Monday, November 11, 2013

Geoscience -- Isolation and Intellectual Inbreeding

If you want to know everything that can go wrong with science, just look at Japan.  There, old mobsters rule, and any 'nail sticking out' gets hammered.  The same is now true with geoscience.

I'm really putting the blame on a general lack of money.  Under these conditions, everybody starts digging holes to cower in.  New people can't get tenure unless they completely kowtow to the old dinosaurs.  All major institutions have stifling PR departments.

Lots of money can cure this even without communication.  The science of seismic exploration has advanced by leaps and bounds, because of the rich rewards.  These guys would never communicate, but I'm sure there is a huge churn in employment, which amounts to the same thing.

Now, with this Internet thing becoming big and all, you would expect more mainline science bloggers, or participation in Google+,  but no, the number is actually shrinking.  No scientist could advance through the Byzantine corridors of power, by doing something as crass as communicating with the hoi polloi.  This can also be lumped into a genuine fear of taking a risk.

We had hoped that one day the USGS would arise from their tanning beds in California and take an active interest in Eastern earthquakes.  But I feel sorry for them, being a constant football in Congressional wars.  They do nothing leading-edge now, except uselessly mapping the zillion California faults.  The next big earthquake there will make its own new faults!

So, the modern world passes them by, while they become more and more like Japan.  What disaster will then befall them?  Oklahoma looks like a good one.  Maybe a big disaster will help them advance, but it didn't help Japan much.

So, the only true cross-fertilization comes from employment churn (non-existent), and corridor talk at the big conferences.  This is truly inefficient for the modern world.

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