War on Science? Not at the Pentagon

The Republican War on Science is well documented. The fact that America's national security is endangered by that war is certainly less widely. The Pentagon has seen a dwindling in interest in science and of scientific expertise - both vital for our military - and has taken some unorthodox steps to preserve our scientific leadership.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

the triumvirate of Messrs. Gundersen, Barker, and Singer is serious about getting science - and scientific heroes - into the movies. In fact, they see it as vital to the health of American technological prowess, to say nothing of national security.

So what they've done for the past three years is convene a three-to-five-day screenwriting class at the venerated American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Called the Catalyst Workshop, it's a lot like other screenwriting classes that have become a cottage industry across the nation. But here's the twist - all participants in this one are actually scientists. Hardcore, PhD-laden, lab-certified scientists. Here's the second twist - the training was all paid for by the Pentagon.

These screenwriting classes are indeed your Department of Defense tax dollars at work. Egregious example of DOD waste? Some bizarre recruiting promise? The cinematic equivalent of $700 toilet seats? Actually, it's the Pentagon's way of trying to enhance the nation's science-and-technology adroitness.


America, it turns out, is suffering from a science and engineering shortage. Students are bypassing the sciences for sexier and more lucrative jobs in law, venture capital, and competitions to be on "American Idol." That means, in addition to national deficits in sleep, fitness, and the federal budget, we have a dearth of particle physicists and electromechanical engineers.
If the Pentagon says we're short on scientists, I'm inclined to believe them. When it comes to engineers, I know we're short on them from personal experience.

I graduated with a degree in Architecture got a good job making a decent salary. Friends of mine, graduating from the same university at the same time with engineering degrees were recruited by multiple companies, and easily make twice as much as I do.

The law of supply and demand doesn't lie.

And, I suppose, it was my choice to pick the sexy profession (architecture) that cost me the money. I never really thought of architecture as sexy, but it really kind of is. Have you ever noticed how many commercials for things completely unrelated to architecture have (physically attractive) architects in high-rise offices with big glass windows locking out over cities? Maybe it's just me...

And being a mechanical engineer is definitely un-sexy. It's like the old joke says: "How can you tell the difference between and architect and an engineer? - The architect's clothes match." The stereotypes aren't flattering.

Anyway, back to the point.

The Republican Party has allowed certain internal elements and interests to degrade science in general (and science education in particular) to such a degree that the Pentagon is sponsoring scientists' screen plays.

Think about that.

I don't think it's a bad idea. It's a sort of 'under the radar' P.R. campaign for science, something many other areas of study and/or professions use all the time.

Of course a sound education and more affordable college educations might be a better way to get similar results...

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