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Arecibo Observatory Loses Funding 185

An anonymous reader noted that "The Arecibo Observatory funding was slashed. Cut to $8 million from $10.5 million, which will decrease the amount of time that the telescope is operational. "A quarter of its staff was laid off last year," and Arecibo, which is located in Puerto Rico, could possibly be completely closed in four years, according to the "National Science Foundation (NSF), which pays for the operation of the telescope." This comes after "a review panel for the foundation's astronomy division two years ago" suggested cutting Arecibo's financing by 25 percent as a way to pay for new facilities. There has been "[a]n outcry" in response to the "decision, particularly from planetary scientists" who argued that the panel "overlooked Arecibo's role in cataloging potential dangers from asteroids." The Times notes that in Arecibo's favor is the fact that it "may be much cheaper to" than dismantle, which "could cost hundreds of millions of dollars."" I've been considering a vacation to PR for a few years, and seeing this thing is on my list of awesome things to try to see. Guess I should hurry ;)
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Arecibo Observatory Loses Funding

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  • No es bueno (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    que lastima
  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:53PM (#21437413) Homepage Journal

    I love this practice. I see it going on where I work. Pick on the weak department, which can't easily defend its funding and feather your own nest. Well, what goes around comes around.

    • by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:57PM (#21437477)
      I hate to say it, but I have to: ONE day of deployment in Iraq would pay for this thing.
      • by vondo ( 303621 )
        And about every other science project cancelled under this administration. Iraq costs us about $1 billion/day.

        I've been to Arecibo. It was cool to look at, but at that point about the only thing they had for the public was a couple of posters. I hear that since then they've made a small visitor center. I think it is about an hour off of any main road through twisting, turning roads.
        • I went to the Observatory nearly two years ago, and they had a smallish visitors centre at the base of one of the three support towers. The centre has a balcony right at the edge of the dish, which possibly causes vertigo to a few people. Access is much better now too, just a few minutes west of PR-10 (a four-lane arterial). Even with that and the little souvenir shop however, I don't think that they could ever make up for the loss in funding.

          Seeing that I'm in Puerto Rico now, maybe I should visit the big

        • by ivano ( 584883 )
          When they filmed the movie Contact there the production donated some money and cleaned up the dish so it looked better in the film. The visitor centre was a result of the above money.
      • by MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:45PM (#21438155)
        "I hate to say it, but I have to: ONE day of deployment in Iraq would pay for this thing."

        I hate to correct your being off by over an order of magnitude... 90 minutes of Iraq war would pay for the whole budget [] and 20 minutes would pay for how much was just cut from it.
      • by pla ( 258480 )
        I hate to say it, but I have to: ONE day of deployment in Iraq would pay for this thing.

        I wish the war in Iraq only cost that much...

        We could make up the entire 2.5 million shortfall by putting the war in Iraq on hold for a mere five minutes. Yes, five minutes - It costs us $500k per minute we spend pissing around in the sandbox. We could pay the entire Aricebo budget simply by giving our soldiers an extra smoke-break tomorrow (yes, I know it doesn't work that simply, but you get the idea).

        But hey,
        • I can see that your brain alternates the sides it thinks on when the wind changes. First of all, a 2.5 million shortfall is peanuts. It is less then 3% of the GPD. Second, almost every year, we collect more in taxes then we account for when making projections so 2.5 mill is somewhat of an arbitrary number for now.

          Spending for the war in the sandboxes is done outside the budget so if we weren't doing that, we wouldn't be spending the money anyways. What you think could happen really stands no chance in reali
          • by pla ( 258480 )
            I can see that your brain alternates the sides it thinks on when the wind changes.

            And I always felt bad for Gore for the whole "flip-flop" thing - Yes, I see different sides of the same issues depending on exactly what you ask. I consider that a strength, not a weakness, but take it as you will.

            Spending for the war in the sandboxes is done outside the budget so if we weren't doing that, we wouldn't be spending the money anyways.

            I did say that I realize it doesn't work that simply. Still, don't pr
            • I did say that I realize it doesn't work that simply. Still, don't pretend that "war" spending magically doesn't eventually hit us as taxes. It may fall outside regular budgetary allocations, but we pay for it one way or another.

              Hitting us as taxes and being available to be used for other projects are separate things. That was the intent I was trying to convey. We are going to pay for it overall but not spending the money doesn't mean we would spend it otherwise.

              To tell the truth, I have no clue why we'

      • by rbanffy ( 584143 )
        A day of deployment could probably fund a couple Arecibos for years.

        For a week of deployment, you could even build a second one, including building the volcano and digging a crater to go under the dish.

        And yes. While the NSF may have huge funds available, this war is, perhaps, the most stupid war ever fought. And keep in mind wars are usually a very stupid thing to do.

        The US could as well invade Mexico, as they are every bit as guilty of building WMDs and of harboring terrorists as Iraq was and, all the mor
        • Funding the war enables halliburton to profit.
          Funding Arecibo means zero profits to halliburton.

          This is the Bush administration logic

      • I hate to say it, but I have to: ONE day of deployment in Iraq would pay for this thing.

        Costs of Iraq [] are much higher than that. 12M a year for Arecibo would mean one day in Iraq could fund them for 14.75 years. This war costs far too much. And we all underestimate how much this is costing in other ways too.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by logixoul ( 1046000 )
        For anyone who hasn't seen it yet...
        Iraq Counter []
        I don't even know what to say; this is fucking insane
  • 007 (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:57PM (#21437471)
    I thought Bond already destroyed that thing?
  • Arecibo photo (Score:4, Informative)

    by amccaf1 ( 813772 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @01:57PM (#21437487)
    FYI, Wikipedia has a fantastic hi-res image of the radio telescope [].
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Stop looking for aliens.

    There are no aliens, and if there were, they would hate your freedom. You are helping the terrorists by looking for aliens. The aliens like Hitler and Mussolini, and they drive slowly on toll roads. You do not want to look for the nonexistent aliens.

    We will slash your funding until you stop looking for aliens. After that, we will tie you down with rules that drive you to suicide through boredom. So stop looking for aliens.

    There is no NWO conspiracy, by the way. It's all an illusion c
  • Worth it (Score:4, Informative)

    by TrippTDF ( 513419 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dnalih)> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:03PM (#21437579)
    I've been considering a vacation to PR for a few years, and seeing this thing is on my list of awesome things to try to see. Guess I should hurry ;)

    I was actually there in early 2006, and I have to say it was really well worth it. It's hard to put into words how HUGE it is. The attached Museum is also quite nice- it even includes a small sliver of the moon [], which was a bonus for me.

    unless there is some other technology that comes along and blows this telescope out of the water, it really is in our best interests to keep it running.
    • I'm a SCIENCE NUT and a Puerto Rican. I love the island I'm from and adore its people, culture, natural resources, and sights. That said, my trip to Arecibo was a total waste of time. I got to see a big satellite that I had already seen in a James Bond movie.

      It was a big yawhn for me...not worth the trip to the mountain or the ride up. It was basically dead -- no museum, very little information, no exhibit of the discoveries, just a tiny exhibit with some old radio equipment. These p
      • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

        by Captain Splendid ( 673276 ) * <capsplendid&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:30PM (#21437945) Homepage Journal
        They should definitely keep the observatory open if it is useful to the scientists using it, but as a visitor there are definitely a thousand things I can do in Puerto Rico that are more fun than looking at a big huge dish.

        You can hand in your geek card on the way out the door.
        • That would be like myself saying, "Yeah, I visted Cape Canaveral. The visitor area sucked, and all I got to see was a ball of fire race 220 miles into orbit." Hand his geek card in indeed.
      • by Kildjean ( 871084 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:39PM (#21438081) Homepage
        Otro Puertorro ignorante...

        I have to say your comment is very ignorant, specially because you are form the island, you should know how some things are just tourist traps. But there is a lot of things to do at the radar if you know how to look at it. For example, there is this nature tourist group called Aventuras Tierra Adentro (Adventures in the Motherland), that will take you around, and under the radar, not only seeing the technological wonder the Observatory is, but how it was constructed, why they chose the Arecibo Valley to place its location and more importantly how has the vegetation and fauna of the area has been affected by its presence.

        More importantly why is the observatory so important to Science, and how powerful the observatory really is compared to other radio telescopes.

        Further more, I don't know where you went, but the museum on the top of the hill inside the observatory has the basic information for the radar. There is a movie theater where they run a documentary of the radar, its location and how it was constructed. Also the discoveries they have made using the Radar are displayed in the museum. The old radio equipment they are exhibiting there goes to show what they were using back in the day to do what the radar does now. Aside from that, the radar received an overhaul recently. Its actual transmiting time of information towards outerspace is of minutes and the retrieval of data is also in minutes compared to the observatory in New Mexico which takes 12 hours to receive or send any kind of data to outerspace.

        Granted the observatory is not a place to take 30 family members with noisy children. Its a hike, and if you are not in shape, granted you will need a breather when you get on top. But it is not a bad experience or one that makes you feel you wasted your time going to. It is located in a beautiful valley, lots of nice restaurants around, great view, the trip is not so bad and if you finish early, you can always head out for the West Coast and have some Mojitos and seafood in Rincon. ;)

        I can tell you all this because I recently (from oct 16 to oct 31 2007) went to Puerto Rico and took my fiancee with me. She is North American and she was fascinated with the radar and how impressive it is. She is not as big of a Nerd/Geek like I am, but she was able to appreciate the wonder it is.

        You should be proud this technological wonder is sitting in the mountains of the country you love so much. To me its always been one of those things that should be considered a Wonder of the World, because its simply humbles you as a human being to look at one of the modern marvels we have constructed in our time.

        Or you are not as much of a Science Nut as you think you are... :o
  • Needs to not mouth off to the national science director about her space alien theories. []
  • Just sell the sucker for pennies on the dollar.

    I'm sure Paul Allen could use a giant radio telescope to supplement his array []. Just use a little e-VBLI [], and you got a pretty nice addition. And if you don't want it full time, I bet many a hobbyist/small research institution would having the option to get radio telescope time instead of the typical optical rent-a-internet-telescope business.
  • by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:06PM (#21437609)
    It seems insane to end such a cost effective program but government rarely makes sense. I guess they could change their program to search for proof the Universe is 6,000 years old then do real science in a clandestined manner like it was done 800 years ago. How far we've come.
    • spend ALL of the tax dollars on killing people and blowing up shit?

      Seeing as how the man's such a scientific ignoramous, maybe we could tell him that its actually necessary for a continental anti-terrorist defense that's based off-shore but would still be under our control.

      And just to seal the deal, triple the operational budget.
  • by funkman ( 13736 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:07PM (#21437625)
    If this causes a decrease in "asteroid to swing by the earth within 10 million KM 90 years from now" stories - I'm all for cutting the funding.
    • Those stories are the only way they can get funding to do the real research. They've gotta play politics in science now, haven't you heard?
  • ... I'd prefer NOT to know about it than to know about it.

    So I'm happy.

  • I've been considering a vacation to PR for a few years, and seeing this thing is on my list of awesome things to try to see. Guess I should hurry ;)

    I'll bet many of the scientists who pulled that gig considered it a vacation too!

    • by Faw ( 33935 )
      It's not a vacation if you actually live here. :)

      Funny thing is I've lived here all my life and never been to the Arecibo observatory.
  • WTF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bananatree3 ( 872975 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:11PM (#21437687)
    Arecibo is not simply looking for SETI. It is one of the most sensitive Radio telescopes in the world, and has a good list of Astronomic discoveries [] under its belt:

    # The first planets outside the solar system were discovered around Pulsar B1257+12, a rapidly rotating pulsar with three Earth-like planets in orbit. ( early 1990s )

    # One of its first accomplishments: Establishing the rotating rate of Mercury, which turned out to be 59 days rather than the previously estimated 88 days ( 1965 ).

    # Detailed maps of the distribution of galaxies in the universe ( late 1980s ).

    # The first pulsar in a binary system was discovered ( 1974 ), leading to important confirmation of Einstein's theory of general relativity and a Nobel Prize for astronomers Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor ( 1993 ).

    # Investigations of ice craters at the polar regions of the planet Mercury with the radar system ( 1990s ) and similar investigation of the lunar poles for evidence of ice ( 1997 ).

    # Provided much of our pre-Magellan mission knowledge of the surface of Venus via 1.5 km resolution imagery of the surface through the planet's cloud cover using the radar system.

    # The observatory has made major contributions to our understanding of the chemistry and dynamics of the Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

    # Discovery of two classes of pulsars: millisecond pulsars, which rotate several hundred times per second, and slower-rotating pulsars, which rotate about once per second. The slow-rotating pulsars speed through space, while millisecond pulsars move slowly through space.

    Closing down Arecibo would be like closing down the Fermi Lab particle accelerator to Particle Physics. Its A MASSIVE asset to the Radio Astronomy field, and this short sidedness to get a few measly million (when compared to the countless millions allocated to other projects) is Absurd

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stox ( 131684 )
      "Closing down Arecibo would be like closing down the Fermi Lab particle accelerator to Particle Physics."

      Unless they decide to build the ILA at Fermilab, it will probably be shut down in the not too distant future. I think they now have some Neutrino experiments scheduled out to 2011, but past that nothing.
    • Its A MASSIVE asset to the Radio Astronomy field,

      In what way, other than the literal one that refers to its size?

      Can you point me to one single astronomer who, when given the choice between an hour time at Arecibo, an hour at the VLA, or an hour at Atacama would choose Arecibo? One single astronomer?

      Pointing at things it has done decades ago is not an answer to the question "what are we getting out of this thing RIGHT NOW that we can't get somewhere else better, cheaper?"

      As one of my professors us

    • While some might call this trolling, I couldn't resist putting out the bait...

      and this short sidedness to get a few measly million

      Perhaps the money is needed to fund the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for a couple of more hours...surely victory is just around the corner so it is worth trashing a scientifically valuable working telescope to make the world safe for democracy and freedom...yeah.

      It seems that ever since the time when barbarians sacked Alexandria and used the scrolls of the Great
    • Dude... Did it find proof of saddam's WMD?
      Did it find proof of Iran's nucelar arsenal and take photos of the same?
      Did it find the location of Osama BL? (no, scratch that out. That is not a priority).

      If it didn't any of these things, then it is useless.

      And who the heck was Fermi? Was he a terrorist?
  • Skate park (Score:3, Funny)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:12PM (#21437713)
    I for one hope it will be converted into a skate park!
  • Charity? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:15PM (#21437741) Homepage Journal
    I never thought that we would start needing charities to fund astronimcal science, but maybe it is time? It doesn't help that people think NASA is better funded than it is []. Maybe there needs to be a campaign illustrating this, as a form of hitting people with the clue stick.
    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Astronomy has long been supported by charity. That's how most telescopes prior to the Second World War were funded. And obviously SETI is currently funded that way. I think for a number of long term tasks (like searching for intelligent extra-terrestrial life) the charity/non-profit model works better than funding from government.
    • Let's see... the operating budget is $10.5 million. Assume you should actually kick in, say, 12 million per year to be able to amortize eventual maintenance and upgrades. The disassembly cost is estimated at $100 million, minimum. It should be a no-brainer for someone with $$$ to be able to step in, get a 99 year lease on the property from the government for a nominal fee (guaranteed access to data and certain to-be-negotiated observation timeslots?), and the new owner starts a science trust fund with a flo
  • to lose something so precious over so little money. With all the billionaires running around, someone should step up and pledge the money to keep Arecibo online.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If you care so much about it, feel free to step up and pledge whatever you think is appropriate []. Protetcing your interests isn't just for rich strangers, you know.
    • Billionaires didn't get to be that way by doing things like that. It's a catch 22. Now, if there were a tax break involved...
    • Why should the billionaires support it? is there a tax break involved? Does it mean the US military can force a regime-change in Puerto Rico?
      There are very few real billionaire philanthropists like Bill gates (all ye go ahead and flame me).

      Maybe if The telescope should change itself to detecting intelligent life on Earth before it tries to do in stars.

      Or just say to Bush that Yellow cakes seemingly were found on Mars / Ceti Alpha V and that they saw a couple of bearded mullahs negotiating...
      That ought to ge
  • by Kildjean ( 871084 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:15PM (#21437755) Homepage
    I am from Puerto Rico. And it has been my absolute favorite technological wonder mankind has ever built. I dont know how many of you have actually seen it. It is simply amazing. I used to go there since I was a kid around the age of 16... I started going with my father at least 1 weekend a month, then with my boyscout troop we would do a hike that would end in the forest next to the radar. I even had the opportunity once to go where the radar itself is, in that dwindling pendulum up above the Dish. A lot of people have had to see it from the "tourist trap" point of view from the top of the observatory road. But as a boyscout we found a way around that sits us right on the dish. The thing is huge, and the 3 towers that hold the antenna's are simply impressive.

    One of the most interesting things I admire about it, is that Puerto Rico has the worst hurricane season's ever, and that thing has hold several Cat 5 hurricanes without having a glitch damaged.

    Cmdr Taco should defenitely go see it before its shutdown and abandoned... In fact he should organize a slashdot tour and while the tour guide is explaining mumbo jumbo, someone should connect a linux terminal somewhere and use it to transmit some slashdot to outerspace... :) that or use the dish for some gnarly skatebording contest... ;)

    Jokes aside, I am really sad they are loosing funding. US Government should end their investment in the stupid war and drop some money in science for a change... I bet a whatever 1 month costs Congress the war, would put the observatory running for another 5 years or more.

    PS. There is a village about 5 miles behind the observartory where they make the meanest Skirt Steak you can eat and one of the meanest moonshines you could drink... :)
    • I'm from Puerto Rico too, can you mention which Cat5 hurricanes have passed through here? I must have miss them. Georges and Hugo were Cat 3 and AFAIK those 2 were the only ones where the eye touched land.
  • You gotta understand the Bush administration!

    Out of that $8million in funding, spend $1million lobbying to Bush/Hillary/Guilliani Co. to get asteroids labeled as 'trrrrerist threats.' Then, declare that you plan to eavsdrop on all asteroid activity under a contract with Haliburton. Now, contact Haliburton and tell them you will do trrrrerist hunting for $50million/year. Haliburton will ask for $100million/year from the US gov't. Boom.. the Fed will print more money!

    If that doesn't work..

    Spend another $1mill
  • I've been considering a vacation to PR for a few years, and seeing this thing is on my list of awesome things to try to see. Guess I should hurry ;)
    The loss of funding to operate the place isn't going to result in the earth swallowing up the place and it disappearing. If anything, you'll probably have an easier time actually seeing the place as you would like to.
    • As much as I would like to one day walk across the dish holding my child's hand explaining what great things it has uncovered, I'd prefer it stay in operation and keep investigating the cosmos.
  • Barrack wants to cut NASA's budget even more than it already is and Barrack is the youtube generation's candidate. Just eat the budget cuts and tow the party line.

  • by OldeTimeGeek ( 725417 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:25PM (#21437871)
    Sorry for the long post, but this section of the NSF report [] has more information than the Times article.

    Note that there is a report due in December on the cost of decommissioning the telescope and that Cornell is working with the Puerto Rican government to find ways to fill in the funding gap.

    * National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC)/Arecibo - Cornell acted quickly to implement the first of the Senior Review's recommendations to reduce the base operating budget to $8M over the next three years, by modifying the operating mode for astronomy observations, increasing the fraction of time for survey work, and limiting the number of receivers supported and the number of hours for astronomy observations. They also eliminated 30 FTEs, or 25% of their staff. Not all of these savings are realizable immediately, since personnel termination costs must be covered and the observatory requires basic maintenance to ensure safety of operations. By FY 2010, the full $2.5 million savings identified by the Senior Review will be recovered into the AST base budget and available for other uses.

    Cornell has said that it will cease operations of the planetary radar in October 2007 to meet these budget reductions. We have recently learned that, in fact, they are maintaining the capability to operate the planetary radar, although on a less frequent schedule. In conversations with NASA management, it has been made clear that NASA has no intention of resuming support of the planetary radar, which they terminated in FY 2006.

    With NSF's encouragement and support, Cornell and Arecibo staff are actively pursuing partnerships with the Puerto Rican government, local businesses, and academic institutions to provide additional operations support by 2011. We recently visited Puerto Rico, held a town hall for the Arecibo community, and met with commonwealth officials, business leaders, representatives from the universities and concerned citizens. We clarified the Senior Review recommendations and NSF's role in supporting the observatory and helped foster discussions among the many parties interested in maintaining the observatory as a viable operating facility for scientific research, education, and public outreach. The meetings were very positive with many expressions of a desire to work together to identify creative solutions to obtaining additional support. Many challenges face Cornell in preparing a plan for sustained long-term support from non-AST sources. I am optimistic that such a plan can be put together. NSF has informed Cornell that a concrete plan for operations in 2011 and beyond must be in place by spring of 2009. It is at that point that NSF must set the FY 2011 budget and so make a decision about the long-term future of Arecibo.

    Nonetheless, in order to plan responsibly, and weigh the various options, we have to understand the cost of closure to be weighed against other options. As recommended by the Senior Review, NSF is also engaging an engineering firm to carry out a study of the cost of decommissioning the observatory facility. The study will explore a variety of possible endpoints, ranging from complete deconstruction and restoration of the site to its natural state to securely 'mothballing' the facility. The results of this study will be available in December 2007 and will serve as critical input to our planning for the long-term future of the observatory. This is part of responsible lifecycle costing, and should not be regarded as indicating that any final decisions have been made.

  • FUDdy duddy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @02:51PM (#21438235)

    Arecibo Observatory Loses Funding
    No, it was cut about 25%. If it lost funding, it would have zero funding.

    The Arecibo Observatory funding was slashed.
    No, it was cut about 25%, it's still at $8 million. I suppose next time I trip and fall I can describe it as me "plummeting towards the ground."

    This comes after "a review panel for the foundation's astronomy division two years ago" suggested cutting Arecibo's financing by 25 percent as a way to pay for new facilities
    So it was cut so we could get new stuff? How do we know the new stuff isn't going to be good? I guess the quarter of the staff that was laid off would, shockingly, have someplace new to work.

    Guess I should hurry
    Yup, because not only is it going to be closed for sure, but the evil government lackeys will fill in the crater upon which it was built. With concrete. And then put some Walmarts on it.

    There's a lot of events in scientific funding that are a damn shame but this one really isn't that horrible. There really is no need to FUD this one up.
    • by Jester998 ( 156179 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @03:04PM (#21438425) Homepage
      Slashdotter Involved in Fatal(*) Plummet

      Applekid, a long time Slashdot poster, plummeted to earth earlier today. He was last heard from criticizing the Slashdot editors(**). An anonymous poster who was apparently a witness to the scene describe is as "horrific. These guys in black suits came up and pushed him to the ground. I think I saw blood on his knee!"

      The incident is being investigated by the Slashdot Lynch Mob in an effort to find those responsible.

      (*) For certain values of "fatal"
      (**) For certain values of "edit".
    • "Arecibo Observatory Loses Funding" No, it was cut about 25%. If it lost funding, it would have zero funding.

      CowboyNeal Loses Weight. No, it was cut about 25%. If he lost weight, he would have zero weight, and be able to fly... Either that, or your argument doesn't quite work.

    • Arecibo Observatory Loses Funding - No, it was cut about 25%. If it lost funding, it would have zero funding.

      So, if you were to go to your bank tomorrow to find one quarter of your savings had gone, you wouldn't say you had 'lost money', because if you had lost money you would have had zero money? The word you're looking for is 'all', as in 'loses all funding' - notice how it isn't there?

      The Arecibo Observatory funding was slashed - No, it was cut about 25%, it's still at $8 million. I suppose next t

    • No, it was cut about 25%. If it lost funding, it would have zero funding.
      So if you had four credit cards in your wallet, you couldn't lose one, you could only "cut 25%" of them? If you want to be pedantic, first you should be right.

      That's not to say that the story isn't FUDly--it does have a flavor of that.

  • by Petronius Arbiter ( 548328 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @04:31PM (#21439597)
    The funding was cut because its own community of researchers no longer considers it to be very important. Specifically a panel of experts was tasked to prioritize expenditures in radio astronomy. IIRC, Arecibo was ranked approximately fourth.

    There are more cost-effective solutions, such as very long baselines and antenna arrays. Those have advantages like being able to resolve smaller angles.

    The radio astronomers might have been playing a Washington-monument game. (The legend is that Congress threatened to cut the Parks budget, so the NPS threatened to close the Washington Monument.) That is, they hoped that the public outcry that has, in fact, occurred on /. would lead to more money coming into their field. I, personally, have no sympathy for such tactics. When I was in the government, I suspect that experts may have tried that on me once or twice. I never caved.

    Good science requires ruthlessness. The idea that any particular icon or business is too big or too famous to fail has been very bad for the economy and would hurt the US scientifically.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 21, 2007 @05:10PM (#21440105)
    As usual, astronomy makes all the headlines, but 50% of the observing time is devoted to ionospheric research. I have published scientific papers analyzing ionospheric data from Arecibo. I have also visited Arecibo at NSF's expense, and have been on top of the gondola (the transmitter/receiver boom suspended over the radar dish). What a view!

    Cutting funding for Arecibo would be quite a blow to ionospheric & magnetospheric physics research, as well as to astronomy.

    Richard Link, Ph.D.
  • I'd like to point out that the Recommendations are usually made by Scientists and Researchers that come from outside NSF. NSF works by inviting University/College experts to come to Arlington, sit down and talk about what should be done, then a recommendation is drawn up. In the end NSF still decides what to do but don't think that the recommendation was drawn up by a bunch of green eye shades accountants or government bureaucrats.
  • by icepick72 ( 834363 ) on Thursday November 22, 2007 @12:53AM (#21443907)
    "[a]n outcry" ... but not by the taxpayers. Anyway, if you see the asteroid coming the anticipation is a lot worse.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam