• New Patreon Tier and Early Access Content available. If you would like to support AVForums, we now have a new Patreon Tier which gives you access to selected news, reviews and articles before they are available to the public. Read more.

Spending on Science in the UK

karkus30

Banned
Watched prof Cox last night talking about the Hadron collider. I was always under the impression that it was massively costly, but it actually runs on the budget of a medium sized University.

What was even more surprising is that the money put into the recent QE is more than the entire money spent on science since the time of Jesus. He said with a fraction of that money they could change the world. The Industrial revolution for instance was pocket change by comparison. I hadn't realised that the UK is the least funded country in the Western world when it comes to Science and innovation, yet we are by far the most successful.
 

MikeTV

Distinguished Member
Watched prof Cox last night talking about the Hadron collider. I was always under the impression that it was massively costly, but it actually runs on the budget of a medium sized University.

What was even more surprising is that the money put into the recent QE is more than the entire money spent on science since the time of Jesus. He said with a fraction of that money they could change the world. The Industrial revolution for instance was pocket change by comparison. I hadn't realised that the UK is the least funded country in the Western world when it comes to Science and innovation, yet we are by far the most successful.
Didn't he actually say the UK has spent more money on bailing out banks in one year than it has on science since jesus? Which is slightly different. It was also interesting to learn that only one MP has a science background. Everyone else's is accounting, law, banking, etc.

As I see it, we spend all this taxpayer money in the belief that the financial sector is this huge economic powerhouse, and yet throughout history it has been science, technology and industrialisation that has given us our economic strength, and made us one of the richest countries in the world.

But let's face it. We can't even get some of sections of the public to accept that global warming is man made, despite the science, so what hope is there?

I agree entirely Brian Cox. I was once told by a Swede that the reason Sweden hits well above it's weight in the mobile phone arena in the past few decades was because it was policy to invest in science and technology, and to diversify it's economy and promote investment in this area.

I think we need some forward planning like that in the UK if we are ever to return to the economic growth levels of the past. And the thing about the UK is that we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of scientific innovation, in so many ways. At the moment it seems we are squandering this opportunity, and under-funding science and industry.
 

NewMan

Well-known Member
I fully expect someone to come along shortly to accuse "greedy bankers" of being the reason we don't yet have interstellar travel, but of course you are quite right. It's pitiful the amount of money that's put into real scientific research (research that doesn't have a massive global lobby group, anyway), and even then, reading a lot of comments on the BBC article about the potential discovery of the Higgs Boson there's some real ignorant types who think the money that has been spent on pure science like this is wasted.
 

karkus30

Banned
It's crazy, because all the boffins migrated to banking and created the CODs and complex derivatives that resulted in the collapse. Engineering in the UK is regarded as a grease monkeys profession and very under paid. I got out of electrical engineering and into sales because it was so bad.

You are probably right about the bail out figure, I only caught it briefly.

It's interesting about banking too. I was listening to the woman who had been a trader. It occurred to me that what we have going on, is that many of the traders are just testosterone junkies. The sort that were always portrayed in US films as 'jocks'. Type A personalities that have bags of confidence, but often have little understanding of risk. They are regarded as the positive thinkers, that's OK to a point, but without another type of personality to temper it they can often get deluded into making too many basic errors due to perceived infallibility. The problem then becomes that type A personalities naturally attract and identify more type A personalities. We end up with an industry full of hyper confident, brash, outgoing people who are by their nature, very dominant and persuasive.

An industry like that is going to get its own way, while science is considered the exact opposite. Instead we have stereotyped academics who are very often poor communicators. It takes time to develop new science and the risks are low, as is the reward for many of them. This tends to favour the more recluse, quiet individual that is dedicated and always out spoken. Scientists are less likely to be spokespersons and lobbyists. Many wheeled in as experts before being hurriedly wheeled out again to allow those with bigger characters to dominate any discussion.

Meanwhile our politicians straddle the middle ground. History, politics and economics being humanities subjects, while they are more bullish and naturally good ambassadors and communicators. The result is that politicians are closer to the bankers than to scientists. The public like those powerful personalities and feel they make firn decisions, have good oratory skills and so are much preferred as decision makers compared to the apparently 'wooly' scientist. Strangely, academics do sit behind the politicians and have become expert on the science of people persuasion by clever policies that seem acceptable.

There is a tangible break between new science and useful invention. This was something that didn't happen during the industrial revolution. Instead we had scientists fronted by strong engineering personalities. Those with wealth were attracted to invest in this torrent of new inventions that were visualised by scientists and made concrete by engineers.

It seems strange. But what exactly happened ? This is the time in which libertarians believe we began to stop advancing by protecting the industries that had blossomed.
I don't know if that's true. It seems to me that the big change came with the need for oil. Prior to the 20th century we didn't have plastics and had steam power. Coal was the chief source of energy. It occurred to me that the USA found a plentiful supply of oil and probably had little use for it, the big turnaround was the first world war. Oil suddenly leaped into the fray as horses made way for tanks and oil powered vehicles. Aircraft and ships began to rely less on steam. I think it was this that really started the pouring of money into the economy, elevated commodity trading and became a source of inflict. In effect it's been like an enormous Gold Rush, the world in the grip of oilfield fever. No wonder they call it Devils Gold.
 

karkus30

Banned
NewMan said:
I fully expect someone to come along shortly to accuse "greedy bankers" of being the reason we don't yet have interstellar travel, but of course you are quite right. It's pitiful the amount of money that's put into real scientific research (research that doesn't have a massive global lobby group, anyway), and even then, reading a lot of comments on the BBC article about the potential discovery of the Higgs Boson there's some real ignorant types who think the money that has been spent on pure science like this is wasted.

I think now that it's becoming very clear that we need to distinguish between bankers and investment bankers. The trading floors are vastly different from the clearing banks. I don't think these guys can be regulated, the only way is to cut off their money supply and let them become free market banks without any protection from the public purse. The high street banks go back to loaning based on their assets.

The issue with recent scientific research is that it seems the smart money isn't pushed in that direction. The draw of a quick win on the derivatives, hedges, commodities, bonds and currency markets are far more enticing. What's more, engineering ( the practical scientist ) has been slowly disappearing. In fact, in our area we have two companies that have soaked up all the available engineering skills. The only area where we see the rest going are into the more glamorous, but limited areas of car design and consumer electronics. Even then it isn't really revolutionary, more evolutionary.

Without engineers to turn inventions into practical science and investors to back them it just becomes another set of interesting academic results without any real purpose. I think this is why we are stagnating. We haven't really had any major inventions since 1950. It just stopped advancing at such a rapid rate.
 
Last edited:

kav

Distinguished Member
We haven't really had any major inventions since 1950. It just stopped advancing at such a rapid rate.

Can't say I agree with this. While the general disciplines were broadly established by the early half of the 20th century, the advances made in specific aspects (technology and space exploration are the main ones I'm thinking of, and kind of go hand in hand) have been almost logarithmically increasing decade on decade since the 50s. If you brought someone here from the 50s in a time machine, I think they would scarcely be able to comprehend a lot of what we take for granted nowadays.
 

karkus30

Banned
kav said:
Can't say I agree with this. While the general disciplines were broadly established by the early half of the 20th century, the advances made in specific aspects (technology and space exploration are the main ones I'm thinking of, and kind of go hand in hand) have been almost logarithmically increasing decade on decade since the 50s. If you brought someone here from the 50s in a time machine, I think they would scarcely be able to comprehend a lot of what we take for granted nowadays.

Don't you think they are all based on previous discoveries and not ground breaking.

For instance computers were around in practical applications during the second world war.
The transistor ( the base of all later LSI ) was a 1950 s invention.
The Internet was a 1950s invention.

Between these three we have the burgeoning IT market, but although it's undergone a complete metamorphism, the basic design had been established. Even the LED and LCD are just derivatives. We were using LEDs and LCD displays in the early 70s

Rockets were also invented before 1950 and though a manned space mission was a big step forward from the original engineering, it wasn't as big a step as the creation of a steerable rocket.

Nuclear fission prior to 1950.
Internal combustion engine.
Radar and it's spin offs such as the microwave oven prior to 1950.
Tv prior to 1950.
Aircraft prior to 1950
Jet engine prior to 1950.
Heart transplants 1960.

We haven't replaced power generation, cured cancer, prevented the common cold. Things still contain transistors and run off batteries that have limited life. Light bulbs still burn out. Roads are still tar and clippings. Cars still run on tyres and have internal combustion engines. The digital age is really just the development of the thing we used in a cheap radio, using phone lines that have been around for ever. The mobile phone is clever, but the technology is ancient. We still don't know what to do with rubbish. We still have bin men, we still go to the shops, pick up food and cook it.

I think people from 1950 would be aghast at the lack of development. They were expecting space travel to be an every day event, personal flying transport, clean, nuclear powered everything, robots that would do all the work. They would look at the passenger aircraft and know they already had jet liners, the cars are sleeker and more efficient, but they had power steering, air conditioning, automatics, electric windows back then.

The biggest advance would probably be personal computing and the expansion of the Internet plus mobile phones. All based on stuff they were well aware of.

The biggest scientific advances of our last decades have never really been turned into much of real benefit. We do have MRI machines, but even those wouldn't be a surprise as X rays would appear similar.

I'm struggling to think what huge developments a man from 1950 would struggle to understand ( apart from texting setting the video or getting the right ticket from an underground self service machine ) .
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Did he mean the operating costs or construction costs? Two very different things.
 

karkus30

Banned
Trollslayer said:
Did he mean the operating costs or construction costs? Two very different things.

Not really. You have to build and equip a university in exactly the same way, then it runs at the operating cost. I think that's what he was saying. The contribution per country is also tiny. I know there is a backlash against this sort of research. Being a bit of a cynic, as they were getting towards some point in the funding cycle they suddenly announced they had found it, but would need more money to fund the increased power needed to research further.

If they came out and said we found the Higgs particle and now we can power the world from a blade of grass, or that's the end of transport we can just teleport everywhere or the end of world famine, then it would be great. Instead it's just more money to find another useless particle ( as far as I can understand). We don't get to do anything with Gluons, Muons or Tachyons unless it's a line from Star Trek. I just hope I'm wrong and it will be a huge benefit to mankind and not just another academic wet dream. At least when explorers found America we got Potatoes and Tobacco? All we get is an explanation that is understood only by a fraction of the scientific population never mind the General public.
 

MikeTV

Distinguished Member
If they came out and said we found the Higgs particle and now we can power the world from a blade of grass, or that's the end of transport we can just teleport everywhere or the end of world famine, then it would be great. Instead it's just more money to find another useless particle ( as far as I can understand). We don't get to do anything with Gluons, Muons or Tachyons unless it's a line from Star Trek. I just hope I'm wrong and it will be a huge benefit to mankind and not just another academic wet dream. At least when explorers found America we got Potatoes and Tobacco? All we get is an explanation that is understood only by a fraction of the scientific population never mind the General public.
But understanding of quantum particles has given us a myriad of advances - not least of all, semiconductors and GPS systems.

No reason to suspect that the Higgs won't alter the world entirely too.
 

BISHI

Distinguished Member
Information and it's availability is what separates now from the fifties. It's a digital world where information is virtually free and access is instant. All of the biggest innovations have been t better facilitate this flow of ones and zeros - super conductors, fibre optics and HTML all have significant British creative scientific thinking in their development. Our problem is and always has been monetarising our creativity. The jet engine, penicillin, radar, the programmable computer and even the bloody Dyson vacuum cleaner - all massively missed opportunities because the state and the financiers were blind to the potential profits. We watched them all go abroad. What we need is not necessarily more funding for research but a more joined up attitude between science research, education, finance and government to ensure our best ideas remain on our shores generating revenue for our country to make it richer so we can spend more money on science - a perfect feedback loop.
 

karkus30

Banned
MikeTV said:
But understanding of quantum particles has given us a myriad of advances - not least of all, semiconductors and GPS systems.

No reason to suspect that the Higgs won't alter the world entirely too.

I don't think particle physics has been involved with semi conductors ? Doping of silicon has been going on since the 50 s it's essentially a transistor. Unless you meant super conductors ?

GPS isn't a product of Quantum physics either. It's satellites, accurate clocks and radio waves. Maybe one day quantum physics will eliminate the radio waves but not quite yet.

I would love to think that Higgs would, but we have already found dozens of particles that have not as yet taken any place in our lives as far as I know?
 

MikeTV

Distinguished Member
I don't think particle physics has been involved with semi conductors ? Doping of silicon has been going on since the 50 s it's essentially a transistor. Unless you meant super conductors ?

GPS isn't a product of Quantum physics either. It's satellites, accurate clocks and radio waves. Maybe one day quantum physics will eliminate the radio waves but not quite yet.
Actually, it is been my impression that quantum mechanics has played a part in the development of both those technologies, but I admit I could be wrong. Nevertheless, quantum machanics has been around since the 30's.
I would love to think that Higgs would, but we have already found dozens of particles that have not as yet taken any place in our lives as far as I know?
I think it's about understanding the fundamental structure of the universe. You could have argued the same about atomic particles shortly after their discovery, but look at what it's actually given the world.
 

NewMan

Well-known Member
...but we have already found dozens of particles that have not as yet taken any place in our lives as far as I know?

Like the electron? Useless thing. Ban it, I say.

It's not about things being useful in our lives, it's about knowing what we're made of, what makes the universe work, and why it is the way it is... That's what science should be about, not shiny things for people to buy.
 

karkus30

Banned
NewMan said:
Like the electron? Useless thing. Ban it, I say.

It's not about things being useful in our lives, it's about knowing what we're made of, what makes the universe work, and why it is the way it is... That's what science should be about, not shiny things for people to buy.

You have taken that completely out of context so don't get carried away. I'm certainly not arguing against scientific progress, that should be clear from the postings on the tiny amount of money dribbled into the container of possibilities.

I'm saying that since the 1950s the conversion of major scientific discoveries has slowed. The reason I postulated was that the big money was on oil and investment into a ballooning of the oil industry and the investors that funded them. The money disappeared from science and as a consequence the rate of conversion to new and innovative products has slowed.

You can't ban an electron and you have picked a particle which was being used back in ancient Greece 600 years before Christ. They had been making use of electricity in one form or another long before the naming of the particle. It's even considered that the Vedic's understood particle physics 5000 years ago. We invented the transistor before we understood how it worked.

Anyway I digress. There is nothing inherently wrong about learning about the material world in which we function. The issue is the cost of doing that when we haven't solved some fundamental world problems. In the end the people dying of thirst around the globe won't be helped in the short term by the discovery of the Higgs Bosun. It's a sort of push me pull you ethic. Find a few things and put some effort into making use of the findings. It's like an artist saying that art does not need to be practical and then starving to death because he hasn't sold a painting.

When we sat under the night sky and marvelled at the universe 10,000 years ago we still had to go out and catch an elk with a spear. We might well have considered the properties of light and the structure of flint, but we had to eat and live in order to do that. The over riding hierarchy of needs doesn't include the Higgs Particle or a lunar rock sample. There is a certain pace and I see it floating off in another direction. When we discovered how to make high quality Iron, then we quickly built bridges that shortened distances and steam engines the powered the industrial revolution. The transition from discovery from discovery to usefulness was almost instantaneous. I'm not saying that things haven't been spawned from particle research since the 1950s, but scientists in other areas have made much more useful discoveries.
 

NewMan

Well-known Member
You have taken that completely out of context so don't get carried away. I'm certainly not arguing against scientific progress, that should be clear from the postings on the tiny amount of money dribbled into the container of possibilities.

Apologies then. There's been an awful lot of nonsense posted around this subject recently and my hackles are unduly up. :smashin:
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Kraskus - about the luanr rocks.
It probably won't work out but if there is enough He3 on the moon then we may see mining there in several generations.
Just goes to show you can never be certain what is useful.
 

karkus30

Banned
Trollslayer said:
Kraskus - about the luanr rocks.
It probably won't work out but if there is enough He3 on the moon then we may see mining there in several generations.
Just goes to show you can never be certain what is useful.

Of course, in the end everything has some use. It has taken 40 years to even consider that as a benefit though and it might take a great deal longer to put the technology together to do that task. We still use men to drive the dumpers around quarries and maintenance is a big problem. I would want to see you cash flow forecast to see if it was viable :)
 

tapzilla2k

Distinguished Member
Without engineers to turn inventions into practical science and investors to back them it just becomes another set of interesting academic results without any real purpose. I think this is why we are stagnating. We haven't really had any major inventions since 1950. It just stopped advancing at such a rapid rate.

You've obviousbly not been paying attention to what Oxford University has been doing since 1988 then with spin offs (Cambridge does similar stuff) - Knowledge transfer - University of Oxford

The most exciting discovery made in the UK in recent times has to be that of graphene (200 times stronger than steel and one atom thick) that could replace silicon in Electronics along with a whole host of other applications (it probably won't do half the things some scientists are claiming hence the need for research). As Cox mentioned, the UK Government has pumped money into Graphene research - New investment aims to establish the UK as a global graphene research hub (Graphene - The University of Manchester)

It's not true to say that we haven't invented anything since the 1950's. We have made a lot of breakthroughs in various branches of science and engineering down the decades.

F1 has made plenty of discoveries that have been applied in areas outside of the sport. McLaren and Williams are teams that have developed technology for F1 and then spun it outside the sport - BBC News - Formula 1 technology goes beyond the track

100 UK University Discoveries from the last 50 years (from 2006, so it's a bit out of date) - Full list: 100 UK university discoveries | Education | guardian.co.uk

Where all countries have stagnated is in manned exploration of Space, which lead to developments in technology via the US vs Soviet Space Race. It's starting to pick up again though, if China and India's ambitions are anything to go by.

Science in the UK faces a lot of challenges, but to say we have stagnated is misleading at best.
 

karkus30

Banned
tapzilla2k said:
You've obviousbly not been paying attention to what Oxford University has been doing since 1988 then with spin offs (Cambridge does similar stuff) - Knowledge transfer - University of Oxford

The most exciting discovery made in the UK in recent times has to be that of graphene (200 times stronger than steel and one atom thick) that could replace silicon in Electronics along with a whole host of other applications (it probably won't do half the things some scientists are claiming hence the need for research). As Cox mentioned, the UK Government has pumped money into Graphene research - New investment aims to establish the UK as a global graphene research hub (Graphene - The University of Manchester)

It's not true to say that we haven't invented anything since the 1950's. We have made a lot of breakthroughs in various branches of science and engineering down the decades.

F1 has made plenty of discoveries that have been applied in areas outside of the sport. McLaren and Williams are teams that have developed technology for F1 and then spun it outside the sport - BBC News - Formula 1 technology goes beyond the track

100 UK University Discoveries from the last 50 years (from 2006, so it's a bit out of date) - Full list: 100 UK university discoveries | Education | guardian.co.uk

Where all countries have stagnated is in manned exploration of Space, which lead to developments in technology via the US vs Soviet Space Race. It's starting to pick up again though, if China and India's ambitions are anything to go by.

Science in the UK faces a lot of challenges, but to say we have stagnated is misleading at best.

Maybe I didn't make myself clear. While these are definitely developments they are not break throughs on the scale prior to 1950. However these developments are not from particle physics either except for Graphene which is as yet not a commercial development. I'm looking for major advances of the type that CERN are pushing with the Higgs particle. Thanks for the info mind you, interesting. I don't think money is being put into science and that's the reason for not seeing big jumps.
 

The latest video from AVForums

Fidelity in Motion's David Mackenzie talks about his work on disc encoding & the future of Blu-ray
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom