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United States The Almighty Buck Science

Private Donor Saves Fermilab 560

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-particles-fight-terror dept.
sciencehabit writes "In what has to be an embarrasment for the U.S. Department of Energy, an anonymous donor has ponied up $5 million to keep the country's only remaining particle physics laboratory operating efficiently."
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Private Donor Saves Fermilab

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  • The sad thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebaz (453974) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @09:56PM (#23580243)
    is that it's probably no embarrassment at all.
    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @09:58PM (#23580267) Journal

      [The sad thing..] is that it's probably no embarrassment at all.
      Even sadder is that the DOE has no sense of embarrassment.
      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:16PM (#23580437) Journal

        Even sadder is that the DOE has no sense of embarrassment.
        It's not the DOE's fault.
        The Congress and Senate slashed the budget, not the DOE.

        Maybe you can say "well they didn't lobby hard enough to maintain or grow their funding...
        but it's pretty obvious that science has not been a USA priority for quite some time now.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gnick (1211984)

          it's pretty obvious that science has not been a USA priority for quite some time now.
          Yep. Our administration has decided that making footprints on Mars and digging graves in Iraq outweighs energy research. Sucks.

          Even worse? The DoE is almost entirely devoted to missions having nothing to do with energy research.

          Too depressing...
          • by Cairnarvon (901868) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:35PM (#23580645) Homepage
            Compared to Iraq, the Mars missions are pretty much free (and incalculably more useful). They don't even make a dent in the annual federal budget.
            • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by MishgoDog (909105) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:16PM (#23581107)
              An article in an Australian newspaper pointed out that it's costing us more to build a new ticketing system for public transport in Melbourne than it cost to send the Pheonix Lander to mars.
              Quite amusing, really!
              • by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:21PM (#23581155) Journal

                An article in an Australian newspaper pointed out that it's costing us more to build a new ticketing system for public transport in Melbourne than it cost to send the Pheonix Lander to mars.
                I read somewhere that it costs more to put (and maintain) ticket machines + inspectors on the trams than the combined wages and benefits of all the former tram inspectors that were laid off. It was (and probably still is) costing more to maintain the damned ticketing system than the ticketing revenue. It would have been cheaper to make public transport free of cost. What a change that would have to Melbourne's smog cloud!
                • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by ultranova (717540) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @12:16AM (#23581569)

                  It was (and probably still is) costing more to maintain the damned ticketing system than the ticketing revenue. It would have been cheaper to make public transport free of cost. What a change that would have to Melbourne's smog cloud!

                  But making it free would make libertarians and wannabe economists cry out: "Socialism ! Bad ! Why should my tax money support anything, you communist swine ? Free market ! Free market ! Free market !"

                  It's politically better to have a wasteful payment system than to give the appearance of being anything but ultra-rightwing free market fundamentalist.

                • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by gregbot9000 (1293772) <mckinleg@csusb.edu> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @12:26AM (#23581639) Journal
                  Some times mass transit systems can actually increase revenue by lowering prices. The real question is capacity, prices are used as a rationing tool, raise the price to keep people off in accord with capacity, I think mass transit systems should lower prices and try to maximize ridership.
                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by Malekin (1079147)
                    That may be true, but does not apply to the public transit system in question. There's no shortage of people wanting to use Melbourne's public transport, but the buses that feed the train system are too infrequent for convenient use, the carparks at railway stations are over-full by 7:30, the tram network is limited and peak times see heavy over-crowding largely because of inept management. Ticket prices have been going up but the rising price of petrol has been a bigger concern for people and patronage j
        • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mrbluze (1034940) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:25PM (#23580527) Journal

          Maybe you can say "well they didn't lobby hard enough to maintain or grow their funding... but it's pretty obvious that science has not been a USA priority for quite some time now.

          I agree with you, but I think the timing of the US's scientific stagnation is also uncanny. It's been several generations since the last influx of extremely bright and educated scientists (and philosophers) from conquered lands. Iraq, I have to say, hasn't netted anything of the sort (with all due respect to Iraqis).

          Is there a problem with the handing on of scientific knowledge in the US? Or is this a reflection of American cultural shortcomings? It seems to me that US culture is too shallow to recognize the importance of free & fair education 'for all'. If you don't provide equal opportunity to every child to excel and prove themselves in academia, then the chances of plucking the brightest from the far reaches of the bell curve diminish.

          I say this knowing full well I'm going to be modded a troll or flaimbait or something.

          • Re:The sad thing... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:30PM (#23581241)
            What's going to happen is that there will be a severe wealth gap (gini coefficient) developing between those who do science and those who don't (aka. the shallow culture). This is already happening (as evidenced by the creative class: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0205.florida.html [washingtonmonthly.com]
            and the geek class:
            http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/23/opinion/23brooks.html [nytimes.com]
              and it will just get worse. There's not really too much to fear if you have a Science degree and a bit of business sense, but if you don't, watch out.

            No amount of whining on slashdot, or politician concern will change it. It's a culture that has to change.
          • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by I'll Provide The War (1045190) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:39PM (#23581321)
            Look at the US Congress. 60% lawyers, 20% lifetime politicians, 1% scientists and engineers.

            • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @12:00AM (#23581439)
              Perhaps it's time the legislation was put in place to ensure that government actually is representative of the people. Like jury service, onyl better paid, so people actually want to do it.
              • Re:The sad thing... (Score:4, Interesting)

                by masamax (543884) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @01:59AM (#23582215)

                Perhaps it's time the legislation was put in place to ensure that government actually is representative of the people. Like jury service, onyl better paid, so people actually want to do it.
                Athens tried this 2400 years ago. Didn't work out so well.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Cyno01 (573917)
                I've argued this before. Double the salary, halve the term limit of every elected office and make political office a cumpulsory lottery system for every american over 30 with a HS diploma. This would reduce the power of lobbyists as they wouldnt be able to gradually buy a politician over the span of a career and it would limit the damage any an official could do.

                The counter argument to this was that it would increase the power of the beurocracy and all non elected governmental positions and any lobbiing wou
              • by dr_d_19 (206418) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:39AM (#23584241)
                Yes, it would be something like: 60% evolution deniers, 20% laywers and 1% scientists.
          • Re:The sad thing... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by JordanL (886154) <jordan@ledoux.gmail@com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @12:54AM (#23581805) Homepage

            If you don't provide equal opportunity to every child to excel and prove themselves in academia, then the chances of plucking the brightest from the far reaches of the bell curve diminish.

            The US education system has a lot wrong with it, but those things have a WHOLE lot less to do with the amount of money spent or the cultural importance, than say, the state of union agreements or the burden of proof in situations where the school tries to do something someone somewhere finds objectionable.

            Denmark for instance has a spectacular school system, and they use something very close to school vouchers, which get all the touchy-feely my-heart-will-go-on I-love-the-children people in this country on the verge of a heart attack. For some reason, amking schools *earn* the ability to retain students is *really* bad for students, even though history proves otherwise.
          • fundamentalists (Score:4, Insightful)

            by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @01:37AM (#23582085)

            Is there a problem with the handing on of scientific knowledge in the US? Or is this a reflection of American cultural shortcomings?

            Yes, and yes. The USA has been largely taken over by religious fundamentalists. To the extent that they don't rule outright, their influence is still pervasive, and moves the entire country in that cultural direction. Science and scientists are openly held in amused contempt by about half of Americans, if not more.

            They respect engineers and people who can make stuff, but science for science's sake seems pointless. As Ronald Reagan, the official saint of the Right Wing, said, "Why should we fund intellectual curiosity?" That's not a gaffe--that's a normal right-wing attitude towards intellectual curiosity, i.e. basic science.

            You can make an argument that Christianity itself isn't inimical to science. I won't agree with you, but I acknowledge that you can make a case for that. You can't, however, make a case that religious fundamentalism isn't harmful to science. The hostile relationship between fundamentalism and science is glaringly obvious, and there just isn't much to talk about here. As long as fundamentalists are running our culture, our downward spiral regarding science education will continue.

            We'll still be on top for a while, but only because our initial lead was so great and we still have so much more money. I don't think they'll turn us into Afghanistan anytime soon, but they're going to keep trying.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Yvanhoe (564877)

              We'll still be on top for a while, but only because our initial lead was so great and we still have so much more money. I don't think they'll turn us into Afghanistan anytime soon, but they're going to keep trying.

              Looking from Europe, your laws on public appearance of boobs already has something ridiculous, and DOES prevent the spread of some cultural items. Your practice of death penalty also looks like an anachronism.
              But with Sarkozy as a president, I am taunting you while I can, I fear that in 4 years we will be on the declining slope while hopefully, USA will be rising again as a cultural and ethical power.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by pjt33 (739471)

              You can't, however, make a case that religious fundamentalism isn't harmful to science. The hostile relationship between fundamentalism and science is glaringly obvious, and there just isn't much to talk about here.

              I think you're making two false assumptions here. The first is that the fundamentalists whom you see in your media are representative of all US fundamentalists. I don't know how true that is. The second is that they are representative of all fundamentalists. That certainly isn't true. To take an "extreme" example, which may cause cognitive dissonance in some readers, I know a Christian fundamentalist who's doing post-doctoral research in evolution in a respected UK university.

              • Re:fundamentalists (Score:4, Informative)

                by Roxton (73137) <(roxton) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:11AM (#23584477) Homepage Journal

                The first is that the fundamentalists whom you see in your media are representative of all US fundamentalists.


                16% of American biology teachers believe the earth was created within the last 10,000 years, as compared to 48% of the US population. That 16% is, of course, is not evenly allocated across the US. Entire generations within certain states are growing up scientifically illiterate.

                http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/creationists_in_the_american_c.php [scienceblogs.com]
              • Re:fundamentalists (Score:5, Interesting)

                by hey! (33014) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @09:13AM (#23585125) Homepage Journal
                Well, they don't make you take a test before they put the "fundamentalist" label on you, or before you claim that label for yourself.

                In fact, the way words like "fundamentalist" and "evangelical" are used as if they were synonyms, which they are not. Also, some of the ideas of Pentecostalism are associated with Fundamentalism, and indeed many individuals these days practice a mix of both, but they are really different (and somewhat antithetical) things.

                Usually, when we hear "fundamentalist", it is used to refer to somebody who is a conservative, evangelical Christian who believes in Biblical literalism and practices an ecstatic form of worship in a large, media driven community.

                In fact, this is something of a recent mish-mash of distinctive and sometimes opposing American religious groups. For example, up until the mid twentieth century, Christian fundamentalists were antagonistic to the kind of mystical worship practiced by Pentecostalism. That is because the Christian Fundamentalist movement is essentially pseudo-rational in nature.

                "Creation Science" is quintessential Christian Fundamentalism in its historic form. Fundamentalists of this sort don't see themselves as anti-science. They see themselves as pro-science, but against an intellectually corrupt scientific establishment. It is therefore quite practical for a "fundamentalist" to pursue a scientific career, provided it is in a field that either has a well established fundamentalist counter-movement, like biology, or one in which Biblical issues don't arise very often, for example solid state physics. You won't find many "Fundamentalists" in scholarly fields like Near Eastern languages or Biblical Archeology -- not for long at any rate.

                There is a lot more diversity in religious belief than our labels allow for. The right wing Christian movement has laid claim to a number of American religious traditions, sometimes conflicting traditions. They're even flirting with Catholicism, which was long seen by native Protestants of all stripes as alien and wicked. Bringing these traditions under a single terminological roof is about institutional and political power. We sometimes call that roof "Evangelicalism" and sometimes "Fundamentalism", even though these are again two different historical phenomenon. The two words serve complementary political purposes: to unite those under the roof, and to stand them against those outside.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jandersen (462034)
            You're probably right. Most of modern science (Mathematics, quantum mechanics, relativity theory etc) was founded in Europe and reached its high point just around WWII, during which time many of the scientists migrated to America. Europe lost much of its religiosity at the same time as the great scienfic discoveries were made, whereas America has always held on to religion. Education has certainly played a major part in this, but I think there is a fundamental difference in how intellectual pursuits are vie
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            The problem isn't with handing on scientific knowledge. It's with handing on middle management, who inevitably evolve to maintain their fiefdoms, and whose purpose is organization itself, not the goal of the organization's charter or funding. The best engineers, and the best leaders for those engineers, accomplish their work in spite of this. But NASA has become overwhelmed by this bureaucratic group, and it actively impedes work that is not on the montly 'employee goals' or the 'quarterly plan'.
            • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by 19061969 (939279) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:45AM (#23582755)
              Good point. As a former scientist myself, I left the academic world for a number of reasons:

              1) Being poorly paid, commensurate to the qualifications, experience, and quality/scale of work. If I did what I did for a company, I would have been a senior executive on a large bonus. As it was, we got no performance pay to increase motivation, no bonuses whatsoever, few holidays, and we were packed into a cramped office fighting over crumbling PCs). Did I mention that HR considered it a good days work to start us off on the bottom of the pay scale regardless of experience, talent or qualifications.
              2) Spending half of my research time applying for grants and maybe 10-15% of what was left to complete mystifying administration work (hint: perhaps the admin staff could help us out by doing something useful rather than just giving leaflets out or showing presentations).
              3) Ethics committees being too PC and panicking any time we approached the public. I had to submit a 52 page questionnaire before I could issue a paper-based survey to people even if I just asked them anonymously what their favourite colour was.
              4) Low status - "rock star" professors are all well and good, but plain researchers get relegated to the bottom of the heap beneath administration in terms of resources if you can believe it. I once requisitioned a pair of headphones for an experiment. 18 months later, I had finished my thesis and still had no headphones. You guessed it - I had bought my own because it was easier).
              5) Little chance of advancement regardless of talent or accomplishments.
              6) Bad security - researchers live on temporary contracts and a permanent one is extremely rare. The problem is that with a family, I need a place to live etc and at least some idea that I might be able to stay in the same place for a few years rather than just 6 months.
              7) Having senior staff with inferior knowledge of methods tell you to change your design to one that is compromised. Admittedly this is rare, but annoying nonetheless.

              The points about lack of advancement, lack of pay, poor conditions etc, all seem to stem from management cocking it up. Because we didn't produce anything with a price tag on it, we couldn't demonstrate our worth in terms that they can understand. Instead, I left academia with my ideas and training and I am going to make them work for me. I tried the university's business start-up service, but they wanted a large percentage, control over how everything was run (if it's anything like the university then be prepared for another SCO), but they weren't interested because I was just a research fellow and therefore unimportant. Once they realised what my position was, they didn't even ask me what the idea was.

              The business isn't properly started yet, but we're getting there; and it's a very big market. We're just hoping to scrape by until the product begins to get momentum.

              In case you're interested, this was a UK university.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          but it's pretty obvious that science has not been a USA priority for quite some time now.
          <parody>Listen up, you goddamn atheist dick suckin' Jew boy, we only care about our God, Guns and Girls in this country! Take your atheistic evolution and black hole lovin' back to Germany and France!</parody>

          Joking aside, it's damn depressing seeing how little the public cares about science.
          • Science! (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mosb1000 (710161)
            I think you mean Science!

            In all fairness, maybe people would care about science more people would stop using "science" to make poor public policy decisions (such as the RDA on sodium, or the endangered species act). Science can be useful, but it's often used by politicians to push a separate agenda. That is to the detriment of science. It doesn't help that you have liberal nut-job groups like the "Union of Concerned Scientists" who put the word in their fucking name, even though they have nothing to do w
        • Re:The sad thing... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mrbooze (49713) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:26AM (#23583073)
          Supposedly, much of Fermilab's current budget problems can be blamed on the retirement of Dennis Hastert. Haster's seniority and clout was a huge benefit for Fermilab. Apparently the timing of his retirement didn't help either, timed around the time that the budgets were being formulated and voted on. The actual budget vote that slashed Fermilab's funding didn't even get a vote from that district.

          I don't know, maybe this just highlights how screwed up the congressional seniority system really is.

    • by Lars512 (957723) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:18PM (#23580453)

      Isn't this just a reflection of the style of government in the US? There seems to be a strong emphasis on small government, and then relying on private philanthropy to keep other things running.

      • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:37PM (#23580679) Homepage Journal
        Bush's faith-based initiatives are only symbolic gestures(tax breaks on donations and whatnot), but having that office still costs money and I'd still rather have that dollar of my taxes go to the EFF instead.

        Some other slashdotter posted a good idea awhile back: That taxpayers should be able to directly allocate their taxes to the issues(and possibly the charities) that they care about, rather then just sending lump sums to the government(who will do what the government, and not necessarily the taxpayer, wants).
        • That's called a pure democracy, and it doesn't work. There's a reason we're a republic.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rhakka (224319)
            really?

            at what point in history has a pure democracy ever been tried?

            As far as I can tell, the reason we're a republic is that people who have power tend to believe they deserve it, and to believe that people who don't have power, shouldn't.. at least, not too much.

            Do you have examples to the contrary, beyond the theoretical?
            • by metlin (258108) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:52PM (#23581399) Journal
              Democracy is bad enough in itself - if it got any purer, the mediocrity will be a little too overpowering.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by zippthorne (748122)
              Athens. And they paid dearly for it.

              In a nation the size of the US, it's only even been remotely conceivable in the last twenty years or so. (i.e. since the world wide web)

              Without instant and dynamic information like the web provides, it would be impossible for a couple hundred million people to even consider being informed enough to vote on the nearly equally numerous referenda. And that's assuming that the proposal vetters are completely unbiased and fair.
            • by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:12AM (#23584499) Homepage Journal
              While good in theory, one look at what is popular on TV in the US these days makes me shudder at the thought of direct democracy.

              Yes, that is somewhat a joke, but not really.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nicklott (533496)
            As far as I am aware democracy and republicanism are not mutually exclusive: they are different concepts. The US is a democratic republic; the UK is a democratic constitutional monarchy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hal_Porter (817932)
        Have you heard the expression 'He who pays the piper calls the tune'?

        In unrelated news, Evil Corp CEO Doctor Evil announced that no changes would be made to Fermilab's existing projects following Evil Corp's philanthropic donation. However a new project, Project Deathray was announced.

        Just kidding. It doesn't really seem bad to me. There are probably enough billionaire nerds in silicon valley to fund a decent percentage of basic research. And actually good US universities are staggeringly rich by academic s
  • Taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @09:56PM (#23580247) Journal
    It's not an embarrassment for the DoE, it's an embarrassment for the Bush Administration and the Republican party in general- despite driving this country's yearly deficit deeper and deeper and pushing our total debt to record levels, they can't even fund worthwhile projects with it.

    Of course, the Republican party's low appraisal of science probably has a lot to do with it- after all, what good is science that might change peoples' minds about something (FLIP FLOP FLIP FLOP) when there's Muslims to kill?
    • by Ada_Rules (260218) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:07PM (#23580355) Homepage Journal
      Ignoring for a moment the argument about whether or not the government should be funding this lets just talk about the full article v.s. your post... From the full article "Fermilab's financial crisis began in December, when the U.S. Congress passed a last-minute budget for the 2008 fiscal year (ScienceNOW, 19 December 2007). Legislators whacked Fermilab's budget from the $372 million requested by the Department of Energy (DOE) to $320 million, $22 million less than the lab had received in 2007. To balance the books, lab officials said they would have to cut about 200 of the lab's then-1950 employees." You have gotten so used to bashing Republicans that you really are missing the point that both parties are corrupt and extending government beyond the constitutionally defined limits. Then each side argues about how they don't like the cuts and/or spending that was pushed from the other side and we all end up so worked up that we miss the point that the government should not be doing any of this stuff.
      • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:20PM (#23580479)
        Hmm, government has basically always funded basic science research, whether that be a strong central government or the local lord. There isn't a huge amount of incentive for businesses to fund basic science research as it infrequently leads to a positive ROI in the nearterm. That doesn't mean that there isn't a societal good from basic science research, the last 100 years of technological advances are proof to the contrary, but the private sector just doesn't have the right conditions to do it so the only place left are private foundations and government and private foundations don't have nearly the resources to do it (I guess you can argue that the foundations would have more resources if the government took less but I don't buy it).
      • Umm, both houses are (D)

        Not exactly. More precisely, both houses have a slim Democratic majority, and they're more or less pressured to continue budgeting for policy recently created and executed by the R's.

        Without the momentum of those policies -- especially without certain high-profile foreign military adventures -- it's pretty clear the budget picture would look pretty different. Heck, just by introducing competitive bidding on Iraqi reconstruction contracts, it's plausible to suggest the budget picture
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jamstar7 (694492)
      Yeah, God help them if they fund something that makes people think about science. Hell, they might start believing in evolution.

      Can't have that...

    • Re:Taxes (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:09PM (#23580379)

      It's not an embarrassment for the DoE, it's an embarrassment for the Bush Administration and the Republican party in general- despite driving this country's yearly deficit deeper and deeper and pushing our total debt to record levels, they can't even fund worthwhile projects with it.
      I'm no fan of the Bushies, but if you dislike budget cuts, it's important to understand where they come from. Congress determines the budget. That is their prime function.

      The administration asked for increased funding for the DOE Office of Science. Congress instead slashed its budget --- all while fully funding Bush's multi-trillion dollar war in Iraq.

      When Congress cuts the budget, there's nothing the administration can do.

      If the Democrats in Congress really wanted to end the war in Iraq, they could do it tomorrow by revoking its funding. But why would they end it, when it's their best polling issue?

      Sometimes, Democracy just plain sucks.
      • Re:Taxes (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bondsbw (888959) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:35PM (#23580649)

        Democracy? Since when is America a democracy?

        The problem is that America is not a democracy, and is nothing close. It is virtually guaranteed that:

        • Just under half of Americans do not agree with most of the ideas from their elected representatives
        • Just over half of Americans (the rest) probably don't agree with most of the ideas from their elected representative, but more than the ideas of other candidates
        • Since our representatives disagree with us for the most part, they probably don't care what we think and listen more to money and lobbyists.

        So, because of this "republic" two-party system, we're screwed. We have no real voice.

      • Parent is correct (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sycraft-fu (314770)
        Congress controls the nation's purse strings. They had their chance on the Iraq war too. Not long after the election when the Democrats took a majority, it was time to vote in Iraq funding. It's not a perpetual thing, it periodically has to be re-approved by congress. So what this means is that if they failed to pass a bill that granted funding, it would be cut off. There wasn't the ability for the president to veto, since no bill = no funds.

        Many people hoped that they'd use this opportunity to put a limit
      • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:26PM (#23581195)

        The administration asked for increased funding for the DOE Office of Science. Congress instead slashed its budget --- all while fully funding Bush's multi-trillion dollar war in Iraq.

        When Congress cuts the budget, there's nothing the administration can do.
        This is patently wrong, as anyone who uses DOE funded national labs knows due to the weekly emails from lab personnel asking us to lobby lawmakers on their behalf. You're probably expecting me to say that it was Bush's fault, but I won't say that, either. Here's what happened:

        1) Congress decided to increase funding to natural sciences. Republicans and Democrats agreed on it. The Bush administration (which does have heavy, heavy influence in the Republican-sponsored budgets in congress) agreed with Congress. Things looked good.

        2) Democrats in Congress and the Republican Congress/Presidential administration started fighting about funding for veteran-benefits (D's wanted more, R's wanted less), the war (D's wanted a timeline for withdrawal, R's didn't), and several other issues. They needed to compromise, as usual.

        3) The compromise they reached ended up cutting the funding increase that they ALL had supported, and which was already being spent. Instead, funding for natural sciences was cut. This is why the DOE, NSF, etc. are in their current situations.

        Why did the politicians cut something they all agreed was worthwhile? I'm going to speculate that it was because they didn't really care about it much one way or another, and also because research funding is such a tiny part of the budget with virtually no lobbyist support that our esteemed leaders essentially forgot about it.
    • Re:Taxes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EricTheGreen (223110) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:18PM (#23580459) Homepage
      While I share your disdain for the Bush administration you appear to be overlooking the fact that both houses of Congress responsible for crafting and approving the US budget (including this particular embarrassment) were controlled by the Democratic Party. Plenty of opportunity for them to do something about this and nothing was done.

      You're welcome to your partisan opinions (it is Slashdot after all) but at least apportion blame fully where it is due.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by goofballs (585077)

      Of course, the Republican party's low appraisal of science probably has a lot to do with it- after all, what good is science that might change peoples' minds about something (FLIP FLOP FLIP FLOP) when there's Muslims to kill?
      except, according to the article, it was the legislators (read congress (democratically controlled), that lopped $22M off their budget from last year.
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:00PM (#23580279) Journal
    MY GOD!!! We have nations to invade, and children to burn, and a treasury full of cash that needs to be looted by the military industrial complex. We don't need stuff like BASIC RESEARCH. Hell with that crap. We need bombs and guns to keep the empire rolling and extract other nations resources for our own lazy convenience.

    RS

  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:01PM (#23580287) Homepage Journal
    There is also the Stanford Linear Accellerator Center [stanford.edu]. I haven't been doing physics for a while, but last I checked they were investigating why there's more matter than antimatter, and not an equal amount of both.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:22PM (#23580501)
      You are thinking of the Babar experiment. Unfortunately, that has stopped taking data due to funding cuts. Scientists are slowly going through the last of the results, and are leaving SLAC for greener pastures.

      SLAC will no longer be doing high energy experimental physics, and is being turned into a enormous synchrotron source. Whilst this will result in good science, I think it is somewhat sad that the once world leader of high energy physics is no more.

      The US government decided not to support the international linear collider. That marked the end of high energy science in this country. Discovering the workings of the universe is just too expensive compared to spending our money fighting for part-ownership in some hydrocarbons buried under a far-off desert.
  • very humbled (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:04PM (#23580323)
    I'm posting AC on purpose, but i'm a karma-whoring regular.

    I work at Fermilab, and everyone i know (and that's a lot of people) is ... overwhelmed and humbled by this gift. A couple people almost cried. It's ... well, it's a real morale booster and at the same time it's humbling. did i mention humbling? wow.

    Thanks a million (x5!) mysterious friend!

    now back to the antimatter and neutrinos...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:22PM (#23580503)
    It wasn't too long ago when a group led by hedge fund manager Jim Simons donated $13 million to account for a budget shortfall that would have stopped the operations of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
  • ugh, what spin. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:40PM (#23580713)
    "Saved" Fermilab? Give me a break.

    They might have had to lay off 200 employees. Out of TWO THOUSAND. Because their budget was "slashed" by just 22M (less than 10% of the budget.) Christ. It's not embarrassing, and the lab was in no danger of being "lost."
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So you really think losing 10% of your staff isn't catastrophic? Do you appreciate that the Tevatron runs 24/7, 365 days a year? That they don't just turn it off over the weekends, and start it up again on Monday morning by turning the key and giving it some gas?

      And, do you really understand how research projects are funded? It's not like Fermi is just thrown huge buckets of money that they can just dole out any which way they please. Each project has its own funding, generally with competitive renewals
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:47PM (#23580767)
    You can sort of understand cutting funding to things like behavioral sciences or research on frogs or something. Their benefits are not always obvious to the layman.

    You can also, given their ideology, understand why they want to de-fund climate research. That sort of thing leads to uncomfortable implications about John and Jane Doe's lifestyle in the exurbs.

    But de-fund particle physics? Really? The successors to the folks who brought you the wonders of the atom bomb and who do all kinds of cool death-ray and weapons-applicable research (roughly)? To put it in terms even Bush and Congress should understand, "You like the boom-boom? They make the boom-boom."

    How is it they cannot grasp that de-funding these facilities leads directly and quickly to the loss of our technological and military edge?

    It's bad enough that they killed the supercollider. But killing the last of our first-rate physics labs is just plain nuts.
  • by mentaldrano (674767) on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:49PM (#23580793)

    I can think of three techniques off the top of my head that one can only do at a lab like Fermilab:

    ARPES [wikipedia.org], Muon spin spectroscopy [wikipedia.org] and neutron scattering [wikipedia.org]. Materials scientists live and die by these techniques - and they investigate things like improved materials for hard drive read heads, new steel alloys, materials for solar cells, everything.

    The sad thing is that if this money hadn't come along, it could have completely destroyed Fermilab. People think research produces papers which anyone can read and become an expert. How many people became great Java programmers after reading one book or a few papers? None - it takes practice, and many years at that. If you have to fire any of these guys and gals, they will never come back, and that knowledge is very expensive to lose. You can hire someone and train them, but it takes time, and many of the little secrets never make it into the published literature.

  • by kungfoolery (1022787) <kaiyoung.pak@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:54PM (#23580857)

    This isn't a Republican or Democratic issue, it is a societal one. Year after year, administration after administration, we as a society have been saying "we don't really consider science/education/research all that important."

    Just look at the trends: companies are increasingly seeking out technical professionals overseas because they're churning out greater and greater number of graduates with science/engineering degrees with China pushing out 600,000 such graduates compared to the US' 70,000 per year [businessweek.com]; and how can we compete in biotech when the majority of our citizens can't grasp genetics nor do they even believe in evolution [livescience.com] (we beat Turkey though!)?

    With the way we've been funding education and paying our teachers, we collectively give educators the big middle finger tipped with stinky poo every year. We're making these choices as individuals so we all have a hand in this appalling state of affairs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @10:55PM (#23580881)
    Fermilab is barred from proposing and receiving science funding from the NSF or DOE on its own. Any high energy physics or computing project at Fermilab that gets funded has to be at least co-lead by a University professor. Over the last twenty years or so, as the universities became more and more aggressive about protecting their turf, more and more projects left the lab. When I left there six years ago, the writing was already on the wall. Smaller experiments were slashed in favor of the mega collaborations DZero and CDF, computing was shifted to the "Grid", and both trends were very efficient at shifting power and projects out of the lab. Except for operations, there was very little being done at the lab. One wonders if it was planned that way.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) * on Wednesday May 28, 2008 @11:23PM (#23581165)
    So when you are building your world view as to what a good career choice might be, and see the way some of the most dedicated and highly trained scientists and engineers are having to work at Fermilab, what are you going to take away from this?

Fools ignore complexity. Pragmatists suffer it. Some can avoid it. Geniuses remove it. -- Perlis's Programming Proverb #58, SIGPLAN Notices, Sept. 1982

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