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Flip Tanedo | USLHC | USA

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Supporting science at home and abroad

This Thanksgiving particle physicists have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which have been the exciting progress with collisions at the LHC.

Happy ATLAS Scientists

Happy ATLAS Scientists, Image from the ATLAS press release.

While images of happy LHC-ers made a big splash in the media, somewhat understated in the news was President Obama’s reaffirmation of his commitment to science and science education through the a new “Educate to Innovate” campaign whose goal is to make American science and mathematics education second to none. Here’s the video of the announcement (and the transcript):

[youtube 33_nZaOUWYw]

If I may interject some personal opinion, a concerted effort to elevate “STEM” (“science, technology, engineering, and math”) education in the US is as important (if not more so) to the sustained well-being of American science as the LHC. The president also made the key point that this is important not just for the sake of science itself, but also for the country as a whole:

The key to meeting these challenges — to improving our health and well-being, to harnessing clean energy, to protecting our security, and succeeding in the global economy — will be reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation.  And that leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today, especially in those fields that hold the promise of producing future innovations and innovators.  And that’s why education in math and science is so important.

The Educate to Innovate Campaign draws from the private and public sectors to find ways to promote science to kids. As someone who grew up watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, I was very pleased to see that many of these plans involve tying in science programming on television shows. Further, it was good to hear the president reaffirm the goal that we need to transform the culture of education in this country. He remarked that during his recent trip to Asia, he was impressed by the “hunger for knowledge” and “insistence on excellence” that formed the foundation of each students’ education.

Speaking of Asia, I would be remiss if I didn’t share another understated physics news item from this past week: the Institute for Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) is in danger of funding cuts from the newly elected Japanese government. For those that are not familiar, the IPMU was recently established to be a high-profile international center for research on the interface of physics and mathematics. It has great potential to act as a focus for theoretical physics in Japan that can connect physicists and mathematicians from all over the world. As reported by Sean at Cosmic Variance, funding cuts are looming ominously for IPMU and the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science is looking for input from scientists around the world. More information is available in an IPMU press release.

Earlier this year the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom provided a renewed funding grant to the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP) at Durham University, where I was fortunate to have been able to spend a year as a student. Hopefully IPMU will also be able to continue onwards even during tight economic times.

I know this is the US LHC blog, but the fact of the matter is that particle physics is very much an international effort. CERN itself was, in some sense, a precursor to the European Union and today scientists from around the world contribute to the forefront of particle physics research. Researchers at American universities hail from all over the world and academia flourishes in this environment of diverse backgrounds. And you know what? That’s part of what makes this line of work so much fun. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



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