Is Big Science Worth the Price Tag?

The LHC has an annual operating cost of about $1 billion shared among over 30 countries. Thus the entire humanity is spending $1 billion to advance its curiosity-driven knowledge. How does this compare with some other costs? We, in the US alone, annually pay

  • $7 billion in ATM fees;
  • $12 billion in traffic tickets;
  • $29 billion on candy;
  • $31 billion on lottery tickets;
  • $44 billion on tobacco;
  • $50 billion on alcohol;
  • $49 billion on credit card interest;
  • $69 billion at the casinos;
  • $76 billion on soda;
  • $146 billion in wasted energy;
  • $165 billion in wasted food;
  • $34 billion on alternative medicine;
  • $82.5 billion on religion;
  • $300 billion on obesity.
Click on the thumbnail to see the enlarged graph.

The infographic on the right shows how 120,770,000 American consumers spend their money annually. It is – in its own right – an informative testimony to the American lifestyle. (N.B. I have taken it from here, which in turn is based on the data collected by the United States Bureau of Labor Statics.)

The entertainment sector is highlighted because it is a good chunk of the total expenditure and is not as essential as some other sectors. It is broken up into four categories, the first two of which are basically movies and television. The total of these two categories is $1666 per consumer, or over $200 billion per year. My intention is not to exclude entertainment from the life of a consumer. Going to an orchestra to hear a good piece of music, or to a theater to see a good play is an important part of being human. But those are not where the $200 billion go. Considering the popularity of shows like The Duck Dynasty and The Walking Dead, it is safe to say that most of the $200 billion are spent on mindless entertainment. Just to be on the safe side and to allow for some decent pleasure, let’s add just three quarters of $200 billion or $150 billion to the list above to get a total of over $1.24 trillion! So, if our entire race annually spends less that 0.08% of the money that we in the US alone waste in a year, should we really complain?

The grumbling scientist should fight the ignorance that wastes $1.24 trillion a year rather than the pursuit of Homo sapiens curiosity-based knowledge that requires a mere $1 billion a year.

Perhaps an institutionalized scientific entity is needed whose primary task is to fight ignorance of the type listed above not only directly, but more importantly indirectly by effectively and convincingly exposing the pernicious pseudoscience and anti-science of powerful people like Deepak Chopra, Food Babe, and Vandana Shiva.

One thought on “Is Big Science Worth the Price Tag?”

  1. Well said, my friend. Well said. It is important that we continue to pursue scientific endeavors, not only through the research performed within the confines of the Large Hadron Collider, but everywhere, in the classroom, in the field, and in your garage. Science is, the only means in which we can successfully arrive in the future which we have long fantasied.

    – Jor

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