‘Beyond Sputnik’ author responds to Obama’s State of the Union Address

by University of Michigan Press on January 28, 2011

Neal thumb Tobin L. Smith, coauthor of Beyond Sputnik: U.S. Science Policy in the 21st Century, was on The Takeaway national radio program this week to comment on President Obama’s State of the Union Address, which called this “our generation’s Sputnik moment.”

Smith commented on what happened in 1958 in response to Sputnik, and compared it to current day events. Sputnik was directly responsible for increasing investment in science and defense in this country, he said, leading to the present-day version of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the agency that set up the foundations of the modern Internet.

“We don’t have that thing that’s going to galvanize the American populace to invest in science. Sputnik was unique in that it made science sexy for students, it was cool to be a physicist,” Smith said during the broadcast. “Right now, we just don’t have that.”

The complete broadcast is available here. Smith is Associate Vice President for Federal Relations at the Association of American Universities. He was formerly Assistant Director of the University of Michigan and MIT Washington, DC, offices.

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