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For Better or for Worse

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The development of an American science establishment -- today an amalgam of scientists, engineers, universities, industrial laboratories, and federal science agencies -- began early in the twentieth century when the federal government began to invest in a national scientific infrastructure. During World War II this investment swelled to colossal proportions. At present, the yearly federal investment in basic science and technology amounts to about thirty-five billion dollars. How did this complex marriage between science and government occur? How will increasing economic pressures affect its future?

In this engaging overview of the science establishment and its relationship with the federal government, renowned physicist Alfred K. Mann details the reasons behind the creation of the four nonmilitary federal science agencies that are responsible for the bulk of this budget and are the principal supporters of scientific research and technology in American universities. Looking into each agency, he elucidates the ways in which decisions were made, whose interests were at stake, and the resulting discoveries, mishaps, and bureaucratic mazes that were constructed in the name of research.

Mann interweaves fascinating stories that grew out of the scientific enterprise:

• the allies' invention during World War II of the proximity fuse and its tremendous battlefield success,

• the first use of blood plasma in World War II field hospitals,

• the invention of radar,

• strategic policies of the Cold War,

• the double helix of DNA,

• space explorations and the space missions,

• modern global positioning systems (GPS),

• satellite surveillance, and

• recent declassification of covert operations.

Charting the origins and operations of a remarkable collaboration, For Better or for Worse encompasses many of the key scientific discoveries of our time and offers a renewed vision of the future direction of the United States science establishment.

About the Author

Alfred K. Mann, professor emeritus of high energy and particle physics at the University of Pennsylvania, worked on the Manhattan Project as a pre-doctorate and has first-hand experience with many of the scientists who developed the first atomic bomb. He received the Rossi prize in astrophysics for participating in the discovery of neutrinos in Supernova 1987A. His book Shadow of a Star tells the story of that discovery.

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