parliamentary tactics for almost 20 years. Who knew I was all mixed up?

The Democrats of 2012 are the Republicans of 1972. Shit, the last liberal President we've had was Richard Nixon.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770929)

Wait, was Bush secretly controlled by a Democrat all those years? THAT explains his slow, robotic speech--- it was the Mind Control! He went out without his foil hat!!

In case you missed it, the bailouts were set up by W.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (1, Troll)

me3head (621221) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771063)

4) Basically dictated to banks they WERE going to take a huge sum of bail-out money, like it or not.

Um, you do realize that this was Bush, right? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troubled_Asset_Relief_Program [wikipedia.org]

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (2)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771371)

"1) Had the government purchase a whole car company."

It was free.

"2) Wrote a health care law to funnel money from consumers to the insurance industry."

Most of the text is actually about reducing fraud and closing loopholes. Very little money is actually involved in the individual mandate because age is permissible as a method of adjusting your premium and that is the main indicator of health and likelihood to buy health insurance in the first place.

"4) Basically dictated to banks they WERE going to take a huge sum of bail-out money, like it or not."

I don't buy this, but if you do, that was President Bush's treasury secretary.

Re:Disabusing you of false notions... (1)

thoth (7907) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771653)

The Democrats go. We want to Keep Businesses out of Government, as businesses with their big money will corrupt government.

You claim that when the Democrats have:

1) Had the government purchase a whole car company.
2) Wrote a health care law to funnel money from consumers to the insurance industry.
3) Given hundreds of millions in loans to green companies who donated sufficiently to the Democrats.
4) Basically dictated to banks they WERE going to take a huge sum of bail-out money, like it or not.

Never before have LARGE business and government been so twisted together, and that happened on the Democrats watch, mostly while it had total control.

1. That bailout was a loan that has been paid back.
2. The biggest health care giveaway in the history of the country was the Medicare prescription drugs law, and that happened under the Republicans.
3. Oh I gotcha... Halliburton and other "no bid" contracts are NEVER issued to companies formerly run by Republicans. And you can spin this several ways, how about this one: Obama invested in the the future of the country; Halliburton contracts were flat out corruption.
4. Also happened under Bush.

If you are going to pass yourself off as the "voice of reason" amidst various issues, it would help if you had a fucking clue and an actual semblance of neutral comparisons.

Re:Business/Government Divide. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770439)

brilliant

Re:Business/Government Divide. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770671)

You left out:

Government has no competition. No competition usually means less motivation (show up, collect my paycheck). Less efficiency (best worker paid the same as the worst). More waste (GSA, Solyndra). More corruption. Government always goes on, no matter how bad they screw up (it's very easy to spend other people's money).

You can see this daily in millions spent on interesting science projects like the shrimp on a treadmill, or studies in teaching african men how to wash their genitals, studies of vietnameese male prostitutes, and the perennial favorite-- college drinking studies.

Businesses (in general) must remain competitive, profitable, and efficient, or they will cease to exist (exceptions being when big business colludes with government [aka Crony Capitalism] to protect a market, subsidize failure, or prevent competition from entering or succeeding). Private R&D is generally tax deductable, which is a good way to offset the monetary risk to the business (which unlike government, cannot print money).

I don't buy the line that "government" must fund everything. You can easily find Billions in existing budgets to fund large scale science projects-- if you cut out the wasteful garabage that is identified every year. Apply KISS to government, and you'll find more than enough $$$ for science.

Re:Business/Government Divide. (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770845)

You're close, but not quite there.

During the Cold War, the government required business to set aside a certain percentage (I think 15%) of funding from defense contracts and spend that money on internal research. They could do anything they wanted, as long as it was R&D.

After the Cold War, we removed that requirement. It cut 15% off the cost of defense contracts, but also removed the incentive for big companies to spend on high risk R&D.

The "official" government funding for R&D has been pretty good since the Cold War, and big companies still get a lot of it. The problem is a $250k research grant doesn't go as far as 15% of a $100 million procurement contract.

Re:Business/Government Divide. (1, Troll)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770905)

The problem is the schism between Businesses and Government.

No, the problem is that everyone thinks they can solve the problem with some simplistic ideological prescription.

Weinberg's suggestion--raise taxes--is pragmatic and sensible, which is why it will never be done: American politics is about ideology, not reality. It doesn't matter if policies have the effect their ideological promoters say they ought. It matters only that they conform to the dictates of their ideology. Thus, Obama bailing out home-owners or Bush invading Iraq aren't judged on their actual outcomes, but on how the measure up to the input condition of ideological conformance.

Economic growth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770309)

This is one of the multitude of reasons that the Federal Reserve set growth targets and promise to buy US Gov't bonds until the growth level target is hit. We're in a recession (started in late 2007, technically we've never dug out of the hole we fell in) and that means the government has less tax revenue, and cuts get made. If the economy had continued to grow, at least physics and "Big Science" wouldn't need to be fighting for an ever-shrinking pool of dollars.

Economic growth needs to get back on track! And the Fed can make it happen!

Re:Economic growth (0)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770571)

Or maybe tax revenue can be increased to increase funding for not just R&D but bridges, paying off 2 wars, education, the arts, etc. and stop mortgaging the future.

Re:Economic growth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770913)

Or maybe tax revenue can be increased...

I'm interested in hearing your proposal for this.

Additional tax on "the 1%" would yield about $5bn/year. Considering our hole is in the trillions of dollar range, that $5bn is a drop in the bucket.

If you consider a tax increase across the board, increasing the tax rate by 1-2% for everyone would yield an additional $150bn - $300bn annually, which is probably enough to start digging ourselves out. It's also the surest way to drop the economy back into a recession.

The only voter-friendly choice left (mostly because it's generally invisible to voters) is to inflate our way out of debt. The value of your dollar is going to be worth a lot less over the coming two decades, but the rate of change will be so slow that by the time you realize what is happening it will be too late to do anything about it. That car you need to buy in retirement is going to cost you $100,000, and that will get you a Honda Fit.

Any central authority will do (2)

concealment (2447304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770333)

The point of central authority is that we all pay in a certain amount of our wealth, and it concentrates that wealth and does great things with it. Whether that's Roman emperors building temples, or NASA, it's the same principle.

It doesn't need to be government. In fact, any tax-deductible cause will do. We need a big science lobby with a big science 501(c)(3) non-profit to collect money and administer it to these projects. Because it's tax-deductible, it's roughly the same thing as paying it in taxes, so no net loss to the citizen.

Re:Any central authority will do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770473)

You do realize tax-deductible is not a $1 donation = -$1 tax bill right? Right?

Re:Any central authority will do (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770751)

I'm pretty sure most of america doesn't realize that a tax deduction isn't the same as a tax credit.

Crafts Stores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770377)

Reliable and professional China crafts [china-hand-craft.com] stores where you can buy craft merchandise and dropship them anywhere in the world!

Government OUT! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770415)

Let the free market decide. This country is great because of private business research. We haven't needed government funding till the socialist fascist democrats took over. Before then it was science for miles funded completely by virtuous businesses.

If the American people don't want the Higgs then why should government force them to have it?

Ron Paul 2012!

Re:Government OUT! (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770587)

In the same way the government disincentivzed space travel. If they had let the private sector sort it out we'd be sipping cocktails on Mars already!

Re:Government OUT! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771463)

In the same way the government disincentivzed space travel.

Uh, they did.

Being first to the Moon was the biggest single incentive for private manned spaceflight; someone would have done it sooner or later for the prestige. But the government threw vast amounts of money at NASA to do it without leaving any usable infrastructure behind that would allow such flights to continue.

So if any company says today 'we want to raise billions of dollars to go to the moon', people just shrug and say 'so what? we already did that years ago'.

Re:Government OUT! (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771553)

If the free market were such a great thing then there would be a country with a great economic success record as a result of practicing it.

Hasn't happened.

Re:Government OUT! (4, Insightful)

skids (119237) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770837)

The "Free Market" most people rave about is a mathematical fantasy that is based on incorrect assumptions. No "Free Market" would have created nuclear power, for example, as the initial investments were too much for any business ledger to survive.

Take for example, Google -- they regularly take media heat for spending down on basic research. If they just ignored this pressure from stockholders, their stock would tank, so occasionally they back off. The "Free Market" punishes too much ambition, or any large amount of spending directed at creating a marketplace that benefits the world at large more than it benefits the individual company.

Occasionally visionary company executives manage to convince investors that something good for the economy at large is worth investing in. Most of the time they fly smaller projects under the radar. The Government has the same problem, in that politicians have to deal with pressures from the public over the debt. Corruption in either sphere has long turn deleterious consequences because it increases adversion to big speculative projects.

Certain types of progress absolutely require levels of effort beyond what the corporate sector is able muster. If we want top make these kinds of progress we have to pool resources. So we should not complain that that gets done, we should just complain when it gets done wrong, most especially when the mistake was easily preventable.

Re:Government OUT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770947)

Business is great in the United States because there's a legal environment and infrastructure to support business. Guess what creates those? It ain't the free market. There's a reason you guys aren't taken really seriously most places. You might be over-represented on the Internet (trust fund babies with time to burn?), but you never see a Libertarian getting more than a couple percent of the vote ... and there's a reason for that.

Re:Government OUT! (1)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771813)

Impressive, a +4 Insightful post that is nothing more than a quick troll. Not a very good one, either.

Bravo, sir! Bravo!

Re:Government OUT! (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772091)

Indeed. I think the most impressive part about this troll is that it actually managed to be taken seriously and modded UP.

Re:Government OUT! (1)

firewrought (36952) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772251)

Let the free market decide. This country is great because of private business research. We haven't needed government funding till the socialist fascist democrats took over.

Parent is troll with little knowledge about the history of government-funded research. Mod down.

Govt gets too much credit (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770419)

The reality is that "government" itself really isn't anything other than wealth collected by force. For some reason people have come to think of it as a problem solver, when all it can really do is collect and spend money... usually inefficiently and recklessly. It has very little interest in spending money wisely as the political winds blow different directions every day. Government exists to protect the rational from the irrational.
I see a need for a separation of science and government. Get it out of setting policies regarding stem cells, cancer treatments, etc. Those that argue it is needed to advance science have forgotten the lessons of the past. The repression of science and new ideas from kings, popes, and populist insanity. Sure it is nice to get a phat grant from the endless US coffers, but at what *real* cost? Government has no place amongst the rational.

Asmov Covered this one. (3, Informative)

KDEnut (1673932) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770425)

Asmov went on a small rant on this very subject years ago in a short novelette called The Dead Past.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dead_Past [wikipedia.org]

Re:Asmov Covered this one. (0)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770771)

Who's that?

First google hit for asmov:

ASMOV is an automatic ontology alignment tool which produces class-to-class, property-to-property, individual-to-individual mappings.

Silver lining (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770437)

There was a silver lining to the cancellation of the SSC. There has been an explosion of quantum, solid state, and low temperature physics in the last 2 decades that might not have happened if all those great minds had been dedicated to just a single project.

Physicists have been forced to throw huge amounts of creativity at science. In a sense, they have probably done more with less. I'm not advocating cutting spending further, just seeing the silver lining of the cancellation of one project.

Physics for now (2)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770479)

Galileo just sat in church watching chandeliers swing. One of my professors when I was in school got a paper out of watching the pool while he was vacationing in Mexico. My high school sent a getaway special a couple years after I graduated. Sometimes Physics is just mathematical models, sometimes it is big expensive experiments. I tWe are in a time of big experiments at the moment because the years 1900-1950 or so were spent rewriting the classical laws of physics into Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity, then after that time continuing to figure out why they do not mesh.

What we are seeing now is a few decades of really big science to test the models and discover which are correct, which are not, and which need to be rewritten. This is not going to be a forever process. At some point our experiments will result in data and we will have another direction to go in. Cyclotrons are not going to get arbitrarily big. Spacecraft will eventually need to be sent out and we are simply going to have to wait. We may see a time when the theoretical physicists have to work for a few decades to understand what we need to build next.

Re:Physics for now (1)

zugedneb (601299) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772427)

i hope u get modded up :) i can not do that, alas peoples lives are short compared to how difficult some things are. it is possibile that we will have ot wait until we can extend our lifspan to tackle the next step... but, these things are too deep for slashdot, and i am supposed to be trolling :D

It's a setup! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770483)

All a deception... =D

Government Science Complex (3, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770499)

While I sympathize with the point of TFA's author, I'm not sure if it's that simple.

More government funding, which is the source of big dollars, isn't an unalloyed good.

From Eisenhower's famous speech about the (dangers of) military-industrial complex:

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

The more that funding is a result of the POLITICAL process, all the more will science be politicized. For scientists to expect money "no strings attached" would be staggeringly naive.

Pure science is absolutely critical to the continued advancement of our society.

Considering the diminishing returns and extraordinary numbers required to push out the boundaries of human knowledge, I don't know where the dollars could come from WITHOUT government, but funding from government is invariably a tarbaby that makes everyone sticky and dirty.

Re:Government Science Complex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39771629)

The key is diversity. There are times when progress comes from the stereotypical lone-inventor-in-the-garage. There are times when it takes a massive group effort and lots of expensive equipment.

Massive group efforts historically came from either Big Business R&D departments or from Government (usually funding academia). Big Business wanted to Own the Future, so they'd indulge in the occasional "Blue Sky" project.

These days, Big Business rarely cares about owning anything further out than the next quarterly bonuses, and their main means of ownership is via Merger and Acquisition, not by superior new products, but in the mean time, government funding is under a 2-pronged attack from ideologues that think we can shrink ourselves to greatness and/or don't want any "inconvenient" discoveries being made.

There never was a perfect solution. Big projects invariably attract people with agendas, people with selfish goals, and people who can quash possibilities by sheer weight of numbers. On the other hand, what we have been doing lately is limiting our options. At best that only works until someone less limited takes over.

Not just in US (3, Informative)

PiMuNu (865592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770581)

I recently gave a similar talk to the UK Institute of Physics conference on High Energy Physics. The fact is that particle physics costs too much. The problem, in my view, is generated by particle physicists. We have underinvested in the basic technology of accelerator-driven HEP, namely superconducting magnets and to a lesser extent high gradient RF cavities. This underinvestment has lasted for several decades.

For example, there are a bunch of folks working on HTS (High Temperature Superconductors) in the US with the potential to increase magnet field strengths by an order of magnitude - and hence particle accelerator fields by an order of magnitude. But the program is poorly funded if at all. In Europe, there are similar programs but they are disjoint (as so many things in Europe) between different countries.

Sadly, the SSC and LHC were both disastrous in this respect. They basically bankrupted the HEP community. Now the US is more-or-less withdrawing from HEP and European accelerator driven HEP seems to have nowhere to go after LHC.

The impact to HEP community is clear, but what about the impact to society? Where will we be in a world where we no longer have the capability to push back the fundamental frontiers of knowledge. Is that it?

For the US, that's predictable (0)

FridayBob (619244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770613)

With a succession of US governments willing only to lower tax rates and thus only being able to cut spending in order to cut their deficit, and being populated ever more frequently by anti-science religious nuts, obviously they're no hurry to invest in any more huge science projects, such as the SSH.... I mean the SSC.

Holding "the apparatus in his lap" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770621)

Who wanted a picture of that?

Inevitable? (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770623)

If not our government, will anyone fund these immense projects or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?

Yes, if the cost of pushing the frontiers of science continues to increase, we'll hit a limit where we can't fund the next step. However, I don't think we're there yet. The world economy just isn't doing that well now. When the economy picks up again, the funding will probably come back.

Political or physical? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770639)

Is this really a political problem?

We haven't been building steadily larger, more complex, and harder-to-get-funded physics machines just for giggles, we've been building them because the previous ones failed to smash particles hard enough.

It's not as though scientists like grantwriting and political money-grubbing to get their science widgets built. It's just that, so far, each generation of Big Apparatus has managed to peel back another layer of detail that bears no signs of being the deepest one. There is, after all, absolutely nothing that requires the laws of physics to be discernible with apparatus(or minds) of modest size. It is entirely possible that this isn't just the comparatively petty matter of deciding which politicians sign the checks; but of whether we will be able to declare victory within the limits of all the mass and energy within our reach. If it turns out that chasing elementary particles into their spider holes requires an accelerator that runs around the edge of the Kuiper belt, or a Pulsar caliber beam source, who do we get to complain to?

The simple solution to many problems is... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770713)

... first recognize its not government funding by rather misuse of tax payer contributions to funding.

Next crowd source funding direction, each tax payer instructing government where their share is to be spent.
Congress will like this as they no longer have to fail at budgeting and accounting, we the people will do it instead.
The government and other previous and current government funded projects will have to educate the people where it is they need funding and why.
Amendment 16 of the US constitution empowers congress to lay and collect taxes, but it does not and cannot define where the funding is to be used nor can they strip the people of their right and duty to say, otherwise we the people will have no choice but to follow the recognition and instructions the founders left for us in the Declaration of Independence, upon such wide scope government failure.

There is need for: organized structures for the optimization of teamwork benefits shared among the contributing members and citizens of the membership. There are many shared benefits we do have, but given the waste and misuse, budgeting and massive accounting failure.... we the people can certainly do better. It is our right and duty to.

What we need is forms that allow us "the people" to instruct government at all levels (local, state, federal, etc...) where they are to spend our taxes.

Scientific research will may or not benefit at first, but its gonna get better when the individual tax paying people learn they have voice that literally counts. rather than an illusion of a politician claiming to be representing the people.... by lying to the people. Which does NOT equate to "no taxation without representation"

At least once a year, during and with income tax returns... tell the government at the levels you pay taxes to... where to spend your money and if they cannot validate it.... we can work through credit unions to do so.

Educating the public in a manner of asking for their democratic participation in the direction of the Republic of the United States... WILL BRING THE AMERICAN SPIRIT BACK.... And we know research does a lot better when the spirit is there, as does many other aspects of the environment we live in.

danger of a monoculture (0)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770747)

Weinberg points to some un-named Congressman for the line on finding priorities in science funding, but that's not necessary. He should be looking at his colleagues in a physics department, many of us feel the same way!

What particle physics has lacked is true oversight. At this point, their papers aren't really peer-reviewed, their grants aren't competitive, and their results are borderline relevant to actually understanding new physics. Their culture is so monolithic that they actually believe internal competition and review is all they need.

Astronomy is an example of a field of physics where oversight and competition have been beneficial. Weinberg is incorrect, we do not need space based resources to do the top level work. There have been some creative solutions to doing astronomy cost-effectively. Astronomers and the spin off field of cosmology have effectively taken leadership on research of fundamental physics away from particle physicists using small and moderately sized projects, with a few exceptions.

The social and funding effect which we're seeing now in particle physics can be found in any other big field of physics. Superconductivity research is famous for it. At a certain point, it's not really worth continuing fundamental research in a given field; funding and interest drops. It's not that everything is solved, but simply that creative research is no longer encouraged by the community and funding agencies get tired of seeing the same proposal every year. Eventually, more interesting research plans are accepted; funding and interest increases again. That will happen with accelerators, but first this old mindset needs to be challenged.

is cosmology more important then cancer ? (2)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770775)

cause that is the true question; science is $$, and, even more importantly, there are a limited number of talented people who can do science (I mean, how many guys can hit a major league fastball ?) I would say that spending a lot on cosmology is less important then cancer, but thats my bias

Re:is cosmology more important then cancer ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39771337)

...there are a limited number of talented people who can do science (I mean, how many guys can hit a major league fastball ?)...

Well, no one can hit a major league fastball with 100% success. But some people have a higher probability of success than others.

In a baseball game, the goal is to identify the person with the highest relative probability of success. But if the goal was simply to get as many fastballs hit as possible, it might be more effective to hire a million people at minimum wage and have them all spend 8 hours a day swinging like crazy. I mean, suppose only 1% got a hit all day. That's still 10,000 fastballs hit. Could one single major league player hit 10,000 fastballs in a single day?

Depending how you count, there are tens of thousands of human genes. And many of them are still not characterized (e.g. assigned a function). Are we really expecting that some single Nobel prize winner is going to come along and characterize all of them by himself? I'm sure, the way the Nobel prize is structured, there can only be a few winners a year (it's a relative prize, after all). But does that mean that only a few people a year are qualified to do science? If that's true, it's going to be a long wait for a cure for cancer.

And, leaving aside talent, as someone who does science for a (rather meager) living, it's heart breaking to see all the people who have made decades of sacrifice in order to do science be unable to find jobs because of lack of funding.

Bottom line: when it comes to scientists, the problem isn't lack of supply, it's lack of demand.

Re:is cosmology more important then cancer ? (1)

fearofcarpet (654438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771937)

cause that is the true question; science is $$, and, even more importantly, there are a limited number of talented people who can do science (I mean, how many guys can hit a major league fastball ?) I would say that spending a lot on cosmology is less important then cancer, but thats my bias

You also have to keep in mind that there is a profit motive for curing cancer and thus the private sector is also hard at work on that problem. No private entity is going to cough up tens of billions of dollars to do fundamental research in high energy physics. Analogies between physical science and disease are also difficult because so much can be done through awareness and prevention; cancers are intertwined with lifestyle as well as genetics, AIDS remains a much larger problem in countries that lack effective public education and prevention, etc. Big Science requires the upfront investment of a huge pile of cash in exchange for long-term gains that are often difficult to perceive, particularly to Congress, who are up for election every two years.

As to your other point, it has been my experience (as a professional scientist) that you're spot-on; the greatest minds in a particular field are often people who are just wired to think that way. One who is naturally gifted at math and solving puzzles might make a great theoretician, but fail miserably as an experimental biochemist. But I think that countries should be competing for these minds, particularly in this globalized and connected world and in science, where passionate people will absolutely move across an ocean for the chance to take a crack at an intriguing problem. The US got lucky after WWII and basically inherited many of the world's greatest scientific minds by default; no other country was left with enough resources to support scientific research or a serious university system. And now those people are retiring and dying, and Europe and Asia are quickly rising and surpassing the US in many areas of science.

Re:is cosmology more important then cancer ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39772129)

agree a lot with last paragraph.
To me, there has always been something a little racist (if you will pardon the term) in the mainstream idea (espoused by both clinton and obama) that we can outcompete other countries by focusing on education; this has always seemed to assume both that our unique university system won't be replicated, and that Asians are not that smart (in the 70s, when detroit was under assault, one frequently heard that asians were hard working drones, but not creative - truly astonishing explicit racism)
You look at science and innovation, I don't see any reason China can't replicate silicon valley; they ahve dynamic biz guys willing and able to invest, lots and lots of great minds, all they need are some universisties - we shall see what happens !!!!

In terms of people moving - over the last year or two, I have seen a few quotes from top guys at places like mit, about how the best students, who could be on the tenure/national academy sciences track at a top school, are now moving back to asia..when the best young people vote with their feet, that tells you something

False dichotomy (1)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39770829)

If not our government, will anyone fund these immense projects or will physics slowly grind to a halt due to fiscal constraints?

Or, they can try to find some other way to do this research that doesn't involve such immense construction. But without establishing this alarmist false dichotomy, Mr. Weinberg won't be able to scare us into giving him more money.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771221)

There is also the possibility that we shovel more money into these 'big science' projects and physics slowly grinds to a halt anyway. Ingenuity is as likely to drive big discoveries in 'small science' as a lack-of-ingenuity is to thwart big discoveries in 'big science.'

Look at the US Space Program. There was a time when that was a well-funded jewel in the crown of US scientific achievement. Now due to lethargy, nebulous organizational mission, poor management, and a dearth of imagination, NASA has become something of a scientific backwater whose colossal screw-ups garner more attention than any experimentation it does. Arguably it is currently overfunded given the full scope of its administrative competency.

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39771887)

"Look at the US Space Program. There was a time when that was a well-funded jewel in the crown of US scientific achievement."

Um no, it was a well-funded military program that was wrapped up in jingoistic PR. There was very little "science", lots of engineering though.

"Now due to lethargy, nebulous organizational mission, poor management, and a dearth of imagination,"

The same can be said of 19th century coal locomotives. We don't use them anymore because they make no sense, not because of your reasons. Imagination doesn't move mass, energy does. We simply have hit the limits of what's possible. There are no exotic sci-fi "fields" and bizarre particles to enable the delirious sci-fi "technologies" that sci-fi "promised" us.

That's why space is dead. Space is huge, it's mostly empty and we've been there. We know, we have pictures. Reality suggests we move on and concentrate on the real jewel, our planet.

Funding crisis? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39770989)

No, we've just hit the plateau. There's nothing more revolutionnary coming. This isn't the late 19th/early 20th century anymore. You can't gain insights by exposing a photographic plate to a glowing rock anymore. We KNOW where to look and we HAVE looked, a LOT. There's nothing left to do but tidy up the last few decimal places.

Sorry guys. There won't be magical fusion breakthroughs, improbable new ways of moving mass (doing F=ma has been done the same way for decades now, ie fossil fuels and combustion in engines, same principles for decades).

Time to move on.

Biotechnology needs funding. How does matter organize itself into life? What is aging? Can we control it?

Social sciences need funding. How do we transition from the old cheap high-energy source social model (cars, suburbs, 100% employments, careers, subsidized universities) into the inevitable expensive low-energy source, yet high-tech world to come?

Mental health sciences will need funding when Space Nutters eventually realize that their delirious 1960s fantasies will never, ever become true, ever. World Haloperdiol supply won't be enough.

It's a big world. (0)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771151)

Instead of trying to carry the world on our (figurative) shoulders, it would be better for the spread of Science itself to work cooperatively.

As the US government is gradually corrupted by the Christian Taliban and corporate budget cutters, mankind needs research to continue.

The US has ceased to be a global force for good, so route around the damage. Political entropy is not new, so work to enhance Science in DEVELOPING countries.

Myopia (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39771507)

The field of high energy physics requires these ever increasing expenditures almost by definition.

However it is silly to correlate this with all of science, or even all of physics. There is lots of perfectly good science that doesn't requires this scale, and in fact it might well be that allocation of these vast sums of money to these types of projects is a mis-allocation in the sense that you may get far greater return on the investment in other areas.

Kickstarter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39771687)

Seriously - if a few tens of top physicists got together with a serious, multi-billion-dollar plan for a massive experiment, they could tap into huge crowd funding. The LHC cost about $6 billion. If you got 5 million people across the entire planet to pledge $10/mo for ten years, you'd have your LHC. Easy? Heck no. Possible? Absolutely.

Maybe somebody will find ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39771899)

a Higgs boson in his lap

Diminishing returns. (1)

hsthompson69 (1674722) | more than 2 years ago | (#39772331)

What if we challenge the assumption that more money == more scientific progress? It's quite possible (nay, quite common) to spend vast amounts of money and make little or no progress, even if measured by "useful failures".

Does anyone really believe that if we dedicated 100% of the earth's GDP for 5 years, we'd cure all cancers? End aging? Cure Jerry's Kids? When we imagine that science is simply determined by the amount of resources we're willing to throw at it, we're making a fatal error.

At a certain point, scientific breakthrough is a combination of creativity, genius and luck, and you simply can't *buy* that.

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