News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The death of American science in quick stages

One science journal carried this headline last week: 

Tevatron closes Friday, big American science dies a little inside

The Tevatron is shut down and American science takes a back seat.
The occasion was the shutting-down last Friday of the Tevatron particle-collider at the Fermilab, a machine that put America in the forefront of physics research and science.   Many scientists see the closing as relinquishing America's leadership in science to Europe.  The research done with the Tevatron will be done by the Hadron super-collider near Cern, Switzerland.

NPR described the occasion:  "For about a quarter of a century, the Tevatron was the most powerful machine of its kind in the world, but scientists gathered Friday to shut it down in a brief and bittersweet ceremony."

Many reports noted this year America has taken a couple of giant steps backward as it ended its space shuttle flights, relinquishing transportation to the space station to Russia, and putting Europe in the lead role in physics research with the  closure of the Tevatron.

In South Dakota, the downgrading of the Homestake proposal from a national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory to the much smaller Sanford Underground Laboratory is consistent with America's faltering leadership in science.  Some of the experiments envisioned for the DUSEL have already gone to a mine in Canada.

The journal Dvice lists the factors that are forcing America to the back of the science bus:  "The floundering economy and the politicization of science has meant that there's increasing reluctance to fund major research that doesn't have immediate and tangible benefits, and the SSC and the space shuttle program are both victims of this harsh climate." 

The downgrading of science in America is a deliberate choice.  The ballot box won over science.  And over American preeminence in the field. 

1 comment:

Douglas said...

I am not at all sure about the reasons for the decline of science, but politicians pandering to religious mythology and the TEA Party astroturf seem to be factors.

Students accustomed to a laugh every minute on TV dribble make it hard for teachers to maintain interest in science and math for more than a few minutes.

Science instruction techniques are locked in middle ages formats even if the topic is as modern as tomorrow.

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