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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

DUSEL Dorks strike again

For a couple of years, people in South Dakota who promote real science have held their breaths. The Homestake Goldmine was, after its closing, a near-unanimous choice for the national Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. Prominent scientists throughout the country endorsed and supported its conversion to a laboratory. But first Barrick Gold, its owner, became entangled in its web of corporate petulance, and then the state stepped in with people who saw the conversion only as an economic development scheme. Scientists defected with their support to other sites and despaired that science could ever be done in a place that was looked at only for the tourist and pork barrel dollars it could raise.

Homestake was chosen. People who have followed the actual criteria that will make a promising and efficient DUSEL have hoped that Homestake could become the site because its depth and features hold the best opportunity for scientists to make some important breakthroughs in knowledge, including the origin of the universe. Ironically, this work will be done in a state where many think that such research is superfluous because they know the earth is only 6,000 years, the basic elements are earth, water, wind, and fire, and alchemy is the only science that has any promise for humankind.

The battle with ignorance and silliness has just begun. Most politicians who commented, including those with progressive leanings, could only note the potential economic benefits. Gov. Rounds, as quoted by the AP, wins the award for the silliest comment: "This is an opportunity for South Dakota children to meet and participate and to learn with some of the greatest minds throughout the world." The Governor still seems to think of science in terms of a science fair for youth at which the world's greatest minds will devote themselves to daycare projects.

But there is an opportunity that is missed. A rival for the project, the Henderon Mine in Colorado, put together the strongest human resource when scientists from the state's university system organized the academic-scientific community in preparation for work to be done. South Dakota still does not have institutions of higher learning that support any world class scientific projects. In fact, as the DUSEL forms itself, the creation of a real scientific community that can support the researchers and their families is a task they will have to take on for themselves. South Dakota does not like smart-aleck outsiders and unless its universities become regarded as something other than training grounds for bonded workers, the outsiders will have to build their own enclave--with its intellectual, cultural, and social ties centered in Denver.

We wonder how that proposed highway link from Rapid City to Denver is coming along.

1 comment:

Madeline Binder said...

Converting Homestake Goldmine into Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory have made people in South Dakota who promote real science held their breaths. Prominent scientists throughout the country give children the chance to meet,participate and learn with them. Not only that, a science fair for youth is one of the governor's special plan for them. At this point, science fair projects has the best offer that would make science fairs more interesting than you have expected it to be. Its complete step-by-step guides to experiments and ideas would help the children exude their talents and knowledge in doing science fair projects. Let the children have fun and learn as well.

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