Whitaker's Current Articles January 17, 2004



January 17, 2004 -- Morons Versus Mars

January 17, 2004 -- Moon Shot Versus Cheap Shot

January 17, 2004 -- I Would Rather Die Than be a Mars Moron


Fun Quote:

From "The Martian Dictionary::

Negroid, n: -- "One of the non-green races."


                                                          Morons Versus Mars                                              

 The reason I can write this web page and you can read it is a direct result of the program that put America on the moon in 1969.  Everybody who is being kept alive by a heart pacer owes his life to that same space program and the basic research that went into it.

 Only a fraction of a percent of our national income goes into basic research in the hard sciences.  All of our scientific advances eventually result from that research.   A major part of the money spent on space programs like the moon shot in 1969 and the Mars shot today goes into basic research.

During the moon shot project from 1962-1969, you could have said, “We have priorities down here on earth?  What will we get out of throwing a lot hardware at the moon?”

Back then, no one could have said, “Because it will lead to the heart pacer, to  Silicon Valley, to  a whole long list of great things that Bob Whitaker won’t be able to remember.”  No one knew that yet.

That is why it is called “basic research.”  No one knows yet where it will lead.  But it has proved itself again and again.

One thing is clear.

Anyone who says, “Why are we spending all that money out in space when we have needs here on earth?” has always been wrong.

So they’re out there again.  The Moron Brigade is saying once again that we shouldn’t be doing this Mars thing because we have needs here on earth.

Every time there is an advance in the space program, we should have a special Moron Room.  Naturally it would not be labeled “Moron Room.”.  The sign would read, “Special Seating for Tough, Practical, Realistic People.”

In that room, the morons would say, in chorus, “We have Real Needs here on earth.  Money should not be wasted out in space.”  Tapes would be made of this chorus and sent to each panel discussing the latest step in the exploration of space.

Morons always win the argument at first. That is because at the beginning no one can tell them what good basic research will do in the future.  The whole point of basic research is that no one knows where it will lead.  So if you asked the inventor of the microscope exactly what he was going to find with that microscope, he could not have told you.


                                                Moon Shot Versus Cheap Shot                                            

William Proxmire was a liberal Democratic senator that conservatives loved dearly.   Each week he presented a Golden Fleece Award to a government agency for the biggest waste of money.

But finding out about real waste took work.  Then Proxmire made a discovery that saved him all that work.

Each week every congressional office receives a report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the grants that it has made that week for basic research.  Proxmire was delighted to discover that the title of almost every basic research project funded by the NSF was incomprehensible jibberish to the average layman.   

From then on the Golden Fleece award was no strain, no pain.  Proxmire just picked a title that no one understood and declared it a waste of money.

Let me explain to you how this Proxmire Method works out in real life.   Let us say you have a serious medical condition and your doctor needs to find out about how to deal with it.   The journal he is reading will make no sense to you at all.  So Proxmire would ban it.

Right now there are life-saving medicines being developed from deep sea animals.  Proxmire would have said, “Why waste all that money sending diving bells a mile down in the ocean when we have Real Problems here on the surface?”

No one could have told him, because we didn’t know what would come of deep-sea research.  That, to repeat, is why it is called BASIC research.


                                        I  Would Rather Die Than Be a Mars Moron                             


Conservatives worshipped Proxmire.  One day a congressman called me into his office.  I was known for knowing a lot of things, including scientific terminology.  He told me he wanted to do on the House side what Proxmire was doing in the Senate.  He wanted me to look at the National Science Foundation weekly report and pick titles to ridicule.

There was no job security on Capitol Hill.  You could be fired on the spot, and a lot of  people were.  I risked my career by telling the congressman that Proxmire was not only a moron, he was an enormously destructive moron.  I told him about some of the basic research programs Proxmire had tried to destroy that had led to enormous advances.   I explained to him that because of Proxmire the National Science Foundation had given grants to far less valuable research projects because they had  titles Proxmire wouldn't attacked.

I asked the congressman not to be another Proxmire, and if he had to, to get someone else to do the dirty work.  He actually listened and dropped it.  I was very lucky.  Not only can you lose your job by refusing point blank to do what a congressman asks, that is the best possible way not to get another job on Capitol Hill.

I would rather have died than be ruined professionally.

But I would rather have been ruined professionally than join the Moron Brigade that is attacking the Mars program right now.



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