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United States Science

Did the US Take the Back Seat In Science In 2009? 502

Posted by Soulskill
from the relegated-to-the-trunk dept.
tcd004 writes "In the PBS NewsHour's roundup of the biggest science news of the year, Neil DeGrasse Tyson dropped this doozie: '[Scientific leadership] drives the economic strength and security of nations. The fall is not from a cliff. More like a slow, downward slide — almost imperceptible from day to day. But as the years pass America will have descended from leaders to players to merely followers as we fade to insignificance, at best hitching a ride on the innovations of others.'"
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Did the US Take the Back Seat In Science In 2009?

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  • I expect so... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:27AM (#30621714) Journal

    The USA has a population of around 300,000,000, or around 5% of the world population. It should expect to be following in some areas. In the twentieth century, a combination of factors (less damage from WWII than other developed nations, higher ratio of middle class to subsistence-level citizens, greater economies of scale that most of Europe) let the USA lead in technology. Even then, a number of key developments came from outside the USA, for example the first theoretical models in computing, the first stored program computer, the most successful commercial CPU architecture and the TFT display all came from the UK, the first (and, so far, only) supersonic passenger aircraft was a joint venture between the UK and France.

    With 5% of the world population, you simply can't expect to be the world leader at everything. Through most of the twentieth century, the USA operated quite a successful brain drain, skimming off a lot of the best and brightest in the rest of the world by offering them bigger salaries and, more importantly, a lot more resources to continue their work. Now it's quite difficult for someone with a PhD to get a visa to work in the USA (unless they're just transferring within the same multinational company) and the desire to work in America is significantly lowered by the insane anti-terror legislation, not to mention the crippling IP laws which make the USA a much less attractive place to do research unless you have a massive company backing you.

    • I was going to mention the suppression of innovation through patents, but I hadn't considered how hard it is for people to get here if they want to come. So even highly skilled can't get here because they could be terrorists or they could take a job. I like your analysis of brain drain. I hadn't really thought of that before but it makes perfect sense to me.
    • Re:I expect so... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:48AM (#30621836)

      Now it's quite difficult for someone with a PhD to get a visa to work in the USA (unless they're just transferring within the same multinational company) and the desire to work in America is significantly lowered by the insane anti-terror legislation,

      It's sad really, the most rabid believers in American Exceptionalism [wikipedia.org] are the exact same rabid supporters of the policies that are destroying it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        That's generally how that works. Arrogance and ignorance tend to go hand in hand and it's difficult under even the best of circumstances to stay the leader forever. But in this case with a sizable portion of the population that doesn't want to be educated it's difficult indeed to remain the leader. Coddling religious idiots need to believe in absurdities like virgin births, new Earth and ID is hardly the path to enlightenment. Not to mention more easily dispatched notions like the US as a Christian nation,
    • Re:I expect so... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Davemania (580154) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:49AM (#30621842) Journal
      The population ratio would probably be roughly equivalent in the last few decades yet US and a few other "rich" countries were able to maintain their scientific lead in the past. The point here is not that we expect the US to be the leader of everything but that there seems to be a large drop off in scientific/research investment in the last decade. We also see a drop in the quality of education (i.e. why are we still arguing about evolution in 20XX) standards and that will have a long term effect.
      • Re:I expect so... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EzInKy (115248) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:02AM (#30621910)

        It is fear that will be the downfall of our "Home of the Brave". Fear that our kids will not believe in a god if they are taught evolution, fear that they will blow us up if they are taught chemistry, and fear that they will "steal" songs if they are taught math.

        • Re:I expect so... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:07PM (#30622868)

          Fear is the mind killer. Good song, btw.

          And yes, fear is the downfall of the US. And many other countries. We (including the US, most of Europe and a lot of other so called developed nations) are so terribly afraid of losing what we got that we don't dare to risk going ahead.

          Just recently I saw a good documentary explaining why God plays such a huge role in a country that (IIRC as the first) separated church and state. The riots of the 70s were blamed on the godlessness and hedonism of the period, and people were terrified by those riots. The religious right gained a lot of steam in these days and they still got it today. And, when I look around me and ponder what people are the most "God fearing", I notice that the age bracket matches quite nicely.

          My only hope is that time will cure it. People tend to forget, and those that refuse to forget will die, and we will eventually get more people relying on logic and reason again. I hope it won't be too late.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dogmatixpsych (786818)
            I respectfully disagree. I think that the more "religious" we are the more scientific progress we will have. I'm not talking about middle age religions that were often quite oppressive and distrusting of science (although, religious persecution of scientific progress and scientists has been exaggerated - they were only oppressive in some countries and of some scientists in specific fields); we have much different religions now than we had then.

            India is making huge strides in science and they are highly re
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Opportunist (166417)

              I'm from Europe. And yes, people are quite religious here. Some even participate in mass every Sunday. Hey, we even have mandatory religion classes in school!

              Yet, funny enough, the idea of creationism never really occured to anyone. Well, ok, there might be a handful of people, but the second a politician would seriously try to push it he may as well kiss his career good bye. We consider science and religion distinct matters. It seems our religious are quite capable to believe in their God and at the same t

        • by Narpak (961733)
          Franklin D. Roosevelt [wikipedia.org] might have been refeering to The Great Depression [wikipedia.org], but his quote:

          So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

          does seem to hold a deeper truth about the tendencies of human society in general. Fear makes people go to great and horrible lengths to preserve their own safety and ideals; even so far as to destroy said ideals and safety in the process.

      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        I agree education has much to do with it, as does mainstream media, and even school itself.

        Think back when you were in high school and didn't really know what you wanted to do the rest of your life, which sounds better? Rock star, actor or actress, sports figure, or research scientist.

        Given those choices the last I would pick would be research scientist. We are a nation of 'me's, what will it get me, how much will it earn me. Upon reflection now, I think it would be way cooler to be a research scientist,
    • Not being a leader in some field of scientific endeavor is okay. That the Germans produce better machine tools than the Americans is okay. They do what they can do well. We do what we can do well. Free trade between 2 free markets -- USA and Germany -- gives each country access to the products of the other country and enriches both countries in the process. That situation is the very basis of the economic law of comparative advantage.

      However, that law is never mentioned when American companies demand

      • by Vancorps (746090) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:25AM (#30622454)

        While I think there is rampant abuse of the H1-B program I do think it is vital a U.S. dominance in all technological fields. Through-out the 30's and 40's we were not pulling just highly educated people from other countries, we were pulling in rockstars of science, people that could contribute the science we were trying to develop. Today H1-Bs are just a form of cheaper labor for companies and you don't have to be especially well qualified to land a job using an H1-B. Because of this our job pool is diluted and all the effort bringing people here yields very little.

        The best and brightest minds are naturally going to be in other countries as we hold merely 5% of the population. H1-B needs to be about bringing in the best and the brightest, not about filling non-existent programmer position voids. Foreigners helped us construct the atomic bomb among many other technological leaps forward. They are necessary. The fact that Japan is so successful right now is due to us being lazy and let's face it, science was manipulated for political gains through the new millennium. When we recover our strengths you'll see us surpass Japan unless they too start bringing in foreign talent.

        Of course you might remember that Japan was in a similar position to the U.S. now about a decade ago. They shifted their priorities and surprise surprise, they are back to being productive members of the international community. Right now people in the U.S. take their success for granted and have forgotten that it was only achieved through lots of hard work and lots of sacrifice! My own feelings lean towards suggesting that the religious awakening since 9/11 has been the root cause due to people living in fear searching for a quick fix rather than fixing the root of the problems at hand. It's easy to say god will save us, hard to actually do it yourself and stop the international sale of arms to unstable regions and stop the acquisition of oil from countries that behave unconscionably. All solutions come with sacrifice and there would be serious humanitarian issues to deal with although I suspect China would fill any economic gaps for those countries we stopped buying from. At some point we have to accept higher gas prices as a cost of our ideals which are just and sound if only we had the balls to live up to them.

      • by ultranova (717540) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:29AM (#30622490)

        Here is the conclusion: H-1B engineers were never necessary to the American economy.

        H-1B engineers are necessary to suppress wages, which is necessary to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. That's commonly known as "right-wing" politics, which have been practiced at least since Reagan's time, for the detriment of almost all.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @12:15PM (#30622974)

        To have a good domestic workforce, you have to train good domestic engineers. It is actually that simple.

        Ever seen a Japanese school from the inside? Try to discuss the idea of "no child left behind" with a person from Japan and watch closely how he tries to retain his proverbial composure. Japanese schools don't level the field, they demand.

        You say that the Japanese system of a reliance on domestic engineers is good and should be applied to the US. I say, to do that you first of all have to create engineers that are on par with Japan. Then we can talk.

      • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:08PM (#30623556)

        That is a very false conclusion.

        The Japanese are a few years behind... but they are suffering the same fate as the Americans.
        Young Japanese (on mass) do not find science and engineering all that interesting anymore and they aren't willing to sacrifice to just do it as a job.

        There's also the salary curve. As your society gets more services and regulations, there are 'easier' ways to make money, you can be a financial person, a doctor, lawyer, public sector worker, transit worker ... Your best and brightest go into those areas.

        Contrast this with say H1Bs. Now you get the best of the best from other countries where the pay/work vastly exceeds anything they could earn in other industries.

        That said, the need for H1Bs is simply not that useful these days. If a company wants to make use of foreign labor, they could just setup a foreign branch :P

    • Re:I expect so... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Denial93 (773403) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:18AM (#30622008)
      The US received a massive advantage in that all three other historical power centers (Europe, Russia, China) were crippled by massive dictatorships at roughly the same time. Half a century later, it is not surprising the relations should balance out somewhat.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For decades, many of the world's best students came to the US to get their PhDs. In many American labs you could hardly meet a native American scientist. And American science thrived, really. Maybe now it's time for the US to send their best students abroad and get valuable PhDs from countries where you can still find a taste for hard work and good science?

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:16AM (#30621994) Journal
      A lot of people still go to the USA to get their PhDs, but over the last few years the rules have changed to make it much harder for them to get a work visa afterwards. It used to be a quite easy way of getting into the country; go for a PhD, get it, and then stay. Now you're educating people to a high standard and then sending them back to their original homes, and then wondering why there are so many excellent foreign research centres...
    • by willy_me (212994) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:24AM (#30622038)

      Maybe now it's time for the US to send their best students abroad and get valuable PhDs from countries where you can still find a taste for hard work and good science?

      No, America has a high quality (but very expensive) post-secondary education system. Being expensive means that some bright but less fortunate students will never reach their full potential - which is sad but it is still provides a quality education. The real problem with America is the public education system. Low standards combined with parents that don't get involved result in very few American students good enough to attend post-secondary education. So good students are imported.

      For some time now, America has operated their "brain drain" to attract the best from other countries. Take Canada for example (I am Canadian). American jobs generally offer higher wages and result in lower taxes. This is partly because tuition in Canada is subsidized - I only paid ~$2000 a semester. So I can graduate from Canada with very low dept and then move to America to work. This is great for both me and America as America does not have to pay for my training. It is bad for the Canadians that do pay for my training and for the Americans I am competing against that do not have the option of a low cost education. But overall, this is good for America and is partly responsible for the lead America had in R&D.

      Others have discussed some reasons why this American "brain drain" is starting to fail - and I agree with them. For example, I have no desire to work in the US. I don't even want to travel to the US - or through the US for that matter. I will gladly pay extra for flights that do not require a transfer in an American airport. It is sad because the Americans that I know who live here in Canada are amazing people. I love my American friends - but seriously America, what happened???

      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:37AM (#30622562)

        The brain drain to the US was always a double edged sword. Many people went to the US with the lure of higher wages and lower taxes, realized it wasn't really true, and left.

        Taking Canada as an example, Albertans pay lower taxes than residents of many US states. Any remaining disparities in wages and taxes are easily swallowed up by all the extra fees, the biggest being health insurance, that you run into in the US.

        A few years ago I was part of a group interviewing a prominent researcher from Cornell for a position at a Canadian university (he was originally Canadian, educated in Canada). His reasons for coming back were (1) excellent research opportunities in Canada, (2) inability to pay for a decent post secondary education for his children and (3) inability to pay for decent health care in the US as he and his wife got older.

        Statistically, IIRC, the brain drain between Canada and the US reversed about a decade ago in most areas.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Already happens. Our universities are filling with US students who realized they can get a degree on par with one of a good university at a fraction of the cost.

      I mean, imagine getting a good degree for about 10k bucks. Total, not per semester.

  • by GuyFawkes (729054) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:41AM (#30621796) Homepage Journal

    You can't just have PARC and places sitting in isolation, churning out whizz bang science.

    Neither can you just build a PARC, and have that attract and create industry around it.

    PARC and places like that need to co-exist with a hotbed industrial base, and then you get a positive feedback loop.

    If you kill local industry and manufacture, then you also kill science.

    If you kill science, then you also kill local industry and manufacture.

    Back in the 1960's and before every school in the UK turned out kids who could read, write, and do math.

    You cannot do ANY trade without these skills, not plumbing, not carpentry, not bricklaying, not to mention the slightly higher level trades like boilermakers etc.

    Sadly, we threw it all away, in our pursuit of crap courses like equine aromatherapy and womyns studies, anything, just to get more people in university, just to get more people with degrees and diplomas and certificates.

    Now we have a "service" economy that relies on someone else being able to do the basic math etc.

    I am an engineer ( a proper one, eg mechanical and marine) and sadly I am the demographic that went through the trade at a time when an engineer was lower in status and pay than many blue collar jobs, which meant no-one wanted to do apprenticeships, which means I am one of the last of the "old school" of engineers.

    The future isn't bright.

    Sci-fi series Firefly had one thing right, learn a second language, and make it Chinese.

    Even if we turned around and went balls out to fix the problem, money no expense, NOW, it would take a generation, or 20 years, to fix, which is too damn slow to work.

    All that is left is importing the talent.

    From what I know of the USA, there is a lot of importing engineering talent going on, lots of foreign nationals, green card holders and immigrants working in tech.

    A friend of mine summed it up well years ago, when he said that in 2020 the USA will be the place to go to make cheap porn and exploit people who don't have any other options.

    USA, the new Romania.

  • by ugen (93902) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:46AM (#30621820)

    US may be taking a back seat in science, but what is described in the article has nothing to do with that.

    Russian space agency needs money very much like NASA. The proposal to shoot down an asteroid (which, according to recent calculations is not an imminent threat) is made primarily to raise their profile, and perhaps get some cash. It certainly helps that the cause is "you will die unless you pay". If you read the original russian announcement you'd notice that they "will need 100s of millions of dollars" and they hope US and European partners will bring some dough to the table :)

    I am somewhat familiar with a state of Russian science, and while it may be that over countries are going ahead of US - Russia is not one of them. Real science in Russia is, unfortunately, taking a backseat to populist crackpottery (such as controlling the clouds or making machines that cure all diseases with "magnetism" and other such things bordering on mysticism) that is in style with the new rich, who are ready to pay for it.

  • us vs. them (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    BTW. Alexa claims only about 47.1% of us here at /. are from US. I'm unsure how representative Alexa is for global stats (global rankings rarely are), but the rest of the world'd be sooner underrepresented than not.

  • by Jacques Chester (151652) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:51AM (#30621858)
    Who cares where the research happens, so long as it happens and happens well? Science should be without borders. Reducing it to a penis-measuring contest is hardly edifying.
  • by Jawn98685 (687784) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @09:58AM (#30621892)
    http://creationmuseum.org/ [creationmuseum.org]
    ...and it has not been laughed out of existence. 'Nuff said.
  • So what sort of music do the Chinese like these days? What's the market for cultural tourism and what does a Bed and Breakfast feed Chinese for breakfast?

  • by dpilot (134227) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:02AM (#30621908) Homepage Journal

    Disruption is the essence of progress. Some of what was is superseded by something new. Typically the incumbent technologies and powers either fight progress tooth and nail, try to co-opt it, or try to at least manage it's pace to something they can control. When too much incumbent power is too successful at slowing progress, that progress tends to move somewhere else.

    In recent years, those incumbent powers have been quite successful in the US. One can hope that that trend doesn't continue.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:05AM (#30621936)

    People mentioned the immigration policies and other factors, but I think the #1 reason long-term pursuits like science have faded from the forefront is the shift everywhere to short term thinking.

    • Students are staying away from science and math because of a short term (or maybe a long term) worry about employability. They also realize that law, medicine and MBA-type pursuits are much more lucrative if they're smart.
    • Companies are increasingly run by groups of investors who put intense pressure on boards to make the quarterly numbers any way possible. This kind of thinking can kill innovation at a company -- it's always wasier to license and resell someone else's product in the short term, but in the long term you're nothing but a middleman.
    • Universities are under even greater pressure to focus research on things that can be immediately turned into products or patents.
    • IBM, AT&T, HP, etc. have all cut back their research labs and divisions. That's not a total surprise; can you imagine trying to explain to some hedge fund guy who holds 10% of the company stock why he's spending money on research?
    • The general public is also caught up in the market driven short term thinking. Everyone depends on the stock market for their retirement. Now that they have instant access to it, volatility goes way up and the public is making the same demands as the hedge fund guys...make money for me NOW or you're fired!

    Personally, I think we should deemphasize the amount of attention paid to the stock market, and give it back to the billionaire's club. Invest your retirement money in something safe that gives reasonable returns....ror better yet, demand that they bring pensions back (the ultimate long term planning tool.)

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      "Students are staying away from science and math because of a short term (or maybe a long term) worry about employability. They also realize that law, medicine and MBA-type pursuits are much more lucrative if they're smart."

      I'd just like to point out that Medicine *is* science. To get a degree in medicine (whether as a nurse or doctor, or lab technician) you have to take all sort of chemistry, biology, and other science courses. All medical progress/research is science-driven. The part about law and MBA's i

      • You're right - I was referring to medicine as part of the professions. Medicine is science, but a lot of it is applied science instead of basic research. At least for now, it's also a very lucrative path if you have the talent and can deal with people and the insane amount of training you have to do.

        Just as an example, if you were about to graduate with a 4.0 from MIT, you'd have options open to you. Medicine is one...8+ years of training, incredible amounts of work and debt, and a huge payoff at the end. L

      • It's a cultural thing. I am sure you have heard the following line in one movie or another, where the father laments his son's career choice: "You could have been a doctor or a lawyer!" This line is used so often it's almost a cliche, and that's no surprise: those professions, and increasingly the MBA-type stuff as well, are considered by many, many people as positions that come with wealth and respect. Conversely, engineers and scientists are notoriously lacking in respect from society at large. Students l
    • I blame the MBA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DG (989) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:49AM (#30622202) Homepage Journal

      Personally, I blame the MBA. As in the "Masters of Business Administration" degree.

      The MBA programmes at all North American universities promote this short of short-term, quarter-by-quarter, stock price driven corporate culture. As the MBA increasingly became the price of entry to more lucrative salaries and promotion within an enterprise, that culture became all-pervasive, to the point where it is now the water in which the fish swim.

      And along the way, the MBA-trained manager class forgot the hard-learned lessons of their founding fathers - like long-term planning, maintainence of corporate morale, and taking care of employees.

      My career arc went military (I was a product of a military college) -> civvi -> military. The military is hardly a perfect institution, but one thing it really gets right is teaching leadership. Actual *leadership*, not just management.

      One of the key tenets of leadership is that quality personnel who are properly motivated can overcome shortfalls in pretty much everything else. Crappy materials, shitty situation, odds stacked against you - well led troops can overcome these things and manufacture success.

      And so there are a number of principles that go along with providing this kind of leadership: Lead by example. Ask your subordinates to do nothing you wouldn't do (or haven't done). Loyalty up starts with loyalty down. Respect is earned, not demanded. Always tell the truth, no matter how unpalatable it might be. If you have to correct someone (or you yourself are corrected) fix the problem and move on with no grudges. Provide subordinates with clear direction, including the mission to be accomplished and your intent, and then trust them to carry it out. Etc.

      Yes, even in the military it is rare for all of these to gel in the same unit, and I can name commanders who I worked for/with who were deficient in one or more of these areas. But even the worst of them (and some could be pretty bad) were still better leaders and ultimately more effective than any MBA-trained manager I ever worked with as a civilian.

      Having worked in a variety of civvie companies, ranging from small startups to major corporations (and most of my civvie experience was with US corporations) I've never seen so many people so completely oblivious to the effects of their decisions upon morale and the overall health and well being of their workforce. Decisions were routinely made with no consideration of second or third order effects. Corporate loyalty simply did not exist, with the employees in the trenches convinced (quite rightly) that management was out to screw them as hard as they could - and so it was OK then to screw the company as hard as they could.

      And most frustratingly, any attempt to draw attention to problems in an attempt to get them rectified was usually perceived as an attack on the person who came up with the policy, not the policy itself. It was nearly impossible to pass ground truth up the chain because the bearer of bad news was treated as "difficult" and quite often punished or even terminated.

      I wonder sometimes if the success of the "greatest generation" who fought in WW2 isn't because so many key people were exposed to military-style leadership and that sense of everybody in an enterprise pulling towards a common goal, and then that carrying on through the rest of their lives. Now, we get the short-sighted, numbers-focussed "leadership" of the MBA and the resulting destruction and misery.

      I went back to the Army in large part because I couldn't take it any more. Even a bad day in the Army usually trumped a good day as a corporate wage slave.

      DG

  • The US is home to huge numbers of institutes, universities, and foundations that are directly responsible for TONS of science coming out. Matter of fact, I have a subscription to Science Magazine and many of the articles are in part or wholly by the US.

    We are a bit behind in stem cell research training and skills, relative to other countries, but CIRM is working to catch that up.

    http://www.cirm.ca.gov/node/278 [ca.gov]

    ---

    I think the article is a bit shallow and assumptive, and does not wholly encompass (or ignores

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      Yeah, I kind of have to agree with the parent. I guess, honestly, I don't really know the state of U.S. science vs the rest of the world, but while I generally respect Dr. Tyson, his line of reasoning strikes me as a bit shallow. Basically, he says that because the Russian space agency is planning to try to deflect an Asteroid named Apophis so it has a reduced chance of colliding with Earth in a couple decades, and because CERN's LHC is currently leading theoretical particle physics, that the U.S.A. has fal

      • Exactly. If one instance of valuable science is to be attributed to a country, and then assumed to fully describe that country...

        well... Yamanaka, the champion of induced pluripotent stem cells, now works for the US in SF.

        IPSC are how current adults can get genetically identical stem cells. IPSC are how we can completely go around the 'ethical' disagreements from embryonic stem cells. IPSC are badass. This summer, whole mice were made from IPSC of tail tip skin.

  • it lost all credability when they shoe horned that nugget in there. measuring something via satillite is hardly a break through.
    • Come on, give it a rest! In what way did they lose credibility by making a measurement that confirmed their predictions? That seems to be the ideal way of increasing credibility.

      Can you really be suprised that they would bring up climate change in a scientific review of 2009 when it is such a hotly debated topic right now?

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @10:15AM (#30621992)

    He made a very good point.

    Tyson made a very good point. In that lecture, he talked about the Islamic Empires of the 12th and 13th centuries that were building while we were in the Christian Dark Ages. Do you know what happened? A bunch of Imams got together and basically stated that Math and Science were of the devil. After that, it was only a matter of time. The result is the Middle East we see today.

    He also stated a statistic that since Bush took office in 2001, during the 8 years of Bush, the amount of "hard science" Papers in Chemistry, Biology and Physics has dropped to 1/10th what it was in the 90s.

    (He had exact numbers, and I saw this last November.)

    The point is, Reactionary Christianity is causing the collapse of our civilization just the same way that Reactionary Islam caused the middle east to become what it is today.

    Christianity. Its the Problem.

    When you have 60% of your population denying Evolution, a scientific fact, your civilization is circling the drain.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @01:37PM (#30623900)

      RELIGION is the problem. Don't single out one, they're all in there.

      I don't mind people believing in some sort of higher being or whatever floats their boat. But stay out of science with it! Science and religion don't mix well. Science is about doubting everything that's relayed to you, testing it and trying to find flaws in those theories, trying to find better theories, trying to improve on it. Religion gives you a text or other teachings that must not be questioned, that must not be doubted, that must not be tested, that has no flaws because it's holy and that you cannot improve because it's been taught by God or some other holy being.

      Religion keeps things static. And while stability is a nice thing because it gives you something to work from, not being ALLOWED to work from it means you are standing still. No improvement. No progress. It's change that drives progress, and if you cannot change you cannot progress.

  • The USA does not, contrary to some believing it, have a monopoly on science and technology.

    During the 1970's to 1990's the USA may have made some innovative computer technology and got the Apollo mission to the Moon and the Space Shuttle, but the rest of the world has caught up and in some ways passed us by.

    Due to offshoring the work to foreign nations and not hiring enough scientists, engineers, and computer science US citizens in the USA, most of us had to take a job to pay the bills that does not contribute to science and technology. The jobs went to the lower bidders in India, China, Russia, etc instead. Labor goes to where labor costs are cheaper as per classic capitalism and even China has become capitalist. Minimum wage is welfare capitalism and classic capitalism does not use it. The USA has welfare capitalism which means we have welfare ie social programs backed by capitalism via insurance and that means unemployment, COBRA, medicare, disability, welfare, etc. We also force companies to get health insurance for their employees but foreign nations do not. Plus we tax corporations to pay for our welfare capitalism social programs so it also forces companies to move to foreign nations to avoid all that.

    When I went to UMR I hung out with the foreign students from China and other places. They were so smart I would play pinball with them in the student lounge and they would win all of these free games because of mechanical engineering and they taught me some of the tricks of playing pinball and gave me their free games, in which I would win more free games and give them to another student. The best of the best from foreign nations come to the USA for college degrees and used to work in the USA, but now thanks to the Internet they can work in a foreign nation and turn out work for pennies on the dollar of what a US citizen wants to earn.

  • Massive offshoring, and importing of guest workers, has driven the salaries of many STEM workers below a living wage. US citizens are pushed aside to make room for the flood of offshore workers. Needless to say, this situation discourages Americans from pursuing a STEM career. Smart Americans are studying to go into finance, or something. If the US has not already lost it's technology edge, it soon will.

  • Decline (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by TopSpin (753) *

    If only the US had launched some space observatories [berkeley.edu]
    If only the US had bothered to maintain some of its science assets [nasa.gov]
    If only the US had conducted any exploration of our solar system [nasa.gov]
    If only the US had commissioned any meaningful physics experiments [llnl.gov]
    If only the US had any anthropologists discovering stuff [nationalgeographic.com]
    If only the US had any geneticists discovering stuff [scientificamerican.com]
    If only the US had bothered to conduct any nuclear physics [wired.com] experiments
    If only the US had any medical science to speak of [wired.com]
    If only the US had any practicing bi [wired.com]

  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @11:27AM (#30622472) Journal

    There are a number of factors as to why science is sliding, and it's not unique to the USA, most of the Western countries have this problem.

    - In the UK, anyone on a science / engineering degree is sneered at; science, engineering and IT are SERIOUSLY uncool.
    - In the UK, it is cool to be a moron.
    - In the UK, there are no incentives for smart children to take up sciences (the government socially engineering moron population - easier to control).
    - In the UK, a degree in a useless subject like English, art, politics, history, Latin, drama, can get you on the career paths which can earn LOTS of money (ie. acting, banking, politics). How many rich people do you see that are engineers? The list rapidly runs out after Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ellison and a few others.
    - Education in sciences is not that great, many lecturers prefer the textbook approach and not enough practical skills.

    But that's the education side. The other problem is people in the sciences of engineering come up with a new gadget or process, but then find out that they can't proceed because part of their idea has already been patented by Mega rich corp..

  • by b4upoo (166390) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:50PM (#30624694)

    The decline in science and technology in America is enough to scare the hell out of me. The worst of it is that we can do nothing to fix it that the public would tolerate. Requirements for success by our school children would have to be drastic. American parents are in no way willing to put their kids through the kind of hell it takes to make competitive scholars. Some nations have genius scholars simply because extraordinary accomplishments are the only hope a young person has to avoid a living hell.

  • by diewlasing (1126425) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @02:56PM (#30624746)

    A lot of people here are talking about H1bs and the cost of education and one person even said the size of our population somehow correlates to a lack of amazing scientific progress. If that's true, India and China should have warp drives already.

    Let's stop with the nonsense, especially with regard to immigrant workers.

    While some companies do abuse H1bs it's not the cause of the decline of US scientific leadership, not even close! Einstein, Fermi, Godel et al were all foreigners! Please take the immigration debate elsewhere!

    The realize the real root of the problem: culture. We have created a culture that loves to watch celebrities and make money. We have not instilled in our students the value of science education. And this should be seen as the biggest tragedy going into the second decade of the 21st century. People lack basic scientific literacy and they seems to be ok with not understanding a great many things. Just the other day I read about a high school that wanted to cut science labs [eastbayexpress.com] because too many white students were overachieving while the minority students were not. This should be obvious to anyone with common sense that this is absurd. Taking away resources from achieving students and directed them to non-achieving students won't help anyone. There are a lot of factors why students don't perform well in school, particularly in the math and science fields. But I think the main reason is culture. The under-achieving students haven't had it beaten into them that their education, particularly in science, is invaluable. And while these are often minority students, they are not exclusively so. My grandfather came to this country with a PhD in physics but less than $6.00 in his pocket and no family, but managed to work his way up to solidly middle class with a comfortable life and his kids are in engineering. The idea that education is paramount has been drilled into me from birth and now I'm a graduate physics student and I enjoy doing physics.

    So my point is, you must hammer into the psyche of the populace that science and math are not inaccesible and can be quite enjoyable if some hard work is put into study. Not everything is about money and getting the MBA (but yes, increased funding would go a long way to help advance STEM). And even though some companies do probably abuse H1bs, it's not the reason we're lacking and neither is the size of our population (a silly idea in my humble opinion, it's obvious to see why).

    So, even thought Tyson makes a weak link between the shooting of Apophis and American science, the point he raises is still a valid one and is a valid concern and requires an honest attempt at a cultural shift as I pointed just mentioned that requires us, especially scientists, to show the population that evolution is fact, the reasons for it, why it's important, and how spectacular learning about it is.

  • by Moof123 (1292134) on Saturday January 02, 2010 @03:24PM (#30625014)

    Get an MBA. Half the work, twice the standard of living. If you're smart, do a salary survey and really look at the work conditions of the various career paths. I didn't.

    Engineers, and many scientists from what I see, work long hours, get very little respect/recognition, and make a decent salary. Don't expect a door or window to your "office", and expect to be jealous of Dilbert (I'm no kidding).

    With an MBA you get lots of recognition (i.e. take credit for what your engineers do), get little blame (i.e. blame all your engineers), and get ~50% more salary despite the omnipresent line of drool on the left side of your mouth. No one bats an eye when you leave for a 3:30 PM tee time either. Best of all your skills are "universal", no need to understand microwave design now that you manage it, you worked for a disk drive manufacturer. Same thing, right?

    Seriously, the incentives are pretty fouled up at the moment, and you will kick yourself later if you get into engineering or science for anything but the cerebral self rewards your are occasionally allowed to enjoy (in between schedule related beatings from your MBA wielding overlord).

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