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Businesses Government Patents Science Technology

Does Government Science Funding Drive Innovation? (wsj.com) 248

An anonymous reader writes: In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, British businessman and science journalist Matt Ridley argues that basic science research does not lead to technological innovation, and therefore isn't deserving of taxpayer funding. Ridley says, "Increasingly, technology is developing the kind of autonomy that hitherto characterized biological entities. The Stanford economist Brian Arthur argues that technology is self-organizing and can, in effect, reproduce and adapt to its environment. ... The implications of this new way of seeing technology—as an autonomous, evolving entity that continues to progress whoever is in charge—are startling. People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa.

Patents and copyright laws grant too much credit and reward to individuals and imply that technology evolves by jerks. Recall that the original rationale for granting patents was not to reward inventors with monopoly profits but to encourage them to share their inventions. ... It follows that there is less need for government to fund science: Industry will do this itself. Having made innovations, it will then pay for research into the principles behind them. Having invented the steam engine, it will pay for thermodynamics."

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Does Government Science Funding Drive Innovation?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2015 @03:58PM (#50798953)

    God drives innovation by speaking to the blessed prophets we call 'scientists'. Government funding has no effect on who He chooses to bless with this new knowledge.

    • by duckintheface ( 710137 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:55PM (#50799307)

      "Having made innovations, it will then pay for research into the principles behind them. Having invented the steam engine, it will pay for thermodynamics."

      Oh, brother. That's just ridiculous. It was an understanding of thermodynamics (by the physicist Denis Papin) that led to the innovation of the steam engine. They imply that some guy messing around in his basement will "innovate" something and only later will the principles behind it be understood. But it is basic research and the building of mathematical models of the world that lead to inventions. And those steps in basic science are not profitable. Many blind alleys will be followed before a basic advance in science is made. Only a government dedicated to basic research will follow that path for long enough to see solid usable results.

      And if occasionally a private company does advance the frontiers of real science, that's great. But I wouldn't count on that for the progress of mankind. I do agree however with the author's premise that patents are abused. Folks have forgotten why we have a patent system. It's not to make money, it's to advance the sciences. Don't believe me? Just read Art. 1, Sec. 8 of the US Constitution.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @09:37PM (#50800503)

        Not to disagree with your point but the Americans seem to be the first to group copyright and patents together.
        Modern copyright law was based on advancing learning which is what was meant in late 18th century English by the "Arts and Sciences" and the Statute of Anne was properly titled something like "An act for the encouragement of learning by giving a limited monopoly on writings"
        Patents historically were about advancing manufacturing, often abused to give an income to the Crown, eg selling a patent on salt. The first modern patent law, at least in common law countries, was the "Statute of Monopolies" passed in 1624 which revoked most monopolies excepting those granted for new "methods of manufacture" with "manufacture" at the time covering both creation and design and lasted for up to 14 years. Note that there was no disclosure clause, perhaps because disclosure was considered automatic in that simpler time.
        Also of interest in the act was it removed private monopolies on dispensing justice and enforcing penal laws. In other words the start of government having the sole right to violence to enforce law.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        the thermodynamic effects for steam engine were 'common sense' known for a long while before practical steam engines emerged.

        it was in fact manufacturing advances that made them viable().

        that is, ideas/theories are a dime a dozen but actually making them reality is much rarer. basically, it's kind of right to say that funding basic research doesn't yield innovations, which is doublespeak for commercial inventions.

        I don't understand though why waste government money on basic research in a country that has th

        • except some has to pay for that basic research. if it wasn't for ARPA designing new networks, and then for some university under military contracts to link together that the internet was born.

          We have passed the point where new tech will spontaneously appear. Someone can't snap their fingers and invent anti gravity hover boards. it takes a lot of basic science, and the few hoverboads out this year are based on principals figured out in grants 40+ years ago.

      • They imply that some guy messing around in his basement will "innovate" something and only later will the principles behind it be understood.

        The Will of the Force will impregnate a poor slave-woman and she shall give birth to one who will bring balance to the Force.

        The implications of this new way of seeing technologyâ"as an autonomous, evolving entity that continues to progress whoever is in chargeâ"are startling. People are pawns in a process. We ride rather than drive the innovation wave. Technology will find its inventors, rather than vice versa.

        Technology creates itself apparently.
        I'm guessing somewhere along the way we came up with both AI and perpetuum mobile and they have since then been hiding somewhere in the jungle and fucking their transistors out, spawning new tech.
        Occasionally, a random person will get "abducted by aliens", implanted necessary information and let loose to "invent" new technology.

        So, I'm not saying i

      • Graphene is a good example any such innovation is normally ignored until someone who understands the scientific principals and can research them further does it. I as I'm sure millions of other physics students in school drew a line in pencil and then measured it's resistance (Even noting how incredibly low the resistance was), however, it took a university professor to do the same thing and have a eureka moment and now look where we are.
      • They understand science, they just want to fully monetize it like they want to monetize/privatize everything. Their "ignorance" is willful. People like Ridley know that what they are saying is pure bunk, but as long as enough "journalists" and government officials believe him (or just use his nonsense as cover), the corporations looking to make a buck will lobby the crap out of Congress to defund the NIH and give the money to pharmaceutical companies instead. Industry does not invent things, they monetize t

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:02PM (#50798969)
    Someone wants to make an argument that government investment into science and technology doesn't lead to anything useful on the internet? There's a lot of great technology we have today due to government investment. Granted they were hoping the research would lead to better ways to kill our enemies or to stop them from killing us, but we've got a lot of civilian use out of government investments into science and technology.

    If anything, government needs to be more strict with publicly funded research and ensure that the results end up in the public domain rather than rotting while a patent expires or hidden behind a pay-walled journal.
    • I'm figuring that dumb ass has completely ignored the origins of the internet itself. Other examples are pipes, cabling, linear programming, and potable water systems. Is Matt self medicating again.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:19PM (#50799093)

      1. The author is marketing his book.
      2. The premise is on the monetary worth of the research done, not it's importance. If the government would ask corporations to pay for the tech it developed at the current rates, they'd go bankrupt and pay for decades to come.

      He's also using CERN as an example, completely ignoring research such as the nuclear power plants, and more recently the Stellarator.

      I'm curious if in his book, after bashing the government's if he shows how much money is spent on royalties well past their expiration date, on battling trolls and other statistics that show the "value".

      Starting to feel the need for a plugin that replaces economist with "Idiot with a degree" to make articles like this easier to stomach.

      • The worst example in the article: "the discovery of the structure of DNA depended heavily on X-ray crystallography of biological molecules, a technique developed in the wool industry to try to improve textiles." This is just fantasy. The wool industry did indeed perform such research many decades ago (just as the pharma industry uses crystallography to design better drugs), but the technique itself was developed entirely by (mostly British and German) academics working over many decades. Companies have

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by grcumb ( 781340 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @05:00PM (#50799331) Homepage Journal

      Someone wants to make an argument that government investment into science and technology doesn't lead to anything useful on the internet? There's a lot of great technology we have today due to government investment.

      Yeah... the internet, for example. :-)

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dinfinity ( 2300094 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @08:00PM (#50800121)

        His 'argument' there pretty much boils down to: "it was going to be invented anyway"

        To most people, the argument for public funding of science rests on a list of the discoveries made with public funds, from the Internet (defense science in the U.S.) to the Higgs boson (particle physics at CERN in Switzerland). But that is highly misleading. Given that government has funded science munificently from its huge tax take, it would be odd if it had not found out something. This tells us nothing about what would have been discovered by alternative funding arrangements.

        There is some merit to the idea that all useful inventions will inevitably be done (the concept of technological determinism / technological imperative has been around for decades), but it is still idiotic to use that as an argument against government funding, as that line of thinking says nothing about when the inevitable will happen. A world in which the internet was invented 10 years later is not equivalent (and dare I say unpreferable) to ours.

        There are too many other ways in which the reasoning in TFA is obviously flawed. Considering that you have to ask yourself the question:
        Why the hell is this low quality shit even on Slashdot?

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @10:10PM (#50800627)

          I don't think the internet would ever have been invented by private industry as there is no profit in it. Private industry was busy inventing walled gardens, AOL, CompuServe and of course Win95 originally shipped with MSN, not a web browser.
          Here we are over a quarter of a century later and the internet is being twisted into walled gardens (Facebook, the Apple Store etc) as they're more profitable.

          • by spauldo ( 118058 )

            I completely agree on your point. That said:

            Windows 95 had Internet Explorer 1.0. I'm pretty sure it was included on the non-OEM disks, but it was definitely included on disks that came with Digital Equipment and Gateway 2000 machines.

            It didn't do much, but it was enough for my coworkers and I to set up a little "mini-web" on the network shares. I learned HTML before I ever used the internet :)

            • by dryeo ( 100693 )

              From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

              Windows 95 originally shipped without Internet Explorer, and the default network installation did not install TCP/IP, the network protocol used on the Internet. At the release date of Windows 95, Internet Explorer 1.0 was available, but only in the Plus! add-on pack for Windows 95, which was a separate product. The Plus! Pack did not reach as many retail consumers as the operating system itself (it was mainly advertised for its non-internet-related add-ons such as them

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          If the government hadn't paid for the research that led to the internet and the WWW, it would be nothing like it is today. Net neutrality wouldn't even be an idea. It would be glorified cable TV, like AOL and Compuserve used to be.

        • by Jamu ( 852752 )
          I just kept in mind the invention of the transistor while reading his drivel.
          • by spauldo ( 118058 )

            Can you elaborate?

            I haven't read into the history much, but I do know the transistor was developed at Bell Labs, not a university.

            Of course, one can argue that AT&T only kept Bell Labs around because they had a guaranteed revenue stream and could think long-term.

    • Early research in electronic computers, and early integrated circuits were driven heavily by military spending, and later gov't space exploration. Although they didn't directly invent much of it, they drove contractor R&D because they were buying.

      One could say that they were created in the process of solving specific problems, like making missile electronics smaller rather than "direct" research into smaller electronics.

      In that sense I agree with TFA: innovations usually come about from trying to solve

    • "Someone wants to make an argument that government investment into science and technology doesn't lead to anything useful on the internet?"

      No one but you.

      In fact, this is the most astounding case of non-sequitur I've seen in quite long years reading on Slashdot, because it percolates both the article, its abstract and most of the comments. Quite a feat.

      The article and the abstract basically reduce to "technology this, technology that, therefore basic science..." What!?

      Now, what about you? Assuming the arti

    • It is a lot more complicated.
      Would we have had the Internet without government funding?

      The basic technology of the Internet isn't really that complicated
      It is a really valid argument that technology evolves and as computers/networking developed, we would have developed something like the internet.

      Heck, I'm seeing this now in Canada. I've worked in Industry that has links with government. More and more team ups with universities... Oddly, I don't really see anything ground breaking that is actually put to us

  • by matbury ( 3458347 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:04PM (#50798989) Homepage

    Typical narrow-minded view of research and knowledge. Not many corporations or private organisations invest in fundamental science research and nowhere hear at the scale and intensity that govt. funded research does. Without fundamental research, you don't have anything to base applied research on, which I guess is what they mean when they call it "innovation."

    As for self-organising systems, there's plenty of fundamental research to show just how unpredictable and unstable they are in reality.

    • Corporations used to fund huge research parks as a symbol of prestige. That was between the 50s and 80s, and those days are long gone. Matt Ridley knows a lot about genetics, but otherwise he is an ideological crank.
  • Guiding Hands (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ExecutorElassus ( 1202245 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:10PM (#50799023)
    Huh. How weird! Every time there's an article about, say, global warming, or efforts to correct imbalances in gender or ethnic representation in the sciences, or health care, there's always a sizable crowd of self-identified libertarians who show up and extol the virtues of unregulated markets and the need to rein in government spending. And now here we are, extending libertarian principles to their natural consequence (ie, taxpayers shouldn't be the ones to fund the sciences, but rather the market), and I see ... a puzzling lack of support for the idea.

    It's almost as if taxpayer funding is only wasteful and frivolous if it benefits other people, and "libertarianism" is just a thin rhetorical cover for preserving privilege.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am a self-identified libertarian who believes there is a need to rein in government spending. I also believe that the government funding what I call "pure research science" is beneficial for everyone. For example, up until recently space travel was expensive and required domain-specific knowledge that would be hard to find at a random corporation. In addition, there were only a handful of companies that had the excess funds required to delve into space travel. Ergo, I think NASA was a decent investment at

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        Shh! You're ruining his rant with facts. I've begun self-identifying as a "Classic Libertarian." It's easier. I don't have time to clean up after the people who (and we both know they exist) confuse Libertarianism with an economic model and a political ideology. The fact of the matter is, most Libertarians (not the noisy ones who are actually registered Republicans) are pretty damned far to the left. We're left, albeit for different reasons, and yet not typically extremists - at least by my contacts and I'v

    • by dwpro ( 520418 )

      One can espouse a more nuanced view without requiring the 'natural consequence' ( ie slippery slope). Must one decry democracy if the natural consequence is everyone being required to vote on every decision? Nice stereotyping though. Could you impugn our collective sexual prowess as well?

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:11PM (#50799033) Journal

    The only thing stupider would be if he was drinking a tall glass of Tang while he was posting his story about how government investment in research doesn't lead to anything useful...on the Internet.

  • by Captain Kirk ( 148843 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:12PM (#50799045) Homepage Journal

    There is an old adage; everyone hates government spending except the government spending they benefit from themselves. In this case, almost every article Matt Ridley writes says how bad state aid is. Except when he was head of a bank himself, when times were tough he went to parliament with his hat in his hand to beg for a taxpayer bailout and suddenly state aid was a great idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Ridley#Northern_Rock

    If you want to change Matt Ridley's mind about state spending on research, give him a job in a research lab and watch with wonder as articles praising state aid for research emanate from his greedy mind.

    • was the vice presidential debate where Ryan started going off about how we had to cut back on aid for the poor because, gosh darn, we couldn't afford it, and then Joe Biden pulled out a letter where Ryan begged for aid for his state :P.

      While I'm on /. and all, what does the /. community think is the answer to the phrase "Sooner or later you run out of other people's money"...? I can list out a hundred reasons why this is nonsense but none of them have the impact, gut feeling and just plain truthiness of
  • Our experience thus far is that Mr Ridley is wrong. Industry *can* fund basic R&D by itself, but we wouldn’t be at the level of development we are now with only private investment. In any case, innovation is limited without some data into the basics that it will stand upon. He’s assuming innovation by accident. It happens, but you can’t count on it.
    • Not a libertarian myself. Like, not at all really. But I've discussed with many non-nuts libertarians who, if I got correctly their way of thinking, would find the statements of this guy preposterous, if not outrageous. Then again, none of them were randian...
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        As a long-term party member, this guy in the article is a fucking idiot and needs to shut the fuck up.

        Simple enough? ;-)

        Yes, I am a Libertarian. I'm often mistaken for a Socialist for some odd reason. I am not a Socialist. I arrived at my conclusions via reasoning and not emotions. I am also not a zealot and recognize that no one pure political ideology will ever work without totalitarianism being included. There is no pure political ideology that works without force.

        Also, Rand was an idiot.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      See other posts for a bit about how Bell Labs mostly existed due to tax advantages and how it is no longer what it was due to those advantages no longer being there. Industry mostly seems to fund research (as distinct from product development or tweaking old patents to keep them "fresh") when governments agree to let them do that part of their operations tax free.
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:12PM (#50799053)

    Rocketry and Artillery were both developed before Newtons laws of motion
    Distilling and Steam Power were both around before thermodynamics
    The compass was here long before Maxwell's equations.

    The opposite points though are ridiculously easy to make.
    No Semiconductor electronics without BCS band theory
    No Atomic Power/Radiation therapy without Atomic theory
    No Refrigeration without thermodynamics.

    It seems the author is trying to make points by framing the debate in overly simplistic terms.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:17PM (#50799079)

    There's nothing left of the WSJ's journalistic integrity. Nothing at all.

    This is nothing but a sad attempt to apply "trickle down" economic theory to technology. Sadly for the WSJ, trickle down is thoroughly discredited in economics. This attempt to smear technological innovation with the trickle down brush isn't even plausible. Easy enough to see that these guys didn't get any engineering in their educations. Sigh...

    What next? Are they going to try to tell us that corporations are self-regulating? Wait....

    • If I had any mod points I would mod you up.

      The only thing that trickles down is piss. That's what this jerk and the WSJ is really about.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:17PM (#50799081)

    just because there isn't "profit in it" doesn't make something doesn't mean it's worthless, it means you identify as a ferengi.

    • I can see you typed your post in a fit of rage, given how you garbled it. You really should take a deep breath and take the time to laugh at those idiots before posting. It would do a lot of good to your syntax and, more importantly, your blood pressure. That being said, I totally agree with you.
    • and throw this out there: Gov't spending on basic research is basically socialism, and the trouble with socialism is "Sooner or later you run out of Other People's Money".

      Please shoot me down here. I've never come up with a good answer to the above that wasn't so long winded I lost anyone I was talking to...
      • the trouble with socialism is "Sooner or later you run out of Other People's Money"

        that's not a problem with socialism, that's the problem with money.

      • How about "You only run out if everyone stops earning and sometimes it is necessary to redistribute wealth so that society can keep earning"

        • and it gets countered with "who are you to decide what gets redistributed?". That plus the old standby of "somebody in Washington telling me how to live my life"

          Though I like "You only run out when everyone stops earning". Shifts the argument towards job creation and investment.
          • And that one gets countered with "I get to decide because I'm the one that got chosen by the group to decide. If you don't like it try to get the group to choose you or leave the group, I'm not keeping you here".

            The big difference that seems to get lost is that the private sector and corporations are about money, and in today's world money is easily moveable. However Governments are about a people and a place. Inherently they have completely different drivers. If a company can make a profit destroying an

      • ""Sooner or later you run out of Other People's Money".
        Please shoot me down here. I've never come up with a good answer to the above that wasn't so long winded I lost anyone I was talking to..."

        What about "Sooner or later you run out of your Own Money Too", so what?

  • ...technology evolves by jerks...

    Steve Jobs... Bill Gates... Jeff Bezos... yeah, it's sort of hard to argue the point.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @04:46PM (#50799269)

    Maxwell's equations which specify how electromagnetism works have been a complete waste of research dollars; a fiasco that has never led to any technological improvement or profit.

    And all that money wasted on medical research has never led to a single profitable technology, nor increase in quality or length of life, never mind to any insight into why the four humours continue to kill people like flies.

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      You forgot to mention all that wasted effort on quantum mechanics...just to build some silly chips out of sand and a few other bits. That Einstein guy was a whack job. Relativity, he had no thought for GPS technology. He should have waiting until we had GPS and then produced the theory showing how it could work.

  • by damaki ( 997243 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @05:05PM (#50799341)
    also known originally as ARPANET, was born as a goverment project, which ended as one of the greatest achievement of the humanity in term of global communication. Do I really need to say anything else?
    • Probably, yes. The development of space exploration could be basically credited to the occurrence of the the second world war. Does that indicate the need for more world wars to advance human civilization?

      Anecdotal evidence is inherently flawed here because, no matter what route we had taken, we could always point to whatever we did achieve and say "we wouldn't have that if we had done something else" and not be aware of anything we might have created instead. So it's a kind of evidence that can only supp

  • Government funding and corporate funding both have their perks and their shortcomings. But it's not such a strict divide as some paint it to be. Just like the divide between fundamental science and applied science isn't as clear cut as some like to narrate as. The late Pierre-Gilles de Gennes [wikipedia.org] stated many times how he loathed that later distinction. He stated that his work with industry development departments helped him spot practical issues that had to be systematically examined, which led him to theoretic

  • Seriously, watch the original Connections series by James Burke if you want to understand how technology evolves.

  • The old observation that 'steam engines were invented when it was steam engine time' is not a reflection on basic science, public or otherwise. Technological applications cluster because one development is a prerequisite for another, as well as creating demand that immediately pushes successive applications into being. The availability of electricity in the late nineteenth century drove a search for applications for it, leading to a number of different inventors proudly brandishing light bulbs at the same t

  • and experiment with chemicals and electronics while patting them on the back for doing a good job, drives innovation.

  • A little quoted portion of his much quoted "military industrial complex" speech:

    "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."

    http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu... [msu.edu]

  • by dlenmn ( 145080 ) on Sunday October 25, 2015 @08:36PM (#50800289)

    Basic science doesn't "drive" innovation, but basic science sure as hell enables innovation.

    Einstein published his work on general relativity in 1915. The GPS system (which requires a knowledge of general relativity to design) began development in 1973.

    Einstein published his work on stimulated emission in 1916. The first laser (which requires a knowledge of stimulated emission to design) was built in 1960.

    For those keeping score, those are gaps of 58 and 44 years, respectively, to go from basic science to innovation. Neither of those innovations were simply bumbled into by tinkerers. The designers knew the science from the get-go, and the inventions would not have happened without knowing the science from the get-go. The days of Edison and similar tinkerers has long passed. Good luck inventing any modern technology by chance. The low hanging fruit have already been picked.

    From TFA:

    It follows that there is less need for government to fund science: Industry will do this itself. Having made innovations, it will then pay for research into the principles behind them.

    Industry does not function on the timespan of 4, 5, or 6 DECADES. There is zero chance that modern industry could do that.* The argument in TFA is total bullshit.

    *That said, once upon a time industry did kind of do this _a little_. I did research with Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs), and I decided to look into the history of the devices. Where was the first SQUID made? Ford (the car company) research labs back in 1963 ( http://journals.aps.org/prl/ab... [aps.org] ). Once upon a time, large corporations were flush with cash and without shareholders who wanted to wring every ounce of profit from them, so corporations _sometimes_ funded basic research just because they could -- _sometimes_ without applications in mind. However, that has long gone the way of the dodo. And no, they didn't abandon the business because the government was funding it instead. Modern corporations will never spend the money to do real basic research because it is not economically useful (either in 1963 or now) to invent something and have someone else use it 5 decades later. They learned that lesson decades ago. Ford has never made use of a SQUID, and real applications are still on the horizon (tho they may not be far away today).

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      The days of Edison and similar tinkerers has long passed

      They sort of had by then as well as illustrated by Edison's intense hate of alternating current that may as well have been voodoo to him since he had no desire to go near the maths required for an AC motor. Thus propaganda that set Tesla's personality and behaviour up as what we see as the mad scientist architype even today.

    • > The GPS system (which requires a knowledge of general relativity to design)

      Not so far as I can tell. It requires Newtonian orbital mechanics, Maxwell's equations for electromagnetic fields, very precise circuitry timing, and it is dependent on various quantum effects in subtle transistor design to make small. But there doesn't seem to be any core general relativity requirement. Accuracy losses from failure to handle the subtle orbital differences of relativistic rather than Newtonian orbits could be re

  • I'm a scientist, I've benefited greatly from government grants for basic research. I've also worked in the government administering basic and applied research grants. There's a lot of truth to what he's saying.

    The economic return of much (not all!) of basic research is near zero.

    For those of you who keep pointing out the internet, you need to read this guy's thesis and look at the timeline of internet commercialization. Basic research investment did not lead directly to internet profitability. It took de

  • What a shock to find an anti-science editorial in WSJ - surely by any measure the paper of record for plutocrats.

    basic science gives rise to tech opportunities. isn't this obvious? the article actually claims that science is the result of tech, which I just cannot.

  • Many scientists that I have watches go through the education system are very very very good at doing school. They are otherwise nearly entirely useless when it comes to science. The problem is that these people will get a 99 in math a 99 in various sciences, 99 in all subjects regardless of their actual interests and end up eating 99% of the positions and scholarships. At the end of their PhD they are also very good at playing the system so they end up with Tenure faster, somehow publish the most, and then
  • They launched the first satellites, the first man into space and who could forget the great day when the employees of a mega corp walked on the moon. Their nuclear reactors are incredible too.

  • In a just world, he would be in jail for fucking up Northern Rock so appallingly. Instead, he gets to write articles on subjects about which he knows nothing.

  • Basic research is exactly what needs public funding, especially in areas where profit horizons are too far off to see. Potential profits drive private investment, so no, areas where some profit can be forecast don't need public funding. But most of these "innovations" depend on basic research that would never have been funded by those seeking profit. This guy sounds like an impractical ideologue like Milton Friedman.

As far as we know, our computer has never had an undetected error. -- Weisert