A scientist nibbled away at Sen. Rand Paul on Friday after the Kentucky Republican blasted his research on schools of fish as wasteful federal spending. “He got the funding wrong and the species wrong, and he misrepresents the work we’ve done,” Princeton science professor Iain Couzin told POLITICO. “He’s done some serious cherry-picking here. That’s one study, we’ve had a series of studies that have taken many years.” On Fox News on Thursday night, Paul said the military has spent $5.2 million studying goldfish and advocated yanking funding for such programs to cut the budget. “In the military they have $5.2 million they spent on goldfish — studying goldfish to see how democratic they were and if we could learn about democracy from goldfish,” Paul said on Fox. “I would give the president the authority to go ahead and cut all $5 million in goldfish studies.” But Couzin charged Paul “misrepresented” the research that scientists have been doing for about four years. First of all, Couzin said, they studied golden shiner fish — not goldfish. He also said the research, among other things, can help lead to advances in technology for robots that work on deep sea oil spills and radioactive leaks. He said the research has “direct applications to human security and collective control of robots.”Wrong fish? So fucking what? Jesus. Spare us. Commenters on the story pulled out the usual tired shit: You can't always predict where research will go. Fleming found penicillin by accident, Thomson's discovery of the electron seemed useless until electronics came along. I hate to defend Rand Paul, a man who was named after a Soviet agent, but he happens to be right (by accident!) on this one point, and the usual defenders of infinite research funding are wrong. = = = = = (1) Fleming and Thomson were NOT working on blue-sky speculative crap. Fleming had been successfully developing antibiotics for 10 fucking years. He had the good sense, the experience and the equipment to spot a new antibiotic when it popped up amid the work he'd already been doing for 10 fucking years. Thomson wasn't playing around with Gedankenexperiments. He coined the concept of the electron in 1899, when electric circuitry was already well developed and commercialized. Inventors and experimenters already understood the behavior of the 'electric substance' in a solid and quantitative way. Everything that happened after Thomson could have happened just as well with the existing models. The electron did not lead to electronics; electronics led to the electron. = = = = = (2) Federally-funded researchers are not allowed to have accidents. They are required to know the result before applying for the grant. Serendipity will be ruthlessly cut down by the peer reviewers. This is basically a good thing, provided that the subject is appropriate for Federal work. When an already known discovery is likely to be beneficial to THE FUCKING PEOPLE OF THIS FUCKING COUNTRY, and when commercial interests are unlikely to fund the research, then government funding to test and develop the discovery is worthwhile. Excellent example in today's news: A wheat researcher at WSU, working patiently for 10 years (Hmm, sounds familiar) and using old-fashioned breeding instead of GM methods, has developed a wheat variety that combines the best qualities of durum and red. It has the drought tolerance of durum along with the softness needed for bread. This will expand bread-quality wheat farming into areas that are too dry, or it could decrease the need for irrigation in places like SW Kansas where the Ogallala Aquifer is being overused. The main problem with most Fed research is not the lack of serendipity, it's the subject matter. We simply don't need research in collective control of robots or social "sciences" or global warming or economics or cosmology or quantum "physics". Those areas are fraudulent religions that serve no purpose but tyranny, murder and greed.
Labels: 20th century Dark Age
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.