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March 7, 2005

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The People's Budget


The above graph shows how Americans would reallocate the federal budget if given the chance, according to a PIPA survey of 1,200 adults (PDF). Kevin Drum, who pointed this study out, warns social-spending-happy liberals to chill, because if they actually proposed cutting the defense budget by a third and spending all that cash on education and renewable energy, they would quickly discover the heat of this country’s fury.

It’s unfortunate that “space program” and “science research” are lumped together on this graph (and nowhere to be found in the accompanying PDF). Because clearly, if I’d gotten my grubby little hands on this survey, NASA would become the NAA, and its budget would be approximately $959 million.* And the National Science Foundation would find its budget mysteriously expanded by about, oh, $14.5 billion or so.

I mean, take this page and multiply its coolness factor by 4. Is your mind blown yet?

Speaking of the NSF, check out the Digital Promise Project, a foundation that wants to create a sort of NSF for education. Together with the New America Foundation, Digital Promise is pushing a piece of legislation that would use the money from selling and licensing the public airwaves to create a trust fund devoted to R&D in the field of education.

I’m inclined to think that’s pretty cool. Critics of the legislation launch their broadside with the question, “Must the government establish what amounts to a new Public Broadcasting System for the Internet?”

Pardon me, I seem to be drooling just ever so slightly.

* “National Aeronautics Administration.” None of this hoity-toity space crap. Leave that to Burt Rutan and Richard Branson.

Posted March 7, 2005 at 8:27 | Comments (12) | Permasnark
File under: Snarkpolicy


This post rules so much I have not yet absorbed its full coolness!

TOTALLY on board with jacking up NSF funding. That stuff is so crucial.

However, re: Digital Promise... too bad they got stuck with such a janky promo video. I guess the NSF has enough cash to fund time-travel research, 'cause clearly we traveled back to 1994 to get that thing. Jeez.

Come on, you know you started rocking in your seat when the theme from Cleopatra Jones kicked in after the first 2 minutes.

Posted by: Matt on March 7, 2005 at 09:28 PM

But what about NIAC. Weather satellites are hellsa cool. Don't you watch Star Trek?

But yeah, can't argue with NSF funding boosts, especially since Howard Hughes's bizarre psuedo-tax shelter cut graduate student funding...

I noticed there's more than one funded study on weather satellites. The one I thought was cool was "Controlling the Global Weather", although I haven't read the other one, so it might be cool too.

Oh yeah, and what are we supposed to do when Richard Branson jettisons the life support systems because he thinks our space craft need more room for playing craps and having sex?

Publisher: Aap NewsWire
Publication: aap International News (Tue 18 Jan 2005)
Eur:Branson boasts of mile-high pleasures on new Airbus jumbos

TOULOUSE, France, Jan 18 AFP - The new Airbus superjumbo unveiled today will bring unprecedented amenities to the skies, including gambling tables and full-size double beds, Virgin Atlantic's Richard Branson said.

"So, alongside our casinos, you'll have at least two ways to get lucky on our flights," Branson joked as he attended the unveiling of the Airbus A380 in Toulouse, south-western France.

(I couldn't link directly to the story because your filter choked on gambling and sex.)

I feel like I gotta stick up for space research a little here, even though it's the one thing I never had any real interest in pursuing. There are a whole class of people who are incapable of being productive technologists unless they're challenged by a problem they can be passionate about, and NASA is very good at providing such people with such problems. Sounds backwards and indirect? Yes, but it's a proven way to generate innovation that very possibly might not have been otherwise generated. It might not be worth 14 B--and I am so in favor of quadrupling the NSF budget---but just don't do the accounting on a scientific program's worth to society on its results alone.
Absolutely fascinating post though.

Saheli, that has the virtue of being an argument I have never heard before! Space science as a way to harness the capabilities of otherwise un-harnessable geniuses... interesting.

Now you say it's a "proven" way to generate innovation that very possibly might not have been otherwise generated. Ignoring the "not otherwise generated" clause, which is always a tough thing to prove or disprove, I feel like I hear this a lot: that there are all these great civilian uses for space tech.

But is there like a page on the NASA site where I can see this stuff? Seriously, I am stuck at Tang and astronaut ice cream.

I don't know of such a page, but remember--we're not quite at the stage of "if it's not on the web, it doesn't exist. " ;-) Honestly, like I said, I'm not an expert on space research. It's something I've been wanting to investigate for a while, so I will keep you posted of my progress.

But, dude, until you've had a Tang Snow Slushy at 12000 feet, you haven't lived.

Not only is there a web page -- there's a whole magazine devoted to terrestrial applications of NASA technology. It's called Innovation -- they have a web page with archived content at

Now this could be little more than NASA propaganda -- but check out (no joke) The Space Foundation Hall of Fame ( Each year since 1988, they induct technologies that originated in NASA research. Some highlights: cordless power tools, scratch resistant lenses, digital imaging processing (e.g., CAT scans), Tempur Foam (that's right, the mattress stuff), DirecTV, satellite radio, and GPS software -- as well as intriguing but mysterious items like "anti-shock trousers," "liquid-cooled garments," and (ahem) "advanced lubricants." Just what are they doing down there in Cape Canaveral?

Okay, okay, I stand corrected.

Although are we SURE anti-shock trousers wouldn't have been more efficiently developed by the NSF??

Also, NASA is taking credit for frickin' 'digital image processing'? Actually, I think I might only stand half-corrected...

Doesn't surprise me at all. Google "earliest digital image processing" and besides references to China's more recen taccomplishments, you get citations of people working on early satellite image processing at JPL.

Whatevs. If Photoshop had been called, you know, 'Moon Image Shop' until NASA released the code & Adobe popularized it, I *might* be impressed.

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