Community > Forum > The Spaceflight Cafe > 8 Years since SS1

8 Years since SS1

Posted by: Rob Goldsmith - Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:26 am
Post new topic Reply to topic
 [ 22 posts ] 
8 Years since SS1 
Author Message
Space Station Commander
Space Station Commander
User avatar
Joined: Mon May 31, 2004 9:47 pm
Posts: 816
Location: Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) - capital of Israel!
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:15 pm
Actually, a lot of basic research is funded by large companies, in areas including medicine, energy, aircraft, and lots of others.

_________________
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
-Anonymous


Back to top
Profile WWW
Space Station Commander
Space Station Commander
avatar
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:44 am
Posts: 707
Location: Haarlem, The Netherlands
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Thu Aug 02, 2012 12:06 pm
JamesG wrote:
I disagree, sometimes just throwing money at something doesn't help. A bigger influence is the motivation and institutional structure of the organization.
True, but do you also disagree for this specific situation? Undoubtedly SpaceX has achieved much more than Scaled/Virgin/The SpaceShip Company in the past decade, but they've also put in a heck of a lot more money. Elon himself has said that without the NASA COTS money they'd have done the same thing, just slower. Armadillo Aerospace hasn't got to 100km yet, let alone with a crewed vehicle, but they've spent much less again than Paul Allen. Masten seems to be punching above their weight in achievement-per-dollar, although I don't know how much funding they have, and they probably gained some from Carmack's shared experience.

JamesG wrote:
Cynically, the scientists and research companies exist to do basic research and well paid and comfortable in their university setting/careers. They have no incentive to actually complete a commercializable technology. Doing so would mean that they would have to find something else to do and the funding to go with it.
I wish it were that easy! First, if there's one thing we don't have a shortage of in science, then it's questions. There's always something else to research, and usually the problem is to cut the question down to a small enough size that you actually have a chance of answering the remaining small part of it. Most research creates more questions than it answers, too.

Second, professors need permanent positions, to protect the scientific process. For example, we have a paleoclimatologist here who doesn't believe that the current global warming trend is caused by human activity. That's not a very popular stance in science, and I'd say he's probably wrong on this, but it is very important that we have people arguing all sides of the debate. If scientists could be fired for having unpopular opinions, all science would eventually come to a halt, because all the great ideas were once unpopular opinions.

Third, becoming a professor is not easy, and most scientists are not professors. For those of use who aren't, job security is difficult to find and salaries are lower than in industry. At some point it gets difficult to explain to your family that Mommy or Daddy is out of work again, and that you'll all have to move to a different country because the two-year contract has run out again and it's on to the next one. We had a job opening for a supporting staff position some time ago, and had a very good scientist apply for it simply because he had a family to support including a special-needs kid that he couldn't drag around the world, and he didn't see a clear path to a permanent position as a scientist where he was.

Fourth, if you're going to make scientists develop technologies, who's going to do the science that technology developers base their work on? And what about all the science that doesn't support developing technology, but informs us about how best to apply our technology? The environmental sciences probably haven't contributed much to technology development, but if we're going to survive as a species, we'd better figure out how Spaceship Earth functions, so that we can keep it running and/or fix it when it breaks.

I agree that universities are mostly not set up to develop products or technologies. They're set up to figure things out, publish those results and to conserve and to spread knowledge. That is very important in itself! Sometimes they do come close to a working technology while doing that, and spin off a company to commercialise it. Sometimes the discoveries are used by engineers to develop new technologies. Sometimes the discoveries are used as a starting point for new discoveries, which eventually lead to new technologies. Sometimes the discoveries lead to nothing at all. But would the space industry really have been better off if Tsiolkovsky hadn't derived the rocket equation or published a bunch of other stuff on astronautic theory, and hadn't inspired Oberth and Goddard and all the later rocket scientists, but had been making fireworks in his garden shed instead?

_________________
Say, can you feel the thunder in the air? Just like the moment ’fore it hits – then it’s everywhere
What is this spell we’re under, do you care? The might to rise above it is now within your sphere
Machinae Supremacy – Sid Icarus


Back to top
Profile
Space Station Commander
Space Station Commander
User avatar
Joined: Mon May 31, 2004 9:47 pm
Posts: 816
Location: Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) - capital of Israel!
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:36 pm
Lourens, I think you are absolutely correct that basic science, discovering the nature of the universe, has a value all by itself. I don't think that the present university system is the best way to achieve that. First of all, Professors really don't get paid that much. If they get tenure, they might have job security, but again, it is nothing like in the free market. Secondly, a lot of very good scientists are not doing basic research because of the "publish or perish" environment that is institutionalized in the university system. I think that if there was a way that scientists would get paid directly for the use of their discoveries, there would be an explosion of scientific knowledge, and many more people would decide to go into science and basic research.

What would have happened if every owner of an atomic reactor had to pay royalties to Einstein? What would have happened if every medical company that used the knowledge of DNA in its products had to pay royalties to Franklin, Watson, and Crick? The fact is, the amount researchers get reimbursed for the use of their research pales in comparison to what they produce.

_________________
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
-Anonymous


Back to top
Profile WWW
Space Station Commander
Space Station Commander
avatar
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2005 7:44 am
Posts: 707
Location: Haarlem, The Netherlands
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Sat Aug 04, 2012 8:37 pm
But the problem of basic research is that (by definition!) the resulting products are far away. You mention Einstein; he first formulated the principle of mass-energy equivalence in 1905. The first human-made fission reaction was initiated in 1945, and the first "commercial" (it was in the USSR) fission power plant started operations in 1954. Einstein died in 1955, so he wouldn't have had much time to enjoy his bonus. We still don't have a working fusion plant, despite the fact that the physics behind one has been known for over a century now.

If you want to reward basic research more directly, you'll have to find some way of putting a value on the research output, i.e. scientific papers. Should we be paying scientists based on the citation counts of their papers? But those are much higher in e.g. medicine than in e.g. maths, so you'd need to compensate per field. But then what about cross-disciplinary papers? And what about the fact that review papers (which summarise recent work in a particular subfield, and provide some analysis of the whole) are always cited much more than normal papers, despite the fact that they contribute less new things. It would be quite a challenge to create some kind of fair compensation based on bibliometrics. Perhaps a voting system where all the scientists can distribute some points amongst their colleagues, according to the perceived importance of their work?

_________________
Say, can you feel the thunder in the air? Just like the moment ’fore it hits – then it’s everywhere
What is this spell we’re under, do you care? The might to rise above it is now within your sphere
Machinae Supremacy – Sid Icarus


Back to top
Profile
Space Walker
Space Walker
User avatar
Joined: Tue May 15, 2012 4:32 am
Posts: 216
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:14 am
Money does seem to be a good motivator but I think using it as a motivator for high performance causes our current issues of inefficient allocation of resources.

People are chasing "money" instead of chasing the actual "end result" of their activities.

I would love it if I ran out of a job to do because we cleaned up all the river systems in Victoria, no more invasive species to eradicate, no more previously cleared areas to revegetate, no more ecosystems to rehabilitate to a more "stable" state.

That would mean we did a good job, and we fixed a large portion of the issues of human inhabitation of this corner of the planet.

This will never happen though If my interest lies in doing this job indefinitely. Then I would be making sure that my efficiency is always below the required amount to finish the job.

Imagine a doctor who cures you to 80% of your health to make sure you will be back in some time to get some more treatment to make sure he still has a job to do in the future.

It doesn't make sense to me, but that is what chasing money leads to.

Money is merely a tool to allocate resources, but for some reason it became the actual goal of our activities which is stupid because the goals should be actual physical results of our activities. When we reach a goal, we should aim for new ones, we shouldn't be chasing goals just so we can acquire money while doing so. Then we will never be driven to actually reach the goal, we will just happily fail as long as our pockets are comfortably full.

_________________
"SCREW THE RULES, WE HAVE MONEY!"
http://www.freespaceships.com


Back to top
Profile WWW
Space Station Member
Space Station Member
User avatar
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:51 am
Posts: 448
Location: Vienna, Austria, Europe, Earth
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:24 pm
box

You just summarized pretty much all of the problems of our current capitalistic economy. The actual results got overshadowed by making profit, although it should be the other way round, even (I would even say especially!) in capitalism!

SuperShuki wrote:
What would have happened if every owner of an atomic reactor had to pay royalties to Einstein? What would have happened if every medical company that used the knowledge of DNA in its products had to pay royalties to Franklin, Watson, and Crick? The fact is, the amount researchers get reimbursed for the use of their research pales in comparison to what they produce.


I can answer that question: Science would have slowed down massively and numerous scientists would have spend their time at courts, battling over patents and royalties, instead of making more discoveries.

Just look at the current situation with all those stupid patent wars between companies, just to name the current, most popular one: Apple vs. Samsung.

It's a stupid waste of resources that would be better spend to come up with better products!

_________________
pride comes before a fall


Back to top
Profile
Space Station Commander
Space Station Commander
User avatar
Joined: Mon May 31, 2004 9:47 pm
Posts: 816
Location: Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) - capital of Israel!
Post Re: 8 Years since SS1   Posted on: Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:08 pm
There are lots of things in the free market whose dividends take a long time to get delivered, yet are developed anyway. Basic science is one of those things, insofar as it is developed in the free marker. Large companies fund basic research, in order to ensure their future growth. The problem with demanding that the free market show a "plan" for developing a certain good, is that because of the nature of freedom, there is no plan! It's like saying, "what is your plan for producing tennis shoes in the free market?". There is no plan - people figure it out as they go along!
What you are trying to do when you demand a plan, is eliminate the responsibility of individuals to do work, fail, and keep on working and failing until they finally learn how to succeed. That takes a lot of effort, a lot of risk, and a lot of pain, without any immediate visible gain, and without any guarantee of success. It is, however, the only way to progress in any sphere of life.

_________________
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
-Anonymous


Back to top
Profile WWW
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 22 posts ] 
 

Who is online 

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 32 guests


© 2014 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use