Science is what made America great (Synopsis)

"Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson hated each other so much. But that hate that they had for each other did not come before the love of their country." -David Scott

You can't make America great 'again' without looking at what made us great in the first place. It wasn't industry or manufacturing or our morals or our military might; it was our investment in science, research and development that gave us the capabilities to do the extraordinary.

Mendelian genetics underlie the science of inherited traits, and are essential to choosing the best agricultural crops. Public domain image by Wikimedia commons user LadyofHats. Mendelian genetics underlie the science of inherited traits, and are essential to choosing the best agricultural crops. Public domain image by Wikimedia commons user LadyofHats.

Investing in knowledge and fundamental research enabled all the applications that have arisen since. So if you're serious about making America the greatest nation on Earth, maybe the solution isn't to try and support the conclusions you're predisposed to, but rather to support the scientific process and accept whatever answers the scientific endeavor bring to us.

NASA’s budget as a percentage of the total federal budget. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user 0x0077BE. NASA’s budget as a percentage of the total federal budget. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user 0x0077BE.

Science is what made America great, and investing in it for real is how to make it greater than it's ever been!


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How would you suggest integrating scientific principals into the government?

Should be a worldwide goal so that we are all on the same page; united humanity.


I agreed. Once again, humans have achieved another level of making the impossible possible.

By Clean Perth (not verified) on 27 Sep 2016 #permalink

When you bring something 'into' the government, it becomes a politically controlled thing manipulated by politicians for their own ends. Scientific principals are not compatible with the pursuit of power through deception and manipulation.

A scientist who wishes to be a politician is courting a very primal conflict of interest and methodology, and confuses the pursuit of truth and understanding with the pursuit of control over what others think and do.

@1 and @4 - I think you're going over the top here. As someone who occasionally helps the government use scientific principles, its not that big a deal. "Keep a lab book, and don't erase your mistakes" is a scientific principle that a lot of agencies and groups don't follow well. "Have someone independent peer review your decision before you implement it" is another. Given budget constraints, it is not always easy for civil servants to justify good practices to their appointee bosses; having a science Ph.D there to say "yes, you should spend the time and money to [document your process] [test your idea before you implement it] [or whatever]...and here is why" is often a very good thing.

There are half a dozen aspects more influential in our rise to greatness than ‘science’. I’d give the top three as:

1 – A massive industrial base facilitated by the economic system that provided easy access to capital

2 – Big oceans that provided natural defense

3 – An abundance of natural resources

While you seem to focus on the era around World War II, it is worth pointing out that we were a step behind in most scientific schools. Germany had more advanced aircraft, advanced tanks, better guns, more sophisticated communication, and a host other areas. During the war it wasn’t American scientists who cracked Enigma. After the war ended, putting a man on the moon benefited greatly by the inclusion of Wernher von Braun and all the German testing data seized at the war’s conclusion.

The United States won WWII against a scientifically superior foe because of our ability to manufacture in an areas safe from enemy attack and on a scale that could not be matched. Our logistical ability to get those tools of war from factory to front line sealed the deal. I’d argue the Black American Soldiers making up the Red Ball Express played a larger role in winning the war than did the American scientific endeavors of the atomic bomb and penicillin combined.

After the war ended, we plundered every bit of European science we could get our hands on. Europe no longer had the resources to rival us and the Soviets repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with their collectivist economic system. Luckily for us, our Collectivist in Chief died in 1945 and the guy who replaced him didn’t have those proclivities.

The word ‘military’ could easily be swapped with ‘scientific’, and to the same effect, in your line ‘…our military superiority is a result of our becoming the most powerful country in the world, not how we got there’. I understand having pride in one’s profession and there is no denying the crucial role our scientific prowess plays in our world standing, but that wasn’t how we got to be king of the jungle. Even today scientists routinely need to justify themselves to bean counters.

Well, also winning a war that they missed most of, on foreign soil only, and getting a huge slice of cash from lease-lend and most powerfully of all, the worldcurrency, which had been the UK's until then, but was handed over to help pay the USA.

Yes, guys, you were paid mercenaries.

The ones who fought and risked their lives sill deserve the respect of their willing risk, but the USA, especially those who came later, really deserve to know they were just paid mercenaries, and part of that payment was control of the economy of the post-war world.

Nice article. Situation in the late USSR was direct result of stupidity and low education of people, what came to power after revolution in 1917. Lysenko is dead, but his ideas still live here. I mean the new law against organisms with modified genomes. Afraid, that if agriculture in Russia met with much larger success that one in the USSR (an old joke: who are five main enemies of the soviet agriculture? Ronald Reagan and four seasons of a year), situation with science and hi-tech is not good. Too complicated things, savvy? I agree with Ethan- you, boys, should spent more money for science. You are leaders now, but this position is not given you forever. To preserve leadership, one has to make large efforts. You are getting fat, people- currently you depend on Russia's good will- to send USA astronauts up to ISS or do not. For such nation it is humiliation, isn't it? So do not give too much money to jobless- save them for NASA, for example.

By Andrey Matseevskiy (not verified) on 05 Oct 2016 #permalink

"Lysenko is dead, but his ideas still live here. I mean the new law against organisms with modified genomes"

Sorry, there's absolutely nothing connecting those two things. Even though the law against GMOs are correct, in the same vein as laws against building anything you want on "your own land" and disgorging waste on "your own land".

Lysenkoism has nothing to do with it, except you tied them together in your mind. I doubt you care, though.

I'm sorry, but the moon landing was a hoax.

@Andrey Matseevskiy

currently you depend on Russia’s good will- to send USA astronauts up to ISS or do not. For such nation it is humiliation, isn’t it?

There is no humiliation at all. It is a choice. We have many rockets big enough to carry people to space. We could have also kept flying the Space Shuttle if we wanted. We didn't lose the technology, but we were concerned that Russia's space program was short of operating income. It seemed like a win for everyone if we put our efforts into developing new technolgies while

...while also pushing some much needed business towards our Russian colleagues. There is no humiliation in that.


>>We have many rockets big enough to carry people to space.

Which one, pls? How many Falcons will explode before Mask is ready to send living people up there? This is just my point- when you are loosing leadership, this process is inaudible and unnoticed by overwhelming majority- just like you do not want to admit, that there is a problem. Good news is that in Russian science problems are much greater, if this fact will make you happier.

By Andrey Matseevskiy (not verified) on 06 Oct 2016 #permalink

The SpaceX Falcon 9 series are interesting in their goal is to significantly reduce the cost of getting payload to orbit, but the Falcon 9 Heavy hasn’t even had a single example built yet and they obviously aren’t ready for people although SpaceX has proven they can berth with ISS. Blue Origin is arguably closer to transporting live humans to orbit with their New Shepard vehicles, an example of which just successfully tested capsule ejector rockets. NASA is very close to having their SLS rockets ready for testing, however along with all of the previously mentioned rockets they are upcoming technologies.

If we had to get people to space today on an American made rocket, it would be relatively easy with ULA’s Delta IV Heavy. It has been flying reliably since 2004, has the greatest payload capacity of any rocket currently in use, and has already been tested with the Orion flight capsule. There are other rockets in our inventory also capable of the task, but if we weren’t just pulling a Space Shuttle out of mothballs my pick would be the Delta IV Heavy.

In the United States, NASA isn’t the only way to get to space. NASA does contract work through foreign space agencies because they are instructed to engage in foreign outreach. It is not a humiliation. In fact Americans think so little of it that most don’t even know we use Russian rockets to get to the ISS, and even fewer know we use Russian built RD-180 rocket motors in some American rockets. It is akin to being humiliated because the taxi driver who took one from the Airport to the Hotel was Russian. To us the issue is hardly worth a thought. We are just glad there was a convenient vehicle to get us to where we wanted to go.

Contrary to your belief, problems with the Russian’s space and science programs do not make me happier. We wouldn’t be using Russian rockets and Russian rocket motors if we wanted to see you crumble. We wouldn’t invite Russia to participate in the ISS if your failure made us happy. We are doing what we can to put you in a position where you can succeed, but don’t let that go to your head.

>>Contrary to your belief, problems with the Russian’s space >>and science programs do not make me happier.

May be you in person are not getting happier, watching problems in Russia science and so on. But I won't be so sure about your government. Conflict of interests obviously exists. Concurrent must be kept on the line- existing and potential one too, savvy? Dear Mr Bzesinsky explained it very well- read The Great Chessboard. I have no intention to repeat what I saw on TV about Syria, but situation in Ukraine I know well enough and not from mass- media. Five billions of US dollars was spent and they did their work. Problems for Russia- and serious ones- was created. Under such circumstances a citizen of USA, flying up there at ISS, can be treated as a hostage- and very valuable one. An idea about such scenario came to my mind. Putin refuses to evacuate american astronaut from ISS, and leaved him to die up there. USA cannot prepare rocket to bring him down in an instant and send troopers to Kazakhstan to steal Soyuz, launch it and rescue its citizen. It would be nice movie, no more BS that Armageddon (do not take, pls, this words too seriously). Well, let's go back to science. I think, that a man, who lifts his face from time to time and starring at black sky, is better than another one who knows only the nearest pub and deserves larger part of a federal budget. But decreasing NASA's budget and 43 (or may be even 46) millions food stumps are the links of the same chain. Here I can only agree with Ethan. Here- in Russia- we have same problems and in addition another ones, specific for our country. I mean, for example, ignorance of authorities, resulting for example in aforementioned law against organisms with modified genomes. they even do not know, that each new sort means new genome. New one means, that this one differs from the others and can be obtained only via changing (e.q. modification) of another one. They do not know, how modern science works and all what they can muster is to protect our scientists from concurrence with western ones- (publication in prestige western journals counts for nothing, they suppress us and so on and so on). Concurrence is extremely important- while IBM, Texas Instruments, Motorola was (and are) in permanent race for larger number of transistors per a square mm, soviet boys tried to buy or to steal corresponding technologies and replace them here. They prefer to pay american engineers than to pay their own ones. Even during race for the Moon engineers was sent to gather potatoes (I'm serious). What we have now? Crucial dependencies on western microelectronics, vital for numerous applications. Finally, I can only say: spend more money for science. At least, we will have whom to envy to.

By Andrey Matseevskiy (not verified) on 07 Oct 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Denier (not verified)

@Andrey Matseevskiy

May be you in person are not getting happier, watching problems in Russia science and so on. But I won’t be so sure about your government. Conflict of interests obviously exists. Concurrent must be kept on the line- existing and potential one too, savvy? Dear Mr Bzesinsky explained it very well- read The Great Chessboard.

The American government is not monolithic but the motivations you fear largely do not exist. We even have an American Presidential Candidate who has spoken admiringly of Putin. There are dinosaurs such as Zbigniew Brzezinski but even Brzezinski himself has abandoned the ideas set forth in The Great Chessboard. Zbigniew Brzezinski now advocates stronger ties with Russia and China.…

The rivalry between our countries had its time but now it is a new world.

It would be nice if you are right, but current situation doesn't confirm your words. Look, I'm trying to observe situation from the hi above. from the Earth orbit. I mean, one have to forget where he lives and who are his relatives. And I see rather simple things. You the number one now. The leader. And you have to preserve this position by all possible means. When (and if) you are loosing this position, you'll get the whole set of very unpleasant consequences. One is very simple- trillions of dollars, walking around the World, will go back to USA. What will you do with them? Exchange for electronic, cars, planes and so on? I rather doubt about it. Look, I take you as an intelligent man and therefore I do not want explain you shit like two by two is four. Ukraine is too close to Russia and we cannot be happy, when USA supports turnover there. As a result, Nazi came to power there. More than unpleasant people. My friend was in Kiev just when it happened. He was afraid, that he would be forced to close the border somewhere in a night (he was an officer at that time and visited his daughters, living there). he heard detailed description of preparation of this revolution fro one of chiefs of it- from Mr. Parubiy himself. This process took two years and five billions from USA (Nuland admitted that such amount was given to Ukrainian opposition to establish democracy) was very useful. And what we have now- unfriendly regime, broken cooperation and necessity to support many Russians, living there, who refused to obey commands from Nazi in Kiev. I was in Crimea many years ago. Look, I tried to remember, if I heard Ukrainian speech once, but without success. No wonder that overwhelming majority of population of this peninsula was happy to separate from Ukraine. An so on and so on. World is changing, yeah, but some things remains constant. Mr. Trump told something like this: "put me and Mr. Putin in the same room, and I'll go out with all what I need". As for me, he is a fresh stream, yeah, but I rather doubt if he will be elected and if he is, if he will change the mainstream in politic of USA. Finally, couple of words, which may make you smile. Once I tried to get a rough approximation, how much money my countrymen stole from USA (soft, video and music). tens of billions dollars. For example, I saw only one legal Photoshop during my live. Situation with operating systems is slightly better, because notebooks are sold with preinstalled OS.

By Andrey Matseevskiy (not verified) on 08 Oct 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Denier (not verified)

I meant "cross the border", of course

By Andrey Matseevskiy (not verified) on 08 Oct 2016 #permalink