Thursday, 8 November 2018

Scientists in da house

The internet is awash with commentary on the car crash that is American politics right now, thanks to its embarrassing and dangerous clown-president.  There have just been mid-term elections there, and I saw some election news at least relevant to this blog;  that there are eight new scientists elected to the US Congress.  One, Elaine Luria, is a nuclear engineer, having majored in Physics and History at the US Naval Academy.  That's her picture, taken from her official campaign website, at the top of the post.

The US congressman–scientist closest, though, to nuclear physics (as opposed to nuclear engineering) is probably Bill Foster, whose 1983 PhD from Harvard was on the experimental limit of proton decay via the reaction p →e+0.  He then went on to a career at Fermilab where, among other things, he was a member of one of the experimental collaborations which observed the top quark and is a coauthor of the discovery paper.

I don't think scientists necessarily make better politicians than those of any other particular background, but having a good range of different sensible backgrounds in any parliament seems like a good idea to me.  I don't know if there's an up-to-date list of scientists in the UK House of Commons, but I do recall a few years ago some clamour at the lack of those with science backgrounds in parliament compared with those with a background in other fields.  Here is one commentary by Mark Henderson suggesting that there was only really one scientist (who had worked in science as opposed to having a degree in science and going into some other career) in parliament in 2012.  This may be an extreme way of measuring, but even counting those with science degrees puts them at a much smaller proportion in parliament than in the graduate population at large.

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