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Adaptive optics and the problems of classification

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My opinion of the DoE and NIH positions on genome sequencing
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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Well, roughly speaking the problem for DoE is: should they go into full scale production, or should they go into technology development, that's the real choice. And I feel very strongly that DoE ought to be doing technology development, that's their strength; they should be inventing the clever, cheap ways of doing sequencing, and leave the mass production to NIH, who are already set up to do it. But that's not what DoE wants. The DoE, they want to be big players, they want to be part of the first team, they don't just want to be the technology developers in the background, so they're determined to go ahead with big production projects. So there's a clash of wills there. JASON - as usual - sort of straddles the fence, and the official JASON position is not as strong as my personal position. Officially JASON said we want to see more of the technology development and a little bit less of the crash programme for production, and so that's the way it's going, but I think we still have far too much in the crash programme which is very expensive. It's rather like Apollo that, it's being done, but it's being done at a cost which is not going to be sustainable. After this programme is finished nobody will want to do it again the same way, whereas if we had technology development, finding out how to do it a hundred times cheaper, then that would lead to a sustainable effort, which is no doubt what will in the end happen.

Born in England in 1923, Freeman Dyson moved to Cornell University after graduating from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics. He subsequently became a professor and worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology. He has published several books and, among other honours, has been awarded the Heineman Prize and the Royal Society's Hughes Medal.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Department of Energy, National Insitutes of Health, Human Genome Project, JASON

Duration: 1 minute, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008