None so blind

By Phil Plait | August 19, 2011 10:30 am

As I sit, I squint at my computer LCD monitor, so I put on my prescription glasses to see better. I should’ve put them on earlier, because now I have a headache, so I take a couple of ibuprofens with a glass of fresh clean water from my tap.

I stretch my back a bit because it’s sore. I have a herniated disk — I found out last week when I got an MRI — and I’ll be going to the doctor in a few days to see if I need surgery, or perhaps just a cortisone injection to reduce the swelling. A friend said stuff like that hurts more when it rains, but I looked online and found out that’s a myth. I checked the weather anyway and the satellite view shows it’s pretty clear.

But man, that reminds me. I need a new computer — the latest models are so fast, and use so much less energy — and it sure would make browsing easier. That weather page took forever to download! At least five or six seconds.

The news page is even worse. And when it finally downloads, what do I see? Some scientist complaining that their budget is going to get cut. Well boohoo. I mean, seriously? Scientists?! What have they ever done for me?


Related posts:

- Why is science important?
- Riding the sky
- Wealth of science
- What value space exploration?
- I’m a Head Rush
- How deep the Universe
- Why explore space?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Science
MORE ABOUT: sarcasm

Comments (105)

  1. Chris

    You’re falling apart Phil. Welcome to the club. :-)

  2. Sounds like you’re getting old. Like the rest of us.

  3. Tasos

    Phil… is that you?

  4. CJ

    I’m right there with ya, Phil…metaphorically speaking, of course. Personally, I’d cut funding for those economists (and throw in a few MBAs, too). But then again, I was raised to be one of those slacker, money-wasting scientists. Didn’t stay that way–which may explain why I’m not one of the mega-wealthy–but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of metaphors. @terpcj

  5. Lena

    Yeah, you tell them! All that money into research and does it ever benefit me?

    Sent from my iPod.

  6. Bigfoot

    The best thing about not really existing is never having back troubles or eyesight issues, even though I have been around long enough to have been haunting gullible people’s imaginations for hundreds of years.

  7. Astrogarden

    Old, old, and getting older (not as old as me, however). Yes, medical science has progressed ( and I speak as a retired part of said science), and yes, it can do a lot.

    Having said that, sadly it cannot really fix most problems, it is just not as advanced as it needs to be. Maybe in another 500 years….

    In fact that is what allows all the woo-faux medicine. If real medicine could really fix things the way it “should” (and given time will), there would be no need for the woo.

  8. Renee

    I remember an old short story, Heinlein, maybe, where most people were simply programmed with skills directly into their brain and led a happy programmed life. Except, there were some people that they said couldn’t be programmed. These people were shunned and ignored and put in special classes for the people that simply could not fit in.

    Until … these people showed their genius by insisting that they *had* intelligence and they *had* something to contribute and they would create and make their contributions whether the government liked it or not! At which point, they were given labs and money and support so they could create to their hearts content. You see, the whole thing was a test … the people who were truly creative would create no matter the cost … and they just needed to find out who those were.

  9. Anon

    Thanks, Phil. I have spent so many valuable hours of my life trying to convince people that science is needed – now I won’t have to, I’ll just send them here.

  10. itneedszazz
  11. Ed H.

    Awesome. (PS: Sorry about your back!)

  12. James

    Nice! At first I thought that this was going in an “unintelligent design” direction…

  13. Stan9fromouterspace

    Oh, shut up and take yer medicine, ya Crom-damned republican crybaby.

    Umm, wait – there are at least several things wrong with that statement…

  14. Rob

    a sarcasm detector? that’s *useful*

  15. Timid Aethist

    I see what you did there. What have they ever done for you, indeed.

  16. I’ve always thought that folks who rail against science should be stripped of all of its benefits. Including the benefits of modern dentistry. I’ll get some pliers to extract their fillings.

    When that DARPA long-range high-speed bomber failed on its recent test flight – to the relief of many – the Internet was abuzz with snark. DARPA, all these folks tweeted and twittered and posted on Facebook and other sites on the Internet, what has DARPA ever done for us?

    (AND YES I KNOW THE SNARKTASTIC ANSWER TO THAT.)

  17. Cheyenne

    I think it’s a sign somebody needs to publish a new book!

  18. nicolaennio

    always complaining rules

  19. Still waiting for that magic pill that makes me feel young again … science … are you listening?

  20. I fully appreciate the sarcasm and underlying message of this post. How can people who oppose science, either passively or actively, when their existence and lifestyle depend on the benefits of its developments?

    If it wasn’t just a fabrication to build your case and you really do suffer from a herniated disk, the two things that have helped me the most with my back troubles are:

    1) Deadlifts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadlift) – I’ve lifted weights for years but it was only after I started seriously incorporating these exercises into my routine that my lumbar problems almost completely faded away.

    2) A Herman Miller Aeron chair. I’m not going to shill for the company, but a good chair at home and the office means I’m no longer in agony every time I get up from the computer.

    Of course, I only have anecdotal evidence and a sample size of one on which to base my claims but I feel your pain and there’s no magical thinking required to evaluate either of these solutions.

  21. Bob Portnell

    Renee @7: That’s Asimov’s “Profession.”

  22. Jay

    Phil, I think you’re extremely lucky to have an audience that recognizes snarkasm when we see it. That’s a gift beyond value…

  23. Thomas Siefert

    I know the topic was meant to be a reflection of how people are blind to science all around them. Underneath I detected some reflections on getting older.

    When you where younger, the pains in limbs and joints would eventually go away.
    As you getter older, the pains never disappear but you get used to them.

    I guess it applies universally beyond physical pains.

  24. lqd

    I have to say, this is one of the most clever posts you’ve ever made here. I’m saving this link.

  25. I suffered multiple annual flare ups of intense, debilitating pain for 25 years from a herniated disk until a back surgeon fixed me, with the help of MRI and a menu of other technologies, not to mention the benefit of centuries of scientific investigation of anatomy, pain killers, metallurgy, etc. And I was like Lazarus rising from the dead: no pain, none of the time, ever again. I hope the same for you, Phil. As you know, back surgery comes with risks up to and including paralysis.

  26. BJN

    As someone with an ACL replacement, I believe I’ve experienced a “weather knee” but I’ll look at the evidence to the contrary. It’s not rain, per se, that makes my knee ache. It’s a rapid low pressure front moving in. And quick changes in altitude. Perhaps it’s just coincidental and I’ve had my expectations primed over the years. Lacking a hyperbaric chamber of my own, I’ll have to rely on any real research I can find.

    Links, Phil!

  27. Mircea

    I said u should buy alienware, it was a kind of joke, but my comment was deleted .Without scientists this world never existed. It will get better Mr Plait !

  28. Robin Byron

    I’m not completely convinced that big weather changes (high or low pressure fronts) can’t have an affect on old injuries, especially those involving joints. Had an area of high pressure roll in last night and an old Fx to my right radius painfully throbbed all night. I broke it playing hockey over 16 years ago, at age 50. Took Ibuprofen around 4am which helped but it’s said this pain reliever isn’t good for folks my age as it can cause intestinal irritation/bleeding in geezers.

    I have lots of sports and work related injuries I’ve collected over the years and the one thing that relieves the pain and gives me a good nights sleep is weed. I think the punishment here in SC for simple possession is life in prison/execution, or some such, but I don’t care. I took the Ibuprofen because my source doesn’t understand the intricacies of supply and demand.

  29. BJN

    Okay, I did some looking at “weather knee” (keywords: weather joints) and there isn’t a definitive yes or no — at least according to Johns Hopkins and other credible sites. Some studies have related temperature, humidity and air pressure changes to joint discomfort, others don’t find much of a link. I was a scuba diver for a while, and it’s certainly possible that my reconstructed knee got some additional damage and perhaps long-term sensitivity from nitrogen bubbles (I never had the “bends” but you can have low level effects short of that kind of crisis).

    Here’s an article about one study that did find links to weather and joint sensations:

    http://www.mskreport.com/articles.cfm?articleID=408

  30. RwFlynn

    Ah I love the prose. Who says scientists can’t be creative? Makes me wish I could afford one of your books!

  31. Pete Jackson

    Phil, try your best to get help with non-surgical options such as realignment and muscle development. Surgery can cause major problems such as scar tissue development and complications from immobilization (if two vertebrae are fused). It’s common to feel great after surgery, but end up being worse off.

  32. Seriously, apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the scientists ever done for us?

  33. Mircea

    Nothing , they dont need JWST to look at the sky, they’ve seen enough :D

  34. Daniel J. Andrews

    A bad back is the price you pay for carrying around an oversized Dobsonian. :)

    http://www.myspace.com/thebadastronomer/photos/19889140

    Re: rain, aches, pains. In a health newsletter I read last week (might have been the newsletter from John Hopkins, or the one on nutrition also from a prestigious teaching university), someone asked about the correlation between weather and “weather knee”. As mentioned in the comments above, their answer said it was a real phenomenon caused by large drops in pressure. I’ll have to go back to the office and look for the newsletter to see if they gave any links.

  35. Eric
  36. Bruce the Canuck

    Reminds me of “But what have the Romans ever done for us?”, the old Monty Python skit. Which is making the rounds among those of us out in the satellite states of the US empire, as our normal cynical criticism is lately turning to worry at your collective mental health.

  37. Nigel Depledge

    Robin Byron (20) said:

    Took Ibuprofen around 4am which helped but it’s said this pain reliever isn’t good for folks my age as it can cause intestinal irritation/bleeding in geezers.

    I hope you had something to eat with your Ibuprofen! Taking this NSAID with or shortly after food signifcantly reduces the risk of intestinal irritation / bleeding.

  38. Nigel Depledge

    Bruce the Canuck (25) said:

    Reminds me of “But what have the Romans ever done for us?”, the old Monty Python skit. Which is making the rounds among those of us out in the satellite states of the US empire, as our normal cynical criticism is lately turning to worry at your collective mental health.

    It wasn’t a skit, it was a scene from the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But otherwise, yeah.

  39. Nigel Depledge

    Anyway, now addressing the OP:

    Yay, great piece, Phil!

  40. mike burkhart

    Well scientists will just have to make do.I find you don’t need a big budget to explore the Universe us amtures don’t have one and we do good work.The internet has made Astronomy easer for the amture There are web sites for photos from Hubbel,NASA and others.And most of all it has given us Blogs like this one to keep us up to date.

  41. I thought I was the king os snark.

  42. Mike

    A herniated disc rarely requires surgery, and even then the benefit is not guaranteed.

    Unless there’s imminent danger to the nerves involved (believe me, you’d know) best approach is conservative. Visit a knowledgeable physiotherapist who can give you some manual therapy for the symptoms and then some exercise program to reduce the probability of recurring incidents.

  43. CraterJoe

    “Git off my lawn ya darn kids!”

  44. truthspeaker

    As I sit here reading this, I don’t have polio.

    Thanks, scientists.

  45. Mircea

    Don’t be sad Phill , it’s gonna get better!

  46. Steve

    Ah, yes, ‘what has science done for me lately’… well, what have all those MBAs we turned out in the last 4 decades done? Besides filling the airwaves with ads for feminine protection products, or urinary incontinence. Sad to say, just when we need to re-invent our manufacturing base, the education system has been focusing on business models, not physics, chemistry or industrial engineering. I graduated from Texas Tech University (which used to be called Texas Technological College) with an MBA, but it appears the vast majority of the students in applied sciences and technical fields are from other countries, and too many of them will return home after they complete their education, and work to the USA’s disadvantage. Nothing against foreign students, but when are our kids and parents gonna realize that greed is NOT good, and the path to self satisfaction doesn’t have to go thru Wall Street????

  47. Mircea

    There are parts of the World where greed is not a state policy, Europe must ring a few bells mate! :)

  48. Bobbar

    Hah! I see what you did there.

  49. nobody

    Quite clever indeed! I’ll spread the word ;-)

  50. Wzrd1

    Yeah, what HAVE those scientists done? I’m CERTAIN that they managed to turn up gravity in the morning, these days!
    Come to think of it, it feels like it’s getting ramped up toward the end of the day now as well!
    Those evil, evil creatures!
    They REALLY got *MY* herniated discs beyond angry!
    And I DO know that weather has an effect on mine. It seems to be a bit of humidity, but DEFINITELY barometric pressure, as when there is a rapid change, I begin to suffer much more neurological derived pain, as the nerves are pinched. Complete with loss of sensation in parts of my leg and loss of proprioception in one leg.
    Add the turned up gravity on that and life is miserable when a major storm comes in, either in the morning or evening. ;)
    Nasty scientists!

    OK, more serious (I WAS serious on weather systems impacting MY herniated discs), surgery for disc repair can be done one of two ways.
    Either they do the usual, paid for by insurance, hit and miss in success, bony fusion OR they will replace the disc with a synthetic disc (most insurance companies that I know of won’t pay for that one).
    Go with the latter, MUCH higher success rates.
    But, ALWAYS get that second opinion. Not all herniated discs are the cause of pain.

  51. Christine P.

    Beautiful writing!

  52. Mircea

    Maybe Phill feels bad, am i the only one who thinks he needs a hand?

  53. Bill

    Moe on the Simpsons summed it up pretty concisely: “What did science every do for us? TV: off.”

  54. Randy Owens

    Maybe you should go see a good chiropractor about that back? Perhaps s/he could even recommend some good homeopathic remedies!

  55. I’ve said all along: all these science deniers, haters and fighters need to completely opt out of the internet, modern society, medicine, cars, electricity, infrastructure — all of it. If they are people of principle, they must live up to their beliefs.

  56. John Sandlin

    Well, with all my aches and pains I still can’t predict the weather. But I’m real good at detecting what just happened. My eyes still work, mostly.

    jbs

  57. Sunny Dale

    Terrific essay! I hope it’s not too subtle for the people it’s aimed at — way too many people thought Archie Bunker was standing up for their beliefs!

    As for your ailments, I’d suggest trying traction (a physical therapy technique) before you do anything invasive — even a cortisone shot, which can cause deterioration of the bone in the area. I had a herniated disk about 15 years ago, and traction corrected it so it never recurred (and it feels really good when your back is stretched). It’s not a quick fix — it usually takes six weeks of twice-weekly treatments — but it’s very effective, and has no negative effects except for taking up a couple of hours a week.

  58. Ian

    To make all my ills better I built a hex core I7 rig and bought a Galaxy Tab 10.1. Science works!

  59. Mircea

    Nobody really cares about Phill here :) ))) )Nerds with no souls ……………

  60. Josie

    Oh you know what –I heard that accupuncture an really help with the pain caused from herniated discs. You’ll want to get that done after you have your chiro adjust it. You should take some homeopathic headache tea too –it’s all natural, much better than that tap water you’re drinking :D

  61. It’s pretty clear: it’s time to regenerate!

  62. Randy Owens

    @Josie: Damn, you’re right! I forgot all about the acupuncture! Thanks for reminding me; now, I should probably go get some of those memory enhancers. After all, they say that when you start getting old, the first thing… what was it again?

  63. katwagner

    NoNoNo! When a low pressure cell starts moving through, my knees let me know about it! They take turns bugging me. It’s true, I read that our joints are very sensitive to air pressure changes. Yes sir! And this here computer was new in 2005. Talk about gimpy – this thing is barely hanging on. Every little script that comes along makes it gag and choke and yes, we are looking to get a new one to handle all my photo stuff.

  64. QuietDesperation

    #47: what have all those MBAs we turned out in the last 4 decades done

    I know hating on MBAs as if they are some amorphous group who only work in a walled enclave called Wall Street is popular now, but this is a place of skepticism and at least an attempt at reality based thinking.

    What have they done? Gee, I dunno, helped build and run the massive economic structure that makes MRI machines a practical rather than a laboratory curiosity? Help put an awesome painkiller like ibuprofen on the local store shelf for $5? Started all those online and offline stores that let you order parts and put together a new computer for a few hundred bucks and with free shipping from many? Or get one working out of the box for a little more?

    I’m all for boosting science, but acting like nothing else matters or bashing other professions is not the way to go about it. Even lawyers have their place in even an ideal world.

    but it appears the vast majority of the students in applied sciences and technical fields are from other countries, and too many of them will return home after they complete their education, and work to the USA’s disadvantage. Nothing against foreign students,

    You realize all the science does not have to be done in the USA, right? Something discovered in India and published can be read about anywhere.

  65. Brian Too

    I know you didn’t angle for advice… but you might want to look into a bigger monitor. One of the easier ways of making your computing life better.

    The prices are good (soooo much better than decades past!) and modern video cards have no trouble driving the large screens. Advanced Windows tips: Turn on ClearType, consider running the monitor at less (yes, less!) than maximum resolution, and consider setting the DPI to Large (120 DPI). However changing the System Font size can often cause undesireable side-effects.

    These tips come from an XP perspective. Recommendations may change for Win7.

  66. Percy12

    way too many people thought Archie Bunker was standing up for their beliefs!

    1. [citation needed]

    2. What the hay does racism have to do with this?

  67. Nigel Depledge

    Mike (43) said:

    A herniated disc rarely requires surgery, and even then the benefit is not guaranteed.

    Yeah, generally (IIUC), surgery is indicated if the herniated disc traps or crushes nerves from the spinal cord or the caudus equinus.

    Unless there’s imminent danger to the nerves involved (believe me, you’d know)

    Yes, the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced. But the drugs were good, m’kay?

    best approach is conservative.

    Er, probably, but IANTKOD*, so I can’t say.

    * I am not that kind of doctor.

  68. Nigel Depledge

    Steve (47) said:

    Besides filling the airwaves with ads for feminine protection products, or urinary incontinence.

    You have ads for urinary incontinence? That must be a hard sell!
    ;-)

  69. Trebuchet

    I’m surprised to find I’m the first one saying this, but a great many of the benefits are from APPLIED science — you know, by engineers, doctors, and the like who are not scientists, per se, but use it to the advantage (sometimes) of mankind.

    Why yes, I am an engineer. Why do you ask?

  70. Paul

    I recall reading about a peer reviewed survey of the effects of back surgery v physiotherapy – there was no significant indication that the surgery was worth the extra cost and risk. I’ve put the links below.

    I do sympathise about the herniated disk though – the pain can be crippling. But as somebody said above, the drugs are good. During my disk incident a couple of years ago, I actually found a new car in my driveway which I had no recollection of buying!

    Re the weather satellite – wouldn’t it have been easier to look out the window to see if it’s raining?

    Title: Journal of the American Medical Association
    Author: Weinstein JN et al. Surgical vs nonoperative treatment for lumbar disk herniation. A randomized trial.
    URL: http://jama.ama-assn.org/
    2007;296:2441-2450

    Title: Journal of the American Medical Association
    Author: Weinstein JN et al. Surgical vs nonoperative treatment for lumbar disk herniation. Observational cohort.
    URL: http://jama.ama-assn.org/
    2007;296:2451-2459

    Title: Journal of the American Medical Association
    Author: Carragee E. Surgical treatment of lumbar disk disorders.
    URL: http://jama.ama-assn.org/
    2007;296:2485-2487

    Title: Journal of the American Medical Association
    Author: Flum DR. Interpreting surgical trials with subjective outcomes.
    URL: http://jama.ama-assn.org/
    2007;296:2483-2485

  71. Paul

    Deleted, see previous post

  72. BigBadSis

    Great post Phil. I sure hope that gets reposted a lot. There are a lot of misguided folks out there who need to read it.

  73. brett

    Scientists have contributed greatly to society but so have artists,writers,farmers,stonemasons,carpenters,philosophers,nurses, labourers,mothers,miners,fishermen,factory workers,religious groups etc etc etc its all VERY interdependant. No special whinge for science

  74. Peter B

    A letter to the editor in the local newspaper complained about government money funding scientists who’d just announced their discovery of a sun being consumed by a supermassive black hole 500 million light years away. What was the point, the writer asked.

    I replied: “This is a good question, and goes to the heart of publicly funded scientific research. I would like to offer an uplifting answer. The gathering of knowledge for its own sake is always worthwhile. We can never be sure where research may lead. To people experimenting with electricity 200 years ago, the phenomenon was little more than a curiosity. They could scarcely have imagined the uses we have for it today. Perhaps in 200 years, thanks to this research, our descendants will be able to manipulate gravity the way we manipulate electricity today. I don’t know. And I suspect Mr Adler doesn’t know either.”

  75. Nigel Depledge

    Brett (72) said:

    Scientists have contributed greatly to society but so have artists,writers,farmers,stonemasons,carpenters,philosophers,nurses, labourers,mothers,miners,fishermen,factory workers,religious groups etc etc etc its all VERY interdependant. No special whinge for science

    Yes, many’s the time I’ve had to wade through reams of internet comments to the effect of “what have farmers ever done for me?”.

    Oh, wait. No, I’ve never seen anyone whinge online about farmers, carpenters, miners etc. (BTW, you might try using the space-bar once in a while, it’d make your list easier to read). Whereas I have frequently seen people complain online about funding science.

  76. Nigel Depledge

    Also @ Brett (72) -
    Arguably, scientists have contributed more to our present civilisation than any other profession you mention.

    Without science, we would still be living in a Tudor (essentially 16th-century) world. Yes, we would have art, carpentry, farming, fishing etc. but we’d also have rampant disease and malnutrition; oppression of the poor; rigid class structure; sea travel being hideously dangerous and unpredictable because of the problem of Longitude; and a life ruled by religion and magical thinking rather than any concept of reason. We would have Shakespeare, but so very few of us would have heard of him.

  77. Mount

    Why don’t you tell us the real problem Phil? I’ve noticed you’ve been feeling upset…

  78. brett

    Hi Nigel @ 74/75-
    Not having a go at science or scientists just adding some perspective. I have heard/read plenty of whinging about (for example)farmers receiving subsidies, diesel fuel rebates etc Have heard plenty of whinging about artists and writers receiving Govt grants etc. Have heard plenty of whinging by said writers, artists,farmers when said subsidies or grants maybe withdrawn.Its the same for any endeavour that may rely to some degree on outside funding.To be honest I have not come across much of the “what has science done for me” attitude but I come from Australia and attitudes may be different here (not that Australia is any paragon of virtue in this area). Science and scientists are valued but as with all things budgets get scrutinised when things are tight. Plenty of science before the Tudors – plenty of malnutrition, oppression of the poor, rigid class structures,disease etc in contemporary societies now. Solving these problems needs not only science but politics, philosophy, education, wealth creation, etc etc and all the professions (and more) I mentioned. The circumference of civilisation/culture/society is not bounded by science alone and to think so is a pretty limitting view. A good book from my youth was Keneth Clarke’s “Civilisation” and also Huxley’s “The Humanist Frame” both giving a rather more complex view of the constituents of civilisation than what you present.As to science alone contributing more to civilisation than any other profession(personally I think a rather silly statement) I think you need a broader and deeper understanding of civilisation and what is needed for it to develop- cheers brett

  79. QuietDesperation

    No special whinge for science

    We engineers are the real kings, though. :-)

    Without us you have nothing. NOTHING, I tell you!

    Related image links:

    1. World without engineers.

    2. World with engineers.

  80. brett

    pretty conclusive QuietDesperation!!!! second image possibly needs an engineered blonde on the bonnet :-)

  81. QuietDesperation

    plenty of malnutrition, oppression of the poor, rigid class structures,disease etc in contemporary societies now.

    Yeah, but it was orders of magnitude worse back then. Science *has* most assuredly improved humanity’s lot, along with free markets, the recognition of the individual having innate human rights, and the idea that government should have rigid boundaries. Those things finally broke the back of the endless millennia of royalty/serf structures. I know it’s popular these day to hate on such things, but history is what it is for any who care to study it with an open mind.

  82. QuietDesperation

    pretty conclusive QuietDesperation!!!!

    Pictures speak louder than words. :-)

    You may now kiss my IEEE ring. :-D

  83. brett

    Thats exactly my point QD @ 82 and of course science has improved the lot of humanity as has (for example)the philosophical discourse of the Enlightenment – that has led to much of our modern view of the individual/society/government and their just interaction. Civilisation/society is the synergy of its constituent parts- science being one of its parts-there are many others just as important. Saying this is not knocking science

  84. brett

    I kneel before thee QD :-) just get working on that blonde :-) :-)

  85. Curt

    Phil… I do feel empathy for your back situation. Honest. But complaining about your “slow” high-speed… while I’m sittin’ here stuck with dial-up. You say five seconds, I say make myself a sandwich, walk around the block, and then see if the BadAstronomy site is loaded yet. So it’s fortunate that I really like you. Good luck in a few days. Be well.

  86. QuietDesperation

    @84 OK, but don’t forget that some of the more popular statist philosophies claim a scientific approach. BTW I was just pontificating and wasn’t really accusing you of saying the opposite of what I said.

  87. Healthy

    Haha, beyondthe sarcasm I have to say a reasonable amount of researchers overspend and ask for expensive resources that they don’t really need, like spoiled children. Of course, that’s only sometimes, but what can I say it burns my insides seing everybodies money expended in some not so primary things.

    To funding for your new pc ;) , research lines and peers finding please check the non-profit agingportfolio.org.

  88. MoMan

    Phil, so-tired-of-science, do see your chiropractor, keeping in said mode. And rEMEMBER: The spinal cord supports the head. The spinal cord supports the shoulders. The spinal cord supports the chiropractor.”

  89. David Ratnasabapathy

    Renee@9,

    The story is Isaac Asimov’s “Profession”. Available for online reading here:
    http://www.abelard.org/asimov.php

  90. Thameron

    That was a rather one sided view. There is another side to the science coin and I work in it. I spent the last year of my life pulling toxic waste from the Idaho desert. It was the still hot remains of the Cold War. A non-conflict enabled by…scientists. We were extracting Americium – 241 (a substance which would not exist in any quantities without the intercession of scientists) which has a half life of 432 years. A period of time longer than this country has existed. It decays into Neptunium 237 which has a half life of 2.1 million years, a time much longer than agriculture or even our species (depending on where you draw that line) has existed. And those are only half lives. To get back to background levels multiply those numbers by seven. This is aside from the fact that for most of my life I lived under the shadow of the products of science which could have sterilized the biosphere of our planet in the space of an afternoon (technically they still could), so yeah Phil you get to use all your nifty and convenient toys there under the nuclear sword of Damocles, but if you are trying to make the case that scientist just do good/helpful things then you are being a Pollyanna, and you are the one with blinders because some of the scientists out there make weapons.

    It is not simply a question of what they have done FOR you, but also what they could do TO you.

  91. Bruce

    Thameron@91:

    I share your concern about the excesses of the cold war, and the still-present threat to human civilization posed by the 10′s of thousands of nukes still out there. However, the current nuclear weapon arsenals are not even remotely capable of “sterilizing the biosphere”, by brute power or via fallout.

    The best estimate for the impact that finished off the dinosaurs for example is around 100,000 G tonnes, and that didn’t come within a factor of 100 to sterilizing the biosphere generally. The total human nuclear arsenal is around 10 G tonnes. We probably couldn’t even wipe ourselves out, at least not directly. Heck we’ll probably manage a more severe mass extinction of species without a nuclear war, than we would with one.

  92. MadScientist

    A ‘slipped disc’ ? Bummer – I hope you haven’t got it bad, but take care of that back.

    Computer technology just exploded almost 30 years ago; I gave up my quest to remain abreast of all developments back in 1992. I frequently use 90 milliwatt machines which fit into a matchbox (and leave plenty space) and which perform 20 times faster than my ancient Apple2e (these new gizmos are a mutant cousin of the CPU powering the Apple2e).

  93. ggonzo

    That gave me a good needed laugh. Go get them, Phil! ;)

  94. Thameron

    Well Bruce perhaps sterilize is a bit of an exaggeration, but when you get done with the fires, the (albeit temporary) climactic changes, and the fallout you could give the biosphere one hell of a kick in the nads. And for anyone living in a big city it wouldn’t matter because they would be instantly vaporized.

    My point was simply that the good doctor seems to have a pair of designer rose colored glasses when looking at science. I was astounded to find out just how many nuclear warhead tests were performed back in the day. Thousands of them and I am sure those scientists were all there busily analyzing the data. Seriously, after ten or so you’d think they’d know the damned things worked. Science is a tool nothing more and scientists are subject to the same flaws as everybody else. They work for money and not (as a body) for the greater good and comfort of humanity, however you might define that.

    We didn’t even get to all that science that is done just to satisfy the curiosity, or increase the prestige of, the scientist and will never impact any decision made by anybody living on the planet ever.

    And if scientists as a body did have the good of humanity at heart what then could one say about a no longer practicing scientist who quit the field voluntarily to become an author or philosopher instead. Were they tired of doing so much good perhaps?

    3) Also a world with engineers

  95. Bob_In_Wales

    Quite a few years after I converted to humanism I realised I was still carrying around many of the thought patterns of theism. One of these was a tendancy to think in terms of good and bad and to ask which one things are. Finally I realised that the dichotomy is false and things are neither. This is one thing that science and religion (and engineering and stonemasonry and everything else) have in common. They are by necessity and by default ethically neutral. This is where the human element comes in. It is how we choose to use them that determines their impact. Knowledge of atomic structure can be used for bombs or radiotherapy. Knowledge of stonemasonry was used to build aquaducts and torture chambers. I’m sure the reader can fill in all the other options. And perhaps that is the point. As our powers become greater, based on the size of our numbers, our economies and our science, the need for us to decide how we use those powers becomes critical.

  96. Thomas Siefert

    Yes damn all those evil scientists that exploded all them nuclear bombs. They should have asked their government for approval before they went and spent all that money and been under supervision of the military…

  97. Thameron

    @Bob_In_Wales As our powers become greater, based on the size of our numbers, our economies and our science, the need for us to decide how we use those powers becomes critical. I heartily agree. Making those decisions has become crucial, and it has not yet been done. Nor in fact does it look like anything that will happen in the near future despite the need. Instead what we have is a kaleidoscope of people each making decisions in their own little color patch without any thought to the overall pattern. Mostly those decisions seem to involve making ever more gaudy crap to go into landfills when their fifteen minutes is over. If there were a little more focus on the entire arc of a created thing rather than on just the beginning that would be a vast improvement. There are some inklings of this now, but it is neither popular nor widespread. Trash cans, landfills and toxic waste dumps still rule the day.

  98. Alexander Temerev

    OK, let’s list all these technologies with their funding sources:

    > As I sit, I squint at my computer…
    (computers were created as a by-product of military research, then commercialized by IBM and Apple and the rest is history).

    > LCD monitor…
    LCD was invented by George H. Heilmeier, then an employee of RCA — big big monopolistic company.

    > so I put on my prescription glasses to see better
    The medieval (or maybe even ancient) invention made for pure commercial purposes.

    > so I take a couple of ibuprofens
    …discovered by Boots Group, a “big pharma” company…

    > with a glass of fresh clean water from my tap.
    Well, the slaves of Ancient Rome should be credited for this technology. Definitely government intervention here.

    > when I got an MRI
    OK, the research that led to MRI was government-sponsored indeed.

    > cortisone injection
    The procedure was invented at Mayo Clinic. Well it isn’t a for-profit company, but neither a government-sponsored entity.

    > I looked online
    We all know about ARPANET program, right. Well, DARPA was conducting military research. Evil Republicans do not plan to cut military programs, right?

    > That weather page
    Weather prediction models and techniques were mostly sponsored by military — same reasons here.

    Now guess what. We _do_ need science, that’s right. But what governments now like to finance is mostly not science. The right way to finance science is business and military applications, as it was for years.

    Cheers.

  99. Some_guy

    The weather does impact upon injuries. Some one I knew in college broke his hip and had a metal rod put in it. He was the biggest BS’r I had ever met in my life, hands down. So when he made these claims of feeling effects in his body as the weather changed I chalked it up to more of his BS’ing.

    Well, 3 years after that I tore the ischial tuberosity tendon region in my left leg. And now, 8 years after that, I can confidently say that I can tell when the seasons are about to change and that it hurts like a @#$@. For at least the last 3 years I’ve noticed more and more impact on non-injured tendinous regions. I believe that my inability to get enough cardiovascular exercise, as a result of injuring a core tendon/muscle region, is directly responsible for hindered circulation, which obviously results in poor heat maintenance for the extremities.

    I’m sorry to hear about your back. Keep up with the cardio or you’ll get to become your own case study into weather pattern sensitization over time…:)

  100. My astrologer says we don’t need to rely on science. So there.

    Now if I could only figure out why my horoscope and my fortune cookie don’t agree… Anyone know of a method for doing that?

  101. That’s simple Brian W. Your fortune cookies are baked snacks. Astrology is half-baked. Stick your astrologer in the oven at 250 deg for 5 hours and they should agree better.

  102. Nigel Depledge

    Quiet Desperation (80) said:

    No special whinge for science

    We engineers are the real kings, though.

    Without us you have nothing. NOTHING, I tell you!

    Salisbury Cathedral was built without engineers.

    Come to think of it, so were all of Europe’s great mediaevel cathedrals.

  103. Nigel Depledge

    Alexander Temerev (99) said:

    We all know about ARPANET program, right. Well, DARPA was conducting military research. Evil Republicans do not plan to cut military programs, right?

    Yes, for the internet, but the WWW was invented at CERN, which is most definitely government-sponsored.

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Alexander Temerev (99) said:

    Weather prediction models and techniques were mostly sponsored by military — same reasons here.

    Wrong. The UK’s Met Office has always been a government-funded organisation, and has led the world in weather prediction.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »