The practice of alchemy had many backers during the medieval era, because alchemists promised to turn base metals into gold and silver. Who did not want to take a shortcut to become stinking rich? At the end, the only method to turn lead into gold was discovered by studying a material very different from lead or gold. During early 20th century, physicists developed quantum theory by modeling hydrogen atom, a gas consisting of only one electron and one proton. If funding agencies of that era restricted physicists to study only gold, silver and platinum, we probably would not have had the periodic table, semiconductors, electronic gadgets and Watson-Crick structure.
That history did not make any impact on Francis Collins, who continues to propose wasting humongous sums on modern day alchemy projects.
As the director of the NIH, Francis S. Collins tweeted:
Francis S. Collins (@NIHDirector) February 13, 2013
The Brain Activity Map (BAM) is a project that will bring together federal agencies, neuroscientists, and private research foundations to create a functional map of every connection in the human brain - numbering in hundreds of trillions. Obama plans to spend $300 million each year on this project over the next 10 years. The researchers and investors involved hope that BAM will drive advances in artificial intelligence, help us understand diseases like Alzheimers and schizophrenia, and stimulate the American economy.
Why do they propose a human map? It is because they want to take a shortcut to where the gold is, i.e. curing human diseases. The same age-old alchemy mentality prevails.
Five years back, we would have possibly been the lone voices in wilderness for arguing against such humongous waste, because everyone else drank Paul Krugman cool-aid of ‘we can print infinite sums of money’. Thankfully that mentality has changed, and other scientists like Mike Eisen and Corey Bargmann are coming forward to explain that the wasted money would come from reduced research budgets of other scientists. For more details on why human brain activity map is a waste of public funds, please take a look at -