Sunday, May 7, 2017

All About the Science

The mindset that has always puzzled me is how certain political types crow about making America number one in the world—yes I paraphrased to avoid throwing up in my mouth-- but refuse to properly fund the only real way to accomplish that goal. Basic or pure scientific research, without any obvious applied applications is the only way to keep America a player on the world stage. The best way to describe pure research is that it lays the foundation for later practical applications. The quickest example I can offer is how it took the combined efforts of diligent scientists over a couple of centuries to discover the underlining principles of electricity before Edison could figure out a way to build a practical light bulb.

The trouble with pure research is that to many it seems to fly off on a tangent chasing some bizarre but useless scientific oddity. In this day and age once information along those lines seeps out to the general public it usually leads to some manly man announcer or hot blond bimbo clone on Fox News whining about taxpayer's money going to waste. Which causes numerous people to call their Milquetoast congressman whose scientific education never goes much beyond figuring out the remote on his home entertainment center to demand cuts in funding to the research agencies responsible for keeping America on the cutting edge of science.

Contrary to the insipid little twit running the Office of Budget and Management, private industry does not spend a lot of money on basic research, so that leaves it to the federal government to pave the way for future accomplishments. You need a couple of examples? The first being the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic bomb. Besides Einstein's Special Relativity—another work of pure research, it took a lot of coordinated effort by government agencies to produce the bomb that ended World War Two. The second is that internet which for years before Al Gore was ever accused, wrongly, of saying he invented it was a way for government laboratories to communicate.

Long story short, the scientific advances that lead to better healthcare, improved lifestyles, faster communications, and even bigger weapons do not appear out of thin air. Someone didn't wake up one morning and say, “I'm going to invent a Blu-Ray player.” If you ignore the electricity angle I already mentioned, in truth the origins of that device can be traced back to Einstein's earlier research that lead to the invention of the laser.

Getting to the heart of the matter the individual now occupying the White House has proposed deep cuts into the amount of money we spend on basic research. Making matters worse, the United States does not spend as much on basic research as compared to China and many other countries which could be compared to us trying to commit a form of suicide. Since discoveries in science always lead to new questions which spur new insights regaining a lead once it is lost is next to impossible. In the simplest words, money spent of pure research is a long term investment the future. While there is no promise of a big return in the form of an earth shattering discovery, without pure research we just stagnant and live off the efforts of others.

The good news though is that while the Congress of the United States has never been enthusiastic supporters of pure research it has taken a surprisingly bipartisan approach to sticking it to Trump and the cuts purposed in his 2018 budget. Yeah, given the current situation, I'm taking what good news I can while realizing the next four years will ultimately hurt the United States in ways our kids will have to work incredibly hard to overcome, if it is even possible.



Harry Hamid said...

It seems to me as though, perhaps, many in the current Administration don't understand the way these things work. The way grants and research work.

I've worked at nonprofits for nearly 20 years, and each time a new Executive Director has come on board, they've tried to find alternatives to our federal grants because of the red tape, low administrative cost allowances, and overall uncertainty about future funding. After a time,, however, they've all realized that private funding to make up for federal grants is a pipe dream.

The Bug said...

It's an extension of anti-intellectualism, which I believe is the reason that our current president is in the White House. So freaking annoying!

Ranch Chimp said...

Yeah Bum, it's an importante issue, I dont think many folks really think about it though. I have covered this crap myself and looking into it ... all I see is another scam (money) ... trying to get defunding and defunding of government money going into research and such, to drain it dry like with everything else in this age of neoliberalism. No, I dont believe these folks are scientifically illiterate or whatever ... these bastards know good and well WTF they're are doing, they're all educated, they depend on scientific research for their investment strategies, assessments, etc ... all they want to do like with everything else they are trying to privatize of ours, is reduce funding to all these entities of the people/ governments, whether in U.S. or any other so called democracy of the globe, to force us to have to depend on oligarchs for funding, research, etc ... the reason for austerity measures and so on and so on. Then they can totally own, science, education, governments, postal, retirement/ social security ... all new discoveries and scientific breakthroughs, etc ... meaning we will be regulated by multinational corporate and banking as to what we can do, use, buy, trade, discover, access to info and benefits etc. Long story, but all I see is a damn scam in the worx ... just look at the money and power angle. The new healthcare deal is a scam to make sick, elderly and the unwanted die off ... some dont believe it, that's cool ... but ask yourself ... why in Hell would they want poor, sick, elderly, disabled or any of that to "live"? ... not unless you believe that these largest wealth holders are humanitarians. They dont give a shit about us, and bending over to them or caring about them is stupid as well ... for all I care, I wish for them to die as well, and frankly dont give a damn about their investment plans ... no ... I'm not a humanitarian either ... and that's exactly how you should deal with them at the top in my view. Thanx for the read guy.

Pixel Peeper said...

We can still hope for the elections in November 2018 to turn things around...somewhat.