Leonard Susskind, professor of theoretical physics at Stanford University, posed the question, “Who cares?” in his book The Black Hole War: My Battle With Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics. He said, “No one is ever going to use Hawking radiation to cure cancer or to make a better steam engine.” (Hawking radiation is thermal energy theoretically emitted by black holes.) “Black holes will never be useful for storing information or swallowing enemy missiles…[these are] two subjects that…may never have any practical applications.…Why, then, does anyone waste his or her time on [them]?”
Who cares? Answer: we all care. Or we all should care. Many questions put forward by science have no practical daily applications. But, there are exceptions, important exceptions. When Einstein posed his theory of special relativity and then general relativity, no one but physicists had any interest. As it turns out, special relativity teaches us that velocity affects the ticking of clocks. General relativity teaches us that gravity affects the ticking of clocks. Were it not for Einstein, the Global Positioning System (GPS) would not work and no one would know why. GPS satellites are moving at high velocities and are far from the earth’s gravitational field. Without adjusting for special and general relativity, GPS systems would miscalculate the location of GPS navigation devices on the ground by six miles a day. And the effect is cumulative.
A February 2011 story in the Journal News of the Lower Hudson Valley reported “the discovery of a PCB-resistant fish in the Hudson River–one of the fastest species adaptations on record….Under normal natural selection, a fish like this would mutate in tens of thousands of years. In this case, it took about 50 years….One tiny change in a gene caused all this evolutionary change,” according to Isaac Wirgin of the New York University Medical Center. This is Darwinistic evolution in real time.
According to Michal Heller, a Catholic priest, physicist and adjunct member of the Vatican Observatory staff, “Our image of God strongly depends on our image of the world, and our image of the world continuously changes under the influence of science and scientific discoveries.” It is appalling that only 28% of biology teachers present evidence for evolution as recommended by the National Research Council, while 13% explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design, according to a 2010 survey conducted by Penn State professors Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer. Randy Moore, professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, was unsurprised by the study’s conclusions. “At least 25% of high school teachers in Minnesota explicitly teach creationism.”
What this country needs is another John Kennedy. President Kennedy had a dream of putting a man on the moon and safely returning him to earth before the end of the decade. According to a 2010 report from Thomson Reuters, China’s overall patent filings grew by 26% a year between 2003 and 2009. Growth was much slower elsewhere: 6% in America, 5% in South Korea, 4% in Europe and 1% in Japan. Thomson Reuters projected China will become the world’s largest publisher of patents this year. America was fascinated with space and science in the 1960s. It’s not anymore. Will America become the next Great Britain, a former world superpower?
In March of 2011, the New York Times reported that “The City University of New York has long spent much of its energy and resources just teaching new students what they need to begin taking college-level courses….At [its] LaGuardia Community College, where 40% of the math classes are remedial…professors are becoming de facto high school teachers.” This is appalling! In September 2010, CBS News reported that our children ranked 25th in math out of 30 comparable countries.
Congressmen Pete Stark (CA) and Edward Markey (MA) proposed House Resolution 81 naming February 12, 2011 as Darwin Day. It failed. It seems even the Congress does not appreciate the important of science, or the language of science (mathematics), any more than the general public. The largest particle accelerator (atom smasher) in the world spans the border between Switzerland and France. We killed our Super Collider accelerator project in 1993. The monies we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan could have funded the Super Collider as well as many other science projects. How long will it be before we lose our dominance in science? We could start by getting creation and intelligent design out of our high school science classrooms. Let’s stop teaching science fiction in science class. We need to keep God in the pews and science in the laboratory. The long-term survival and security of America and its citizens lies in scientific discovery and technical achievement.