Sci Vote Mismatch

April 13, 2010

Warning : grumpy posting.

I arrived in London this morning and bought the Guardian. Front page news was the arrival of the lovely new Manifestos from Labour and the Conservatives . The Labour manifesto cover is just so socialist realist. Its a hoot. Anyhoo. In the Science net-o-sphere several blargs and columns have already tried to decode what they say about science – eg Mark Henderson at the Times, and Nick Dusic at the S-Word. General consensus seems to be that the Tory one is vague to the point of meaninglessness, and the Labour one promises a “ring-fence” but doesn’t mention the height of the fence as it were.  Is there actually a significant boffin vote ? Or are we hoping that basically Jane Public will vote for more Brian on the telly ?

Thumbing through my Guardian, I found the G2 section had an article called “How Science became cool” with several nice short pieces by Brian Cox, Martin Rees, Tim Radford and others. (The online version is here ). My favourite is by comedian Dara O’Briain. I didn’t know that he was such a geek. The most puzzling was by Kevin Fong, because his header said he was an astrophysicist, but the footer said he was a lecturer in physiology. Cor. Cool dude.

I found myself pondering two things. One. How does P.B.Cox get any real work done these days ? Two.  Yet again we see public displays of interest are about two thirds due to astronomy and particle physics. And one third genetics.

Conversely last week there was a very nice letter to the Times by a starry array of FRS bigwigs, which was all about how investment in science in general is crucial for a high technology twenty first century economy … but the list of signatories was heavily dominated by astronomers and particle physicists.

There is some kind of reality mismatch here. Is there much evidence that The Government has been mean to Science In General ? Not really. Is there evidence that The Government has been mean specifically to Astronomy and Particle Physics ? Yup. Do the politicians notice who is bitching ? Are the public stupid ? Don’t answer the last two questions.