Thursday, January 19, 2006

The New World

Sorry to have been silent these last 6 days. A bunch of us went skiing in Vermont for the long weekend (and most of us returned OK...) and since then it's been chaos for me getting retooled for my post-PHOBOS life. We had an internal review of the heavy ion efforts for ATLAS, and since then I've been down with a minor cold, which gave me my only chance to work on my long-overdue PHENIX tasks. That's three acronyms in two sentences, folks. No wonder I'm having trouble keeping up.

And there's a lot to keep up with, especially after last week's blockbuster news of private funding for RHIC. Just as I was returning from lunch today, I overheard a snippet of conversation: "So...we're going back to how science funding used to be...before World War II". It's really true that one just doesn't think about private citizens, or even large foundations, funding science that doesn't offer clear returns on the investment. One is used to thinking of private funding for AIDS, or even for telescopes, but rarely for accelerators (maybe unless they are purposed for radiation therapy...).

Still, this situation asks more questions than it answers: could the emergence of private money inspire the government to make more investments, on the argument that there is clearly interest in the science, or will it just make them cut us further, assuming that we will always find benefactors year-to-year? These are just the first issues that pop to mind, but even this is a brave new world for all of us.

1 comment:

Quantoken said...


Isn't it too early for you to use the phrase "emergence of private money"? The Simmons donation, I think, is merely a one time rare and random occurance, and does not represent any trend in the society whatsoever. So there is really no "emergence".

Expect an even tighter budget in the coming years. The fossil fuel energy crisis is coming, and people's awareness of this imminent threat is picking up at an amazing speed. Very soon, the situation will become so crystal clear to the people and to politicians that there will be a huge drive to concentrate the bulk of resources into researches on renewable energy source, and any thing not directly related to resolving that imminent energy problem, such as elementary particle physics research, will be put on low priority and have funding cut. This applies not only to public funding, but to private donations as well!!!