… will they listen?
City AM is a London free paper addressed to the business community. I don’t usually read the business pages of the papers, and this free sheet confirms my prejudices. The vast majority of its content consists of tips for people who gamble on the stock market, and most of the advertisements encourage people to do so – they even use the term “spread betting”.
Two days ago, there was something rather different: an article by Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, arguing for academic freedom against government restrictions such as impact in the REF. His two case studies are:
- Andrei Geim and Kostya Novoselov, Nobel laureates in Physics for the discovery of graphene; they are Russians (who might not be welcome here under current UKBA rules), and the crucial experiment was done with a roll of Sellotape.
- C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, “old-style Oxford dons who would feel disaffected aliens in today’s world of line management and the audit culture”, who generated extremely valuable intellectual property.
You can read the article here. But I do wonder what the gamblers (sorry, investors) who read the paper would have made of an experiment done with Sellotape or a 1200-page fantasy by an unknown Oxford don.
According to the article, Martin Rees has a book “published by the think-tank Politeia”. I know nothing about this organisation, but I am slightly worried that a book published by a think-tank is easier for unbelievers to ignore.
The day before, Rosemary had returned from Athens, Georgia. The British press carried accounts of American congressman Paul Broun, who, despite being on the House Space, Science and Technology committee, described evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang as “lies straight from the pit of hell … to try to keep me and the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior”. (In fact, his savior had some hard words to say about hypocrisy – but let’s ignore that.) Now Athens is in his electoral district, and the Athens Banner-Herald reports that a certain Charles Darwin has been nominated to stand against Broun. Because of some problems (including the fact that the nomination went in too late), Darwin cannot actually stand in the election; but there is a Facebook page where voters can register their preferences. The article is here.
Yesterday also brought an email from the European Mathematical Society inviting me to sign a petition to the European heads of state and government, encouraging them to support science, to regard the present economic crisis as an opportunity. If you are interested, the petition is here. (However, the petition does trouble me: you are allowed to call yourself a “citizen”, but you must have an “institution” or your signature is not valid.)
I happen to think that science is important, and that it can be damaged by insensitive bureaucracy, religious bigotry, and political indifference. But how to persuade the politicians?