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Was Gravity Probe-B worth it's enormous price tag?

  1. Feb 12, 2016 #1
    Gravity Probe B cost the taxpayer nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, more than LIGO. However, none of GP-B’s research (frame-dragging, geodetic effect) captured the public's imagination like LIGO/gravitational waves. Perhaps that is because LIGO opens up a new window on the universe, while GP-B was merely another confirmation of general relativity. So, was GP-B worth nearly one billion dollars?
     
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  3. Feb 12, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    GP-B was not a great success. They ended up an order of magnitude less sensitive than what they proposed.
     
  4. Feb 12, 2016 #3

    Borek

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    No matter what the answer to the original question is, 3=4 sounds skewed, doesn't it?
     
  5. Feb 12, 2016 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    You know, large values of 3, small values of 4 and all that.
     
  6. Feb 12, 2016 #5
    The purpose was not to measure something or to entertain the public. The purpose was to have an excuse/reason to spend public money to advance technology. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
     
  7. Feb 12, 2016 #6
    I may be in the minority but I believe relativistic frame dragging would be as significant as the detection of gravity waves.

    I also agree with Hornbein that science should not be motivated solely for public entertainment. Perhaps if the news outlets presented/promoted the Gravity B probe as active as they did the gravity waves LIGO, the public would have bought in more

    It is often hard to see all the implications of a discovery. Ten years from now, scientists may think gravity waves astronomy did not live up to their expectation. They may also find the implications of frame dragging led to further advances that they did not contemplate.
     
  8. Feb 12, 2016 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    Why "would"? It's been measured.
     
  9. Feb 13, 2016 #8

    Orodruin

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    The US military spending is over $600 billion per year. Surely it is possible to find a few extra dollars to do science.
     
  10. Feb 13, 2016 #9
    Frame-dragging has always seemed like a very amazing and curious thing to me. Certainly Gravity Probe-B's goal of exposing it further has been very laudable .

    Is there any way that GravityProbe-B's and LIGO's results could be used together complementarily?
     
  11. Feb 13, 2016 #10
    The military research budget is quite often civilian research disguised as military. The grant writer pretends that the science can be used for national security. Everyone involved is in on the game. Wink wink.

    The prime example is quantum computing. It is sold as being able to crack cyphers. But there are already cyphers that cannot be cracked by a quantum computer. The true purpose is to simulate quantum systems, such as molecules. Quantum computing could revolutionize chemistry and lead to things almost unimaginable today. But you can't sell that to the general public. There's a guy on the Congressional science funding board who thinks science is the work of the devil. (I heard him say so via the magic of video.) With such people science is tolerated only for the sake of national security.

    I approve of this game in the sense that valuable research gets done. It's too bad that there must be such a charade, but that's the way it is.

    It does have the disadvantage that those projects which can't be sold as national security may not get done, no matter how useful they might later prove. Too bad.
     
  12. Feb 13, 2016 #11

    Krylov

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    Your post reminded me of the multiple times that I have seen articles in mathematics, particularly from the 1960s and 1970s, that had a little note on them saying: "Sponsored by the United States Army under Contract No. ...". Here I have two such articles in front of me, both of them about rather pure topics in analysis. One wonders how they got that done.
     
  13. Feb 13, 2016 #12

    Redbelly98

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    Or, put another way, was it worth about $3 per U.S. citizen?
     
  14. Feb 13, 2016 #13
    Money can be created or destroyed, but not by spending it. Money is only good for spending.
    I have a feeling that a meaningful answer would have to include the opportunity cost. Is that calculable?
     
  15. Feb 13, 2016 #14
    Questionable, if what V-50 quoted is accurate. If the Hubble Space Telescope had not be designed for in-orbit repairs, probably it's billion+ price tag would be seen as too high.
     
  16. Feb 13, 2016 #15
    Don't kid yourself. There is a reason that big-dollar NASA projects such as Chandra have their own public affairs departments.
     
  17. Feb 13, 2016 #16
    OK, I should have written the primary purpose was not to entertain the public.
     
  18. Feb 14, 2016 #17

    dlgoff

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    [hijack]
    Redbelly98!!! :partytime:

    [/end hijack]
     
  19. Feb 15, 2016 #18
    I got my money's worth.
     
  20. Feb 18, 2016 #19
    politicians thinking: its just money

    we have 2457 raptors that are buggy as hell. price tag? 400 billion?
     
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