Last week, the Western Plant Health Association, which represents California, Arizona and Hawaii companies involved in plant nutrients, soil amendments, agricultural minerals and crop protection products (basically, technologies such as fertilizer and pesticides), held its annual meeting in Maui and I was invited to speak about the issues involved in bringing agricultural science to a public that is increasingly removed from its food.
G.K.Chesterton (1874 – 1936) visited the United States twice, in 1921 and 1930. I have recently been reading Sidelights on New London and Newer York and Other Essays, published in 1932 after his second visit.
One of the essays has particularly struck my attention:
When we think of science today, we think of Big Science, like the Large Hadron Collider and the Human Genome Project.
That makes sense, Americans like big and bold, but that was not always the case. It used to be thatg science was a lonely occupation and asking for money was a negative. There was one man who turned science from being a solitary, somewhat modest endeavor into Big Science. His name was Ernest Lawrence and he was a nuclear science researcher at Berkeley. Yes, Berkeley, arguably the most anti-science town in America now, was put on the map by nuclear power. He created the cyclotron, the ancestor of today's modern accelerators.
When Seattle man, Jason Padgett, walked into a bar for a drink a few years ago, he was an ordinary man with seemingly average intelligence leading an unremarkable life. He worked contentedly in his father's furniture shop and had never done well academically or ever cared to do so. On exiting the bar that night, he was viciously mugged, hit on the head and knocked out.
Recently two Transgender women were shot to death because they made a wrong turn and did not listen to or possibly did not understand the commands of the guards at the gate of the NSA.* That was unfortunate. The tragedy is in a day and age where the non PC complain that people are too PC and the PC proclaim that they are sensitive major media continue to identify those two as "men dressed as women". With the notable exception of Reuters, all other media did not even mention the chance they were trans.
In 1966, when the "Star Trek" television show debuted, it was revolutionary - not just in the ways that are commonly stated, like that it took a stand against racism and petty geopolitics, we had Sidney Poitier and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. by then, but rather what it did for science.
In the post-World War II era, science had gone from being a well-respected endeavor to being 'mad'. This was after Harry Harlow's monkey isolation experiments, after LSD on unwitting subjects, after the atomic bomb and after the forced sterilization of 60,000 people under the label of science.
All through the month of March, from 11:57 PM to midnight, visitors in Times Square can see artist Marco Brambilla's vision of Apollo 18, the mission that never was.
We may sometimes think science is in the doldrums today - young people nostalgically believe the 1960s and 1970s were some kind of Golden Age of Space Exploration - but things are much better now. Between 1965 and 1975 the budget for NASA was cut in half.(1)