In the FY-2008 omnibus spending bill, the US Congress has decided to zero out all funding for ITER, the international fusion reactor to be built in Cadarache, France. While unilateral withdrawal of US funding for international organisations is hardly news (just ask these guys), this still raises a lot of big question marks over many planned international science projects.
Firstly, US withdrawal from ITER makes it a lot less likely that the ILC, the next-generation international particle collider intended to suceed the LHC, will be built in the US. In fact, since US funding for ILC development has been essentially zeroed out as well, and since the British government recently also did a unilateral withdrawal, shutting down its participation in the ILC project, it is becoming increasingly likely that the ILC might never be built, putting the future of experimental particle physics beyond the LHC, and thus our best shot so far at understanding the innermost workings of the universe, into doubt. It might seem a bit premature to worry about the fate of the LHC's successor when the LHC isn't even online yet, but these kinds of projects take very long (as seen with the LHC) and funding problems can doom them.
Secondly, the purpose of ITER is to develop controlled nuclear fusion as a new source of energy for humanity's future, a clean source of energy that does not cause any direct CO2 emission and only small amounts of very slightly radioactive waste, a sustainable source of energy that does not depend on nearly-exhausted fossil fuel or uranium resources located in politically volatile regions.
If this kind of applied research that has an obvious tangible short-to-mid-term benefit that even politicians should be able to grasp is in danger of losing funding from a nation that only recently declared science to be one of its top priorities, what hope remains for more open-ended fundamental "blue-sky" research, whose benefits are less obvious to outsiders?
But if funding for CERN had been cut 20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee might never have developed the WWW, and we would have no Google, no Amazon, no Facebook, no eBay, no scientificblogging.com; millions upon millions of jobs would never have been created, and the world economy would be a couple trillion dollars or so smaller.
If politicians have become so short-sighted that the benefits of having a clean, sustainable energy source within reach are not clear to them, what new WWW will we be missing out on because of the more fundamental research they will never even consider funding?
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Sexual Fantasies: Threesomes Are Normal, Golden Showers Not So Much
- Ghost Light From Dead Galaxies - A Hubble Halloween
- US Wildlife Bans On GMOs And Neonics Lack Transparency And Scientific Rationale
- Is It Possible To Build A Spacesuit Or Spaceship To Travel Through The Sun With Future Tech? - Just For Fun.
- Does Max Tegmark Kill A Daughter In A Parallel World ?
- The Way Architecture Imitates Life, Biology Meets Geometry
- Greenpeace Says Its GMOs Are Better Than Science's GMOs, Still Hates Golden Rice
- "Verduyn is right on the money when he says it's not the emotion of sadness itself that's inherently..."
- "A very astute observation, given that they're both, in essence, electrical phenomena...."
- "A growing population is a huge problem because we take for granted the innovations that have..."
- " Well, perhaps, my inference and reply is faulty, but you do say Tolle basically claims his way..."
- "I'm flattered you think I wrote this. Jon will be less pleased...."
- Two-faced anti-GMO groups: Block crop and food innovations then claim Big Ag prevents GMO innovations
- Why support erodes for GMO labeling (Hint: It’s not because of spending by Big Ag)
- Genetic “hall of mirrors” with large palindromes, yet smaller: What’s mighty about the mouse
- Gut bacteria an easy scapegoat for disease, but connections hard to prove
- Vermont Rube Goldberg-like GMO labeling law exempts GMO filled natural supplements
- Downside to GMOs: Yields have become so good, they exceed processing capacity
- Fun and games make for better learners
- Avivagen publishes evidence for natural alternative to antibiotic use in livestock
- Drug tests on mothers' hair links recreational drug use to birth defects
- Bladderwrack: Tougher than suspected
- Scientists seek cure for devastating witches' broom disease of the chocolate tree