1. The Myth of Linear Science

    Matt Ridley, author of "The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves" has caused a small stir with a Wall Street Journal article arguing, among other things, that scientific research does not drive technological innovation and therefore should have less public funding. Not surprisingly, basic scientists are unimpressed. Here is a rebuttal by theoretical physicist and blogger Sabine Hossenfelder.

    There is some editorial click-baiting at work here. Ridley's article bears the headline "The Myth of Basic Science", but his main point is about innovation. He argues it is a spontaneous and largely autonomous process where lots of nameless people drive technology forward every day by solving real world problems thrown up by the existing technological world. In this view, lone geniuses are not very important but neither is there a predictable linear process where scientific results get turned into new technologies.

    But Ridley's dig at fundamental science is real. I think his argument is that:

    1. Technology moves forward spontaneously by real-world tinkering.

    2. In the processes, it throws up scientific insights; e.g. 18th & 19th century physicists had to learn from, but did not teach, steam engineers about thermodynamics.

    3. When it needs to, industry will fund whatever fundamental research that is actually useful ...

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