## Career in finance

 Quote by Moppy Which country is this?
It's happening everywhere.

One thing that I find cool about finance is that it's global. The world is sufficiently interconnected so that you just can't think of countries as separate entities. If the US tightens regulations, and the UK doesn't, then everything will just move to the UK.

However, the notion that more regulation is necessary and that bankers need to be put on a tight leash is global. In 2005, if the US regulators were putting in too many rules, then you can threaten to move to UK and vice versa. This doesn't work any more because the regulators are putting together a united front through the Basel Committee. Since the regulators are coordinating with each other, then if the FED orders you to do something, you'll likely find that the SFC in London will order you to do the same thing.

The fact that the regulators are coordinating with each other is something that is very new.

Now there are still a few country-specific quirks (for example the US seems obsessed with gambling and Iran, and the fact that the UK doesn't want to lose control of London to the French and the Germans), but those are minor in the grand scheme of things.

 Quote by StatGuy2000 That is not an excuse in 2012 with the existence of Google.
It actually is. The trouble with google is that you have too *much* information, and a lot of that information is questionable. There's also the problem of getting the right information, and the problem that a surprising about of information isn't public.

 Now as for your point regarding universities, I think it is preferable for universities to simply say "caveat emptor" rather than give bad advice which would have negative consequences to the students involved.
What about giving good advice? The trouble with having universities just say "it's not our job to give advice" is that at that point people wonder why universities are being funded at all. Also, if it's not the universities job, then whose job is it? Maybe google. OK, but if we can't trust Harvard then why should we trust Google? Suppose Google changes it's search algorithm to supress information that's unfavorable to Google. How would we even know that that happened?

 It is also worth keeping in mind that universities serve at least two functions: (1) to provide the student with further education to expand their horizons, and (2) to provide skills and training to prepare them for the workforce. Functions (1) and (2) are competing interests that can at times work in cross-purposes, as you are no doubt aware.
That's not the problem. The problem is with goal (3). Universities have as one goal the goal of making money and keeping professors employed. Now, I don't have problems with an institution being "selfish". I do have a problem with "selfish" institutions not paying taxes, and one reason that non-profit universities get away with not paying taxes is that supposedly they are working for the public good.

 Further, students technically do not pay the university for advice, they pay for the privilege of being provided an advanced education. Whether that investment is actually worth it for the student is an important matter of debate.
Sorry. This won't work. It's the person that pays the money that determines what they money is being paid for. Also, it *shouldn't* be a matter for debate. If the university takes the students money (either directly or indirectly through taxes), and it's not provide economic growth, then people will ask *why are we paying this money*?

Right now, university budgets are getting cut. Personally, I think that's a horrible thing, and it's going to kill the US economy in the long term. Telling people, "our job is not economic growth" is just going to get your budgets slashed even more.

 I often wonder to myself if some of these students may well be better off to pursue more vocational or technical training, through community colleges and the like.
I don't think so. There is this myth of the "happy plumber" which I've seen. I'd actually like to *meet* a happy plumber in the United States. It also doesn't give me a lot of confidence that for-profit vo-tech institutions lie even more egregiously than non-profit universities.

One issue is that people go to universities because a universitiy degree provides "social capital." There is a stigma associated with vocational training in the United States and to change that you really need to change a lot of society. There's the other issue that one additional job of universities is "young adult daycare." Universities provide things like medical services and a buffer to law enforcement, so that you can learn how to handle sex and alcohol. Vo-tech institutions don't do this.

Also, MIT is interesting because MIT is basically a vocational school with powerful friends.

 I actually think that such a skeptical approach to authority in general is healthy for a liberal democracy, as it is through this very questioning that changes and reforms take place
The trouble with skepticism is that it can go too far into just giving up on the institutions. Also, there is no reason to think that "liberal democracy" will win. It's a disturbing fact that some of the fastest growing economies are not liberal democracies. In both China and Singapore, people are extremely skeptical of liberal democracies. Something that is interesting is that if you look at peoples perceptions of China, young people have much higher approval of China than old people. It's actually quite disturbing if you think about the long term consequences.

China is just flooding money into science, and I think that this is going to benefit the Chinese economy over the next several decades. The US isn't and that is going to kill the US economy. Now let's go to 2030. Suppose China has planted it's flag on Mars, it has a high speed railroad system, and the US is *still* in the dumps. At that point, people might just think that it's better for the US to be a one party state.

Also, one issue with liberal democracies is that a lot of the arguments are "fake." Suppose you think that universities stink. If they have lobbyists and you don't, then it doesn't matter what you think.

 At the very least, I would hope that such questioning will serve as a means for reforms to the way education in general, including higher education, is being delivered to the American public.
If you want something done, you don't ask questions. You organize and hold protests, and think about where the money comes from. One thing that I realized pretty early was that if you don't have money, then no one cares what you think.

Don't hope. Hope gets you nowhere. Act. If I politely question authority, then my suggestions will be given over to a committee and forgotten. If I have a check for $100,000 in my hand, and I have friends with checks with$100,000, then suddenly people aren't talking about committees any more.

 Here I agree with you -- the US does not spend enough on science and technology, at least in comparison to its share of GDP (although this is hardly an issue that is unique to the US -- here in Canada where I live, researchers often have to make do with the most limited forms of funding, and I'm always quite amazed at how much they are able to punch well above their weight given the limitations involved).
And China is flooding money into science and technology.
 As much as we as scientists like to pretend, because it's in our interests to do so, there isn't much connectionn between GDP growth and science spending. There are two reasons for this. First, research with direct economic value is done anyway by the market. And second, basic research doesn't work unless it's published, so it doesn't give anyone an advantage they can stop other people getting. China has been growing a lot in the past few years because it started at a level of extreme poverty with terrible institutions, and now has only quite bad institutions. It will grow rapidly until its productive capacity reaches the equibilibrium level of its institutions, at which point growth tends back to the 1-2% rate of technological improvement. This already happened in Hong Kong, which is poorer than the US, and has better institutions than the PRC is ever likely to adopt on the mainland. Moon bases and high speed trains are the equivalent of the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony - a signal you've arrived, and a symptom of wealth rather than a cause. A bit off-topic maybe, but I think people would see the career aspect of getting a physics PhD in a more realistic light if they accept that they are essentially being given cash to play with some cool toys by the taxpayer, for little more reason than the government and the public feel that science is something that ought to get done. Not because they'll suffer greatly if it doesn't, like if all the engineers and doctors and lawyers decide not to show up to work one morning. In some ways trying to become a physics professor is like trying to become an Olympic athlete. A lot of people are competing with you for the enjoyment and the prestige, and most of them will fail. A good thing about physics degrees is that you can learn to do programming, engineering, electronics and so forth in the meantime, so you have more alternate employment opportunities than a failed Olympian.

 Quote by twofish-quant The trouble with skepticism is that it can go too far into just giving up on the institutions. Also, there is no reason to think that "liberal democracy" will win. It's a disturbing fact that some of the fastest growing economies are not liberal democracies. In both China and Singapore, people are extremely skeptical of liberal democracies. Something that is interesting is that if you look at peoples perceptions of China, young people have much higher approval of China than old people. It's actually quite disturbing if you think about the long term consequences. China is just flooding money into science, and I think that this is going to benefit the Chinese economy over the next several decades. The US isn't and that is going to kill the US economy. Now let's go to 2030. Suppose China has planted it's flag on Mars, it has a high speed railroad system, and the US is *still* in the dumps. At that point, people might just think that it's better for the US to be a one party state And China is flooding money into science and technology.

Really, I don't know if the US is a true democracy so much as it's an oligarchy. It feels horrible to say that, but.... Obviously we aren't a totalitarian state or anything awful like that,as we don't have to resort to killing dissidents, but to get anything done, it seems as though you need serious cash-more than most people will ever have. You can SAY whatever you want without being persecuted, and I love that. But it'd be nice if you could also do something, no matter who you are. It's sort of like the Roman Republic.

I might end up changing things more if I get an MBA from a top flight school(like THAT's ever going to happen, but let's be hypothetical for a second), get a lot of money, and fund science rather than do the science. It wouldn't be near as much fun or personally satisfying, so I wish that wasn't true.

Of course, there could be a *spark* for mass change,like the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi was in the Arab world, but who knows what that might lead to? It could lead to things getting better or to mass chaos.

Don't China and America have a close economic relationship, really a binding one? I'm no expert, but I'd imagine the collapse or instability of one would hurt the other pretty badly.

A lot of kids-myself included-were told to go into STEM, as STEM would change the world, and we were smart, the usual crap, blah blah blah.... I love just walking in my U's labs, seeing all the talent at work, thinking how it might change the world someday... I don't want to have that love crushed. Why the difference in what they are saying and what they are doing? If everyone loves STEM so much, why doesn't the government fund it more?

 A bit off-topic maybe, but I think people would see the career aspect of getting a physics PhD in a more realistic light if they accept that they are essentially being given cash to play with some cool toys by the taxpayer, for little more reason than the government and the public feel that science is something that ought to get done. Not because they'll suffer greatly if it doesn't, like if all the engineers and doctors and lawyers decide not to show up to work one morning.
They might not suffer, but their decsendents will, because all the new gadgets stem from new scientific discoveries.

 In some ways trying to become a physics professor is like trying to become an Olympic athlete. A lot of people are competing with you for the enjoyment and the prestige, and most of them will fail. A good thing about physics degrees is that you can learn to do programming, engineering, electronics and so forth in the meantime, so you have more alternate employment opportunities than a failed Olympian.
This I agree with. Most physics grads at my U who took a few eng/CS classes on the side had no problems getting jobs, or so my admittedly limited observation has been. I plan on doing that, and besides, those courses are pretty cool too, so why not? :)
You can also go pretty easily from a physics BS to an MSEE-if you pick the right core and plan your undergrad right, you won't even have to take any makeup courses.

 Quote by mdxyz As much as we as scientists like to pretend, because it's in our interests to do so, there isn't much connection between GDP growth and science spending.
I think there is. There is a lag period of about twenty years. That's why I think things are dangerous. If we cut science spending today, and the lights go off, people will realize that it's a mistake, and fix it quickly. However, any science spending that gets done today, won't have any impact until 2025.

The other issue is that it's hard to run the experiment. If GDP growth today is 1% then I could (and do) argue that if we go back and cut spending then it would be -5%. But I don't have a time machine handy to demonstrate it.

The reason I *do* think that it matter involves looking at the history of things like the internet.

 First, research with direct economic value is done anyway by the market.
Yes but that builds on research that has no direct economic value. Also the thing about government spending is that it's an indirect subsidy on the market. If the government does research, and then it goes out for free, then it makes it easier for companies to take that research and make a profit since their costs are low.

 And second, basic research doesn't work unless it's published, so it doesn't give anyone an advantage they can stop other people getting.
Disagree. When people do basic research there is a lot of unwritten knowledge that never gets published. For example when I work on supercomputer code, there are things that I just *know* will work or don't work. If you sit someone next to me and have them watch me, some of that knowledge will rub off.

But I couldn't publish a paper on it, because I don't even know that I have this knowledge.

Also, there is a lot of knowledge infrastructure. For example, China probably has the complete blueprints to a Boeing 787 airliner, but that doesn't mean that China can make a 787, because there are critical bits that aren't written down and is in the heads of engineers. You can get a car without any problems. But that doesn't mean that you can build a car factory or car industry.

 China has been growing a lot in the past few years because it started at a level of extreme poverty with terrible institutions, and now has only quite bad institutions. It will grow rapidly until its productive capacity reaches the equibilibrium level of its institutions, at which point growth tends back to the 1-2% rate of technological improvement.
And Singapore?

China got itself out of the ditch around 1990. The institutions are bad, but they are improving.

 This already happened in Hong Kong, which is poorer than the US, and has better institutions than the PRC is ever likely to adopt on the mainland.
Ummmm... Have you been to Hong Kong lately? It doesn't *feel* poorer than the US. Heck, go to Shenzhen, and it looks as wealthy as most places in the United States. The recession in China ended years ago.

Also Hong Kong is an excellent commercial center. It's not very good at pure science. The center of science in China is Beijing. The big effort is to try to merge the systems so that you get something with the commercial skill of HK with the scientific expertise of Beijing University. Hard and painful. But it's happening.

And then there is Singapore.

 Moon bases and high speed trains are the equivalent of the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony - a signal you've arrived, and a symptom of wealth rather than a cause.
Moon bases aren't that expensive. Also high speed rail is *extremely* useful. You quickly figure things out if you want to get from point A to point B in China. Airplanes are hellishly expensive and very inconvenient. Low speed rail is too slow. HSR is going to be wonderful, except that there is this missing link which should be built later this year. Every time a link gets built, you can see the impact it has on the economy.

Also moon bases and HSR provide jobs and keep people employed. Once you figure out how to build a moon base, then people will use this to figure out how to put stuff into LEO. Once you get those costs down, then the skies open up. The thing is that you absolutely need government money for this. You can have private contractors do the work, but for things like SpaceX and Bigelow to go anywhere, you need government contracts. The nice thing about private industry is that often you get things done cheaper and faster, but there is a limit to how cheap and how fast, and I think we are close to it.

There is one commonality between railroads and space exploration. Costs are N+large constant, but usefulness is N^2 + zero. One KM of railroad track is useless. One space station isn't that useful either.

 A bit off-topic maybe, but I think people would see the career aspect of getting a physics PhD in a more realistic light if they accept that they are essentially being given cash to play with some cool toys by the taxpayer, for little more reason than the government and the public feel that science is something that ought to get done. Not because they'll suffer greatly if it doesn't, like if all the engineers and doctors and lawyers decide not to show up to work one morning.
Eyes roll.....

Let's try this social experiment. You have country A that treats physics Ph.D.'s as if they are a burden on the economy, and then country B that treats physics Ph.D.'s as if they are a national treasure. Let's see where we are in 2030.

There's only so much that you can do. I happen to believe that the US science research system is one of the most beautiful, most productive systems ever created. If Americans are idiots and want to toss this system into the mud, then so it goes. Democracy includes the fundamental right to be stupid. May be I can't stop it, but if it happens at least I can say that I tried.

It makes me sad. It makes me more than a little angry. But sometimes, you just have to face the reality that there is not that much you can do, and if you end up in a country that thinks that physicists are just "taxpayer burdens" then maybe it's better to move somewhere else that people think differently. In the case of China, it's still painfully recovering from the effects of losing the "technology game" in the 19th century. My father saw first hand the importance of physics, because it was because of physics that the US could defeat Japan whereas China couldn't. The scary thing is that when I hear most Americans talk about science and technology, it reminds me a lot about some of the arrogance you saw in China circa 1800 before everything went bad.

 In some ways trying to become a physics professor is like trying to become an Olympic athlete. A lot of people are competing with you for the enjoyment and the prestige, and most of them will fail. A good thing about physics degrees is that you can learn to do programming, engineering, electronics and so forth in the meantime, so you have more alternate employment opportunities than a failed Olympian.
Like working in Wall Street.

I like my job, and I'm grateful for the people that give it to me. But I really *wonder* if I'm doing the most social good doing what I'm doing. Yes, it's the best that I can find, but I'm not convinced that the world wouldn't be better off with less quants and more industrial physicists.
 FYI, according to the CIA and World Bank, Hong Kong is wealthier than the US based on PPP https://www.cia.gov/library/publicat.../2004rank.html http://databank.worldbank.org/databa...load/GNIPC.pdf
 self delete, off topic post. I think there's a simple thing here: if you don't understand it, its probably bad for you to go into it for a career.

 Quote by intelwanderer Of course, there could be a *spark* for mass change,like the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi was in the Arab world, but who knows what that might lead to? It could lead to things getting better or to mass chaos.
There's a tricky balance here. One of the big drivers of science in the 1950-1990 was the Cold War. Now it was a good thing that we had advances in science. It was sort of a bad thing that we were always at the brink of nuclear annihilation.

I don't think a new Cold War would be good at all. However, it would be nice to have a "trans solar system olympics". Last person on Mars is a rotten egg. Next stop, Jupiter. I'm a little disappointed that there hasn't been more of a US public reaction to China's space program.

 Don't China and America have a close economic relationship, really a binding one? I'm no expert, but I'd imagine the collapse or instability of one would hurt the other pretty badly.
It's one planet with one global economic system. Also, I'm not seriously worried that the US will collapse. What worries me is that the United States will lose the "frontier spirit". Who cares about Mars? The thing about the recession is that the longer it lasts, the more people will think this is "normal".

 A lot of kids-myself included-were told to go into STEM, as STEM would change the world, and we were smart, the usual crap, blah blah blah....
Be careful what you tell your kids. They might believe if. When I was in high school, I got to visit the Rose Garden where President Reagan gave a short speech saying how critical science was to the future of the United States. That sort of stuff sticks with you.

 I love just walking in my U's labs, seeing all the talent at work, thinking how it might change the world someday...
And one reason I like my job is that I am changing the world. I hope that I'm making it better. There is this nagging worry that I'm making it worse. But what I do matters.

 Why the difference in what they are saying and what they are doing? If everyone loves STEM so much, why doesn't the government fund it more?
*They* are different people with different interests, and most people outside of universities have no particular love for STEM. It wasn't love that got science funded during the Cold War. It was good old-fashion *FEAR*. People honestly believed that if the US wasn't funding science, that we might as well start speaking Russian.

If you want to learn how to get things done, you have to learn politics. Also even within the pro-science group there are lots of people with competing interests.

One thing that the astrophysicists in my alma-mater do whenever they get a chance to do it is to try to kill manned space flight. Most astrophysicists believe that the manned space program takes away money from the unmanned program, and that we would get more science with a pure unmanned program. So whenever there is some political issue that comes up, astrophysicists will take a dagger in hand and try to kill the manned space program.

I used to believe that, but I've changed my mind. Without a manned space program, then NASA is going to be completely cut, and you won't have money for anything.
 unmanned program may be good for the pure astrophysics, but the manned program gives us so much things to study in terms of biology, chemistry and engineering such as the crystal growth experiments done on the ISS (I think), designing life support systems which may have application in mines, emergency medicine, etc. in addition to the space science. I actually think that in terms of practical payoffs the manned program is better than the unmanned program. Also no offense but much of modern physics has strayed so far away from what is experimentally verifiable, let alone applicable, that its best to think about other technical disciplines as the cornerstones of new technology. Even papers in condensed matter, I feel, only a tiny minority is applicable to my research or anything that a company/organization would possibly need, and that's condensed matter! I can't even understand 99% of the other papers in say... particle or astro. Too much formalism and "self consistency" has taken away from what can be experimentally verified even in principle. The graviton, for example, cannot even be detected in principle. What is the point now?

 Quote by chill_factor Also no offense but much of modern physics has strayed so far away from what is experimentally verifiable, let alone applicable, that its best to think about other technical disciplines as the cornerstones of new technology.
The thing about big technological breakthoughs is that they are very rarely planned, so it's a good idea to through money at a whole bunch of projects and then see if anything sticks. If even one or two percent of the inventions hit home-runs, then that's enough to pay for them.

 Even papers in condensed matter, I feel, only a tiny minority is applicable to my research or anything that a company/organization would possibly need
I've got a different view because I've found that practically everything I learned and researched in graduate school has been useful, relevant, and profitable. I wonder why. Maybe I just lucked out and had a topic with particular usefulness.

However, I think it's more likely that I see a lot of the relevance in what I do because I read a lot of sales and marketing books when I was in graduate school, and I've been around some excellent salesmen and at least seen lobbyists (i.e. idea salesmen) up close. The whole point of sales is to create demand for whatever you have in stock.

 The graviton, for example, cannot even be detected in principle. What is the point now?
I'm not a graviton expert, so I couldn't tell you (although I do know one that works in mortgage backed securities). I can tell you how neutrino physics is incredibly useful in finance. Particles are a diffusive process. Stock prices are a diffusive process. There are only a limited number of ways that you can write a partial differential equation. So........

 Quote by twofish-quant It actually is. The trouble with google is that you have too *much* information, and a lot of that information is questionable. There's also the problem of getting the right information, and the problem that a surprising about of information isn't public.
It is true that there is the problem of too much information and the excess of poor information, as well as the problem of access to non-public information. In the case of non-public information, nothing can be done about that, since neither the general public nor universities for that matter (except to a limited number of researchers) have access to this. As far as filtering out poor information that is actually publicly available, there are ways to get around this problem, through the ranking of websites, investigating multiple sources of information, checking at references, cross-checking with Wikipedia (and the references they provide), etc. Granted, all of this is time-consuming, but it can be done.

 What about giving good advice? The trouble with having universities just say "it's not our job to give advice" is that at that point people wonder why universities are being funded at all. Also, if it's not the universities job, then whose job is it? Maybe google. OK, but if we can't trust Harvard then why should we trust Google? Suppose Google changes it's search algorithm to supress information that's unfavorable to Google. How would we even know that that happened?
I'm not arguing that universities shouldn't give ANY advice (including good advice). What I'm stating is that universities (or more specifically, the professors and career counselling services who are currently employed at universities) should be more honest about the advice they are giving, which includes acknowledging their own limitations or lack of knowledge.

In this way, students will then have a means of weighing the advice they are given, and thus be able to make better decisions about the future, and the universities will thus ensure that they maintain their credibility.

 That's not the problem. The problem is with goal (3). Universities have as one goal the goal of making money and keeping professors employed. Now, I don't have problems with an institution being "selfish". I do have a problem with "selfish" institutions not paying taxes, and one reason that non-profit universities get away with not paying taxes is that supposedly they are working for the public good.
First of all, is it the case that universities in the US do not pay taxes? Certainly each individual professors and staff members pay income tax, and I thought that businesses owned and operated by the universities pay taxes as well.

Anyways, if in fact universities do not pay taxes is immaterial to me, because universities do work for the public good, in terms of providing higher education and providing high quality research. The point I'm making is that universities can do a better job in those areas and in being relevant to the general public.

 Sorry. This won't work. It's the person that pays the money that determines what they money is being paid for. Also, it *shouldn't* be a matter for debate. If the university takes the students money (either directly or indirectly through taxes), and it's not provide economic growth, then people will ask *why are we paying this money*? Right now, university budgets are getting cut. Personally, I think that's a horrible thing, and it's going to kill the US economy in the long term. Telling people, "our job is not economic growth" is just going to get your budgets slashed even more.
First of all, universities are only one of many factors behind economic growth; an important factor, but only one factor. Second, university budgets in the US are the responsibility of individual states, and their budgets (along with many other state programs) are being cut as a consequence of the budget crises affecting the states, due in no small part to state constitutions mandating a balanced budget and banning deficits.

If you really want to stop university budgets from getting cut, then the only meaningful thing that can be done is for the federal government to bail out the state governments.

 I don't think so. There is this myth of the "happy plumber" which I've seen. I'd actually like to *meet* a happy plumber in the United States. It also doesn't give me a lot of confidence that for-profit vo-tech institutions lie even more egregiously than non-profit universities. One issue is that people go to universities because a universitiy degree provides "social capital." There is a stigma associated with vocational training in the United States and to change that you really need to change a lot of society. There's the other issue that one additional job of universities is "young adult daycare." Universities provide things like medical services and a buffer to law enforcement, so that you can learn how to handle sex and alcohol. Vo-tech institutions don't do this. Also, MIT is interesting because MIT is basically a vocational school with powerful friends.
I agree that many for-profit vo-tech institutions do not have a great track record on ROI for
its students. However, it is worth keeping in mind that many vocational training is provided by community colleges.

University degrees do provide "social capital" but social capital on its own does not mean all that much unless if it directly leads to meaningful employment. Furthermore, I feel that the stigma associated with vocational training in the US is unproductive, since there is a demand in the US for skilled labor. Combined with the currently high unemployment rate, perhaps we should be re-assessing the value of vocational training.

 The trouble with skepticism is that it can go too far into just giving up on the institutions. Also, there is no reason to think that "liberal democracy" will win. It's a disturbing fact that some of the fastest growing economies are not liberal democracies. In both China and Singapore, people are extremely skeptical of liberal democracies. Something that is interesting is that if you look at peoples perceptions of China, young people have much higher approval of China than old people. It's actually quite disturbing if you think about the long term consequences. China is just flooding money into science, and I think that this is going to benefit the Chinese economy over the next several decades. The US isn't and that is going to kill the US economy. Now let's go to 2030. Suppose China has planted it's flag on Mars, it has a high speed railroad system, and the US is *still* in the dumps. At that point, people might just think that it's better for the US to be a one party state. Also, one issue with liberal democracies is that a lot of the arguments are "fake." Suppose you think that universities stink. If they have lobbyists and you don't, then it doesn't matter what you think.
You are assuming here that China will continue to maintain their impressive rates of economic growth, which is far from guaranteed; in fact, there is already evidence that China's economic growth is noticeably slowing (the situation with Singapore may be different, but Singapore is a relatively small component of global GDP so I will not consider their situation here). Furthermore, young people's higher approval of China is directly linked to the nation's ability to deliver on employment. Once that changes, I envision that public opinion will very quickly sour, and given the repressive nature of the regime, things could get very ugly very quickly, as is already evident in the number of protests in rural areas against land seizures (and these are protests that have been publicly reported).

China is currently able to flood money in science and technology because they have large reserves of cash (primarily due to the tendency of the average Chinese to save money in state-owned banks, which is due in no small part to insecurity brought on by lack of property rights). Once the Chinese economy will transition to a more consumer-based economy, that large reserve of cash will start to diminish, and China's ability to spend will become more constricted.

 If you want something done, you don't ask questions. You organize and hold protests, and think about where the money comes from. One thing that I realized pretty early was that if you don't have money, then no one cares what you think. Don't hope. Hope gets you nowhere. Act. If I politely question authority, then my suggestions will be given over to a committee and forgotten. If I have a check for $100,000 in my hand, and I have friends with checks with$100,000, then suddenly people aren't talking about committees any more.
Before one can even begin to organize and hold protests, or act, one needs to know what they are protesting for or against, and that begins by asking questions first. It's the act of questioning that serves as an impetus for action.

 Quote by twofish-quant There's a tricky balance here. One of the big drivers of science in the 1950-1990 was the Cold War. Now it was a good thing that we had advances in science. It was sort of a bad thing that we were always at the brink of nuclear annihilation. I don't think a new Cold War would be good at all. However, it would be nice to have a "trans solar system olympics". Last person on Mars is a rotten egg. Next stop, Jupiter. I'm a little disappointed that there hasn't been more of a US public reaction to China's space program.
You mention, twofish, in several of your posts that it's very important for physicists to learn politics/money. And I agree. Another thing that would be important to learn that I studied this year on my own, is PROPAGANDA.

I know I'm going to get a lot of flak for this, but I have a *grudging* admiration for Josef Goebbels and Pablo Escobar because they were such good propagandists(and the fact I need to point out that I don't support their ideology/trade is another good propaganda point-playing the "Nazi" card, no matter how illogical, works in the public consciousness to discredit, so it is another good trick).

It doesn't have to be a manned space mission to Mars-though that is a cool idea. It could be , who can build the first quantum computer? Who can build the first fusion reactor? Who can break Moore's law-and who can do something with breaking it? Even if it leads to nothing, we might get something cool that was completely unrelated to the original goal.

Make a huge project, and inject it in the public consciousness like the Space Race. America has huge reserves of nationalism-sometimes I think too much for it's own good. USE IT. Just make it friendlier and less deadly than it was during the Cold War...

Or another idea is to get a huge high profile international project together. Science knows no borders. Use that to portray an image of understanding between nations.

 University degrees do provide "social capital" but social capital on its own does not mean all that much unless if it directly leads to meaningful employment. Furthermore, I feel that the stigma associated with vocational training in the US is unproductive, since there is a demand in the US for skilled labor. Combined with the currently high unemployment rate, perhaps we should be re-assessing the value of vocational training.
Everyone thinks vo tech schools are a good idea. Just not for their own kids. For the same reason that kids are so obsessed with getting into the "prestige" schools, and the way I was. They are afraid they will "fail" if they don't.

 Be careful what you tell your kids. They might believe if. When I was in high school, I got to visit the Rose Garden where President Reagan gave a short speech saying how critical science was to the future of the United States. That sort of stuff sticks with you.
I'll keep that in mind if I ever get married/have kids. In my case, the impetus was attending this research seminar biweekly hosted by a bunch of engineers/scientists from a nearby lab complex.

 *They* are different people with different interests, and most people outside of universities have no particular love for STEM. It wasn't love that got science funded during the Cold War. It was good old-fashion *FEAR*.
But the Soviet Union has been gone for two decades now, before I was born. Why do they parrot the "we need more scientists and engineers" line? Why does the President say so? Because they are afraid China will take over if we don't? Why are there so many panicked articles saying how we are utterly behind China and India in scientists(and engineers, but that's a different debate), and refuse to treat them decently?

 Before one can even begin to organize and hold protests, or act, one needs to know what they are protesting for or against, and that begins by asking questions first. It's the act of questioning that serves as an impetus for action.
Hence, why Occupy went nowhere.

SFC in London? Did you mean the SFO?

How are they connected to the 'Fed'? Or did you mean the 'Feds'?

EDIT: It seems to me like you are confusing the role of the US Fed, which is a central bank, with the regulatory role of the US Government i.e. the Feds?

 Quote by twofish-quant It's happening everywhere. One thing that I find cool about finance is that it's global. The world is sufficiently interconnected so that you just can't think of countries as separate entities. If the US tightens regulations, and the UK doesn't, then everything will just move to the UK. However, the notion that more regulation is necessary and that bankers need to be put on a tight leash is global. In 2005, if the US regulators were putting in too many rules, then you can threaten to move to UK and vice versa. This doesn't work any more because the regulators are putting together a united front through the Basel Committee. Since the regulators are coordinating with each other, then if the FED orders you to do something, you'll likely find that the SFC in London will order you to do the same thing. The fact that the regulators are coordinating with each other is something that is very new. Now there are still a few country-specific quirks (for example the US seems obsessed with gambling and Iran, and the fact that the UK doesn't want to lose control of London to the French and the Germans), but those are minor in the grand scheme of things.

 Quote by intelwanderer But the Soviet Union has been gone for two decades now, before I was born. Why do they parrot the "we need more scientists and engineers" line? Why does the President say so? Because they are afraid China will take over if we don't? Why are there so many panicked articles saying how we are utterly behind China and India in scientists(and engineers, but that's a different debate), and refuse to treat them decently?
In my country, one reason is to make it seem important for $to go from tax payer to government to universities to train more scientists/engineers. Then when there's a glut of MS/PhD scientists and engineers, industry and academia get to treat them worse without loss of productivity. Now obviously professors don't tell students this. They get tax payer funding to hire tax payer's children to do research. It could also be they don't know and don't care. Industry of course gets cheaper labor trained with tax payer$$. Parents are stuck with their old values, and are proud their children got some advanced degree, something themselves could not get. This is one scheme that had been very difficult for young people to identify, let alone escape.  Quote by twofish-quant The thing about big technological breakthoughs is that they are very rarely planned, so it's a good idea to through money at a whole bunch of projects and then see if anything sticks. If even one or two percent of the inventions hit home-runs, then that's enough to pay for them. I've got a different view because I've found that practically everything I learned and researched in graduate school has been useful, relevant, and profitable. I wonder why. Maybe I just lucked out and had a topic with particular usefulness. However, I think it's more likely that I see a lot of the relevance in what I do because I read a lot of sales and marketing books when I was in graduate school, and I've been around some excellent salesmen and at least seen lobbyists (i.e. idea salesmen) up close. The whole point of sales is to create demand for whatever you have in stock. I'm not a graviton expert, so I couldn't tell you (although I do know one that works in mortgage backed securities). I can tell you how neutrino physics is incredibly useful in finance. Particles are a diffusive process. Stock prices are a diffusive process. There are only a limited number of ways that you can write a partial differential equation. So........ I think your idea of usefulness is very contrived. Earth scientists, chemists, and environmental/chemical/mechanical engineers also write models of diffusive phenomena. What is special about astrophysics that makes for better model writers? Is there anything an astrophysicist can do that an engineer with a strong computational background could not? I meant useful as in - the research itself will be directly applicable to new technologies. Most new technological research is highly directed. Why are we researching on graphene instead of say... rocks for new transistors? Because we know for a fact that rocks probably won't be good for this application.  Quote by twofish-quant I think there is. There is a lag period of about twenty years. That's why I think things are dangerous. If we cut science spending today, and the lights go off, people will realize that it's a mistake, and fix it quickly. However, any science spending that gets done today, won't have any impact until 2025. The other issue is that it's hard to run the experiment. If GDP growth today is 1% then I could (and do) argue that if we go back and cut spending then it would be -5%. But I don't have a time machine handy to demonstrate it. The reason I *do* think that it matter involves looking at the history of things like the internet. Yes but that builds on research that has no direct economic value. Also the thing about government spending is that it's an indirect subsidy on the market. If the government does research, and then it goes out for free, then it makes it easier for companies to take that research and make a profit since their costs are low. Disagree. When people do basic research there is a lot of unwritten knowledge that never gets published. For example when I work on supercomputer code, there are things that I just *know* will work or don't work. If you sit someone next to me and have them watch me, some of that knowledge will rub off. But I couldn't publish a paper on it, because I don't even know that I have this knowledge. Also, there is a lot of knowledge infrastructure. For example, China probably has the complete blueprints to a Boeing 787 airliner, but that doesn't mean that China can make a 787, because there are critical bits that aren't written down and is in the heads of engineers. You can get a car without any problems. But that doesn't mean that you can build a car factory or car industry. I can agree that apparently useless scientific research can increase world GDP growth (though I don't see how lack of it could make GDP growth negative, nor do I think the effect of removing state subsidies would be dramatic), but it doesn't cause disparities between countries. The reason is that by the time it becomes clear to someone somewhere that basic research that has already been done can be used to create enormous amounts of value in the near future, then it becomes industrial research and the market is fine with that. The fastest growing countries are those with the lowest levels of technology, because almost all the work of discovering new technology and how to implement it has already been done by other people. These countries were being held back by their bad institutions. If you could hide basic research for long periods then there might be more of a point that it can cause a disparity between countries, but note that if you could do that it would also be profitable on the market to do basic research. The reason research is done by the government is that it is regarded as a public good: the people who put up the money can't fully internalise the rewards.  And Singapore? China got itself out of the ditch around 1990. The institutions are bad, but they are improving. Singapore has minimal institutional similarity to PRC. It's even more of a free market than the West. It's essentially 1930s Britain projected into a future where the actual Britain had taken a different fork instead of voting for a Labour landslide in 1945. The same really is true of HK, but PRC does at least now own HK. My point is the best case scenario is that, in GDP per capita terms, HK:PRC::NYC:USA, and since PRC assumed control the economy of HK has grown at ~3% annually in real terms.  Ummmm... Have you been to Hong Kong lately? It doesn't *feel* poorer than the US. Heck, go to Shenzhen, and it looks as wealthy as most places in the United States. The recession in China ended years ago. Apologies, my figures are out of date, the two converged part way through 2010, after previous large US advantage. Although note that it's more accurate to compare NYC or LA to HK, which have, respectively, GDP per capita of$67.7k, $57.5k and$42k (2010).

 Moon bases aren't that expensive. Also high speed rail is *extremely* useful. You quickly figure things out if you want to get from point A to point B in China. Airplanes are hellishly expensive and very inconvenient. Low speed rail is too slow. HSR is going to be wonderful, except that there is this missing link which should be built later this year. Every time a link gets built, you can see the impact it has on the economy. Also moon bases and HSR provide jobs and keep people employed. Once you figure out how to build a moon base, then people will use this to figure out how to put stuff into LEO. Once you get those costs down, then the skies open up. The thing is that you absolutely need government money for this. You can have private contractors do the work, but for things like SpaceX and Bigelow to go anywhere, you need government contracts. The nice thing about private industry is that often you get things done cheaper and faster, but there is a limit to how cheap and how fast, and I think we are close to it. There is one commonality between railroads and space exploration. Costs are N+large constant, but usefulness is N^2 + zero. One KM of railroad track is useless. One space station isn't that useful either.
I agree HSR is more useful than making a lot of steel and burying it. The question is, is it the best use of resources possible? I don't know. In the EU, short haul flights are very cheap and much more convenient than trains to move between countries, but maybe that wouldn't be true in China even if liberalised airlines. Free markets are very good at answering these questions and ignoring individual peoples' vested interests, biases, and honestly mistaken good ideas. So maybe HSR is good for China, or maybe not, but governments are often mistaken about things, because it seems to be impossible to centralise information in massive bureaucracies and use it effectively. Government projects don't 'create jobs', they move them from what the private sector wants to do to what the state wants to do.

 Eyes roll..... Let's try this social experiment. You have country A that treats physics Ph.D.'s as if they are a burden on the economy, and then country B that treats physics Ph.D.'s as if they are a national treasure. Let's see where we are in 2030. There's only so much that you can do. I happen to believe that the US science research system is one of the most beautiful, most productive systems ever created. If Americans are idiots and want to toss this system into the mud, then so it goes. Democracy includes the fundamental right to be stupid. May be I can't stop it, but if it happens at least I can say that I tried. It makes me sad. It makes me more than a little angry. But sometimes, you just have to face the reality that there is not that much you can do, and if you end up in a country that thinks that physicists are just "taxpayer burdens" then maybe it's better to move somewhere else that people think differently. In the case of China, it's still painfully recovering from the effects of losing the "technology game" in the 19th century. My father saw first hand the importance of physics, because it was because of physics that the US could defeat Japan whereas China couldn't. The scary thing is that when I hear most Americans talk about science and technology, it reminds me a lot about some of the arrogance you saw in China circa 1800 before everything went bad.
Country B has more and happier people with physics PhDs. I don't see anything obvious beyond that, though there may be more significant effects. I think that China lost to Japan because Japan had more of a Western market economy, and Japan lost to US because US had more of a Western market economy. In principle China could have had the same productivity per worker as the US, with no indigenous scientific contributions required, and built 50 aircraft carriers and 200,000 aircraft and squashed Japan. It didn't because it was ruled by first monarchists, then nationalists and socialists, who all thought that command economies were good.

That's the key issue. It's not that research is bad, but it's a secondary effect, something you get when you're rich because you don't need to focus all resources on survival, and can instead do something charitable for the world in 20, 30 years time. Or maybe not.
 Since we're on the subject of the treatment of physics PhDs in various countries...how are things in Northern Europe? Say, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. What do the physics PhDs there do? I hear that in India there are faculty openings at universities and what happens is they often hire Indians who went to the US/EU for their PhDs. I don't have any hard data to back this up but I know people who're looking at going down that road and have seen some fresh post-docs being hired by their alma mater. PhD in the States, post-doc there and in Europe/Israel and then assistant professorship. It's quite easy - just a question of going on the universities' webpages and clicking on the faculty pages.

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