Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Brown in space

Science in India has to some extent a reputation for lassitude. Mind you, not Indian scientists, but institutional Indian scientific culture. So what explain's the space program? From India, Proof That a Trip to Mars Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank:

While India’s recent launch of a spacecraft to Mars was a remarkable feat in its own right, it is the $75 million mission’s thrifty approach to time, money and materials that is getting attention. Just days after the launch of India’s Mangalyaan satellite, NASA sent off its own Mars mission, five years in the making, named Maven. Its cost: $671 million. The budget of India’s Mars mission, by contrast, was just three-quarters of the $100 million that Hollywood spent on last year’s space-based hit, “Gravity.”

My explanation is simple: national pride and motivation to do something that matters. Soviet science did great things too, when it could motivate people. The issue in places like Italy and India is to incentivize this sort of productivity in their general scientific cultures.


  1. Italy? It has 1000 years of scientific temper and culture. We have what, 100, tops?

  2. I pressed return too quickly, but I wish to continue. Having some experience in running large engineering projects out of India (not software), detailed engineering design projects can be run our of India at a cost reduction of 33-50% tops. As an example, design of Qatar LNG trains 2/3/4 out of Delhi can bring about 27% reduction in costs. I am very doubtful about 10 fold cost reduction, possibly government is swallowing the fixed costs. Next, is the question: "Is it science"? I do not believe so. It is Purely an engineering project with a Data acquisition overlay.

    I am doubtful of doing a BGI kind of "Scientific" project in India with a large cost reduction. I think the scientific skills of Indian graduates is weak, but do not have sufficient experience in that area. Almost all the vaccine and pharmaceutical projects are reverse engineering.

  3. ^^Almost all the vaccine and pharmaceutical projects are reverse engineering..."

    South Korea was a dirt poor country in 1950. Over the last 60 years, it has rapidly developed into a country with a strong, deep and diverse industrial base and which is now considered a part of the OECD club.

    Can you name me ONE SINGLE thing that has been invented or discovered or innovated in Korea? Isn't everything in Korea either licensed or reverse engineered?

    Has Korea developed a new miracle drug? Has Korea developed a break-through vaccine? Has Korea revolutionized the Washing-Machine industry? Is there something innovative about Korean flat-screen TVs? Yes, Japan had its "Walk-Man" moment in the 1980s, but has Korea ever had any such moment?

    When you look at the Korea pop-culture (movies, music, art, fashion), do you see ANYTHING vastly original even there? Or is it just a copy of everything American?

    LESSON: Developing countries do NOT need to "invent" anything in order to come out of poverty via industrialization and becomes prosperous societies. It is simply a catch-up process and requires very little extraordinary creativity. Let the US do all the hard work of inventing, the rest can just absorb the innovation and boost production/productivity to raise living standards.

  4. Ah.... India. the land that invented Zero and has NOTHING to be proud of.

    But in fact, India began launching sounding rockets in 1963, the Indian Space Research Organization has been around since 1969, Indian satellites have been in orbt since 1975, and Indian launchers have been placing objects in space since 1975 or so. That's quite a respectable history -- one with accomplishments rather than just aspirations.

    Be proud, guys and gals. India's earned it.