McCain’s War on Science Literacy

Posted by Michael Pinto on Oct 9, 2008 in Science |

This is not a mere overhead projector!

When I started this blog I made it a point not to be overly political, unless it was something that touched on an issue that would be sacred to my fellow fanboys and fangurls. And as all of you know for the last thirty or so years funding for causes like NASA, science research and education has been devastated by both parties. In fact since the 80s we’ve watched space shuttles blow up not once, but twice.

The last time this nation seriously cared about both science and education was at the height of the Cold War — and in a sense Sputnik did more to help America than anything else. Yet we’ve gone from willful neglect to a harsh contempt of science in our nation. I know in my heart the next Sputnik will change that, and that may be gas hitting $20 a gallon or watching China land on the moon while we need the Russians to visit an orbiting space station.

Sadly I’ve watched the Republicans become the party of anti-science these last few years, and this is even more pathetic when you realize that President Dwight D. Eisenhower put NASA in business in the first place. Recently I’ve been upset by the choice of Sarah Palin — it’s abominable that the daughter of a science teacher lacks the sophistication to believe that the concepts of God and evolution are some how exclusive of each other. But Tuesday hit a low point when Senator McCain dug into Senator Obama over an “$3 million [earmark] for an overhead projector”. That overhead projector is the central projection unit for a planetarium — which is vital if we want to teach the next generation of kids about science:

Obama’s Planetarium Projector Earmark Explained

“McCain’s phrase suggests Obama spent $3 million on an old-fashioned piece of office equipment that projects charts and text on a wall screen. In fact, the money was for an overhaul of the theater system that projects images of stars and planets for educational shows at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. When he announced the $3 million earmark last year, Obama said the planetarium’s 40-year-old projection system “has begun to fail, leaving the theater dark and groups of school students and other interested museum-goers without this very valuable and exciting learning experience.”

To clarify, the Adler Planetarium requested federal support – which was not funded – to replace the projector in its historic Sky Theater, the first planetarium theater in the Western Hemisphere. 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 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.”

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