RIP A Bright Future

Below is an article I read on the Popular Science website entitled “Is American Foot-Dragging Pushing the Future Elsewhere?“  This is definitely a poignant description of the status of US investment in research and development, not to mention investment in our own infrastructure.  I suppose we can’t expect much from a nation that would waste a trillion dollars on unnecessary wars but still, some of us in the country would like to continue to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

Below you’ll find the first three paragraphs of the article.

For a nation that prides itself on “firsts,” America’s 2011 is shaping up pretty poorly. Two American firsts will experience their lasts this year: the space shuttles, the first and only reusable space vehicles of their kind, will retire this week, and Fermilab’s Tevatron–once the world’s most powerful particle collider–will cease smashing in September. While all good things must come to an end, neither of these world-beating technologies has a homegrown successor to pick up where its predecessor left off. With regularity, the “firsts” are happening elsewhere these days.

For those of us who grew up on Big Science–where big projects regularly hit big milestones that were a big deal–these are strange days. I want to see Americans build the first fusion reactor. Actually, I want to see American robots build it, and I want them do it on the moon. Or maybe Mars. Whichever the robots prefer, really.

As a popular science writer, I’m naturally inclined toward this kind of Big Science. I like things that are superlative, that are preceded by descriptors like “most powerful,” “first ever,” and “biggest” (and possibly followed by the nouns “laser” or “stealth” or “rocketship/rocketsled/rocketbike”). These things are important not only because they are inherently awesome, but because they inspire the brightest minds in the world to rally around them, they inspire our own young people to engage with science and engineering, and they sometimes spawn entirely new industries. They even “create jobs.”

If you want to read more, click here.

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