Google co-founder Larry Page has some pearls of wisdom for scientists: get off your lazy bums and do something.
Scientists need more entrepreneurial drive and could benefit by doing more to promote solutions to big human problems, Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page told a meeting of academic researchers.
“There are lots of people who specialize in marketing, but as far as I can tell, none of them work for you,” Page told researchers at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science late on Friday.
“Let’s talk about solving some worldwide problems. Let’s get people really motivated,” he said.
Huh?? What???? If scientists aren’t working on major world problems like cancer, AIDS, curing deafness (just for example!) what in the heck do you think we’re doing all day? And I certianly don’t think marketing people have any place in science, which would only serve to further promote “sexy science” that makes a catchy headline and marginalize science thats imporant, basic, but not as attention grabbing. I would love to see the looks on a group of marketing peeps who were told they had to make Drosophila wing development sexy. “Hey look guys, when we knock out this gene, there’s a tiny notch in the wing! WOW!!!”
Page laid some real gems on the table for scientists to tackle, pro bono no less.
Noting how 40,000 people die annually in U.S. auto accidents, Page proposed giving computers control over cars. While many people fear the loss of control, he said, “I am pretty sure if computers guided cars, a lot fewer people would die.”
Build fewer roads in underdeveloped parts of Africa. Instead, he suggested ultra light planes capable of traveling at up to 90 mph (145 kph) and which would consume less gasoline than ground vehicles.
Solar energy installations in the Nevada desert were capable of producing 800 megawatts per square mile (2.5 square km), somewhat less than half the 2,000 megawatts of a nuclear power plant, he said. (A mid sized natural gas-powered plant generates around 400 or 500 megawatts).
A major limitation to wind power is the need for a distribution grid to move power from regions where wind blows to where populations are centered. He said 80 percent of the electrical grid of Europe and North Africa could be served by an ambitious wind distribution grid cross-connecting the two regions. “Are we going to build that grid? I don’t think so. But I think it would be a good idea.”
These are all great ideas. For engineers and public planners. Yes, science plays a heavy role in most any technological advancement, but none of these ideas are basic science, or even research ideas at all.
Page said the reason many scientific undertakings did not succeed was due to a lack of human effort rather than technical hurdles.
Try a lack of funding. How about some Google Science Grants?