As an economics and political science major, my take on scientific news and events will be more geared towards the implications of the discovery in terms of policy. Science in today’s world and global economy, especially here in the United States, is increasingly important to consider when making policy choices. The more we research, the more we strip away our ignorance of the impact past practices have had on the environment and on ourselves. Things like global warming, automobile emissions, dwindling oil reserves, improvements in the fields of genetics and alternative energies all make the number of factors to consider when making a choice exponentially larger. New questions arrive (such as the ethics behind stem cell research and cloning), and solutions are found to existing problems (such as new cures for diseases).
Thus, the importance of new breakthroughs in various fields of science is perhaps more important now than it ever has been, both to the average individual and to the policy maker in government. In light of the recent economic meltdown, concerns over foreign energy dependence, and the results of the election, one of the biggest elements of Obama’s economic plan involves creating jobs in the sector of renewable energy. It was one of the most hotly debated points over the course of the campaign (investment in renewable energy versus offshore drilling for oil). The main idea behind this plan is twofold – one, by investing in a more permanent solution to our energy problem, we will avoid having to invest in new energy sources later; by investing in offshore drilling, we just prolong the inevitable need to switch. Two, a large increase in industry size in the energy sector would produce those much needed domestic jobs to keep US citizens employed and strengthen the weakening economy. The important factor to consider here is if our renewable energy technologies are efficient and cost effective enough at this point to justify current investment. So far, the breakthroughs in the field of photovoltaic cells (the energy units used to gather solar energy) along with wind energy and tidal energy have been snowballing – further investment into both research and industry can only further such results. Some of the most notable, recent achievements: using butterfly wings to create highly efficient solar panels, and a new, simple, inexpensive way to store solar energy discovered by MIT last year . I will talk more about this in other postings.