March 5, 2010
A recession in Science.
6th December 2009
Is a scientific recession as imminent as one in economy? Scientific explorations aren’t often directly inﬂuenced by a ”demand and supply” and a market volatility. You’d think that I am out of my mind to suggest that.
[and add to that the mind of few others and I am still out of it like I am out of my credit limit or I am out of the gasoline.]
You’d say ”Hey Mr Scientist, how can you even say lack of funding isn’t going to directly cut the lifeline of scientific missions, thereby bringing a calamity ”as large as” a economic one, into the routine activities of the scientific communities?? I do not agree despite of the fact that I am still agreeable.
If its ensured that a billion dollars is supplied for the operation, overhead, weekly supply of pizza and champagne [doesn’t go together, does it?] and a full and generous support for a full year for the full size of staff of a laboratory that’s trying to explore the universe, to excavate the colloquial Higg’s Boson [or balls?, does he have them, that seems to be the problem scientists are looking to solve] for upholding the sanctity of the most standard of all the theories that have come up so far in the history of science, still the Higg’s boson won’t be delivered to the doorstep of whoever ordered it.
This is a fundamental difference between the laws of economics and the laws of science which extends to the laws of nature. There is no ”demand and supply” in science. Nature is not amenable to such a scheme. You demand a Higgs and that will be delivered to you. That happens in fairy tales and wonderland.
That lack of scope for a demand and supply type approach to science doesn’t yield any positive as it doesn’t yield any negative. Lack of a economic ﬁre-power can severely cripple the infrastructure of science in a way lack of ﬁnance can cripple your dreams for a new house, nonetheless you can live somewhere and in comfort.
That is not to say the importance of economic power in making the goals of science unaffected. But here is a simple reasoning why an economic recession could not directly lead to one in science given other factors aren’t quite different.
Science acts on the fundamental strength of human mind. Economy is a scheme of human society and the most powerful minds aren’t always, fortunately, affected by such schemes.
[And these minds are scattered in the world, over centuries, over wide geography and completely independent of each other.]
The culture of scientific societies can be extremely loathsome and unproductive towards the progress of knowledge but this is so even in times of great economic ﬂexibility. Scientific activities thrive in the most fundamental requirements and as long as these fundamentals are available, science goes on. It doesn’t go at full pace but doesn’t characterize a recession.
But exactly how a scientific recession creep in? Its a matter of history, one of politics of communities, nations and inter-nations, of lack of true scientific minds, of lack of fundamentally needed space and creativity, of lack of dissemination of knowledge that has been accumulated painfully over decades and centuries and to the lesser fortunate parts of the globe.
When human community suffers in one part of the globe, no matter how much progressed we are and capable of luxury with our amassed wealth, a fundamental reason for the cause and progress of science is lacking. Science can greatly ﬂourish if its usefulness is greatly appreciated, its power is greatly harnessed and its power is greatly shared.
Such a principle may not be greatly attractive for a economic system like a bank but it is forthright and attractive and creates a scientific mission out of nowhere. Its a human activity, its not a human scheme.
A recession in science is well avoided by creating newer values and newer activities. Science is often an exploration. And only then its value is transferable to other regular requirements of the consumer communities. There can be a swift transfer or an extremely unyielding transfer that lingers and a period of darkness and blind alleys ensues.
This is probably natural to a process of harnessing related to exploration of something which hasn’t been explored before. A supply of economic caliber can enhance or diminish, the likelihood of something. Its lack even to the magnitude of an economic recession can not masterfully control the fate of science. Economic recession exists at maximum for half a decade or so. Scientific plannings and futuristic missions can be envisioned and even executed in matters of decades and more.
There are many examples in fundamental as well as applied efforts, even at the grand scale. An economic recession is easily recognized and avoidable with long and short term precautionary measures but not so can be said about a scientific recession.
That is a fundamental reasoning why the two must not be connected. All it took me to write this essay is to take a pen and a paper and an hour of human activity including ”focused thinking”. I can do this even if I am involved in a war or a depression or an epidemic. Scientific minds are relatively unbridled. Complete handicap of a scientific mind by the inﬂuence of economy is unthinkable.
An economic recession is a period of discontinuity in economic prowess and economic prosperity. A scientific recession would be one where scientific power such as the capability of a nation to run its infrastructure, power generation and consumption pattern is severely hampered without the unset of a natural or unnatural calamity such as a war.
A war is then a political or social calamity directly inﬂuenced or inﬂuenciable by economic state of affairs that may or may not trigger the productivity of scientific missions directly because of economic reasons, of-course the political and social state of affairs can bring in great damage to scientific progress. There are also examples to the reverse when after a damaging period for economic prosperity and scientific progress there has been great boost to such wealth because of shear upward mobility in the human minds ”not to perish under great calamities”, which is otherwise hard to fathom.