Posted tagged ‘funding’

Killing creativity, ruthlessly and systematically

May 11, 2010


I’m a big fan of TED talks. In my view, they’re among the best things on the net (which is the whole point), along with xkcd (the ultimate webcomic for nerdy sciencey types). In the latest TED talk I’ve come across, Sir Ken Robinson asks whether schools kill creativity.

It’s an excellent talk, delivered with superb comic timing, and has struck a definite chord with me.

He makes the point that in every education system around the world, there is the same hierarchy of subjects, with science and maths at the top, then languages, and humanities and the arts at the bottom. So, someone who has a natural talent for dance, but can’t sit still in a maths class could be considered not only as an academic failure, but also a disruptive influence on others. There’s no reason why their natural creative talent shouldn’t be considered of equal value and equally nurtured. (more…)

10minus9 interview: Philip Moriarty (Part 2)

March 23, 2010
In the final part of this interview with Philip Moriarty from the University of Nottingham, we talk about pattern formation in nature, research funding, and find out the one physics problem Professor Moriarty would most like to see solved.
Part one ended with a shortlist of scientific heroes…
  • OK, but if you have to pick just one?

Let’s go with Fourier.

  • One major theme of your research has been pattern formation- why is this so interesting to you?

Every scientist searches for patterns in their data, whether those data arise from a highly complicated state-of-the-art particle physics detector (generating terabytes of measurements), a simple first year undergraduate experiment on the diffraction of light, or a digital image of a micro-organism.  We spend a lot of time thinking up different ways to represent the data so that the underlying pattern is easier to see. (We plot graphs rather than display the data as columns of numbers for precisely this reason). What really fascinates me – and very many other scientists – is when very similar patterns appear across widely different length scales.

the Cellular network is a pattern appearing in natural structures over a huge range of sizes, from the cells in a piece of cork (a), the hide of a giraffe (b), the Giant's Causeway (c) and the structure of the universe (d)


Show me the money: the final word on science funding

March 3, 2010


There’s a bit of a stir at the moment with regards to cuts in science funding. Of course, those with a vested professional interest will want more money, and some with no interest in science will see it as a publicly funded gravy train. Sensible policy lies somewhere inbetween.

I don’t see much point in trying to convince people who take an aggressive anti-science funding stance. They are probably the same people who divert any online comment thread towards a comparison with Hitler’s Germany. As long as they aren’t making the decisions, they can hold whatever views they like.

The issue of funding ties in with the supposed debate about whether science should be publicly subsidised if it has no immediately obvious economic benefit. In defence of the economic value of speculative science, there have been two main trump cards; the invention of the laser and the internet, neither of which needs any hyperbole in terms of economic impact. (more…)


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