One year of econopocalypse would pay for a civilization's worth of science

The UK has spent more money bailing out its banks in the past 12 months than it has spent on science since the time of Christ.


  1. Has anyone attempted to substantiate this claim?  I’d be interested in the analysis, and how the change in the value of currencies was accommodated.

    1. Cox’s analysis was, by his own account, something of a back of an envelope job.  According to his Twitter feed –  “Back of envelope. Science budget ~3.2 bn. Bank bailout between 125 bn and 1.2tn (exposure) Allow for inflation etc. Work it out!”

      I’m guessing probably not the kind of maths he applies when working at CERN.  (If it is perhaps we ought to go back to predicting a Hadron Collider induced end of the world.)  Still, scientist in empassioned plea for more science funding gets my vote, even if he has gone about it in a rather unscientific way…

      1. The modern conception of science didn’t exist for most of that time, and has been a government-funded thing for even less time. Nevertheless, human technological achievement has been happening since before we invented cities (cities themselves being a technological advance). How much did we spend to invent civilization?

        The whole thing doesn’t make much sense to me. He’s comparing apples and the abstract concept of agriculture.

  2. I had no idea that the UK government was spending money on science back in the first century.  Those are some accounting records I’d love to see.

  3. An interesting one to work out, because the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was only created in 1927, with the previous United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland being created in 1801. There wasn’t even an England in the time of Christ. Maybe he was referring to Great Britain, the geographic area. Anyway it seems unlikely records on science spending stretch back that far!

    1. Might replacing ‘jesus’ with ‘records began in a consensually agreed constitutionally accountable entity’ be soundbitier?

  4. Brian Cox – a superannuated pop star who got a second gig as a science populariser – senses his 15 minutes of fame drawing to a close. Goes for broke with right-on BBC-friendly blanket statement bashing the coalition. (note that he says nothing about bailouts before May 2010)

    His assertion is doubly facile as the UK only came into existence in 1801, and science as we know it came into being in the 17th century.

    Historians don’t bang on about physics; physicists should return the courtesy.

    1. Your summary “a superannuated pop star who got a second gig as a science populariser” seems a bit harsh as he also professor of particle physics working on the ATLAS experiment at the LHC.

      1. Also a bit of a joke since he’s ten years younger than Madonna and don’t even get me started on Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger.  All of whom seem relevant to the people who shell out several billion dollars a year to hear them superannuating.

    2. If you make the interval  of the  UK govt’s existence shorter then the amount of dollars plugged into science is even less, which means that money given to bankers is greater than that given to science since the founding of the UK.

      Therefore, what are you complaining about? Oh wait, you’re complaining about policy criticism based in facts. I get it empiricism must die so that ruling by principle, rather than say evidence, must continue.

      Summary: You’re just irritated and angry that science and your philosophy don’t match up so you ask for scientists to censor themselves because they make who you believe in and support look bad. This is unsurprising behaviour from a right wingerL: censor everything but yes-men.

  5. Perhaps Brian Cox’s offhand analysis is a shade of subtle over the window of accuracy?


    I say so because criticisms of his analysis and intent only end up broadening the estimated gap between spending on scientific advancement and spending on fake bank bailouts.

    Way to play them Brian.

  6. You know… I have no problem with bailing out the institutions so that when they fall, they don’t take normal folks with them, but they really should have done something to punish the idiots who made this mess. As it is, the governments have only rewarded them for their combined incompetance and greed.

    I know, use them for scientific experimentation, then everyone wins!

    1. “Save a monkey, use a banker”.

      A huge outdoor with a photo of a rabbit and written: 
      “Look into the eyes of this bunny – wouldn’t you rather have tests done on a banker?”

      Going by their ability to make rational decisions they are already brain dead anyway.

  7. Are the bailouts money lent or money spent? Of course, lending money at a low rate also means losing some on interest payments.

  8. Judging from the comments, I’d think the crowd at least would concede that a bit more could have been spent on researching effective treatments for OCD.

  9. What banking is not a science? Creating money out of thin air then charging other people to borrow it. Alright, that’s just magic, but they do make a science out of screwing people over. 

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