Arecibo Observatory

Arecibo Observatory

MSNBC reports that funding may be cut off for the Arecibo Observatory.

But among astronomers, Arecibo is an icon of hard science. Its instruments have netted a decades-long string of discoveries about the structure and evolution of the universe. Its high-powered radar has mapped in exquisite detail the surfaces and interiors of neighboring planets.

. . . and later another interesting wrinkle:

One is that Arecibo is home to what is widely regarded as the world’s foremost upper atmosphere and “space weather” research center. Funded at about $2 million by a separate NSF division, the center studies the impacts of solar flares on satellite and cellphone communication; evaluates climate change; and has developed methods for cleaning up the atmosphere after a nuclear attack.

That one would have to close as well.

I would think that this would rank high on the list of scientific projects that should be funded, what with its uses in weather studies as well as in studies of near objects in the solar system. Personally, I prefer that most scientific research be privately funded, and I welcome the increasing private participation in space research, but we are funding some projects, and this one seems like a good one with long term impact. Theoretical research may not be sexy for the politicians, but it is critical for the long term progress of science.

It would be a good idea to start distinguishing between investment in the future and simple expenditure of money.

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