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Thursday, 22 April 2010

Soapbox moment

The sell-out public lecture by Prof. Brian Cox at the University of Manchester last night went down a storm to a packed house of staff, students, schools and the general public. Questions ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, a small kid asking "why can we sometimes see the moon and the sun at the same time?" making a bit of light relief from some serious inquiries as to why the Higgs boson might have mass.
However, apart from a whirlwind tour of the Large Hadron Collider and the beautifully simple equation that describes how the three most important forces of nature work (gravity doesn't count), Brian was keen to discuss UK government funding for science in the run-up to next month's general election. Whilst as a BBC employee, he was not allowed to tell us who he would be voting for, he could impartially say that in relation to science funding budgets, the Lib Dems' manifesto is the most detailed, and that the proposed 1% increase in national insurance would produce revenue that could potentially triple science funding. This graphic from the Guardian was included in his slides to illustrate the current level of funding;

(The black circle top left is total UK research funding for sciences and humanities)

CERN meanwhile costs each British taxpayer £2.80 per year - very good value!