Antarctic researchers whine about shutdown — But what do taxpayers get out of nonsense research anyway?

The New York Times reports:

Joseph Levy was preparing for a season of scientific research in Antarctica last week when he got the call: Stand down.

Dr. Levy, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, is studying the climate history of the dry valleys of Antarctica by analyzing buried ice sheets that have been frozen since the last ice age and are beginning to thaw.

The research season in Antarctica typically starts around now, when things warm up enough to be merely frigid and scientists from around the world flock far south to conduct studies that affect our understanding of climate change, volcanoes, the family life of Weddell seals and much more. But with the United States government partly shut down, federally financed research has come to a halt for Dr. Levy and hundreds of other Americans. Even if a budget deal is struck, these scientists will have less time on the ice, and some will lose a full year’s worth of work as the narrow window of productive time closes.

“It’s like a biography of the earth with a couple of pages in the middle torn out,” Dr. Levy said. “Nature will have taken its course, and we will have not been there to see it.”

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  1. Dr. Levy said. “Nature will have taken its course, and we will have not been there to see it.” Of the previous 4,540,000,000 years man was not around to observe all but the last vanishingly small and meaningless fraction – so it’s not going to make a scrap of difference.

  2. Despite our brief time on the planet we have had an enormous impact on it. If we want to extend that time to the length the dinosaurs managed we should probably try and monitor how an advanced industrial society (NEVER before seen on the planet) affects the thing we live on. Ignoring it is fine if you’re not concerned about the way we leave the planet to our children and grandchildren. I think most of us are – I imagine you are if you’re honest. As far as the cost of the Antarctic science – very small compared to other arms of Government. It’s not the cost – it’s the fact this political scenario has impacted on important science data. Remember the ozone hole – discovered thanks to long-term data gathered by scientists in the field on the Antarctic continent. I don’t think scientists are whining – I think they are furious at the waste – stopping the program will not have saved money – it will probably cost more to get it going again, and yet all that data will have been lost.

  3. unless they turned off the computers (they didn’t) the data is STILL being collected. Just because the human monitors got sent home (did they? Don’t know) doesn’t mean it all came to a crashing halt.


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