The development of MP3 technologies illustrates the unexpected benefits of basic research. In 1965, a hand-sized storage and playback device that would hold 15,000 recorded songs was the stuff of science fiction. Even simple hand-held calculators were rare and expensive at that time. Research funded by the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology contributed to the breakthrough technologies of magnetic storage drives, lithium-ion batteries, and the liquid crystal display, which came together in the development of MP3 devices. The device itself is innovative, but it built upon a broad platform of component technologies, each derived from fundamental studies in physical science, mathematics, and engineering.Read more...
As Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Newton was not alone on those shoulders. Everyone in science, from his day to ours, draws on the work of others.
Science is all about the flow of knowledge: New methods, instruments, techniques, concepts, results, questions, data, etc. The flows are endless, complex and in all directions. It is rightly called a diffusion process. This concept is reflected in a host of statutes that form the legislative basis for OSTI.
Often the Knowledge Scientists Need Resides in Distant Communities
Nor do we depend just on the work of giants. We also depend on our colleagues down the hall, or at another lab, as well as a myriad of other researchers we do not know.
According to the National Science Foundation, there are over 2.5 million research workers worldwide, with more than 1.2 million in the U.S. alone.1 If we look at all the articles, reports, emails and conversations that pass between them, we could count billions of knowledge transactions every year. This incredible diffusion of knowledge is the very fabric of science.
Given that the diffusion of knowledge is central to science, it behooves us to see if we can accelerate it. We note that diffusion takes time. Sometimes it takes a long time. Every diffusion process has a speed. Our thesis is that speeding up diffusion will accelerate the advancement of science....Read more...