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Is Core Scientific Research In Decline?
Tuesday, October 6, 2009, by Stathis
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In America's Financial Apocalypse (extended 2006 version), I made the case for a trend of declining basic research from core scientific disciplines such as chemistry and physics.  I also noted Western Europe's surge past the U.S. in patent applications. 

 

As the chart below illustrates, the U.S. is not increasing R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP, while Asia continues to pump more and more money into R&D.

 

 

Finally, I discussed the continuing trend of declining dollars from Washington to support organizations such as the NSF that provide grants for core research.  As a result, over the years, corporate America has filled this funding gap.  This trend has served to damage core research further. 

 

On Tuesday, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three Americans (although two have additional citizenship; Canadian and British) for the development of fiber optics and the charge-coupled device.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091006/ap_on_sc/eu_nobel_physics

Without a doubt these two developments were huge and have catapaulted the telecommunications and the photography industries. Together, they have played a primary role enabling the collection and transmission of digital data. 

However, having been trained in chemistry and physics, I feel the award was a poor choice.  A Nobel prize in physics should be reserved for advancements in basic research, not engineering. But you don't necessarily need a background in physics to realize the most recent Nobel Prize in Physics represents a departure from past awards. 

Below I have listed all Nobel Prizes awarded for physics.  As you can see, virtually all previous awards were for critical core science breakthroughs.   

I mention this because I feel it is something very important to consider.  The effects of diminished core research will not be felt for a few decades, but once they are in place it will take decades to correct. 

 

The prize is being awarded with one half to: CHARLES K. KAO for groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication and the other half jointly to: WILLARD S. BOYLE and GEORGE E. SMITH for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit - the CCD sensor.

 
The prize is being awarded with one half to: YOICHIRO NAMBU for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics and the other half jointly to: MAKOTO KOBAYASHI and TOSHIHIDE MASKAWA for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.
 
The prize is being awarded jointly to: ALBERT FERT and PETER GRÜNBERG for the discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance.
 
The prize is being awarded jointly to: JOHN C. MATHER and GEORGE C. SMOOT for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation
 
The prize is being awarded with one half to: ROY J. GLAUBERfor his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence  and one half jointly to JOHN L. HALL and THEODOR W. HÄNSCH for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique
 
The prize is being awarded jointly to: DAVID J. GROSS, H. DAVID POLITZER and FRANK WILCZEK for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction
 
The prize is being awarded jointly to: ALEXEI A. ABRIKOSOV, VITALY L. GINZBURG and ANTHONY J. LEGGETT for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids
 
The prize is being awarded with one half jointly to: RAYMOND DAVIS JR., and and the other half to: MASATOSHI KOSHIBA for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos
RICCARDO GIACCONI for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources
 
The prize is being awarded jointly to:
ERIC A. CORNELL, WOLFGANG KETTERLE and CARL E. WIEMAN for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates.
 
The prize is being awarded with one half jointly to: ZHORES I. ALFEROV, and HERBERT KROEMER for developing semiconductor heterostructures used in high-speed- and opto-electronics; and one half to: JACK ST. CLAIR KILBY for his part in the invention of the integrated circuit. 
The prize was awarded jointly to: GERARDUS 'T HOOFT, and MARTINUS J.G. VELTMAN for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics.
 
The prize was awarded jointly to: ROBERT B. LAUGHLIN, HORST L. STORMER and DANIEL C. TSUI for their discovery of a new form of quantum fluid with fractionally charged excitations.
 
The prize was awarded jointly to: STEVEN CHU, CLAUDE COHEN-TANNOUDJI and WILLIAM D. PHILLIPS for development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.
 
The prize was awarded jointly to: DAVID M. LEE, DOUGLAS D. OSHEROFF and ROBERT C. RICHARDSON for their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3.
 
1995
The prize was awarded for pioneering experimental contributions to lepton physics, with one half to: MARTIN L. PERL for the discovery of the tau lepton. and the other half to: FREDERICK REINES for the detection of the neutrino.
 
 
1994
The prize was awarded for pioneering contributions to the development of neutron scattering techniques for studies of condensed matter to: BERTRAM N. BROCKHOUSE for the development of neutron spectroscopy CLIFFORD G. SHULL for the development of the neutron diffraction technique.
 
1993
The prize was awarded jointly to: RUSSELL A. HULSE and JOSEPH H. TAYLOR JR. for the discovery of a new type of pulsar, a discovery that has opened up new possibilities for the study of gravitation.
 
1992
GEORGES CHARPAK for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber.
 
1991
PIERRE-GILLES DE GENNES for discovering that methods developed for studying order phenomena in simple systems can be generalized to more complex forms of matter, in particular to liquid crystals and polymers.
 
1990
The prize was awarded jointly to: JEROME I. FRIEDMAN, HENRY W. KENDALL and RICHARD E. TAYLOR for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics.
 
1989
 
1988
The prize was awarded jointly to: LEON M. LEDERMAN, MELVIN SCHWARTZ and JACK STEINBERGER for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino.
 
1987
The prize was awarded jointly to: J. GEORG BEDNORZ and K. ALEXANDER MÜLLER for their important breakthrough in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials.
 
1986
 
1985
KLAUS VON KLITZING for the discovery of the quantized Hall effect.
 
1984
The prize was awarded jointly to: CARLO RUBBIA and SIMON VAN DER MEER for their decisive contributions to the large project, which led to the discovery of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction.
 
1983
 
1982
KENNETH G. WILSON for his theory for critical phenomena in connection with phase transitions.
 
1981
The prize was awarded by one half jointly to: NICOLAAS BLOEMBERGEN and and the other half to: ARTHUR L. SCHAWLOW for their contribution to the development of laser spectroscopyKAI M. SIEGBAHN for his contribution to the development of high- resolution electron spectroscopy.
 
1980
The prize was divided equally between: JAMES W. CRONIN and VAL L. FITCH for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons.
 
1979
The prize was divided equally between:
SHELDON L. GLASHOW, ABDUS SALAM and STEVEN WEINBERG for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including inter alia the prediction of the weak neutral current.
 
1978
ARNO A. PENZIAS and ROBERT W. WILSON for their discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation.
 
1977
The prize was divided equally between: PHILIP W. ANDERSON, SIR NEVILL F. MOTT and JOHN H. VAN VLECK for their fundamental theoretical investigations of the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems.
 
1976
The prize was divided equally between: BURTON RICHTER and SAMUEL C. C. TING for their pioneering work in the discovery of a heavy elementary particle of a new kind.
 
1975
The prize was awarded jointly to: AAGE BOHR, BEN MOTTELSON and JAMES RAINWATER for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection.
 
1974
The prize was awarded jointly to: SIR MARTIN RYLE and ANTONY HEWISH for their pioneering research in radio astrophysics Ryle for his observations and inventions, in particular of the aperture synthesis technique, and Hewish for his decisive role in the discovery of pulsars.
 
1973
The prize was divided, one half being equally shared between: LEO ESAKI and IVAR GIAEVER , for their experimental discoveries regarding tunneling phenomena in semiconductors and superconductors, respectively,
 
1972
The prize was awarded jointly to: JOHN BARDEEN, LEON N. COOPER and J. ROBERT SCHRIEFFER for their jointly developed theory of superconductivity, usually called the BCS-theory.
 
1971
DENNIS GABOR for his invention and development of the holographic method.
 
1970
 
1969
MURRAY GELL-MANN for his contributions and discoveries concerning the classification of elementary particles and their interactions.
 
1968
LUIS W. ALVAREZ for his decisive contributions to elementary particle physics, in particular the discovery of a large number of resonance states, made possible through his development of the technique of using hydrogen bubble chamber and data analysis.
 
1967
HANS ALBRECHT BETHE for his contributions to the theory ofnuclear reactions, especially his discoveries concerning the energy production in stars.
 
1966
ALFRED KASTLER for the discovery and development of optical methods for studying hertzian resonances in atoms.
 
1965
The prize was awarded jointly to: SIN-ITIRO TOMONAGA, JULIAN SCHWINGER and RICHARD P. FEYNMAN for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles.
 
1964
The prize was divided, one half being awarded to: CHARLES H. TOWNES the other half jointly to:
NICOLAY GENNADIYEVICH BASOV and ALEKSANDR MIKHAILOVICH PROKHOROV for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle.
 
1963
 
1962
LEV DAVIDOVICH LANDAU for his pioneering theories for condensed matter, especially liquid helium.
 
1961
RUDOLF LUDWIG MÖSSBAUER for his researches concerning the resonance absorption of gamma radiation and his discovery in this connection of the effect which bears his name.
 
1960
DONALD A. GLASER for the invention of the bubble chamber.
 
1959
The prize was awarded jointly to: EMILIO GINO SEGRÈ and OWEN CHAMBERLAIN for their discovery of the antiproton.
 
1958
The prize was awarded jointly to: PAVEL ALEKSEYEVICH CHERENKOV , IL'JA MIKHAILOVICH FRANK and IGOR YEVGENYEVICH TAMM for the discovery and the interpretation of the Cherenkov effect.
 
1957
The prize was awarded jointly to: CHEN NING YANG and TSUNG-DAO LEE for their penetrating investigation of the so-called parity laws which has led to important discoveries regarding the elementary particles.
 
1956
The prize was awarded jointly, one third each, to: WILLIAM SHOCKLEY, JOHN BARDEEN and WALTER HOUSER BRATTAIN for their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect.
 
1955 
The prize was divided equally between: WILLIS EUGENE LAMBfor his discoveries concerning the fine structure of the hydrogen spectrum  and POLYKARP KUSCH for his precision determination of the magnetic moment of the electron.
1954
 
1953
FRITS (FREDERIK) ZERNIKE for his demonstration of the phase contrast method, especially for his invention of the phase contrast microscope.
 
1952
The prize was awarded jointly to: FELIX BLOCH and EDWARD MILLS PURCELL for their development of new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements and discoveries in connection therewith.
 
1951
The prize was awarded jointly to: SIR JOHN DOUGLAS COCKCROFT and ERNEST THOMAS SINTON WALTON for their pioneer work on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially acce lerated atomic particles.
 
1950
CECIL FRANK POWELL for his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method.
 
1949
HIDEKI YUKAWA for his prediction of the existence of mesons on the basis of theoretical work on nuclear forces.
 
1948
LORD PATRICK MAYNARD STUART BLACKETT for his development of the Wilson cloud chamber method, and his discoveries therewith in the fields of nuclear physics and cosmic radiation.
 
1947
SIR EDWARD VICTOR APPLETON for his investigations of the physics of the upper atmosphere especially for the discovery of the so-called Appleton layer.
 
1946
PERCY WILLIAMS BRIDGMAN for the invention of an apparatus to produce extremely high pressures, and for the discoveries he made therewith in the field of high pressure physics.
 
1945
WOLFGANG PAULI for the discovery of the Exclusion Principle, also called the Pauli Principle.
 
1944
ISIDOR ISAAC RABI for his resonance method for recording the magnetic properties of atomic nuclei.
 
1943
OTTO STERN for his contribution to the development of the molecular ray method and his discovery of the magnetic moment of the proton.
 
1942-1940
The prize money was allocated to the Main Fund (1/3) and to the Special Fund (2/3) of this prize section.
 
1939
ERNEST ORLANDO LAWRENCE for the invention and development of the cyclotron and for results obtained with it, especially with regard to artificial radioactive elements.
 
1938
ENRICO FERMI for his demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons.
 
1937
The prize was awarded jointly to: CLINTON JOSEPH DAVISSON and SIR GEORGE PAGET THOMSON for their experimental discovery of the diffraction of electrons by crystals.
 
1936
 
1935
SIR JAMES CHADWICK for the discovery of the neutron.
 
1934
The prize money was allocated to the Main Fund (1/3) and to the Special Fund (2/3) of this prize section.
 
1933
The prize was awarded jointly to ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER and PAUL ADRIEN MAURICE DIRAC for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory.
 
1932
WERNER HEISENBERG for the creation of quantum mechanics, the application of which has, inter alia, led to the discovery of the allotropic forms of hydrogen.
 
1931
The prize money was allocated to the Main Fund (1/3) and to the Special Fund (2/3) of this prize section.
 
1930
SIR CHANDRASEKHARA VENKATA RAMAN for his work on the scattering of light and for the discovery of the effect named after him.
 
1929
PRINCE LOUIS-VICTOR DE BROGLIE for his discovery of the wave nature of electrons.
 
1928
SIR OWEN WILLANS RICHARDSON for his work on the thermionic phenomenon and especially for the discovery of the law named after him.
 
1927
CHARLES THOMSON REES WILSON for his method of making the paths of electrically charged particles visible by condensation of vapour.
 
1926
JEAN BAPTISTE PERRIN for his work on the discontinuous structure of matter, and especially for his discovery of sedimentation equilibrium.
 
1925
The prize was awarded jointly to: JAMES FRANCK and GUSTAV HERTZ for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom.
 
1924
KARL MANNE GEORG SIEGBAHN for his discoveries and researchin the field of X-ray spectroscopy.
 
1923
ROBERT ANDREWS MILLIKAN for his work on the elementary charge of electricity and on the photoelectric effect.
 
1922
NIELS BOHR for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them.
 
1921
ALBERT EINSTEIN for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.
 
1920
CHARLES EDOUARD GUILLAUME in recognition of the service he has rendered to precision measurements in Physics by his discovery of anomalies in nickel steel alloys.
 
1919
JOHANNES STARK for his discovery of the Doppler effect in canal rays and the splitting of spectral lines in electric fields.
 
1918
MAX KARL ERNST LUDWIG PLANCK in recognition of the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta.
 
1917
CHARLES GLOVER BARKLA for his discovery of the characteristic Röntgen radiation of the elements.
 
1916
The prize money for 1916 was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section.
 
1915
The prize was awarded jointly to: SIR WILLIAM HENRY BRAGG and SIR WILLIAM LAWRENCE BRAGG for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.
 
1914
MAX VON LAUE for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals.
 
1913
HEIKE KAMERLINGH-ONNES for his investigations on the properties of matter at low temperatures which led, inter alia to the production of liquid helium.
 
1912
NILS GUSTAF DALÉN for his invention of automatic regulators for use in conjunction with gas accumulators for illuminating lighthouses and buoys.
 
1911
WILHELM WIEN for his discoveries regarding the laws governing the radiation of heat.
 
1910
JOHANNES DIDERIK VAN DER WAALS for his work on the equation of state for gases and liquids.
 
1909
The prize was awarded jointly to: GUGLIELMO MARCONI and CARL FERDINAND BRAUN in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy.
 
1908
GABRIEL LIPPMANN for his method of reproducing colors photographically based on the phenomenon of interference.
 
1907
ALBERT ABRAHAM MICHELSON for his optical precision instruments and the spectroscopic and metrological investigations carried out with their aid.
 
1906
SIR JOSEPH JOHN THOMSON in recognition of the great merits of his theoretical and experimental investigations on the conduction of electricity by gases.
 
1905
PHILIPP EDUARD ANTON LENARD for his work on cathode rays.
 
1904
LORD JOHN WILLIAM STRUTT RAYLEIGH for his investigations of the densities of the most important gases and for his discovery of argon in connection with these studies.
 
1903
The prize was divided, one half being awarded to: ANTOINE HENRI BECQUEREL in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity  the other half jointly to: PIERRE CURIE and MARIE CURIE, née SKLODOWSKA in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel.
 
1902
The prize was awarded jointly to: HENDRIK ANTOON LORENTZ and PIETER ZEEMAN in recognition of the extraordinary service they rendered by their researches into the influence of magnetism upon radiation phenomena.
 
1901
WILHELM CONRAD RÖNTGEN in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him.     
 

 

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