Saturday, December 20, 2008

REAL Science in the Capital

In 2007 I read Kim Stanley Robinson's "Science in the Capital" trilogy, Forty Signs of Rain (2004), Fifty Degrees Below (2005), and Sixty Days and Counting (2007). Set in the near future, they portray some dramatic effects of rapid climate change and the efforts of scientists at the National Science Foundation (and elsewhere) to solve these problems. These are political novels as much (or more than) science fiction, and I really enjoyed all three books. Robinson is best known for his Mars Trilogy, and while some of his characters are quirky, the science is well researched, and the portrayal of the scientists and their work seems very plausible. What seemed harder to believe in the dark depths of the Bush adminstration was the election of a president who takes science and scientists seriously.

Things are different now. President-elect Obama today announced the four top members of his science team, including Harvard physicist and environmental scientist Dr. John Holdren as presidential science advisor. Read or watch today's weekly address in which Mr. Obama describes the importance of science and technology and introduces his top science team. I was really encouraged by his remarks including these closing lines:
I am confident that if we recommit ourselves to discovery; if we support science education to create the next generation of scientists and engineers right here in America; if we have the vision to believe and invest in things unseen, then we can lead the world into a new future of peace and prosperity.

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