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Planetarium dissed by McCain refutes debate remarks

Posted Oct 10 2008 2:07pm

The first planetarium in the Western hemisphere, the Adler, took exception to it being used as an illustration of government waste in comments made by Republican presidential candidate John McCain during the Oct. 7 presidential debate. 

When expressing opposition to earmarks, McCain said: “While we were working to eliminate these pork barrel earmarks he [Senator Obama] voted for nearly $1 billion in pork barrel earmark projects. Including $3 million for an overhead projector at a planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. My friends, do we need to spend that kind of money?” 

The Adlerissued a statement to clarify that thePlanetarium made an unsuccessful request to several legislators for federal support to replace the projector in the 78-year-old public facility’s Sky Theater. The projector had been replaced just once before, in 1969. “Science literacy is an urgent issue in the United States. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”Statement from Adler Planetarium in Chicago in response to a remark by Sen. John McCain 

“The Adler’s Zeiss Mark VI projector – not an overhead projector – is the instrument that re-creates the night sky in a dome theater, the quintessential planetarium experience,” the organization said in a written statement. “The Adler’s projector is nearly 40 years old and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It is only the second planetarium projector in the Adler’s 78 years of operation.” 

While it acknowledged receiving “a few” federal appropriations in the past for exhibitions, equipment and education programs offered to Chicago Public Schools, the Adler said it “has never received an earmark as a result of Senator Obama's efforts” and that transparency laws enacted by Congress bear this out. 

Joining others in defending the role of science and lamenting the recent decline in government and political support for scientific advancement, the Adler stated:  

“Science literacy is an urgent issue in the United States. To remain competitive and ensure national security, it is vital that we educate and inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”  

The planetarium was founded and funded in 1928 by Max Adler, a businessman affiliated with Sears, Roebuck and Company, and opened its doors in 1930. 

On Sept. 26, a week before the last debate,Jonathan David Farley, a professor in the department of mathematics at the California Institute of Technology, and defender of science, wrote in the SacramentoBee:

“Not all science needs to have a purpose. The nature of humans is that, sometimes, they simply want to know. Everything else is just a bonus.”

“If we land a man on Mars 40 years from now, it won't be the result of some Navy pilot in 2048 having the right stuff. It will be because some 10-year-old kid in Chicago or the Czech Republic looked up at a circular dome one day in 2018 and saw an image of God touching the hand of Adam: the stars, like dust.”-- Jonathan David Farley, Mathematics Professor, California Institute of Technology  

Farley’s take is that supporters of both major candidates, if not the candidates personally, have exchanged barbs about spending for science projects and are sending the message that ‘"Science is stoopid" and not worth supporting.

Farley reminds us: “Srinivasa Ramanujan and Albert Einstein, the two scientific geniuses of the 20th century, made their earliest discoveries while working as clerks, not as professors working on taxpayer-funded projects; but why risk, in the 21st century, that some diamond might remain forever unearthed for want of a government grant?”

 

 

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