back to article Arecibo spared the axe: Iconic observatory vital to science lives on

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has approved a plan to keep the famous Arecibo Observatory running after it was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria. The NSF this week signed off [PDF] on a proposal to continue funding work at the Puerto Rican radio observatory, and seek out a partner to help cover operational costs. …

Anonymous Coward

Welcome to 21st Century USA

while (science && education) {

science --;

education--;

tax_break_for_real_estate++;

backhanders_to_prharma++;

backhanders_to_coal++;

war_without_end++;

mass_surveillance++;

}

/* There is stuff for which there is always money. Science is not part of it */

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Except none of that is true. No matter how much you try dressing it up in 'l33t speak'.

Try getting acquainted with the facts for once.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Here you go, some facts,

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/money-for-science/

Take from it what you will but it doesn't look like science is a priority for the US government.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

How about an unbiased source?

Do you have any?

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

You're proving the point by attacking one of the most reputable journals in the world, one that attempts to get science over to nonscientists (and scientists in different fields who are interested).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

@unwarranted triumphalism

Wait a second.

You're one of those International Flat Earth Society members aren't you?

The "member" is a double entendre.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Pseudocode is leet speak? Since when?

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

What's currently priority is stirring up more war in the Middle East under pretext of Freedoms.

US ready to ‘fight for justice’ in Syria without UN approval – Haley

I think everyone is getting fucking tired of the fucking US and its kidbrained emoting UN ambassadors.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

> "You're proving the point by attacking one of the most reputable journals in the world..."

I hate to break into your comfortable bubble, but the magazine Scientific American hasn't been reputable for at least a couple of decades. Not unless you just love all things politically correct. Their all-in cheerleading for the Warmists alone shows that.

Within the conservative community, S.A. is considered a mouthpiece for the Left and nothing else. Oh, it WAS unbiased once, long long ago. Then, like so many institutions it was infiltrated by leftists who eventually perverted it to their own ends. Just garbage now. Nobody really takes it seriously any more (except for people who don't know any better).

So no, "attacking" them does not prove any such point, regardless of what you believe. Again, sorry for the contradiction, but if no one says it you'll continue to believe Scientific American is a trusted, unbiased source of scientific thinking. I know you won't agree with this, but I still want you to know that a LOT of intelligent, discerning people feel this way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

@Big John

Can you provide another source of government spending on science that disagrees with the one I posted rather than calling out the left and your indoctrinate "Political correctness gone mad" and "The left will make all our babies Muslims" or "The Latinos are mowing lawns and selling drugs to our kids" propaganda bullshit?

Just because it's called "the right" doesn't make it "right" and I'm not promoting the "left" either, one day you will wake up and realise both sides are exactly the same.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

Scientific American continues to state that the Earth is round, that it was created more than 6000 years ago by accident rather than from the body of Ymir - without any sort of balance

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

> How about an unbiased source?

> Do you have any?

Depends on what you consider unbiased. You probably want it to Breitbart News.

Or Meredith Corp. Or Fox^h^haux News.

In which case, the answer is no, because no matter who is suggested, you won't accept it.

Will you komrade?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

> I hate to break into your comfortable bubble,

Aren't you being paid to break our comfortable bubbles, komrade?

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Re: Within the conservative community...

...only.

(I prefer New Scientist myself but that is probably a regional thing).

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

@Big John

This video appears to have been made with you in mind.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

@Destroy All Monsters

That post would have worked a lot better if the source article had not been provided by noted Kremlin mouthpiece RT.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

The editorial Act for Science by Rush Holt in the 10 feb 2017 issue of Science and numerous other articles therein, most recently Astronomers relieved as U.S. funding agency moves to keep Arecibo telescope operating.

Biased? Not if you want evidence based politics.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

Within the conservative community, S.A. is considered a mouthpiece for the Left and nothing else.

That's because within the conservative community, evidence is secondary to ideology -- like the way you're parroting the conservative line without providing a shred of evidence of what you're saying. At least AC provided a source, whereas you're just providing unsubstantiated blowhardiness.

I know you won't agree with this, but I still want you to know that a LOT of intelligent, discerning people feel this way.

Wait -- I thought you said conservatives were the ones who felt this way??

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

Within the conservative community

...up is down, ignorance is strength, freedom is slavery.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

The picture you paint is not entirely correct. Long-term, the US science and technology expenditures have been growing in the absolute value. They did stagnate over the past 20 years, however - even if they stagnated at the levels higher than we've ever seen. What is troubling is that these expenditures have been falling steadily as a fraction of the GDP - so that by now, the US is barely making the top-10 in the world by this criterion. What it also very troubling is that military R&D consistently dominates the federal research expenditures, even though the US has not faced an existential threat for 25 years now, and operates primarily against low-tech opponents militarily.

If one digs just a little deeper (see Historical Trends in Federal R&D - an excellent dataset prepares by the AAAS), you will see that while the R&D is steadily decreasing as a fraction of the total US budget, it actually holds steady at about 10% of the discretionary spending, with by now more than 50% of the total budget going into the non-discretionary programs - mostly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid[*], and interest payments on the ever-growing national debt. Thus, it appears that both the Congress and the administration remain consistentently in favour of R&D spending, regardless of the party being in control - however, the pie they are cutting is getting smaller and smaller.

At least to me it looks like the path to the meaningful, lasting improvement of scientific and educational funding in the US lies through a complete overhaul of the social support and health-care system - something which was clearly needed for at least two generations now. At this point, the need to do something is becoming critical - but, given the political climate in the US ove the past 20 years, it is not going to happen until the country is literally broke.

[*] For most non-USAians, it is often shoking to see how much the US spends on the publicly-funded health care and social security, despite having neither the universal health care nor a meaningful social safety net.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Science has NEVER been a priority for ANY government in the world.

In fact the kind of science done at Arecibo ranks so far down the list of the tax payer's priorities that it's not worth bothering with.

The fact that it gets any significant funding is a testament that the publics priorities can still be ignored.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Science has NEVER been a priority for ANY government in the world.

That is, of course, complete bullshit - to put it mildly. Most of the fundamental science, and a good chunk of applied science and technology throughout the world since at least the beginning of the 20th century has been and still is paid for by various governments. This is not a all surprizing: for fundamental science, the economic and social impact of the invesgment may be 20-100 years down the road. Furthermore, the specific beneficiaries of these investments are not known (and likely not even knowable!) at the time the funding decisions are made - for example, who could have predicted that invesing in nuclear physics in 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s would completely change the ways we understand, diagnoze and treat diseases seventy years later (think MRI, CT, radiation therapies, radioactive tracers, designer drugs - none of which would have been possible without basic physics research of the first half of the 20th century)? Private enterprizes do not operate on this time scale (and neither they should) - but governments can and do.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

"Aren't you being paid to break our comfortable bubbles, komrade?"

Um...just to be clear, it's the Russians that do believe in AGW and the US government that doesn't.

From the Kremlin's perspective, global warming benefits them so long as it happens slowly so that Siberian infrastructure can be upgraded in time and they don't get too much attempted migration from the South. But the emphasis is on the slowly, so they don't support the Trumpist coalburning narrative.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

That's not necessarily a contradiction. Lots of science has been paid for by government - but that doesn't mean it was a priority. If a government paid university researcher invents MRI or computers or jet engines on a shoestring budget - that doesn't mean that the research was a priority.

Even during WWII, when the value of superior technology should have been pretty obvious, the funding for things like radar or jet engines was miniscule and fought against by a military that would rather have more obsolete fighters than a jet engine or another battleship rather than a way to detect u-boats.

The only times when it was a government priority would probably be the Manhattan project and Apollo (although that was arguably a pork-barrel vote buy rather than science).

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Facepalm

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

Reality (aka facts) has a left-leaning bias. Even right-handed people have a dominant left brain hemisphere. And anyone who says "warmist" immediately loses all credibility.

It's significant that only the US is not in the Paris climate agreement. The "groper-in-chief" is one of those "don't know, don't wanna know" fools who goes with his gut feelings instead of facts because facts usually don't fit into his limited attention span of 140 characters.

He didn't even know that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and he still treats the territory like a foreign country, especially with respect to disaster aid, compared to Florida and Texas.

Sad that more and more, the USA is a fact-free zone.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

That's not necessarily a contradiction. Lots of science has been paid for by government - but that doesn't mean it was a priority.

I think you are confusing science being the priority for a government (which to the best of my limited knowledge has never happened - but feel free to correct me) and science being a priority. For any government of a first-world country which plans to remain a first-world country, science and technology has been and remains a priority, since at least the late Victorian times, However, it is obviously not the only priority, and most certainly never the first priority.

In fact, I think neither of us would particularly fancy living in a country for which science is the first priority, to the possible detriment of the environment, health, culture, defense, and general well-being of its inhabitants.

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Pint

Re: RT and propaganda promotion --

@ Marketing Hack -- Thanks for pointing that out. Have one one me...

I know that some commentards posting here are Anti-Fact Muppets, but quoting the Russian propaganda service is rather a give-away.

From Fortune Magazine:

"While the [RT] outlets have relatively low viewership, social media can give RT’s content and arguments broad traction. In the fall of 2016, RT America stories supported conspiracy theories undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, such as that surrounding the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich. The stories were widely shared on social media, both by Russian bots and real people."

"But according to a social network analyst interviewed by the Times, RT isn’t simply a platform for a right-wing agenda. Rather, it fuels fringe viewpoints across the political spectrum, providing grist for libertarian, far-left, and anti-globalization factions as well. The goal, it seems, may not be so much to make Americans more amenable to Russian viewpoints, as to simply make our political culture more fragmented, skeptical, and unpredictable."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

> Then, like so many institutions it was infiltrated by leftists who eventually perverted it to their own ends.

Well, be fair -- us dirty stinkin' commie bastards don't have a lot to do between shooting up Las Vegas concerts, churches and schools.

I understand American conservatives being anti science. They dare not risk having scientists discover the stupid gene.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Wrong. Try thinking before making assumptions. Can you manage that?

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

'cheerleading for the warmists'

Jesus Christ on a pogo stick that's the stupidest thing I've read all week. Award yourself a medal for (dis)services to science.

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Stop

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

@Steve Knox

That's because within the conservative community, evidence is secondary to ideology

To be fair the left is just as bad. Both sides of the political debate are doing the exact same thing.

If you are a fact loving sceptic these days, both sides will try to burn you at the stake as a heretic.

This idiotic tribalism will drag us all back to the stone ages. Which I assume is the actual goal of both the left AND right wing. The only thing THEY disagree on is which of them will be in charge.

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WTF?

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

no, you got it wrong.

more like this:

while (science && education)

{

science--;

actual_education--;

education_overhead++;

austerity++;

buying_votes++;

socialism++;

union_buyoffs++;

gummint_inefficiency++;

bureaucracy++;

}

fixed. you're welcome. (now why aren't indents working? oh well...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

@AC about Fox.

I know all habits die hard and such, but you do realize that the new heads of Fox are VERY left-leaning, right?

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

That's because within the conservative community, evidence is secondary to ideology

To be fair the left is just as bad. Both sides of the political debate are doing the exact same thing.

While I think that's true of the extremes, my experience with mainstream liberals has been that they are more accepting of contrary evidence than mainstream conservatives. My experience has been than (in the US, anyway) conservatism is much more rooted in dogmatism.

This contrast reminds me of the final question in the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye on creationism vs evolution:

Moderator: What would make you change your mind?

Ham: Nothing.

Nye: Evidence.

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Stop

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

@Steve Knox

While I think that's true of the extremes, my experience with mainstream liberals...

Not really a fair comparison though is it...

Ken Ham = RW Lunatic

Bill Nye = Liberal moderate( I think? )

There are just as many shouty wing-nuts on the left. Compare and contrast for example

Ken Ham .vs Andrea Dworkin

Listen and believe for example is hardly fact based. It pure ideology.

It's high time the moderates from all camps told the ideologues to shut the hell up and sit the hell down. We desperately need to start talking and *LISTENING* to other thoughts and reasoning from other groups. Jordan Peterson for example has some very interesting things to say on free speech, dialogue and why it all matters.

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Facepalm

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

>"Oh, it WAS unbiased once,"

@Big John, luckily political bias doesn't affect scientific results.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

>Warmists

Ah. Let me guess - you want a journal that will tell you the lies that denialists want to hear, yes?

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Re: Within the conservative community...

> (I prefer New Scientist myself but that is probably a regional thing).

I read both and if anything SciAm is quite conservative.

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

" so that by now, the US is barely making the top-10 in the world by this criterion. "

Speaking of not making the top tens, the USA is out of most of them in terms of freedom indicies AND is #35 on human rights.

There are none so blind as those who will not see

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Headmaster

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

Your algorithm is buggy. It should be

while (science || education { ...}

You certainly would not it to halt when only one of them reaches zero (although at the point education becomes zero the system may crash in any case).

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

"global warming benefits them so long as it happens slowly so that Siberian infrastructure can be upgraded in time"

And if the Leptav sea emissions turn into a Storegga event, the Siberian infrastructure (and population) can be restarted from scratch. The pesky factor of that amount of seawater incursion triggering all the swamps is but a mere bagatelle

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Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA

"the new heads of Fox are VERY left-leaning"

Yes, when compared to Joseph Goebbels

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Welcome to 21st Century USA - How about an unbiased source?

AC opined, "...one day you will wake up and realise both sides [Left/Right] are exactly the same."

The political spectrum at the larger (extremist) scale bends into a circle. The extreme Left and the extreme Right overlap on the far side of the circle, their spittle-laced raging fury perfectly indistinguishable from each other. The new axis thus created is normal (90°) to the legacy near-side Left/Right line, and is called Sanity. The Moderates, both left and Right, are Sane, while the raging loon Extremists are simply not.

This is a very useful construct in that it permits the Moderates (both Left and Right) to unite against the loopy Extremists arriving from either direction.

The political concept has been extended into the third dimension, Up and Down, forming a sphere. Which is actually solid. Or perhaps 4-dimensional. But that's for another day...

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Arecibo has been giving data to the BOINC project SETI@home, with one million users, of which 300000 are active. It has been joined by the 100 meters Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia under the sponsorship of Breakthrough Listen funded by Yuri Milner, and shall be joined by the Parkes Radiotelescope in Australia.Long live Arecibo!

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Goldeneye

This can’t possibly be true, as I saw a documentary the other day about how Arecibo was blown up several years ago, by saboteurs from M16.

I am invincible.

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Alien

Maybe the NSF needs to find more scifi movies to location shoot at Arecibo?

Or Facebook needs to offer service to Alpha Centauri?

Or some eccentric Chinese billionaire can gain a world record for the world's largest stir-fry?

Or someone can (probably rather easily) convince President Donald that the U.S. needs to spend more on listening in to "Muslim Aliens"?

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Re: Maybe the NSF needs to find more scifi movies to location shoot at Arecibo?

You would need both an underground heat source for the stir fry scenario as well as the installation of the large scale infrastructure for doing the stirring.

Easier to start from scratch, with a heat conductive wok for a start, than to use Arecibo.

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Re: Maybe the NSF needs to find more scifi movies to location shoot at Arecibo?

"There's coal on Mars" should do it.

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Meanwhile, back at the facts

The NSF press release announced the recommendation of a group tasked to look at the best way forward for Arecibo: closure, partnerships, &c. The recommendation, as reported, indicated the Foundation would continue to fund observatory operations at a significantly lower level IF a partner (pr partner consortium) can be found. If the Foundation's quick exit, stage right, from the support of Sacramento Peak Observatory, which a panel of "experts" recommended be closed as the National Solar Observatory shifts its concentration to the new Panel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) in Hawai'i, is any indication, the partnership will have a hard time providing sufficient funding for a meaningful scientific observing program within a year or two — but the Foundation will have wiped its hands of the asset.

The NSF spends significant amounts of the taxpayers' money constructing its own facilities, but then fails to fund their operations adequately, at least in astronomy and solar physics. It also spends the taxpayers' money on operating "big glass" — very large telescopes — built by private consortia, who can't get their sugar daddies to pay for the annual upkeep and operation, even though a large fraction of the observing time at those facilities is reserved for the staff of the consortia members. The net effect is to skew observing time at good facilities to people who work at large, well-endowed, well known universities whose administrators can always can a lunch date with the NSF Director when they're in Washington. As for all the astronomers at smaller institutions, without the funds or the fundraising clout to get the mega-donations to build their own observatories, and for whom national observatories were starts din the first place? Let 'em eat cake.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meanwhile, back at the facts

The NSF spends significant amounts of the taxpayers' money ...

The NSF does not spend taxpayers' money. Congress does. The job of NFS is to distribute the money allocated to it by the Congress to the final recipients, following the limits and guidelunes set by the appropriation bill.

If Congress allocates less money than the sum total of the funding requests NSF receives (which will always be the case, as the public funds are not infinite - while the science, to the best of our current understanding, is), the NSF must choose to fund some projects, and not to funds others - which may be of comparable quality to ones which were funded.

Given that grant application success rates in some disciplines are now below 10%, NSF cold only fund a small fraction of good scientigic peroposals it receives. If you would like it to fund more, you need to lobby the Congress to allocate more money.

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