Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Coming Decline of US physics.

Back in the middle 20th century at Columbia University's department of physics the atmosphere was electric charged with serial exciting discoveries. The joke, with some exaggeration, was that half of the department were Noble prize winners, the other half were waiting to be so recognized. MIT, Caltech, Harvard were not far behind. US dominated the field of physics. And then something happened.

The country, over-extended financially, decided not to fund fundamental research. In 1992, as this article here reports, the US Congress, in all its "wisdom", dismissed the idea to build the world's largest atomic smasher against dire warnings from the country's leading scientists, one of whom was Steve Weinberg, quoted in this same article. The largest smasher is now in Geneva. US is no longer in the lead.

Empires usually fell over a period of time with one seemingly unrelated event following another that at some point tipped the balance forever. Only then it became obvious it was too late. In the case of USSR not a day sooner.

Physics seems so unrelated to the rise and fall of empires that folks ignore its significance in the rise of the USA as a superpower. Now, this is yet another piece of corner stone disintegrating.


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