Thursday, January 24, 2008

Science in America Competes for Its Life

President George W. Bush signs H.R. 2272, The America Competes Act, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, in the Oval Office.

Normally I try to not get too political on this blog, because I’m pretty sure the FBI is monitoring it (I also try not to be too sarcastic, but sometimes it’s called for). This blog is a representative of the American Physical Society, which has a strong and respectable political image to uphold. But even the president of the American Physical Society Arthur Bienenstock had no qualms about waving his figurative fist at Congress and the White House for cutting nearly a billion dollars in science funding from the FY08 budget. Earlier this month he sent out an email to all APS members expressing his frustration at the budget cuts, and urging members to write to Congress and ask for supplemental science funding. It is with this in mind that I write this entry with both freedom and restraint.

The budget cut was simply a blind-sided attack on science, especially after the strong declarations made by the America Competes Act. National agencies had already planned to continue with at least the same funding as last year, if not more. The sudden shockwave of decreased funding forced them to not only cease work on new projects, but stop current projects before their scheduled finish dates. This includes abrupt and unexpected cut backs on projects that impact national issues like climate change, alternative fuels, and cyber security. Not to mention jobs.

Cutting out a billion dollars from science funding the same year Congress and the White House declare that America needs to get more competitive with rising international science and education programs, is what I’d call a lack of understanding. I’d also call it a slap in the face, a kick in the groin, and absurd. It’s like handing a starving man a can of peanuts, only to have two fake snakes jump out of it. The joke is lost, and it’s just mean.

The America Competes Act at its best is a strong initiative that promotes science and science education in America; the project aims to give every child in America the best science education we can, and to reward risk and innovation in science research. At its worst, it seems nationalistic. The proposals are stuck somewhere between setting a new bar of quality (despite where other countries are at), and a childish desire to keep America numero uno in every event on the playground. And apparently members of the administration have watched one too many inspirational football movies, and need only a motivational speech to win the big game. Scientists, on the other hand, need teachers, labs, and salaries.

Primarily, what kind of message are we sending to the children we’re trying to teach math and science to if we won’t even fund jobs in those areas?

These cuts also bring up the interesting debate about where we’d like to see our national funds go. Speaking as a scientist, if the government wanted to cut money from science funding to ensure that every child in America had *good* health insurance, or that every person in the world who asked for it could have access to clean water, I’d be all for it. In an ideal moral setting, purely humanitarian efforts should come before science, but also before art, and music, and nuclear arms. But the world’s a bit more complicated, and purely humanitarian efforts don’t really exist. So in this imperfect world, it’s important to realize that science is one of the primary reasons why our country is in a position to make humanitarian efforts. It’s one of the main reasons why health care is getting better and more accessible every year. Science fuels countless aspects of our economy from countless angles. Economic competitiveness, technological advancement, and our overall national mindset are all significantly impacted by the state of science in our nation.

And besides the iPods and top-notch PhD programs, science is one of the last active proponents of logic, and for that reason alone we must save it.

The Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have all been allotted less money than in FY07, as opposed to promised increases. Damage to these organizations will also result in cuts to university proposals. The American group working on the International Linear Collider was given only a quarter of what it expected. Because America’s contribution to the ILC project is so large, and because Britain also pulled out their funding this year, it’s unknown what the fate of the entire project will be. SLAC was forced to suddenly cut 125 jobs, with more on the way, and it looks like FermiLab is in a similar situation. While this affects the entire scientific community, high energy physics seems to have been hit the hardest.

This week Arthur Bienenstock sent out another email, thanking those 3,000 members for writing to congress, and encouraging other members to do so (this was still a very low percentage, out of 46,000 APS members). In addition, the DOE and NIST released reports describing the impact of the budget cuts. It was pretty consistently negative.


  1. disheartened in MAJanuary 24, 2008 at 4:22 PM

    At this point, it seems like the best we can do is hope for a science friendly administration sometime in the next eight years. (Whatever the stated commitment to science education and research, this is the same group of people who think it's important to give "alternate theories of the origin of man and the earth" equal time with evolution, plate tectonics, and the big bang).
    This is particularly puzzling, though, at a time when the American economy is in recession and we're discussing handing out free money at tax time to stimulate the economy. If the economy is lagging, why cut funding to an employment sector, especially when scientific R&D has long term impact on technological innovation, which in turn has an effect on market share and jobs in production and so on.
    I guess it's just another bonehead move in a long list (and another thing for someone like myself who's entering the science job market to worry about).
    Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  2. My opinion about philosophy of Physics and Religion..
    We live in modern scientific world and I think
    / The science will purify the religion of the “dross”./
    I think the science will prove the truth
    of the religion's base.


    What gives Life to the formulas and equations?
    What must be present in a body to make it alive?
    My answer:
    Soul. quantum of light/electron.
    Why quantum of light/electron?
    Because, from all particles, only the quantum of light is a privileged particle.
    Only Light quantum has the speed of an absolute quantity c = 1.
    No other particle can travel with the speed c = 1.
    Because, the physicists say: Light quanta have dualistic behaviour.
    I say: The dualism of light quanta connects with its ability
    to be an electron. (according to the law of conservation/transformation
    of energy and the Lorentz transformations)…….. etc.
    Because, according the "big bang",
    our Universe has existed for 13 (+) billion years.
    My question:
    Is it possible to create a child from a cell [zigota] in only 280 days according
    to Probability theory? If yes, it will take not 280 days, but will take more
    time than our Universe has existed. If no, the process must have purpose.
    It means somebody/something must manage this process.
    So, which answer is really true?
    My opinion is, it is impossible according to Probability theory,
    to create a physical body (a child) in only 280 days, from billions and billions
    of different cells. It means probability theory doesn’t work in cell theory;
    doesn’t work in biophysics. It means probability theory doesn’t work
    in the period of a woman's pregnancy. It means somebody/something
    must manage the creation of a child. Religion says, it is the soul.
    I say: The privileged particle quantum of light/electron must
    manage this process. (According to my interpretation of SRT + QED).
    Because, some people that survived clinical death, claim that they saw light.
    They saw their material body and everything happening around as from aside,
    that in this moment they were not a material body.
    Who were they?
    Somebody wrote me:
    I’m trying to understand what you are saying here. Are you saying that
    there is a single electron (or photon?), the spiritual particle, somewhere
    in each of our brains that is an antenna-like receiver for divine
    transmissions? And we can acquire new forces and abilities
    by listening to it?
    I say: Yes, exactly so.
    The brain of a man approximately consists of sixteen or more
    billions neurons. All of them form the system that manages human body.
    According to the Pauli exclusion principle,
    only one single electron can be in the atom.
    This electron reanimates the atom. This electron manages the atom.
    If the atom contains more than one electron (for example - two),
    this atom represents a "Siamese twin".
    Save us, Great God, of having such atoms, such children!
    So usually, electron action is almost completely disguised
    by the other forces (mechanical, electromagnetic, nuclear, chemical ……etc).
    That is why, it is no wonder, that with the work of all the sixteen billion
    neutrons of the brain, a man cannot catch a single impulse of an electron/
    quantum of light, his own God:
    (mass of electron is equal 10^-31 kg., charge of electron is equal 10^-19 k.)
    It remains unnoticed in ordinary processes.
    The situation is: hw < kT [ all another powers).
    But sometime ( for example in a critical situation)
    the energy of the electron can be, hw > kT.
    The small energy of Electron is higher than the common
    electric field of the brain, and we can acquire new forces
    and abilities by listening to it.
    Once again.
    An electron's mass is 10^-28gr . The size is 10^-13sm. A charge is 10^-19k .
    With these characteristics it is hard for IT to appear.
    Therefore it is clear, why we don't know IT in our ordinary life.
    ITS cognition is achieved by a very hard, thin and laborious work.
    This work (meditation) demands a person to be devoted to it.
    All of us have the personal God/Soul and it is a light quanta/electron.
    Maybe somebody thinks that the power of the light quanta/electron
    is so weak that it is possible to scorn it. This is a mistake.
    In meditation, the imperceptible power of the light quanta/electron
    unusually increases.
    I want to give two examples.
    It was during the Second World war.
    A young soldier was badly wounded. The doctors said he would not live
    and refused to operate on him. But only the soldier's body was wounded.
    He did not lose consciousness and heard the conversation of the doctors.
    He was young and wanted to live very much, but what could he do
    if the body was wounded? And suddenly and unexpectedly he saw
    the quantum of light which began to rotate around his body.
    And the soldier became fanatic. He imagined himself as the quantum
    of light that rotated round his body. Some days passed.
    The doctors were surprised, seeing, that he had not died yet,
    and decided to operate. And then they made a second operation,
    third, ….. tenth ….
    50 years have passed and the strong,
    well built man told his story on Russian T.V.
    The doctor unsuccessfully jumped from a ski springboard,
    fell and at once he understood that the backbone was broken.
    It a was 100% physical inability. People with such an injury cannot move.
    In this difficult time the doctor recollected the books about yoga
    and eastern practices. He has imagined himself a quantum of light
    and began to twist it around his body and backbone.
    It was fanatical work.
    After three years of this work, the doctor could move; at first on crutches,
    then with a stick, and then freely. This is the story from one of the Soviet
    Maybe somebody will say that I mixed together physics, religion,
    mystic, parapsychology, the theory of knowledge ………etc.
    I think that all these subjects naturally enter into the theory:
    I want to explain my position briefly.
    There are only two Absolute constants in Universe:
    T=0K and c=1.
    And I explain the Existence using only these two
    Absolute constants.

    T = 0K.
    There is only one Absolute Reference Frame
    and it is Nothing/Vacuum : T=0K .
    And Quantum Theory says that T=0K is not dead space.
    QT says the " virtual particles " exist in Vacuum: T=0K.
    These " virtual particles " have following parameters.
    Geometrical form = C/D=pi ,
    Potential energy = E=Mc^2,
    Potential mass = R/N=k ,
    Inner impulse = h = 0 ,
    Mathematical formula = i^2=-1 .
    Their condition is rest.
    Then these " virtual particles " have Planck's impulse (h=1)
    (or Einstein's impulse h=kb=1) they move with constant and
    independent speed c=1.
    We named these particle " Quantum of Light".
    h = 1, c=1. ( light quanta).
    Then these " virtual particles " have another impulse,
    Goudsmit /Uhlenbeck,s impulse (h=h/2pi) they became
    " electrons ". ( E = hw, e^2 = hca ).
    This situation described with " The Lorentz transformations."
    h = h /2pi , c>1.
    E = hw, e^2 = hca ( electron).
    The Lorentz transformations.
    If these " virtual particles " have three conditions:
    1) rest ( h=0),
    2) strait ,constant, independent moving (c=1) and they can
    3) rotate around its axis ( h=h/2pi) they are special particles.
    And no other particles can reach their speed it means they
    cannot have such ability as Light Quanta/ Electron has.
    Therefore I say " Light Quanta/ Electron is privileged particle",
    and it is possible to name Light Quanta/ Electron
    as a " Spiritual, Conscious particle – Soul " ( !!! )
    There is another question.
    The " virtual particles " exist in Vacuum : T=0K.
    The Vacuum created these "virtual, spiritual, conscious particles ".
    Then on the question:
    " What gave birth to these Spiritual, Conscious particles? " we can
    understand that something more Conscious is cause of their existence .
    Something more Absolute, Great, Infinite, Eternal , Conscious
    which hides behind the Absolute temperature T=0K.
    And then it became clear, why ancient Egyptians wrote in
    sacred tractate: "The Universe is something Intellectual". ( !!! )
    Here I explain the process of " Star formation".
    Star formation:
    e- - k - He II - He I - rotating He - thermonuclear reaction:
    a) hw > kT
    b) hw = kT
    c) kT > hw
    As the result of star formation the Material particles
    (protons) turn out well.
    p ( Proton.)
    Here I explain the process of interaction between
    Light Quanta/ Electron and Proton.
    The process of evolution is one of main in Universe.
    Evolution of interaction:
    a) electromagnetic,
    b) nuclear,
    c) biological.
    The main laws in Universe.
    a) The Law of conservation and transformation energy.
    b) The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle / law.
    c) The Pauli Exclusion Principle/ law.
    Every theory must be testing logically and practically.
    a) Theory and practice.
    ====== =======
    This theory is simple, logical, clear.
    Everybody can understand it.
    Best wishes.