Monday, September 5, 2011

Big Science or Navel Gazing Nanoscience

I am writing this price in the beginning of the second decade of the 21st Century AD. This piece has been in my mind for some time and I decided to give it a structure before writing . The immediate provocation is the fact that a planet made of crystalline carbon also called Diamond planet has been found near a neutron star in a far away galaxy by our space scientists. My fried asked me if we could take a dumpster and an JCB to it. The other friend remarked if dragging it away with a rocket would do fine.
Well this got me thinking on the following lines. We do not have supersonic aircraft in the civilian sector.The Concorde project scrapped long ago and all the planes just wreckage. NASA has let go of it Shuttle programme and there are no projects to go to moon or mars. Big science with its Saturn rockets, advanced Shuttles seem to be in the line for the breaking ball. What is the attitude that makes Big science seem unnecessary while the latest app in your phone is just too good to be true. It even trims your nose hair.Wow.
The root of this poor attitude seems to lie among policy makers who are not having cold war era contests of bigger and longer, farther and stronger. No Soviets just a bunch of mid income countries struck among declining infrastructure. The outsourced programme of NASA to depend on the workhorse Soyuz and the recent report of a Soyuz falling from the sky are contrasting enough-- efficient budgeting against effective way to reach space.
Beyond the ideas of policy makers, we as individuals are becoming more and more insular and more apt to gaze at our navels in a hypnotic glance. Newer technology is making us insulated from each other not just from society. A whole generation fitted into the tiny and tinier screens of portable music, portable telephones and portable computers. People showing off at the Mall cafes but forgetting that the other person has his own screen. A large gargantuan argus headed monster following friends on the screen but ignoring the immediate surroundings. The friends and people on the internet seem more closer than those next to us, furthering the isolation.
At the heart of this situation is a change in our attitude from Big Social goals to narrow individual achievements. We do not want the Big science that created modern day civilization. Science is an accretive process and we have developed by using old theories and it was a slow process to modern day miracles. The miracles of Chloroform seem tired in todays days of local and specific anaesthesia. The miracle of innoculation seems outdated in the modern day of class 5 antibiotics. But in the movement of science there is accretion leading to todays advancements. We just cannot stop building rockets if we intend to get to Mars or Jupiter in  the next 100 or 200 years. We cannot dump technology and expect to build a next generation Saturn Rocket to take us to Mars or even worse face a situation like the movie Armageddon showed of a rogue meteor out to get to earth.
The computing device has changed a lot from the Charles Babbage mechanical calculator to modern day tablet handhelds. With such advancement we should invest more in science that produces the concepts called computers. However we are more concerned with apps that show the nearest movie hall,reminder pads, free audio,free ebooks which are taking us away from the idea of science as a tool of betterment and to the view that technology that relates to our emotions is better.
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