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← What is public science, and why do you need it?

sundiver's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by sundiver

I've tried explaining why public science is vital to technological innovation to my libertariantard coworkers using the example of the laser. It's similar to Carl Sagan's thought experiment about Victorian scientists being tasked with developing television in 1850. If you'd demanded that scientists develop a "death ray " in 1900 it would have been difficult (if not impossible) since the basic concept wasn't developed until some guy at a government-funded institute published a paper on the subject in 1919. It took about 40 years before the concept was turned into techonolgy, now, 50 years after the first laser was made, the damned things are everywhere.I imagine most correspondents on this site would know " some guy " was a dude name of A. Einstein working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute who was just fooling around with some of the implications of quantum mechanics. You know, off-the-wall, "useless" rumination on some esoteric egghead project of no possible use to ordinary people, right? It's the one thing that gets them to realize that technological innovation requires a steady diet of basic, undirected research. Well, at least for a few minutes, then they go back to snivelling about unions and vaccines.

Thu, 15 Sep 2011 07:44:55 UTC | #871046