back to article Physicists go nuclear with online protest at funding cuts

UK physics boffins have taken intensified their fight against an £80m hole in annual funding with an online campaign for Gordon Brown to put his hand in his pocket. A Downing Street petition entitled "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reverse the decision to cut vital UK contributions to Particle Physics and …


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  1. 3x2


    In our credit driven service economy why on earth do we need Physicists? What's Physics ever done for me anyway?

  2. Paul Buxton

    3rd World here we come

    In 20 years time when we're a 3rd world country we'll be able to look back on this decision and laugh at how misguided it was in retrospect.

    Gordon, you have the opportunity to sort this out before it does real damage. In a country that has absolutely no manufacturing or agricultural industry to speak of we NEED the technology that comes from this research to stay in the game.

  3. Ash

    I bet they're under great pressure...

    It must weigh heavily on their shoulders.

    The one with the Caffeine molocule embroidered on the back, please.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    who needs physics? We have media hysteria (yobs will beat up your granny, whilst peadophiles molest your children, and your adolescents will have babies whilst beating up grannies, and immigrants will steal your job while muslims blow up your house!), secret police and intellectual design to see us into the future!

    or science? We don't need no stinking science!

  5. Chris Miller

    So which is it to be?

    Here's a conundrum for the Treasury: some real physics research or 15 minutes worth of payments to EDS?

  6. RW

    Physics is Elitist Nonsense . . .

    . . . and therefore no self-respecting party of the people would dream of supporting it. The revolution takes a step further toward completion by cutting another lifeline feeding oxygen to the so-called intellectual community. Once the boffins are wholly unemployed, we can round them up on charges of economic parasitism and send them off for thought reform. All hail the Dear Maximum Leader!

    As a bonus to this rantlet, a reminder that education is not the same as training. You can train monkeys, but you can't educate them. Keep this meme in your pocket ready for the next discussion of schools, schooling, IT training, and similar topics.

    Yes, I have a license allowing me to use the word "meme".

  7. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    @Paul Buxton

    Judging from where the big Govt hardware spend is going, Brown-job seems to be planning on commercialising the Armed Services and living on the income from mercenary operations.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2/5 of bugger all

    Its such a perfect illustration of the schism between the words and the deeds, mere words fail me.

    £80 million is it? - don't we lose that every month due to NewLabor's incompetence in managing a new benefits computer thingy?

    never even had a fucking paper round most of them

    - can we have an icon for this??

  9. evilbobthebob


    Another petition about soemthing important Downing Street will ignore. Look at Iraq: millions of people protested, but they were...ignored. Well, I'm screwed...I want to go into Astrophysics...looks like the US beckons...

  10. Solomon Grundy

    Knowledge Economy

    Whoever coined this term, and the people who seek to implement this "economy" should be shot.

    If countries do not produce hard goods, maximize natural resources, etc... they are doomed. Only natural resources and agriculture create money, everything else just juggles existing money around.

    I think Paul (above) has got it right - 3rd world here we come.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: 3rd world here we come

    "In 20 years time when we're a 3rd world country ..."

    No chance. We'll simply be one of the poorer backwaters of Greater Europe. Of course, we might be better off in the third world, but ...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem is with postdoc funding

    So far I don't think the cuts to post-grad studies have been too bad. The problem is that post-doc positions are being slashed. There's no point getting a PhD in physics as there's not going to be much use to you, at least not in this country.

    The smart money is in getting your qualifications here, then heading off to Canada or wherever.

    Also another facebook group that might be of interest -

  13. donc

    Wish them all the best

    The Prime Minister spent plenty of time mouthing off about the knowledge economy and research & development when he was Chancellor, isn't about time to prove his commitment? This is something that can improve our lives and future generations in this country.

    The UK government raises more than £500 billion in taxes and seems quite happy to lose billions on ridiculously complex tax credits, unworkable IT systems, ID databases, etc., isn't £80m in comparison something of a rounding error?

    Actually why doesn't the government remove all the complexity in the tax system? Not only would nearly all of the over-payments cease (there's a big chunk of money that could be spent on science) but the average person wouldn't need to hire a tax accountant to fill out their tax form? Also neatly removing the tax avoidance schemes that make use of all the loop holes that result from such a complex system?

    Ahh, I know, it would make to too clear how much everyone is paying in tax to fund them and their gold plated pensions...

  14. Hollerith

    Didn't I remember something about funding the future?

    I recall the Government committing themselves to science because the future lay with technology derived from science. And that bit about being a world leader is scientific culture...

    So you close off the tools scientists need to work, which leaves them without grad students, who head elsewhere, which means science departments close down, which means no science undergraduates, which means no science.

    All the physics students will head to the USA or France or India or anywhere that respects what they do, and we will have an ocean of media studies graduates.

    And then the Government will stop supporting UK film.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: 3rd World here we come

    Why should Gordon care? He'll be long gone, living it up with his mate Tony on various boards of large multinationals before this decision has any effect. That's the flaw in democracy - the people who fuck things up are very rarely around long enough to pay for their mistakes.

  16. Chris G Silver badge

    The trouble with british science

    Is the fact that it started with the likes of Newton and others funding themselves and still producing brilliant science. ever since then the British gov has only funded research when it absolutely has to, such as during the war. The war was a bonus for the gov as it got lots of good results whilst getting away with paying crap money using patriotism and fighting to save the free world as the reason. Even since the war the gov has consistently resisted spending money on research or spent money then just as results begin to come in they cancel it and burn the resulting paperwork so no-one else can have it, as in the case of TSR2 the for-runner to the Tornado the technology for which we had to re-invent years after Harold Wilson had scrapped the original. As far back as I can remember, scientists here have produced good science in spite of our government and the gov knows that so they carry on hoping they can continue to spend their revenues on Quangos for their buddies to sit on that consume vast amounts of money and tea and produce nothing.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Bring back "Math is hard" Brabe

    It can be the new government mascot

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Imitation of G. W. Bush ?

    According to this paper in the New York Times,

    this year the Stanford Linear Accelarator will lay of 120 workers in a couple

    of weeks and the Fermilab will lay off 10% of its staff.

    The Chicago Tribune also indicates that Argonne National Laboratory should

    also experience a budget cut:,0,1456861.story

    There was an interesting take by Craig Barrett on this in the San Francisco


    Is the idea behind the cuts in the UK that if G. W. Bush does something then

    its is necessarily a good thing ?

  19. theotherone
    Thumb Down


    yup, its better to spend that 80 million blowing up people in Iraq...oh wait, wasn't it physics that developed the weapons you use for doing that? better reconsider then...

  20. Herby

    Easy way to get the $$$/£££

    Just call it "Global Warming Physics". The money will come flowing in.

    Gotta go...

  21. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    What has physics done?

    Electronics everywhere, radio, microwaves, (more) efficient cars, light bulbs (all types), electricity generation and electric motors, weapon systems... do you want me to go on?

    Remember, electronic engineering, mechanics, ballistics, fluid flow, advanced materials - in fact almost all science based aspect of our lives are affected by physics based research. Science subjects also overlap, so what looks like chemistry, biology or engineering often involves physics as well.

    Anyway, it is not just physics that is affected by this funding cut.

  22. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo

    Another use for the money

    We need that money to pay for Teenage mothers and put beer on the table of the unemployed, look science will just have to take second place.

  23. Chris Richards

    @Anonymous Coward

    post-grad positions might not be getting slashed in an obvious way, but there'll be less up for grabs in 2008/2009 - perhaps they're beginning to wish they hadn't made the decision to up the standard phd funding from 3 to 4 years!

    But my phd for one is going to be impacted directly in the next few weeks - with STFC dilly dallying about where to save money they're leaving us sans electricity for our collaborations supercomputer. When funding was applied for we thought 'they'd not see themselves embarrassed by not supporting a project they've spent so much on' but after the gemini N and ILC cuts we're moving towards the pessimistic side.

    Frankly, putting idiotic civil servants with no science background in positions of power over where funding goes basically means money goes into the media friendly but not particularly ground breaking physics (who gives a f**k about diamond - what's wrong with the ESRF!!)

    (<- me hanging up my white coat and leaving academia)

  24. Bryan Reed


    "What's Physics ever done for me anyway?"

    I hope you see the irony of using a computer to ask that question?

  25. NRT

    But the government has already solved this.

    If you can't get a place at a University due to the funding cuts, all you need to do is go to the nearest burger shop.

    Order "A large 'fries' and an A level please"

    Now, where is the problem?


  26. Anonymous Coward

    Good riddence, new ideas needed

    Particle physics has become expensive atom smashing. The major breakthroughs were done with pen+paper+genius not with a particle accelerator.

    Astronomy, geez how many years can you milk the same theories for research money?

    They don't teach genius in University, they teach status quo, and as long as there is a huge well funded science community there to keep the status quo, they naturally disuade fresh thinking.

    Cutting edge research was never a career choice.

  27. IanKRolfe


    "In our credit driven service economy why on earth do we need Physicists? What's Physics ever done for me anyway?"

    I know you're joking, but I do find it amusing when people question the value of science on the internet. It's like all the "cool kids" who look down on the nerds, while trying to impress their friends with their iPods and Mobile phones.

    They just don't get it.

  28. Huw Jenkins
    Thumb Down

    And the UK

    becomes a nation of shoe salesmen...

    Sort it out Brown you tosser!

  29. Bill Fresher

    Give the public what they want.

    About time. All these physicists taking away money from in-demand subjects such as media studies. We live in a democracy and the British public wants skilled professionals to produce celebrity gossip magazines more than it wants bearded boffins doing lord knows what in dingy labs..

  30. Rich Silver badge

    @Anonymous Coward

    > Particle physics has become expensive atom smashing. The major

    > breakthroughs were done with pen+paper+genius not with a particle

    > accelerator.

    The major breakthroughs were indeed done with pen+paper+genius, but the resultant predictions were *confirmed* with a particle accelerator (or a damn good telescope). Without reliable predictions all you've got is a handful of pretty equations.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    1st Law of Gormless Brown

    First law - We shall take most of your money from you.

    Second law - We shall give the money to somebody else.

    Third law - We will not react to your complaints, you toothless old dogs.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ meh

    Agreed, but who will pay for the newspapers or the broadband fees to be able to read the stories?

    Come to think of it, after all the teachers, doctors, nurses, boffins and literate people have been killed by yobs or moved away to Australia or New Zealand, who will be left who can read?

    Paris Hilton, seems to be doing alright under the circumstances.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    @Paul Buxton

    Won't work unless Brown plans on selling the armed forces to BAE and skimming off the top whilst they hire the armed forces out to train up military juntas and dictators etc for the US hawks to bomb.

  34. Peter Clapham

    Well it's not rocket science is it

    I mean, if you overspend that much on your project budget during the year don't be surprised when you can't afford the boring stuff... like the research itself... sigh...

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well someone has to ask

    What if you are nuclear physicist can you now just wander off to the highest bidder abroad?

    80 million is nothing really for the UK. I am not sure what Gordon Brown is up to, but so far he has pissed off the IT, the Military, the Banking, the Police, the Civil Liberty and now the Physics sector.

    I think he is going to go down as the most unpopular, un-general elected prime minister this country has ever had the displeasure to not vote in. So, that was his vision.

    Oh well.

  36. alyn

    Was it a pun?

    Quote "Boffins highlight the gravity of the situation".

    Gravity is useful stuff. Where would we be without gravity? (answer: Nowhere. we'd just be a collection of random atoms floating about the universe)

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