[Noisebridge-discuss] Sigh -- I'm not helping with Maker Faires this year.

Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson mik at math.stanford.edu
Sun Apr 8 22:25:10 UTC 2012

On Apr 5, 2012, at 8:02 AM, Rachel McConnell wrote:
> This discussion requires more Internet-speak!  Simplifying things a bit, 
> we have two camps:
> Both of these are actually pretty much true.  But why is it that so much 
> of the cool shit is funded by the military?  Why isn't some other branch 
> of government educating the children about math and science, maybe, oh 
> THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.  We do not even have a Department of 
> Research.  Maybe the other DOE, Energy?  They should fund more research! 
> NIST would be a good option too.  Someone tell Congress.
> I want to live in a world where the military is not so big and rich, and 
> does not have its finger in so many otherwise nourishing pies.  I 
> believe that boycotting DARPA money is a tiny, tiny step in that 
> direction.  I applaud Mitch for taking it.

One more side of the discussion worth weathering is one I have personal experience with. There are a number of grant administrators at DARPA and at the armed forces research institutes -- ONR, AFOSR et.c. -- that have a strong bias towards funding projects that at the very least do not immediately feed into newer and bigger guns.

My own presence in the Bay area is a direct result of ONR -- the Office of Naval Research -- funding research into topological data analysis as a potential way to deal with big data. All our research is made publicly available, and also happens to potentially help ONR build better radars somewhere down the line.

To me, the project with Make sounds very much like one of these projects: one can motivate funding a project into teaching kids about small-scale 3d manufacture towards DARPA as a way to guarantee future expertise and competence into manufacture and robotics in the US; and it ALSO has the effect of doing awesome things to kids.

I applaud Mitch for taking the stance he does.
Were I still in the Bay, however, I would not view DARPA as a reason for me to withdraw from the Maker faire.

Mikael Vejdemo-Johansson, Dr.rer.nat.
Postdoctoral Researcher
mik at math.stanford.edu

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