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Old 09-20-2012, 05:52 AM   #1
Drysdale
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Default He's got ants in his pants...

So... $1.9 million of federal money spent to study... ants... Seriously?

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/ne...k-is-fo/nSFN7/
Brian Fisher was visiting the University of Florida on Tuesday to talk about his favorite subject: ants.
Fisher, the curator of the California Academy of Sciences, successfully applied for a $1.9 million National Science Foundation grant to study ants living on isolated islands off the east coast of Africa.
His research was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — better known as the $800 billion federal stimulus program. It has turned Fisher and his beloved ants into fodder for political attack ads paid for by Super PACs opposing Democratic candidates across the country.
We’ve got one of those ads running now in South Florida. It’s the ad with the computerized ants running all over the TV screen as the narrator blasts U.S. congressional candidate Patrick Murphy for supporting “wasteful spending like exotic ant research.”
I guess the word “exotic” is thrown in there to appeal to voters who would only support funding the study of American ants.
The ad against Murphy, which is being paid for by a Super PAC supporting his opponent, U.S. Rep. Allen West, is similar to ant-research attack ads that have been paid for by other Super PACs opposed to Democratic congressional candidates in Oregon, Texas, California and Virginia.
Fisher says it’s “frustrating” to have science get hijacked by politics.
“It’s not a question about wasting money on ants,” he said. “The question is: Should the government spend money on scientific research? This was a grant funded on its merits. Only 6 percent of NSF grants get funded. And every one of those grants received money from the stimulus package.”
So why single out the ants for abuse?
“They’re easy prey,” Fisher said.
“Most people think of ants as pests and nothing that could be relevant to our society,” he added. “But ants play an important role. … They’re vital and they provide a treasure trove of information. Without them, we don’t have a functioning ecosystem.”
Fisher had no idea that his project to study isolated ant populations as a way to explore man’s effect on the environment was anything but valid science.
But when the newly debt-conscious Republicans focused their attacks on the stimulus, the ant study became a favorite target, and Fisher found himself trying to explain the validity of entomological research over the roar of deceptive 30-second attack ads.
“We need to do more of this research, not less,” Fisher said. “I’ve been trying to educate the public.”
So he created Antweb.org an interactive online site that allows anyone to explore and document ant populations around the world.
As for the politics of the ant attack ads, well, consider the numbers:
The ant research grant amounts to 0.0002 percent of the $800 billion stimulus program. It’s hardly the centerpiece of the spending program aimed to jump start the economy stuck in a deep recession.
It would be much more honest to say that Murphy and other Democrats supported the hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to individuals and businesses that were in the stimulus — because that’s a significant number, nearly a third of the stimulus.
And then there are the jobs.
The ant research grant created 22 jobs, Fisher said, many going to young college graduates looking to enter the field of science.
“It’s launched their careers,” Fisher said.
The ant research grant expires in 2014, just in time for another round of mid-term Congressional elections. Fisher is uncertain whether he will get to continue his research.
“I’ve been trying to educate the public, but not the politicians,” Fisher said. “I guess I need to do that.”
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:20 AM   #2
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With so few projects funded... I wonder what the impact or potential impact of this study was that made it one of the awardees?

I know that a study on bees might have been considered stupid, until killer bees made an appearance... I wonder if there is some new potential reason why ants are so significant?
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Old 09-20-2012, 02:56 PM   #3
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I want to know how the hell you blown 1.9 million on studying a insect. wouldn't going out and looking at it be fairly cheap? maybe some glass aquarium tanks......

yes im being sarcastic. I know theres more to it but it still seems steep. I wonder how much of that is salary and how many undergrads on being paid as well.
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Old 09-20-2012, 05:02 PM   #4
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Booooo science!
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Old 09-20-2012, 06:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Booooo science!
Boo paying for science with federal dollars!
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:52 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Drysdale View Post
Boo paying for science with federal dollars!
Oh please... if this was a defense project it would have cost 40 times more, taken 5-7 years, would have used obsolete technology, and would result in a robotic ant observation prototype that would just end up sitting on a Pentagon desk. (While someone somewhere pocketed most of the funding).
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Old 09-20-2012, 08:23 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Booooo science!
Do you oppose private enterprise?
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:28 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Pinkheart View Post
Oh please... if this was a defense project it would have cost 40 times more, taken 5-7 years, would have used obsolete technology, and would result in a robotic ant observation prototype that would just end up sitting on a Pentagon desk. (While someone somewhere pocketed most of the funding).
Edit: Okay, in reading my comment, I figured it wasn't helpful. The government should pay for science... I mean there are many areas where it is helpful to society as a whole- so it should pay for SOME science.

I guess pointing out that this wasteful project isn't as bad as other wasteful projects really doesn't address the real problem that wasteful projects in all categories need to be cut.

Again, I have a lot of trouble understanding the merits of this project and why it would have been chosen over the other competing projects.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:04 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Beal View Post
Do you oppose private enterprise?
Of course not, but how far do you think we would progress if we only cared about the science that is profitable?
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Old 09-21-2012, 11:54 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Of course not, but how far do you think we would progress if we only cared about the science that is profitable?
Farther than we have. At this point, the same people who've concocted Obamacare, (And the DMV) are choosing winners and losers in the field of science. And we all know how good THEY are at making decisions.

After all, Tell Henry Ford, Orville & Wilbur Wright, Madame Curie, and George Washington Carver that they didn't build that. Because, in essence, that's what you're saying.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:11 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Beal
Do you oppose private enterprise?
Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Of course not
Do you oppose corporate welfare?
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:31 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Drysdale View Post
Farther than we have. At this point, the same people who've concocted Obamacare, (And the DMV) are choosing winners and losers in the field of science. And we all know how good THEY are at making decisions.

After all, Tell Henry Ford, Orville & Wilbur Wright, Madame Curie, and George Washington Carver that they didn't build that. Because, in essence, that's what you're saying.
How exactly is that what he's saying? Is he advocating banning stem cell researching or blocking other methods of research? I didn't see him say anything like that. You pointed out a couple of scientific items from private inventors.

How about:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38158710...eries-science/

Or these large discoveries subsidized or helped by government.

1. First electric power from U.S. reactor. 2. First U.S. thermonuclear explosion. 3. Introduction of Coast-to-coast TV. 4. Large electronic computer delivered to the Bureau of Census. 5. Automation of the auto industry begins. 6. Bubble chamber for tracking atomic particles created. 7. Discovery of the brain's arousal system. 8. Heart-lung machine first used on a human. 1953-54 9. Proposed structure of DNA announced. 10. Solar batteries unveiled. 11, Tranquilizers introduced. 12, Introduction of both color and wide-screen TVs. 13. Nike missile revealed. 14. First supersonic flight by a military aircraft. 15. Discovery of reward center in the brain. 1955-56 16. vertical take-off and landing of jet aircraft. 17. Experimental use of oral contraceptives. 18. Mass use of Salk polio vaccine. 19. All-transistor radios introduced. 20. Transatlantic telephone cable introduced. 21. Nuclear-powered submarines unveiled. 1957-58 22. Discovery of cold fusion. 23. Synthetic diamonds produced. 24, First U.S. satellites and ICBM unveiled. 25. Stereo record technology developed. After WWII, a good deal of the money spent on scientific research went to the military, but the military's discoveries carried over to civilian life and to other branches of science. Military funding for science, in fact, helped develop computer engineering and technologies leading to digital computing. Because it was the military complex's scientific research that created the computing culture, some say it retains its "Cold War military perspective."
From: http://science1.knoji.com/25-major-s...n-we-top-them/

Yes, the private sector has ways of advancing science... but partnerships with the government have accelerated and made many breakthroughs possible. Just look at all of the stuff that came out of Ratheon/Motorola via government contract funding!

Other military developed tech:

Here's a very small sampling:

•Teflon
•Kevlar
•Microwaves
•Infrared Remote Controls
•GPS
•Synthetic Rubber
•The Internet
•"Magnetic" paint
•RADAR
•Night Vision
•Lithium-Polymer and Lithium-Ion Batteries
•Digital Photography
•Jet Engines
•2-Way Radios (Walkie-Talkies)
•Cell phones


Some funding is good. Too much, or non-transparent funding is bad.
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Old 09-21-2012, 01:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Beal View Post
Do you oppose corporate welfare?
You mean charity? Nope, no problem with that.
Originally Posted by Drysdale
Farther than we have. At this point, the same people who've concocted Obamacare, (And the DMV) are choosing winners and losers in the field of science. And we all know how good THEY are at making decisions.

After all, Tell Henry Ford, Orville & Wilbur Wright, Madame Curie, and George Washington Carver that they didn't build that. Because, in essence, that's what you're saying.
Really? Let's see....Richard Branson can get you into orbit (and he's not even from here), but NASA can get you to Mars. Besides, you act as if I said ALL funding for science should come from the government, which I didn't. I'd be ecstatic if the private sector could accomplish everything, but that's not the case. Nothing is stopping them from doing so now, so why aren't they?
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Old 09-21-2012, 02:09 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
You mean charity?
Pretty lame dodge.

The point is clear. By your logic, opposing corporate welfare is the same as opposing private enterprise in general.
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Old 09-21-2012, 02:16 PM   #15
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The thought processes should be:
Basic research should to some extent be subsidized by the government - this is the stuff like Astronomy, yes ants, and other areas where reality says it may be decades if ever before there is a profit, but the fields themselves consider the topics worth investing.

Applied research is much more likely to be profitable, and should therefore be expected that a large portion of this investment be from non-government agencies.

Hmmm ... ants - social creatures, the most numerous insects on the planet found in pretty much every habitat humans are ... seems like at least SOME basic research would be appropriate.

Not that I think research grants are job programs, but assume half the money went to salaries ... 22 new jobs at 45K a year ... I know, that is ridiculous, no grad student makes that kind of money .... but at least some of that money got fed back into the economy while helping educate some poor schlub ... rather than lining some rich contractor's pockets ...
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Old 09-21-2012, 02:57 PM   #16
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Don't forget any government funding of universities is also funding science and research.

Even if you don't like grants for particular projects, it is in the best interest of society for the government to support scientific research and advancement.

I absolutely support government subsidy and funding of cancer related research, AIDS research, Parkinsons, Alzheimer's, and research related to many diseases and conditions. The entire world would be better finding a cure for any of these.

Partnering with private firms to do the research CAN combine the efficiency of the private market with the resources of government to make important things happen. It just requires transparency and accountability.

It would be hard or impossible to research some of these things without help from CDC or other governmental agencies and governmental information/clearance.
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Old 09-21-2012, 03:08 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Beal View Post
Pretty lame dodge.

The point is clear. By your logic, opposing corporate welfare is the same as opposing private enterprise in general.
Well, I'm glad it's clear for you, but I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. I don't oppose privately-funded science; that's your (and Drysdale's) conclusion, not mine. My point is, how can anyone say they would have progressed farther when nothing is stopping them now from doing so? And to claim (not saying you specifically) that nothing good ever came out of government-funded science research is just denial.

Private industry is free to run with the ball any time they want.
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Old 09-21-2012, 06:46 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Well, I'm glad it's clear for you, but I don't know what the fuck you're talking about.
So you're telling me that when someone asks you about corporate welfare, you interpret that to mean charity? You know when some people talk about corporate welfare, I would be the first person to question what they define as a handout, but the term "corporate welfare" only has one meaning that I know of: government handouts (be they tax breaks, direct subsidies, or bailouts) to private enterprise. Where the hell did you get "charity" from that?

I don't oppose privately-funded science; that's your (and Drysdale's) conclusion, not mine.
Feel free to quote me coming to that conclusion.
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Old 09-21-2012, 07:02 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Beal View Post
So you're telling me that when someone asks you about corporate welfare, you interpret that to mean charity? You know when some people talk about corporate welfare, I would be the first person to question what they define as a handout, but the term "corporate welfare" only has one meaning that I know of: government handouts (be they tax breaks, direct subsidies, or bailouts) to private enterprise. Where the hell did you get "charity" from that?
See, now I learned something today. I was thinking corporate-sponsored welfare, not welfare for corporations. I don't sleep well at night, OK? I think corporate tax could be lowered, but income tax on the execs should be raised. Perhaps raise the tax on investment earnings. I'm no finance guru and never claimed to be, but I think that should explain how I arrived at charity.
Originally Posted by Beal
Feel free to quote me coming to that conclusion.
You accused me of dodging the question, so you'll excuse me if I made a false assumption of your assumption.
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Old 09-22-2012, 03:10 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Pinkheart View Post
Even if you don't like grants for particular projects, it is in the best interest of society for the government to support scientific research and advancement.
No, it's in the best interest of society to get government out of the business of paying for anything that isn't their job to pay for.

Go read the Constitution. It's pretty fucking clear what they're supposed to be paying for. If we didn't have bureaucrats in charge of science instead of scientists, we'd do a lot better.

In fact we'd probably have a small colony on the moon by now if the government hadn't stuck their noses into things. We'd also probably have had a manned mission to Mars. But that won't happen while companies are beholden to the lease efficient entity on the planet for largess and marching orders.
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Old 09-22-2012, 03:37 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
how can anyone say they would have progressed farther when nothing is stopping them now from doing so?
Nothing you say?

http://lawreview.richmond.edu/explor...ce-launch-act/

Until 1984, it was effectively impossible to have your own rocket, after that, well... government red tape is an understatement.

http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/...s_offices/ast/

This ain't like dusting crops, boy.
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Old 09-23-2012, 01:23 PM   #22
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Fair enough on the rocket science, but would you prefer we not regulate our airspace? That's just common sense. Our air traffic controllers are under enough stress without having to network with an unknown number of private rocketeers. Yeah, we'll just let all our aircraft depend on radar alone and hope for the best. There are only thousands of planes in the sky at any given time.
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Old 09-24-2012, 06:15 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Fair enough on the rocket science, but would you prefer we not regulate our airspace? That's just common sense. Our air traffic controllers are under enough stress without having to network with an unknown number of private rocketeers. Yeah, we'll just let all our aircraft depend on radar alone and hope for the best. There are only thousands of planes in the sky at any given time.
It could be done much better under a privatized system. As it stands, we're doing it poorly. But then, everything the government does is done poorly. That's what you refuse to acknowledge.
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Old 09-24-2012, 08:26 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Drysdale View Post
It could be done much better under a privatized system.
Prove it.
Originally Posted by Drysdale
As it stands, we're doing it poorly. But then, everything the government does is done poorly. That's what you refuse to acknowledge.
Why should I acknowledge something I don't know to be true? Sure, they do a lot poorly. However, as far as air traffic control, I can't describe that as "poorly." How many air collisions do we see every year? How many plane crashes are the result of bad navigation and not equipment failure? There's always room for improvement, of course, but apart from those fellas that were caught taking naps, I don't really have any complaints.

Private enterprise doesn't seem to be doing much better with money. Did government create and then burst the housing bubble? No, those were private banks, that were subsequently bailed out by us. Oh, they're doing much better for themselves, but for the country? They fucked the country pretty good.

I put my faith neither in private enterprise nor government. Perhaps that's why I'm able to look at things objectively and not make blanket generalizations like "everything the government does is done poorly." While I think our federal government spends way too much money (mostly in defense), funding science is worthwhile spending.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:14 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Wildane View Post
Did government create and then burst the housing bubble?
Absolutely. First by keeping interest rates artificially low, second by directing a large portion of the funds that it created in to residential housing via regulation and direct manipulation of the market.
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