Funding and things.

The conference is over and I’ve retreated for a while to the Sonoma County Library, making bountiful use of the free magazines and free internet. Libraries are a wonderful pause and a good base while traveling. It’s surprising I haven’t used them on more of my trips.

In a little while I’ll head back down to San Francisco, where I’ll be meeting up with some old high school friends of mine who have found themselves in the bay area. It seems that anyone who is doing anything tech related ends up in San Francisco (or thereabouts, it’s really all the same place to me).

One of the biggest pieces of news from this last week was the announcement of President Obama’s new budget, including important adjustments to science spending (important for scientists anyway, and they’d probably argue that anything important for science is important for people as a whole). There’s a pretty good summary from Science Magazine on some of the changes here.

Fusion energy sciences (part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Science) sees a budget increase of 14%. The way I understand it, this effectively covers the US commitment to the ITER project without taking as much away from the rest of the domestic fusion program. As a grad student, I’m pretty sheltered from much of the funding debate, but I pick up on it a little bit here and there. But it doesn’t take an economist to know that more money means more research.

One of these days it might be interesting to write up a brief history of fusion research. It would make for a good first chapter for the thesis. It would also be interesting to see how scientific advances correlate to changing funding levels. Fusion can get a bad wrap (always being 20 years away), but it’s important to put things in perspective. The new budget is for about $450 million, and (I’ll have to find these numbers again) I think that the total amount of money spent on fusion research since the 1950s totals about $20 billion. That’s how much money BP agreed to set aside to pay for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Energy is costly, but maybe we can choose better ways to spend our money.


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