Jim Simons funds RHIC

January 16, 2006 at 4:56 pm | Posted in Math / Physics, Political Economy | Leave a comment

Via Peter Woit. Simons (of Chern-Simons fame) is an amazing story alone, mathematicians branching out successfully into commercial endeavors aren’t all that common; and his funds are more than successful, they look to be as wrapped up in the world economy as LTCM (more via Steve Hsu).

RHIC needing a billionaire to bail it out financially is pretty sad, though; such a small amount of money in such a huge budget…but even more, it makes clear that basic research and particularly physics has such a lack of mindshare with those with political clout. I think this might be at least one reason behind the unusually strong focus on string theory in the US: quite apart from any scientific issues, without a highly visible and unified effort that can capture the imaginations of voters or at least policymakers, institutional funding for theoretical physics seems to be shaky at best.

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