04
Mar
09

John McCain, I Am Here To Take You To School, Motherfucker


That may sound strong, but it was the first thing that came to mind when reading his Twittered list of wasteful spending.

I shouldn’t let it bother me, since I knew it was coming. I even told my husband, when I saw there would be a list, that I would bet all our money on scientific endeavors topping it. Still, seeing that, once again, scientific research and education (like that “infamous” planetarium we heard about ad nauseum during his debates with Obama) gets the shaft from old McNasty just kills me. And so, as is my profession, I will now explain to the old man why he’s active like a fool in opposing governmental funding of science. Here we go.

As an experimental scientist, I am going to illustrate to you how the experiment I work on has revitalized an economy abroad, thereby explaining how experimental science is stimulus for failing economies, m’kay?

I first started with my current experiment about 8 years ago. Remember what was going on in Argentina around that time? Probably not, but, boy howdy, we do. They went bankrupt. Kaput. No mas dinero. Luckily, though, they still came through with the money that had been promised for our project. Was it because they desperately want to know the origins of the highest energy particles in the universe? I doubt it (it is, after all, knowledge that it useless for anything other than sounding smart at parties, practically speaking). Nope, they did it because it was an economically stimulative thing to do. How, you ask?

Scientific field research usually requires a large, untouched area. I could explain why, but it would involve words like “light pollution” and the like, and I don’t want to confuse you. Suffice to say that, for our experiment, we had to go out to the pampas and into a tiny town with no industry in it whatsoever. I don’t mean it had a couple of small businesses; I mean there was nothing. Nada. Zip. An old, abandoned salt mine. The men there had two options: be a goat farmer, or join the gendarme. The women had two options also: marry a goat farmer, or marry a member of the gendarme. While there were schools there, it was impossible to get them to attend past the age of 13 or so, since they began to see there was no point. And then they’d start getting pregnant (the abstinence-only education really is effective, eh?), having children they couldn’t support, and the cycle continued. I knew a teacher there who had to drag her 15-year-olds to class while they were pregnant with their second child. Really, it was rough.

So in we came: 250+ scientists from around the world. And we needed stuff. Like places to stay, places to eat, and people to help us construct an enormous and costly experiment. Over the last 8 years, I have watched the hotel prices go from $8 a night to over $60. I’ve seen multitudes of new restaurants open every year. Curio stores, tour guides, bakeries, and other shops now line the streets. Everyone there has a job, mostly centered around bilking us our per diems (as I suggested to my beloved hotel proprietor). And we happily pay it, because we are academics. Which means we’re activist hippie types at heart.

We show our bleeding hearts, in part by patronizing a ton of local businesses, but also by taking the most talented of the kids in the schools there and sending him, all expenses paid, to a university in the United States. The first such recipient graduated in 3 years with honors, then went on for his doctorate.

That’s how it works, on a practical level. But why focus on increasing the scientific and intellectual curiosity of our youth, with “wasteful” projects like making planetariums up-to-date or promoting astronomy in Hawaii? While I know that Arizona has no interest and/or economic stake in supporting astronomy (sarcasm doesn’t translate to the written word very well; what I mean to say is that YOUR FUCKING STATE houses one of the biggest and most active astronomical communities in the world, one to which I’ll be bringing Irish funds to spend soon). One of the second biggest communities resides in Hawaii, a place that drew $10 million from an old millionaire’s fortune for the express purpose of bettering the astronomical research done there. So, the promotion of astronomy has, historically speaking, brought in a buck or two here and there.

Besides, lack of education and intellectual curiosity is what brought us this:

…and, subsequently, this:

Now, see? Scientific research is stimulative to jobs for people from all walks of life, and education is never a waste of time. Not even for old, bitter men.

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