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SciFoo: $1 billion

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If you had $1 billion to spend on just one project, what would it be? Here’s how an astrobiologist, a broadcaster, a skeptic and a Nobel laureate, amongst others, would spend the money.

Filmed at the 2010 Science Foo Camp in California, this is the last of four videos in this series.



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  1. 1. MCMalkemus 1:03 pm 03/3/2011

    1) I would develop fMRI for mice. Locate their ‘violence’ areas individual. Ablate those areas using a gamma ray knife. Determine if they are less violent or not.

    2) Same procedure with monkeys.

    3) Same procedure with humans.

    4) After successful results, begin a program in prisons allowing hopelessly violent criminals to opt in to destroy their violence centers, and allow them back into society after a rehabilitation time.

    It would cost less than a billion, but it would save billions in prison costs to society.

    Link to this
  2. 2. MCMalkemus 1:11 pm 03/3/2011

    Mr. Shermer a critical thinking curriculum, nationwide, could be initiated for far less than a billion, using online technologies. Probably a few million actually.

    After listening to this group, fully half of them do not think economically.

    Link to this
  3. 3. fyngyrz 1:47 pm 03/3/2011

    I’d put it all into developing a mass-producible electric car with range and capacity equal to modern gasoline vehicles, along with a home-charging system that load-balances, collecting energy relatively slowly at night when the overall load on the power plants is low, and delivering it to the vehicle on demand. As most vehicles rarely need a full energy load, this would address the vast majority of use cases.

    In turn, this would immediately reduce our petroleum consumption (primarily because petroleum burned in power plants produces power far more efficiently than petroleum burned in cars, even given electrical transmission and other losses) and it would also allow these new vehicles to transition seamlessly to power sources other than petroleum as they are brought online — the electric car that is petroleum fueled today could be running off of anything tomorrow, and the owner wouldn’t even need to know.

    We *really* need to get off the Arab oil teat. The problem — as always — is that the people running this country have a financial interest in keeping the Arab suckle going. It funds the military (and not very indirectly), it funds the large energy companies, and it means that car manufacturers don’t have to retool. Our real problem is that our government will do anything the legislators are bribed to do. That’s why a billion dollars would be well spent going around them creating an independent inrush of affordable, reasonable electric vehicles.

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  4. 4. fyngyrz 1:55 pm 03/3/2011

    "It would cost less than a billion, but it would save billions in prison costs to society."

    No, actually it wouldn’t. Because very few prisoners are violent. "fix" them, and the prisons are still full. By far the majority of prisoners are non-violent drug offenders. If we wanted to stop putting money into this, all we’d have to do is respect personal liberty, as the founders would have wished, and let those victims of social stupidity go, while trashing the laws that say you can’t ingest what you want to for your own pleasure, or manufacture items for the same use. But that’s not going to happen, because society likes to meddle, and because prison is big business: your legislators are paid (bribed) to keep those places overflowing. Both directly and indirectly. Speaking tours, cushy seats in "think tanks", jobs as "lobbyists", "exploratory" trips to the Caribbean, special parking, health care and pensions, you name it, they’ve got it. While the common man goes to jail for lighting up a joint or similar.

    As Mark Twain said, "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." and also: "There is no native criminal class except Congress."

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  5. 5. hellblade 2:21 pm 03/3/2011

    One word:


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  6. 6. dbtinc 3:38 pm 03/3/2011

    can we try this on you first before risking mice?

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  7. 7. basecamp 4:50 pm 03/3/2011

    Do you rember when a jolly rancher was only 3cents,a soada was 25cents,rent was $50 to $125 a month,a load of wood was $25 and lasted an entire month, the clean skies from the lack of air trafic on 911? OH MY GOD! I THINK I WOULD HAVE OUR HEADS EXAMINED.

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  8. 8. MCMalkemus 4:52 pm 03/3/2011

    I agree that non-violent drug offenders are a blatant waste of resources. Getting back to violent offenders, here are the facts:

    * Thirty-six percent of violent felons had an active criminal justice status at the time of their arrest. This included 18% on probation, 12% on release pending disposition of a prior case, and 7% on parole.
    * A majority (56%) of violent felons had a prior conviction record. Thirty-eight percent had a prior felony conviction and 15% had a previous conviction for a violent felony.
    * Eight-one percent of violent felons were sentenced to incarceration with 50% going to prison and 31% to jail. Nineteen percent received a probation term without incarceration.

    My statements stand.

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  9. 9. MCMalkemus 5:10 pm 03/3/2011

    The legal system determines who is violent, and prisoners opt in or not, entirely voluntary.

    Please stop calling me names because you don’t have case to present. Thank you.

    Link to this
  10. 10. MCMalkemus 5:13 pm 03/3/2011

    Actually, if the process were proven in research, and I were a violent offender with an option to get out of prison early by opting in, yes, I would take the treatment.

    I’m just curious, is it just your habit to attack people without substance?

    Link to this
  11. 11. scientific earthling 5:20 pm 03/3/2011

    The best way to spend money is to develop a virus that reduces human fertility to zero. Every child is then a decision made by rational parents, who can be tested to determine if they would make fit parents.

    Link to this
  12. 12. ormondotvos 5:20 pm 03/3/2011

    I’d hire mercenaries to strangle neocon CEOs with the entrails of clerics, leaving notes saying "Now you’re free to think for yourself!"

    Link to this
  13. 13. MCMalkemus 5:20 pm 03/3/2011

    Assuming $129 dollars a day to house a violent felon, and one third of prisoners being there for violent crime, my proposal could save approximately $4,024,800,000 a year of tax payer dollars at today’s cost to house prisoners.

    Link to this
  14. 14. radobozov 9:19 am 03/6/2011

    Simple people: Teach God in Eyes of Science!-
    "Intellectuals create problems, geniuses prevent them"-Albert Einstein
    If there were love in a tiny little negative space, it would have been everywhere.
    1. Cancer and aging go hand to hand in majority of cases.
    2. 21st century is the century in Biology so that developing a program that can formulate the principle of mass compressibility developed by me.
    3. Use a chain of bio systems to generate energy and possibly isolate anti-matter. Energy problem solved.
    4. Implement preventative medicine biobase that we can finally integrate information open tech with health care.
    5. Eradicate poverty by strong education.


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  15. 15. mounthell 12:06 am 03/8/2011

    The model of the brain that your "project" requires simply doesn’t exist and wouldn’t work. You might as well propose performing medical experiments on an underclass.

    Your mental profile, as suggested by your "project," suggests that of a quick-fix right winger. Regardless, you might at least read the current pop lit on brain dynamics.

    Link to this
  16. 16. deike 8:43 am 03/8/2011

    I would spend the $B on developing the perfect GM plant-based food: e.g., a hybrid of soy, orange, spinach and walnuts, with additional vitamins and minerals, as necessary.

    Feed the world’s poor and everyone benefits.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Macrocompassion 11:37 am 03/8/2011

    The proper study of man is Man! By this we should include how he manages in society and in particular how his role in macroeconomics works out. My research into this matter could greatly benefit from some help by such an investment. What we need is a simple means for government policy studies. I can provide the means with a recent model. It is fully comprehensive in spite of the fact that it contains only about 19 variables. It is based on a number of very logical assumptions so that it has an exact nature rarely seen in such approaches to social science. What is necessary is to explore it, for which an organized research study is required.

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