Saturday, July 02, 2005

Friday Random Ten (1 July 2005)

Science Haters Edition

It's planes, trains, and automobiles for me this weekend. I'm flying down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the wedding of one of my best friends from high school (trains as in wedding gowns). After bitching about how much I hated the weather in North Carolina, I can only imagine how miserable I'm gonna feel in Florida.

I picked up a copy of USA Today that was sitting around the Philadelphia airport. I don't regularly read McNews, but I thought I'd see what's inside.

Buried deep in Section A was an article entitled, "If Einstein was a genius, why didn't he cash in on it?" I figured I'd give it a shot, hoping to read about the intellectual satisfaction gained from a career in the pure sciences. Boy was I disappointed! The author, Joseph C. Priddle (the president of a digital medial company), paints a bleak picture of the financial rewards of a career in science. Here's a taste of what Mr. Priddle (who claims to have left rocket science to pursue a more lucrative career) has to say about science:
"And 100 years later [after Einstein published his papers in 1905], science is still a lousy profession. Why? Let me spell it out for you: m-o-n-e-y. Or lack of it."
. . .
"Being a scientist is a lousy job because we have no financial incentives."
. . .
"Want to be a scientist? Do the math first. Shaquille O'Neal made $27.6 million this year playing in the NBA. He played for 2,492 minutes. That's $11,000 per minute. Labor statistics show that the average starting salary for a graduate with a master's degree in chemistry is about $45K annually. Let me help: That equals 38 cents a minute."
Of course, that fails to take into account all of the time Shaq spends practicing (not quite enough of it spent on free throws, but we can excuse him for that). A professional athlete spends more time practicing with his team, working out, and meeting with his team and coaches than he does on actual games. Saying Shaq gets so much money per minute of actual game time, or A-Rod gets too much cash per at bat doesn't do justice to the amount of work these guys put in behind the scenes. That being said, professional athletes are still a bunch of overpaid, over-pampered babies.

I don't know a single person who applied to grad school with the goal of making money. Not everyone views monetary compensation as the equivalent of success. Some of us enjoy the discovery, creativity, and intellectual gymnastics involved in scientific pursuit. I'm sure Mr. Prindle didn't find science rewarding, but that doesn't mean everybody needs cash rewards to feel accomplished.

I feel kinda bad being totally negative; Prindle does make a good point about our nation's half-hearted commitment to science:
"We as a nation give lip service to science, not cash. There is a double standard that people in science should be above capitalism. If we invent a cure for cancer, we should give it away for free. If we discover a renewable energy source, we should post it on the Internet.'
It's kinda like the difference between communists and capitalists. I'm all for open source, open access, and sharing data. When people take financial ownership of their research they impede the progress of science.

Without further socio-economic comments, here is this week's Friday Random Ten:
  1. Goldfinger - Vintage Queen
  2. Green Day - Brain Stew
  3. U.S. Bombs - War Birth
  4. Union 13 - Manipulation, Globalist Deeds
  5. Specials - Farmyard Connection
  6. 311 - Sick Tight
  7. Tilt - Viewers Like You
  8. Mike Ness - Ballad of a Lonely Man
  9. Jimmy Cliff - Pressure Drop
  10. Lagwagon - Today


At 10:14 AM, Blogger kstrna said...

There is something else to be said for professional athletes, they are not just the labor force; they are also the product that is being sold to us the public which naturally increases the value of such athletes.

Also, a society might not want to have a lot of scientists. What people in power want to have tons of other people trained to ask questions, to challenge preconceived notions/authority, to back up such questions & challenges with facts? In many respects, science is a built in revolutionary engine within society as it challenges the notions we humans have of ourselves and the universe.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the comparison to Shaq is at all pertinent. Afterall, MOST people aren't in a position to chose between "career in science for 38 cents a minute" versus a career as a Shaq-esque professional athlete.


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