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03-24-2012, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by darksociety View Post
Not only do the Americans lack vision within the administration itself, but society in general is distracted from the relationship between pure and applied science. This is made especially clear when anyone questions the value of going into space, human or robotic. The return on investment for the scientific and technical capital is staggering - and people bemoan that you can no longer make $20/hr assembling vacuum cleaners in Peoria.
For me, this problem is by far the most frustrating. It seems like we, as as society, underestimate the importance of raw curiosity in fostering innovation. If there isn't a commercial application, or if no social goal is advanced, financial backing and public interest are proportionately hard to find. People simply don't make the kinds of connections to which you're alluding. As a big believer in the value of research for its own sake, I've found it difficult to coax people out of this mindset.

The first thought that occurs to me--make of this what you will--is that Earth will not be around forever. The more we learn about our planet and the rest of the universe, the more precarious our position appears. Sooner or later, if humanity is to survive, we're going to have to find another place to live. That alone seems like a good reason to give more people more resources with which to investigate the more arcane areas of the physical sciences. When you throw in all the shorter-term, tangible benefits that can come with high-voltage scientific and technical R&D, it seems like a no-brainer. But that rubber hasn't been anywhere close to the road since the Space Race.

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