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Tue Aug 10, 2021, 11:51 AM

Talking about R&D in the infrastructure discussions reminds me of my high school years...

I have probably told this story before, but bear with me.

Sputnik went up in 1957, and shocked the world. Seems the Soviets got a better deal with German scientists after the war, and we went nuts. Eisenhower immediately pushed for scientific advancement, and everyone agreed.

AT&T, IBM, ITT, Kodak, and others had major research facilities that got some money, but a lot of it went to local schools. And that money was simply a grant, with no strings or regard to other aspects of the school. My high school was a Lutheran school with a strong religious curriculum, and we were asked not to read the Biology text chapter on evolution (but the chapter wasn't cut out of the books).

We were awarded fully functional Chemistry, Physics, and Bio labs. We were also given a Typing lab, with nice new IBM Selectric typewriters.

If they gave all this to every high school in the country, or even just most of them, it must have cost an incredible fortune. Add to that what universities got for their science curricula. And the funding for NASA, NSF, and other programs was not small.

Well, we no longer have the big labs-- Bell Labs is now owned by Nokia, or at least the parts not passed on to the Baby Bells. I saw the writing on the wall when AT&T said Bell Labs would be firing the discoverer of black holes and such research would be stopped because black holes had no profit potential. I'm not sure wassup with the rest of the labs not doing Pentagon work, but their parent companies are struggling. Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Symantic, Oracle, HP, and other new high-flying companies don't seem to be interested at all. They'll spend small fortunes on anything that will make them a buck, but pure research with no immediate payback is a waste.

So, here we are. Back in the '60s we still had that post war can-do attitude, and a national purpose. And the costs now would be up there with world GDP. Costs and our present poisonous politics would kill off any such program.

But, the Chinese are working on such programs. They have the advantage of not pissing away vast sums on a cold war military. Their investments in Africa, SA, and Asia are factories and schools, not tanks or rockets.

Can you imagine anyone with a MAGA hat majoring in astrophysics or any engineering discipline?

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