Friday, September 12, 2008

She blinded me with science!

My pal Pat over at Roses Rambling had some questions and concerns about the Hadron supercollider.
Thanks, Pat, because this led to a great discussion here at Nutwood! Granted, Ken and I are both scientists, so we're a little biased...but the benefits of scientific research are numerous and indisputable.
There are the obvious things like medical research--the discoveries of antibiotics, mapping the genetic code, the improvements in surgery techniques and life-saving procedures, and then there is Madame Marie Curie discovering radioactivity, the basis of X-rays (and paying for it with her life, due to radiation poisoning). But what about the things that seem a little more esoteric and "out there?" Why is it important to fund scientific research? And why should we continue to fund the space program?
Here are a few things that have resulted from our space program, and the engineers at NASA:
Computer applications

Enriched baby food

Water and air purification systems

Home security systems

Flat panel TVs

Smoke detectors

Art preservation

Solar energy

Fire resistant material

Sewage treatment

Digital Imaging Breast Biopsy System

Laser Angioplasty

Programmable pacemaker

Ocular screening

Voice-controlled wheelchair

Ultrasound scanners

Automated insulin pumps

Doppler radar

Stud-less winter tires

And don't forget...Velcro!

Ken's father worked at Fermi Lab, which for many years was the primary particle physics research lab in the world, since the day they broke ground in 1968, until the day he died, in 1990. He was there when they developed a supercollider, and Ken worked there as well, during high school and his early years in college. Please read this great take (read the full article here) on just why scientific research is important and vital, from the Fermi Lab web site:

...the justification for more basic, non-application-directed research is harder to state, [but] it exists nevertheless. It has three important components. First, when we think about the reasons for pursuing basic science, we must never underestimate the human desire to understand the world around us - not merely to acquire better control of the world, but to satisfy our yearning for understanding. Few of us are immune from the awe of gazing at a starry night sky, wondering how these distant suns came into being, and pondering the past and future story of the universe....Asking questions like these is at the core of being human; one need only look at the themes of the poets, musicians and artists over the millennia to see that we are programmed to want to understand our world and its origins as thoroughly as we can.

We can also recognize a second very important aspect of basic research: it attracts intensely inquisitive and often unusually capable people. Such people may sometimes be dreamers, but they are also driven to find practical, technical means to investigate the objects of their fascination. The quest to understand some basic aspect of nature often results in the creation of new practical and conceptual tools that didn't exist before the dreamer began investigating the problem. The investigators themselves may be indifferent to the applications of their tools beyond their own purposes, and sometimes they are not well equipped to explain what these tools might mean beyond their narrow spheres of application, but their legacy can be tremendous.

Third, we have come to understand that even though some science may seem wholly remote from the daily needs of society, in the long term esoteric new knowledge has the habit of re-entering the mainstream with a bang!

And just for fun, please enjoy a video by Thomas Dolby. I think most of us remember this one!

It's poetry in motion
And when she turned her eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
She blinded me with science
And failed me in geometry

When she's dancing next to me
(Blinding me with science)
I can hear machinery
(Blinding me with science)

It's poetry in motion
And now she's making love to me
The spheres are in commotion
The elements in harmony
She blinded me with science
She blinded me with science
And hit me with technology

When I'm dancing close to her
I can smell the chemicals
(Blinding me with science)

It's poetry in motion
And now she's making love to me
The spheres are in commotion
The elements in harmony
She blinded me with science
She blinded me with science
And hit me with technology

Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto
You're beautiful

I, I don't believe it
There she goes again
She's tidied up and I can't find anything
All my tubes and wires
And careful notes
And antiquated notions
But, it's poetry in motion
And when she turned her eyes to me
As deep as any ocean
As sweet as any harmony
Mmm, but she blinded me with science
She blinded me with science
She blinded me with




buckoclown said...

Science and Engineering Rock :o)

chat2missie said...

Science and research are so important! We wouldn't be where we are today without you guys!!

sybilsybil45 said...

As I have no scientific knowledge whatsoever I find most things o do with science quite mind boggling and I think ALL scientist as ever so CLEVER !! There is no doubt that the quest for knowledge is a wonderful thing and without the scientists of this world we would all be a lot worse of.  Yes I do think sometimes to much money is spent on research when there is so many in immediate need...but it is all a balance...and who am I to decide...thankfully I don't have to....Love fro now   Sybil xx

markonit said...

... wow ... talk about a rush of memories ..!  First, I still listen to TD, in fact, Europa and the Pirate Twins, I Scare Myself and The Flat Earth are on steady play in my mental I-Pod ...

... second, man is not 'natural' as in he doesn't fit into the world as he is ... if he didn't seek understanding of 'how and why', he WOULD NOT SURVIVE ... science is the product of a survival mechanism ...

... finally, so Ken's Dad is the 'Pepsi Syndrome' soda spiller ..?  I remember reading a book 'We Almost Lost Detroit' dealing with an Incident at Fermi ... used to make trips past Monroe a little darker for me ...

gen0507 said...

I guess I never realized that all of those things on your list were due to the space program.  Wow!  Once Again ~ I have been educated from you!  Thanks for that!


queeniemart said...

I like that Dolby song....VERY popular! Wow, i AM thankful for Science. The things you listed just blow my mind to think we may have lived without them! XO

carouselqueen70 said...

That was very interesting. I also didnt know those things were made because of  the space program. I remember that song. Thank you for the blast from the past...hugs, Christine

aimer said...

Bravo! One of the most cogent assessments that I've read in response to the big WHY questions regarding scientific research set off by the supercollider experiment.--Sheria

solace223 said...

The Hadron totally freaks me out.  I know there are many, many instances in the past where people have thought a scientist was mad and it wasn't till years later that the general population realized he (or she) was actually a genius and they were too scared to see it.  That's where I am.  This thing scares the beejeezus out of me.  Not so much this particular machine but the fact that it's out there and the technology is out there.  You get a couple of seriously intelligent Al Qaida-esk terrorists and who knows where (or if) we would be.  It's just the idea that science has advanced this far and us "common folk" are just learning about it.  What you don't understand you fear the most and I don't understand squat about the Hadron or any of the technology that goes into making it.  

helmswondermom said...

Coincidentally I just caught the very end of Weird Science a few minutes ago.

lurkynat said...

I like the lyrics a lot better than the super solider! love lol!