The only way Britain can get out of the economic crisis is to invest in the development of new technology, according to Simon Singh, one of Britain’s most respected science writers.
Simon Singh said that the study of pure science was hugely beneficial to the economy and urged the government to make the country ‘world leaders’ in green technology.
‘The only way we’re going to get out of this is investment,’ he said. ‘We could be world leaders in tidal energy research, wind power, solar cell technology. These are areas where someone is going to lead the way.’
Speaking to an audience at the Hay Festival in Thiruvananthapuram, the author of Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Big Bang explained why government investment in scientific research could be justified at a time of economic turmoil.
‘Pure science pays back,’ he said, citing the example of the creation of the internet at the CERN particle physics research laboratory by British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee in the early 1990s.
Originally it had just been a way of helping scientists around the world communicate better, he said. ‘Decades later it’s changed culture, society and made economies more efficient.’
New medical scanning techniques to help pregnant women were developed from sensors built to look for minute particles in the same lab, he said. Yet the cost of building the £6 billion facility was equivalent to the whole population of Europe buying a single pint of beer each.
‘Can you justify the cost of research?’ he asked. ‘Yes you can. We’re humans. We’re creative, we’re curious. We have to continue to answer these questions. We also have to treat it well for society.
‘A lot of kids get excited by this (cosmology),’ he said. After doing research at Cambridge, Singh said he had gone into writing, while his colleagues had gone into engineering and banking, all of them contributing to the economy.
He cited figures that suggested that a graduate with a physics, engineering or computing degree was likely to earn on average 50 per cent more than other degree holders over their lifetime.
‘These people at college are going off and adding to the GDP of the country.’
Singh praised David Cameron and his ministers for not slashing government money spent on science research by as much as had been expected.
‘It’s still a 10 per cent cut over five years,’ he warned.
During his hour long talk about the Big Bang, Singh also suggested that Professor Stephen Hawking may never win a Nobel Prize for science because his ideas on black holes have still yet to be proven.
During his presentation Singh sketched out the major developments that led scientists to conclude that the universe had probably started from a single point, rather than exisiting forever in a ‘steady state’.
To illustrate one point he played the Led Zeppelin song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ backwards to show the audience that if they listened hard enough it contained lyrics relating to the Devil, including the line ‘There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan’.
He aso disclosed that the pop star Katie Melua had rerecorded a song specially for him after he publicly criticised her when the original version contained scientific inaccuracies, including the claim that the age of the universe was 12 billion years, and even that was ‘a guess’.
13 billion years was the correct age, Singh said.
In one humorous moment he also explained a mathematical formula he had devised that he said proved the Teletubbies television show was ‘evil’.
The above article is sourced from ‘The Telegraph‘