The December '08 issue of symmetry magazine ( presents an interesting article about the benefits of particle physics research to society from an economic, social and education perspective.  

The ripple effect of basic research in physics such as elementary particles has driven development of technologies as far ranging as grid computing, superconductivity, cancer therapies and of course the World-Wide-Web.  Many of these breakthroughs might never have arisen under an incremental approach motivated purely by a corporate bottom line.  

These types of arguments are critical in making the case for fundamental scientific research in physics and other areas that don't immediately lend themselves to public favor due to their perceived "ivory tower" nature.  This is particularly urgent with the promise of a new administration and genuine government recognition of the economic, social and educational benefits of science particularly in the alternative and green energy areas.

Technologies we have come to love and rely upon in modern life that ultimately rely upon "academic" research abound. The GPS system and special and general relativity, air travel routes and geodesics, quantum tunneling, modern telecommunications and Shannon's theorem are but a few.