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United States Science

US Can't Meet The "Grand Challenges" of Physics 444

Posted by Zonk
from the shakey-on-the-change-from-a-solid-to-a-plasma dept.
BlueSky writes "A new report paints a troubling picture of the state of physics research in the US, which the authors believe has dire consequences for the competitiveness of the US. 'The report identifies six key questions that will represent the grand challenges that materials science will face over the coming decade, the ones most likely to produce the next revolution. But it also raises fears that those challenges will be met by researchers outside of the US. It highlights the fact that government funding has not kept up with the rising costs of research at the same time that the corporate-funded research lab system has collapsed. As a result, US scientific productivity has stagnated at a time when funding and output are booming overseas.'"
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US Can't Meet The "Grand Challenges" of Physics

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  • by pair-a-noyd (594371) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:31AM (#19530519)
    The Bu$h regime and his anti-science fundie pals..
    • Physics helped a lot to the US to gain supremacy. With praising God they wouldn't have had the nuke first. It is also less shaky on moral grounds (i mean nuking babies instead of cloning them). Or you mean, Bush and his pals wouldn't support a nuke research? I doubt it.
    • by Kierthos (225954) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:33AM (#19530729) Homepage
      Yeah, well, Bush and his cronies haven't helped at all, but they're hardly the only administration to blame. Basically, we're looking at the results of at least one generation (more likely two or three) of neglect by the federal government, the corporate sector, and our own education system.

      Bush is no more the sole responsible party for this then Clinton was, or Bush the Elder was, or Reagan was.
      • by bhmit1 (2270) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:32AM (#19530989) Homepage

        Bush is no more the sole responsible party for this then Clinton was, or Bush the Elder was, or Reagan was.
        And lets not forget congress, who makes the budgets, isn't innocent either.
        • by Tuoqui (1091447)
          Yeah but I bet he's pulled the 'Vote this way or you're a terrorist' line on congress too. Since you know they act like they have no balls of their own.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2007 @04:04PM (#19534763)
            BS. Or mostly BS. Congress gives Bush whatever he asks for the Iraq War, but for the rest, he has less control over the Congress than Clinton did. The President's budget requests are used as an outline, but Congress makes frequent changes, diverting funding from things they don't like to things which the executive departments didn't ask for. This is what's called "pork" or "earmarks", and both the Republicans and Democrats have been guilty of it. Congress is running wild, and Bush has little control over them.

            But that's not the worst of it. In 2006, Republicans and Democrats managed enough intransigence and sheer orneriness between them they didn't pass a proper FY 2007 budget. Only 2 out of the 11 necessary appropriations bills could be passed. In lieu of passing these parts of an actual FY07 budget, Congress gave up and passed a Continuing Resolution that simply repeated the 2006 budget less a 1% rescission. This severely impacts many parts of the government, including the DOE, which through its Office of Science is responsible for funding most government research into the physical sciences.

            A Continuing Resolution wouldn't be so bad -- funding cuts in the physical sciences have been pretty much continuous since the Congressional Democrats killed the SSC in 1993 -- except that Congress insists on micro-managing the budget. So the specific funding allocations were carried over from 2006. This means large new projects that were supposed to ramp up in FY07 can't, because their money has blindly been allocated to projects that have ended in 2006.

            Read about the initial effects of the FY07 Continuing Resolution here [aps.org] on the APS website.

            If Slashdot or mainstream journalism cared about the sciences, they would have reported on this. But most people are totally unaware of the federal budget. The FY07 continuing resolution has not been reported on even once by Slashdot. It is a travesty for the US and should be a major embarrassment, but people remain blissful unaware. In substitute of actual, important news we have been fed five pseudo-news stories per week about the iPhone or about Paris Hilton.

            Anyway, to make a long story short, the Bush Administration is not the main entity to blame here. Congress is. But don't let actual facts get in the way of the daily Bush-bushing orgy...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Also let's not ignore the People who actually elect the members of Congress.
      • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @01:04PM (#19533135)

        Basically, we're looking at the results of at least one generation (more likely two or three) of neglect by the federal government, the corporate sector, and our own education system.
        Another way to look at it is, why was the US so dominant for the last 60 years in the first place? Maybe it's simple: the other industrialized nations were devastated by war. We were protected by geography, and made amazing sums of money supplying those wars and the reconstruction, and hand-picking brilliant refugees from all sides to live here. That peculiar set of circumstances will not last forever. Perhaps this is a return to normalcy, or rather to the next unpredictable episode of history where somebody else will take center stage.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass (711423)
        Do you have any Idea on what you are talking about or are you just making shit up as you go because it is fun to bash bush?

        The feds have increased the science and technology budget every year since Bush took office. The problem isn't the budget witch republicans have a relative good track record on. The problem is in how it is being spent, Most all of it is being assigned to global warming sciences because it has the current doom and gloom. Concoct your own convincing doom and gloom scenario and you will se
    • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:31AM (#19531519)
      No surprise. It will take three generations to recover from the damage done by Bush. One generation to improve education, one generation to create new educators from the 1st generation, and then teaching the next generation. By that time, the US will be hurting massively. Or be a police state. If Bush nukes Iran next spring and invokes dictator powers to stop the next election, under NSD51. Hey, who needs science in a service economy, eh?
    • by tbo (35008) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @03:39PM (#19534551) Journal
      Disclaimer: I'm a young physicist at a top-five research university in the US. I'm not a condensed matter physicist, but I work in a "neighboring" field.

      The problem isn't funding--it's what we do with it. Oh, sure, we could use lots more money, but it's not the real problem. Before I get into the details, let's briefly pick apart some of the nonsense in the National Academy of Science's Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics report, such as their supposed "grand challenges":

      How do complex phenomena emerge from simple ingredients?

      When you increase the size of your system, your state space generally grows exponentially. Of course it gets complex. Figuring out the specific complex behaviors of various systems isn't a single grand challenge, it's a whole lot of little challenges (unless you're talking about superconductivity, which I'll revisit).

      How will the energy demands of future generations be met?

      Long-term? It's probably fusion, which isn't a condensed matter problem; try nuclear and plasma physics.

      What is the physics of life?

      This is bio-physics, not condensed matter. Condensed matter is only one of many fields contributing to bio-physics.

      What happens far from equilibrium and why?

      This one seems legitimate, although it would be more interesting if they framed it in terms of some of the big problems in non-equilibrium physics.

      What new discoveries await us in the nanoworld?

      This doesn't even make sense as a research challenge. It could at least have been framed as a question involving nanotechnology.

      How will the information technology revolution be extended?

      Here it seems like private industry is doing a very good job with the short-to-medium term. Long term, the answer may well be quantum information, which is my own field. Some of the approaches to building quantum computers are condensed matter-based, but many aren't.

      The big thing I'm surprised not to see on the list is superconductivity. One estimate I heard was that something like 40% of all physicists have worked on it at some point in their careers (for me, it was as an undergrad, albeit peripherally). Despite the enormous research effort, we still don't have a really solid handle on how it works.

      I'm really unimpressed by the "grand challenges" the NAS was able to come up with; it reeks of committee work. For comparison, I could write a much better list for my own field. Just off the top of my head:

      • How can we use quantum key distribution to make a secure replacement for public key cryptography?
      • How do we engineer quantum systems with both the high degree of control and excellent isolation from noise needed for quantum computing?
      • Can "quantum weirdness" really exist at the mesoscopic or macroscopic scale (i.e., what Tony Leggett [wikipedia.org] has been talking about recently)
      • Are quantum computers fundamentally more powerful than classical computers (i.e., is BP a proper subset of BQP)?
      • Aside from the quantum fourier transform, are there any classes of quantum algorithms that are exponentially faster than their classical counterparts?
      • How do we actually build a quantum computer?

      Similarly, the NAS suggestions also seem to be the product of a shy and timid committee. There's the usual--more outreach, more women/minorities, more education, more money. There's also a pining for the old days of Bell labs and such, but no realistic consideration of how to bring it back (which would of course start with figuring out why it left), beyond a call for more discussions.

      The countries that do the most to meet [the challenges] will benefit the most economically.

      (Playing devil's advocate) Why is that so? Basic research is available to everyone. The country that benef

  • by Pao|o (92817) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:32AM (#19530525)
    When you have so much Intelligent Design/Creationist proponents in positions of power it is natural that science education will suffer. There's always importing more Indians/Filipinos/Chinese nationals to do the heavy lifting.

    It's like having Satanists run a local Baptist Church. No good will come of it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:41AM (#19530561)
      No, no, you must have faith. The problem is the people who don't have faith. They ruin it for everybody by writing those stories. If everybody had faith instead, then nobody would be talking about those problems, and so it wouldn't be a problem for anybody with faith, which would be everybody. Ergo: have faith and be happy, the good lord will provide.
    • by dbIII (701233) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:24AM (#19530701)
      Evolution is just the soft target for anti-intellectuals, the argument really doesn't have a lot to do with creation at all just about layfolk trying to show they are better than authority figures in a field of knowlege. They had it before with the layfolk versus educated clergy and now they are pushing it furthur. Intelligent Design is apparently also bad theology - the devil is in those details since there are critters that behave in very scary ways.
      • by fishdan (569872) * on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:13AM (#19530879) Homepage Journal
        As scary as this sounds, there are a lot of the same anti-intellect, anti-science people in the the global warming movement too -- and I'm not saying this to hurt the movement. I'm as pro-green as they come, but because of my understanding of science, not because someone said that the sky is falling. When I hear people say that global warming is a FACT that cannot and should not be challenged via the Scientific Method [wikipedia.org], I get pretty frightened. All challenges to any theory make it more accurate. Intelligent Design is not a theory because it cannot be challenged. Global Warming IS a theory, and a pretty good one, but it's SIGNIFICANTLY weakened by the morons who follow it blindly, and refuse to let others analyze it critically! There are a lot of fair minded, rational people with science backgrounds who believe that taking actions to reduce carbon emissions is a good thing for the planet, who don't want to throw out the scientific method. We're willing to work towards a better understanding of climate change through science, and in places where the current theory doesn't quite fit, we're very happy to say "yes -- the science here is inconclusive." It doesn't mean the whole theory is wrong. It doesn't mean that we should not reduce carbon emissions. It doesn't mean that our cause is not just. We're not afraid of people attacking the theory of global warming. Quite the opposite, when holes are found it means that MORE study should be done. I have a terrible feeling this is going to be misunderstood, but I'll throw one more paragraph on here. I completely support the idea of SIGNIFICANTLY reducing the use of fossil fuels. In my personal life I try to be as green as possible. I take public transportation everywhere, I've started/improved recycling programs everywhere I've worked. I truly believe that we can take action to improve the suitability of the earth for humanity. I just don't want the lies of "scientific consensus" and "the time for debate has passed" to put a chill on the GREATEST accomplishment of mankind -- the scientific method. The next time someone says "there's no time for debate" please think about the fact that you could debate AND be green at the same time.
        • by Guuge (719028) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @10:33AM (#19531835)

          There may be zealots in the environmentalist movement, but they're not anti-intellectual. That's something else entirely. An anti-intellectual is trying to debunk the scientific process and show that knowledge is not acquired by reason but by faith.

          A Global Warming zealot actually agrees with science. They may be fanatical, but they view science as an ally on the one true path. Hence they are not anti-intellectual.

          Most of those who fanatically oppose environmentalism are anti-intellectual, however. Sadly, some have responded to them by becoming zealots themselves. It's to be expected, given the political climate.

          In conclusion, pro-science zealotry is bad, but not as bad as anti-intellectual zealotry.

        • Global Warming IS a theory, and a pretty good one, but it's SIGNIFICANTLY weakened by the morons who follow it blindly, and refuse to let others analyze it critically!
          The theory is doing fine, and there's plenty of people analyzing it critically.

          The next time someone says "there's no time for debate" please think about

          The people trying to filibuster science. THEY are a real threat.
      • Litmus Test (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:53AM (#19531645)
        I think a great litmus test for anybody to be taken seriously would simply be asking them how old the Earth is.

        If they say it's 6000 years old, you can disregard anything that person says for the rest of their life.
        • Re:Litmus Test (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Danny Rathjens (8471) <slashdot2@NosPAm.rathjens.org> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @12:21PM (#19532687)
          Most people are indoctrinated into those types of irrational beliefs by their family - and the family typically controls interaction with non-family by enrolling them in religious private schools which reinforce the same indoctrination. So asking someone their beliefs before they've had a chance to experience the world and form their own opinions means you just get the answer based on that indoctrination. Obviously some people never overcome that original brainwashing, because humans - and many other animals - have learned to survive by learning from their family. But at least give them a chance to grow up before discounting them for the rest of their life. :)
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:34AM (#19530739)

      When you have so much Intelligent Design/Creationist proponents in positions of power it is natural that science education will suffer.
      I'm sure the war on terrah isn't helping either - we waste $5B a year on just the useless TSA alone, then there are the hundreds of billions spent on the iraqi occupation. That money would have gone a long, long way if spent on something productive like basic research. Instead, the only return on investment has been negative.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zacronos (937891)

        Instead, the only return on investment has been negative.

        <sarcasm> Oh come now, you know that's not true. For example, I'm sure everyone with a piece of the Haliburton pie has seen a very nice return on their investment. And as we know from the intuitive wisdom which is trickle-down economics, giving more money to those who are already ridiculously rich is the best way to help those who are struggling economically. Ergo, I'm sure our economy has flourished as a result of this war spending. </s

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Lifyre (960576)
        $5B a year for the TSA is small change. We're spending that in roughly two weeks of operations in Iraq. I'm a US Marine so I'm not saying this from a peacenik's ignorance vacuum. If you want to find a place for much needed science funding (I also have a degree in Physics so I've seen the harm lack of funding has caused) start by supporting the Democrats in their fight to end this pointless war.
    • by Denial93 (773403)
      It's like having Satanists run a local Baptist Church. No good will come of it.

      I can see it now. "Pro Sacrifice: life and choice just don't eliminate the problem"

      ;-)
    • by Ucklak (755284) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:15AM (#19531461)
      It's not just that. It's that 'no child left behind' crap and 'more money for less performing schools'. It boils down to the Department of education and their political agenda.

      DC and the city of Atlanta spend something like over $10,000 per child, have the lowest test scores and they still ask for more money. Poor performing schools aren't berated but praised with more money, good teachers have their hands tied behind their back and are punished by having to step down their lesson plans to accomodate non-english speaking students (at least where I live).

      Basically we're stuck with a government agency that is hell bent on making sure that our highest aptitude students get the best quality education that the lowest attitude students can handle.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      When you have so much Intelligent Design/Creationist proponents in positions of power it is natural that science education will suffer.

      No.

      What hurts is the advent of groupthink among scientists. Who gives a fuck if the universe was created in a big bang, or if it was created ~5400 years ago to LOOK like it was created in the big bang. Adopting either as dogma is ludicrous, and hurts science education -- they are both firmly beyond the realm of expermintally provable.

      "Physics research" is getting more and
    • by maillemaker (924053) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:58AM (#19532451)
      I really don't think the religious nuts are the cause of the decline in technology in this country.

      I think commercialism is far more easily the culprit.

      We have rapidly entered an area where people want to invest heavily (401K, etc.). But everyone is after /profit/. Not many folks want to invest in "blue sky research" anymore, and even if they did, it's probably cheaper to invest in that kind of research overseas.

      Investment in research in this country is probably declining because we have become so heavily profit-motivated and no one sees any profit in research.

      Further, I think most of the "low-hanging-fruit" of scientific learning was done between 1945 and 1980. But now perhaps we are reaching the time of diminishing returns, where it requires much heavier investment in the research to produce (profitable) results.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:36AM (#19530545)
    This has, in truth, very little to do with science per se. The precise location where scientific research is conducted has little bearing on the science itself. There are important political, economic and strategic concerns, but the import of this article, as it always is, is more a matter of American exceptionalism and nationalism;
    • by drgonzo59 (747139)
      The physicists these days are not trained well enough. They should know that all it takes is to link the research grant proposal to some defense target (the nano-robots can be efficient killers of Iraqis) and bingo, you get a blank check to fill in with any sum you want for the next 10 years. If schools taught these people anything it should have taught them how to kiss ass and perform fellatio on politicians. (yes, I am being a 'little' sarcastic)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What if I rephrase the article a bit:

      "A nation with a history of major scientific output has heavily cut back on research funding. The government has not increased to meet higher costs and the corporate research labs there have been disappearing. Other countries are increasing their own funding for research and there is hope that the added funding elsewhere will compensate for this loss of scientific interest."

      Now, when a major research entity (yes, the US has in the past been a big spender on scientific re
    • by remmelt (837671)
      Thank you. My thoughts exactly. Science shouldn't be a race or a competition. Healthy competition is good, but this is just nationalism. I understand it though, everyone is hoarding their IP.
  • by MathFox (686808) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:45AM (#19530577)
    We see some rapidly growing economies in Asia... China and India are the biggest, but many of the smaller countries there have shown remarkable advances over the years. From a humanitarian point of view it's good to see the poverty reduce and the money available for research increase.
    Globally the state of physics research is good; it's even growing in the USA, but just growing harder world-wide. This will mean that the world will be able to solve its most pressing problems bar one: the hunger for money of the US corporations. The US should be so wise to realize that they'll be the third or fourth biggest economy of the world in a couple of years and start specializing in a few markets, leaving bulk production to China and India.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015)
      We are specializing: it's called "intellectual property law" and we're exporting it left and right. Of course, it doesn't do anyone any good except the human refuse at the top of our corporate food chain, but there it is. IP law sure as hell isn't going to provide for the people of this great nation either ... only one thing will do that: industry.

      The problem with the idea of "leaving bulk production" to another nation is that you just sacrificed your independence and control of your own future, because
  • by ActionAL (260721) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:47AM (#19530587)
    I think this article helps us understand the path that our nation has walked down and the consequences of its destination. I see a bleak future as the gap between the rich and poor expand and the rich elite become less likely to grow America and more interested in growing their assets internationally by whatever means to achieve their profits.

    Ultimately we will face a day when another nation has far exceeding power in weaponry because of their advances over us in physics, chemistry or nanotech/engineering. Then they will be in position to enforce their will upon us like we do to other nations today.

    Our nation has become the big dumb bully rich preppy that we all fought against in high school.
    • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:10AM (#19530863)
      I don't think its that bleak for the US. With the amount the US spend on their defense budget, particularly aircraft/avionics and missile technology I have always though it likely that one day someone will come up with a cheap but effective defense such that a lot of striking power is instantly removed from the US and they have to adopt a less belligerent tone. Similar to what happened with Britain's navy. Once their expensive battleships ruled the seas until it became glaringly obvious how vulnerable they were to a few cheap aircraft. It wasn't the end of Britain but it did severely damage her ability to project global power. HMS IHaveBigGuns could no longer be confidently sent off to threaten some city unless it was accompanied by an even more expensive carrier group to protect it.

      Maybe someone will come up with a foolproof radar and AA missile combo or a stealth missile platform that can be maneuvered close enough to a carrier group to sink most of it. Success in war is frequently about economics. Who ever can afford to fight longest will win. If I can sink your billion dollar battlegroup anchored off my coast using a few million dollars worth of missiles, negotiation becomes a much cheaper and more attractive proposition (I know the US still has a lot of nukes to fall back on but using them in anger for anything short of the US or a major ally actually being physically invaded is likely to cause so much backlash it will have been a self defeating exercise).

      I don't see anyone developing new offensive technology in the short term such that the US is being threatened but I can see a day in the not so distant future when carrier groups can no longer be sent to a region for fear of being sunk or air campaigns are not a viable option because most the planes are likely to shot down. It's not going to be the end of the US, just means they can no longer wield the big stick with impunity.
      • Simple. Just build the USS IHaveEvenBiggerGuns. I thought that was the normal US route?
      • by Guppy06 (410832) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:39AM (#19531575)
        "Similar to what happened with Britain's navy. Once their expensive battleships ruled the seas until it became glaringly obvious how vulnerable they were to a few cheap aircraft. It wasn't the end of Britain but it did severely damage her ability to project global power. HMS IHaveBigGuns could no longer be confidently sent off to threaten some city unless it was accompanied by an even more expensive carrier group to protect it."

        Except that there are plenty of examples from WWII where aircraft were shown to be not all that great against ships armored enough to survive hits from 16" shells (not to mention bristling with antiaircraft guns). Consider the effort it took to sink ships such as the Bismarck or the Yamato, or how several surplus and captured battleships remained floating even after two nuclear blasts at Bikini.

        Battleships didn't go away because an airplane can sink them, they went away because airplanes can sink destroyers and other such smaller capital ships at a greater range than a battleship. Battles like Midway were notable for how the engagements took place with the fleets nowhere near gun ranges, not "ZOMG, you sunk my battleship!"

        It wasn't the aircraft carrier that brought about the demise of the Royal Navy (the British could build aircraft carriers too, after all), it was getting smacked around in two different oceans by two different enemies for the better part of a decade as part of the bloodiest conflict in human history.

        "or a stealth missile platform that can be maneuvered close enough to a carrier group to sink most of it."

        Yes, it's called "a submarine."

        "Who ever can afford to fight longest will win."

        That plan worked so well in Vietnam and is doing wonders in Iraq.

        "If I can sink your billion dollar battlegroup anchored off my coast using a few million dollars worth of missiles"

        Note the phrase "off my coast." The main point of these carriers is the same as the main point of the battleships: to project power. So long as these engagements happen off your coast and not our coast, the cost will still be justified.

        "I don't see anyone developing new offensive technology in the short term such that the US is being threatened but I can see a day in the not so distant future when carrier groups can no longer be sent to a region for fear of being sunk or air campaigns are not a viable option because most the planes are likely to shot down."

        Those regions already exist. Any of over half a dozen European powers, Australia, and even our neighbor Canada have the military resources, technology and skill to smack down a carrier battlegroup that threatened its territory with near impunity. It would take a lot of US blood and lucre to, say, bring a war to Sweden. But all these countries, as well as others that might be capable of the technological breakthroughs that you envision, are all BFF with the States (which is why you overlooked them). The cultural and social environment needed for such technological breakthroughs to come about tend to be similar enough to our own to greatly mitigate the human causes of such a conflict.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sinical (14215)

          Those regions already exist. Any of over half a dozen European powers, Australia, and even our neighbor Canada have the military resources, technology and skill to smack down a carrier battlegroup that threatened its territory with near impunity. It would take a lot of US blood and lucre to, say, bring a war to Sweden.

          Color me intrigued. I think the United States could smack the shit out of Sweden in perhaps 24 hours assuming that a larger NATO/Russian/Chinese force didn't loom. I live in the U.S. so I wi

      • "There are two kinds of ship in the US Navy: subs and targets."

        Not sure who said that originally, but it sounds about right. The stealth missile platform you mention would most likely be a submarine; armed with supercavitating [wikipedia.org] torpedoes [wikipedia.org] and cruise missiles it would be very dangerous to surface ships. Carriers won't get completely obsoleted, but advances in missile technology will eventually force carrier groups underwater [wikipedia.org].

  • by einar2 (784078) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @05:52AM (#19530599)
    As long as there are enough other countries realizing the importance of scientific research, I do not see a problem.
    It does not really matter who is doing it as long as it gets done.

    Maybe some people cannot swell with national pride but who cares about that...
    • by dvice_null (981029) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:26AM (#19530715)
      It means that American companies will fall behind on the market, so they need cut costs -> Less jobs -> More poor -> More crimes -> Less tax dollars -> Less education -> Less people buying stuff from American companies -> Less Jobs -> More poor -> More crimes -> Eventually the USA will fall, like Soviet Union.

      Someone predicted the fall of USA some years ago to happen in the year of 2025. But once Bush was elected to be a president, he adjusted his estimation down to 2020. And then Bush was re-elected...
    • by timeOday (582209)

      As long as there are enough other countries realizing the importance of scientific research, I do not see a problem.
      It certainly mattered who invented the nuclear bomb.
  • "Ah like money..."
  • by drgonzo59 (747139) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:04AM (#19530631)
    ...that government funding has not kept up with the rising costs of research


    Huh? What do they mean? There is plenty of money in research, one just has to find a way to make it sound like 'research' will eventually kill more Iraqis, then 'research' will get plenty of money. Let's look at some examples:


    1. Nanotech : By building tiny small robots we can kill Iraqis and they wouldn't even see us coming! == Cha-ching $1bn of funding over the next 10 years.


    2. Particle Physics: By finding the Higgs boson we could kill Iraqis over great distances. The Higgs boson will create a micro singularity in Iraq and suck in all the Iraqis and leave us all the oil we want. When we burn it all, the Higgs boson will be equally effective against Iranians! == Cha-ching $2bn for a new particle accelerator.


    Gosh!... didn't academia teach these physicists anything ...?

  • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:13AM (#19530669)
    When Physics challenged me to a thumb wrestling deathmatch I ran away and hid under my desk before it could give me a wedgie.
  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:16AM (#19530681) Homepage Journal
    <sarcasm>Science stagnating at a time when IP rights are stronger than ever? How can that be? I thought lots of patents on everything would virtually guarantee a scientific advantage! You mean to tell me that all those patent lawyers have been LYING?</sarcasm>
  • by nysus (162232) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @06:39AM (#19530757)
    "You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, Reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels.

    It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today!"

    --Arthur Jensen, played by Ned Beatty, Network, 1976
  • I took physics III at the local university thinking of wanting to pursue medical physics. The class was great because of the professor, but condition of the department was terrible. The lab equipment is 20 years old, hasn't been maintained, and is in need of replacement. The department doesn't have money to purchase a peice of $300 dollar equipment!? The upkeep of the building was bad too. It smells like the bathrooms hasn't been cleaned properly. Something like that would never pass if it was the business department. Clearly something is wrong if physics can't even get money to meet basic needs like a clean bathroom...
  • by mbone (558574) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:08AM (#19530855)
    The biggest threat to America is, without a doubt, our execrable education system. At University it is world class, but the levels below are basically third world.
    • The students of today are the world leaders of tomorrow. In American news I've only seen fate of students come up in Congress when they want to throw students in jail for listening to American culture without giving more money to already too powerful corporations.

      Imagine the effect if the RIAA blackmailed all the Engineering students, taking their money, and forcing them to drop out and do blue collar jobs. The flow on effects would be catastrophic, yet I bet that is partially happening right now with the

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Germik (955292)
      Paul Graham made an interesting point about the crappy K-12 in the US. Here's the thing he wrote: http://paulgraham.com/america.html [paulgraham.com].

      It's under the 10th reason, America Has Dynamic Typing for Careers.
      • by evilviper (135110) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @12:54PM (#19533039) Journal
        His point #6 is pure crap. He claims labor laws need to be non-existent for start-ups to form, yet a great many started up in the 70s and before, when the labor laws he reviles were as strong as they have ever been. Apple is here, HP is here, etc., etc.

        And point #10 is irrelevant to the discussion. The problem with K-12 schools in the US has NOTHING to do with specialization. The problem is that grade inflation has made people who don't understand bare-minimum first-order algebra equations still straight-A students, even though they're woefully unprepared for entering the university system and will need 6-months or more of remedial courses. There are still the few exceptional K-12 schools that resist the trend, and there will always be a small percentage of students that will learn on their own, but by and large, K-12 is turning out, and could be shortened by perhaps 4-6 years turning out kids equally well educated.
    • by Somnus (46089)
      Mod parent up x 100
    • by yoghurt (2090) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:14AM (#19531455)
      And the university system in the US isn't all that great either. Sure, there's the top tier of research universities, e.g., MIT, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, UofI, CalTech &c. But there are a lot of 2nd and 3rd tier ones which are pretty mediocre institutions.

      People come to the US because it is one of the few systems in the business of selling an education. Many other countries run their universities for their own people and only sponsor a few foreigners. It's easier for a german guy to get into a US university than a US person to go to Germany. Plus English is the common language so many will do a stint in the US to get better exposure. So it's not always that the US school is so great - it's that you can get accepted into it.

  • Too vague. No actual information and a derth -- no, none -- of cites. It was a long lamantatioin skreed designed to appeal to emotion, but providing no actual figures or evidence. As something to base an actual opinion on, it was worthless.
  • The article is not entirely accurate. A slashdot posting after this one discusses the test of a scramjet. I would think this to be a major feat of accomplishment in the physics arena. The article also mentions U.S. involvement. I think there would be more money for research, humanity, and more if our esteemed leader, George W. Bush, saw the pure insanity of the war he is waging in Iraq. The blame solely falls on the head and shoulders of Mr. Bush because he has not an inconsiderable amount of resourc
  • Challenges (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:53AM (#19531055) Homepage Journal
    To me it is interesting that the challenges all seem to be cross-disciplinary.

    * How do complex phenomena emerge from simple ingredients?
    * How will the energy demands of future generations be met?
    * What is the physics of life?
    * What happens far from equilibrium and why?
    * What new discoveries await us in the nanoworld?
    * How will the information technology revolution be extended?

    How can dicipline specific funding mechanisms address these issues effectively? I think, generally, unless funding agencies are willing to entertain joint proposals (say biology and solid state) these questions will be hard to address. How can you be sure that proposals don't get rejected just because they seem out of field?
    --
    Electricity without rate increases: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
    • To me it is interesting that the challenges all seem to be cross-disciplinary.

      You're being a lot more generous than I was when I saw the list:
      • How do complex phenomena emerge from simple ingredients?

      Ok. This could be physics.

      • How will the energy demands of future generations be met?

      That's not a physics problem. That's a sociology/economics problem.

      • What is the physics of life?

      Life is a chemistry problem... unless you're talking about crash test analysis.

      • What happens far from equilibrium and w
      • by mdsolar (1045926)
        On the first one the physics of sand piles is a starting point, but this leads into such things as the origin of conciousness.

        On the second, this may be a nod to cold fusion though I suppose the pellets in inertial confinement count as condensed matter initially. But, there is a definite chemistry component.

        In the third, I see quite a lot of sports medicine looking to physics, but I'm thinking they are considering, for example, the wave function treatment of photosynthesis.

        In the fourth, understandin
  • Science research, as funded by the U.S. Gov't agencies, is always at a disadvantage because politics works on a shorter time space--the terms of the people who get elected. Science research always has a long look forward usually much beyond the scope of even a 6-year term. It takes years for results to appear that are useful for products and procedures that pay off in better ways of living for people. The funding for the Superconducting Super Collider that got cancelled was in my opinion the perfect exam
    • Faraday knew how to talk to these people. Asked by the Minister of the Exchequer why pure research should be funded, he responded, "Who knows, Sir, but that someday you may be able to tax it."

      You're absolutely right about the SSC. I know a dozen physicists who lost not only that job but their research careers because of the closing of that project. One of them told me that the moment the funding was stopped, CERN put in a hiring freeze for several years so they wouldn't have to deal with the influx of ap
  • No worries (Score:3, Funny)

    by MemoryDragon (544441) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @07:58AM (#19531077)
    The USA has an army of laywers which will sue god for not adhering to intellectual property laws and to patent laws.
    So no worries, if somebody outside of the USA will make research progress god will be sued... :-)
  • ...they are not tying their research well enough to military, anti-terrorist (including the hype of terrorism), supporting the oil game, and hidden dictatorship support.

    If they did that then I have no doubt the Bush administration would be falling all over themselves in support.

    Just look at the budget for military....
  • by Proudrooster (580120) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @08:47AM (#19531293) Homepage
    The Physics world has moved into a wierd age. Phds. are now granted to people who produce equations and theories which can not be validated with experiments. Note: I did not say proved, I said validated.

    One the other said of Physics world, applied physics, you have the patent wars slowing things to a crawl. In fields like fusion and nanotechnology innovation is being stalled by patents. If you aren't writing a patent, you are figuring out how to get around someone else's patent. The amount of time wasted on patents is sad. The patent system needs to change such that the obvious and trivial can no longer be patented. Just because an invention occurred in nanotechnology or biotechnology does not mean it should be granted a patent simply because it sounds really, really technical.

    In our society, we now value feeding corporations and lawyers more that we value knowledge and innovation. Meanwhile other countries like China, who do not respect our Copyright and Patent process pirate our products and will soon leap ahead of the US in physics research because they aren't encumbered by the capitalistic IP game.
  • I call bullshit (Score:4, Informative)

    by caudron (466327) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:30AM (#19531515) Homepage
    I've said this before, but the real numbers say that this article is wrong [digitalelite.com].

    We outspend every other country by FAR on science and technology. This may be useful propaganda to get the US to reinvigorate public interest in science again, but private and governmental interest has never waned.

    Tom Caudron
    http://tom.digitalelite.com/ [digitalelite.com]
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @09:36AM (#19531555) Homepage
    Don't forget the immigrants. It wasn't just money that got us where we are today.

    The United States benefitted enormously from an influx of European physicists in the 1930s and 1940s, some of them escaping Hitler's Germany... Not to slight Harold Urey or E. O. Lawrence or Richard Feynman... but, call the roll of the people who gave us the scientific lead that led to our superpower status: Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller, Isador Rabi, Stanislaw Ulam, E. P. Wigner, Hans Bethe... and don't forget the German scientists recruited just after the war, Werner von Braun. Immigrants, every one of them.

    In today's anti-immigrant and xenophobic climate, we've actually been kicking out graduate students and postdocs with Middle Eastern origins and generally making their lives miserable with red tape and problems with student visas. With that sort of treatment, they'll probably end up pursuing careers somewhere other than the U. S.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @11:57AM (#19532447)
    There is no way that lawyer jobs are going to be offshore outsourced. And there is no way that there will ever be too many lawyers, because lawyers create the very problems that lawyers solve. If you are smart enough to be a physicist, you are certainly smart enough to be a lawyer.

    Lawyers control everything: lawyers are judges, lawyers are politicians, lawyers are lobbyists, and of course, lawyers are lawyers. No way the social/political climate will ever turn against lawyers - not in the USA.

    Lawyers are also among the highest paid professionals, second only to physicians - and that could change.

    Get smart. Leave that technical baloney to foreigners. If you are not smart enough to be a lawyer, be a professional litigant. Msft is always looking for professional litigants.

    I predict, that in the near future, everybody in the USA will earn their living by suing one another.
  • fear of progress (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dynamo (6127) on Saturday June 16, 2007 @01:08PM (#19533165) Journal

    But it also raises fears that those challenges will be met by researchers outside of the US.


    Is this in and of itself really something to be afraid of? That scientific advances might happen without the U.S.'s participation does not seem so threatening to me. If anything that fact is just an obvious corollary to the fact that the U.S. has lost interest in mainstream science, and is currently spending much more heavily on all the military / "defense" related technologies and advancements they can.

    There was a time, I've been told, when the US actually worked with other countries rather than simply trying to dominate and control them all. If we don't go back to that before our government loses too much power throwing fits internationally, and spreading terror and submission nationally through it's ironically named "war on terror", the US will continue to drift more and more toward being what it used to accuse the USSR of being.

    We should be HAPPY if other countries do with scientific research, we should form joint projects - Working together is not just a good idea on a personal level. This whole national attitude that we have to do everything better, first, and completely alone - that is a kind of psychosis [wikipedia.org] that should not be supported. It's pretty fucked up that even 1% of Americans are willing enablers for being abusive toward the rest of the world, let alone 29% or whatever it is today.

    People with those kind of fears pushed us into war with Iraq, and the same group will push us into the blue light special war of the month for as long as we let them run our country. It's a _business_ for them, and it has nothing to do with (our) security.

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Sunday June 17, 2007 @02:23AM (#19538537)
    "We're failing because we're not spending enough".

    I cannot count the amount of times I've seen this argument over and over again in political debates in America. It's the real downfall of America. In education, health care, scientific research, energy people just wave money around like some sort of cure-all when it isn't. What is really required is leadership and creativity and a lot of examining details in an even handed manner that the vast majority of people could care less about or would go over their heads. I think it's pretty reflective of the current trend of people not getting excited about any political issue unless it involves them getting some money from the government trough or money being taken away from them.
  • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Sunday June 17, 2007 @04:20AM (#19539065) Homepage
    I'm amazed at the Slashdot community... Everytime a discussion of Wikipedia or performing research on the WWW comes up, they insist that people should be (and in fact are) capable of determining the validity of a source of information for themselves. We don' need no steenkin' experts...
     
    Yet nobody so far seems to have noticed that this report was generated by an agency that feeds at the public trough and thus has a vested interest in creating the impression that they are being starved! Instead - to a man you've hared off on blaming the Usual Suspects, President Bush, the religious right, education, etc... etc...
     
    Rather than asking why they aren't getting a bigger share of pork - why aren't you asking what they have done to adress the rising costs?

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