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STATEMENT OF DR. WILLIAM KLEMPERER
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Technology
U.S. House of Representatives
February 5, 1980
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Mathematical and Physical Sciences, I should like first to
stress some general common features of many sectors of
activity in this Directorate. The Directorate consists of mathematics, computer sciences, physics, chemistry and materials research. With the exception of much of mathematics, the activities in this Directorate depend critically
upon the interplay of theory and experiment. Moreover, the activities in the physical sciences are coupled between disciplines and provide the foundation for many other disciplines such as biology, astronomy, atmospheric sciences, and engineering. Thus, progress in the basic physical sciences generally has profound effects both in basic science and in technology. The 1981 budget request for $ 264.2M for mathematical and physical sciences permits us to address the most important problem of the strength of these experimental sciences in American colleges and universities. While the interaction of theory and experiment is of utmost importance, the cost of experimental science is generally considerably
higher than that of the theoretical activities. The 1981 budget we are presenting will permit us to make significant progress toward providing adequate support for experimental
The need for action along these lines encompasses
all of the sciences mentioned. I should like to single out for explanation the activities of computer science which forcefully indicate these needs and also represent the area
of greatest percentage budget increase in the Directorate.
Computer science has been and continues to be highly suc
One can hardly think of another field which has so
dramatically changed our ability and manner of doing a vast array of activities. Growth of computer science is explosive. It is clear that the United States has played a most
dominant role here.
The picture in our universities is,
however, different. Computing facilities are so important to virtually all activities in a university that computing
facilities are by and large devoted to users of computers rather than innovators of computer science. Thus, an activity
has by its own success removed the experimental research
tools from itself.
This is a problem that we shall effec
tively begin to address in 1981.
A substantial portion of
the budget (30%) in computer sciences will be dedicated to strengthening the experimental support necessary for testing theoretical ideas which are developing steadily in American
universities. The interplay between theory and experiment has been the basis of the evolution of computer science. We have slipped in providing the experimental tools to test theoretical concepts that have developed. By strengthening the experimental component without weakening the theoretical, we should achieve a synergistic balance from which certainly evolutionary and perhaps revolutionary developments in computer science will occur. The American university is
an ideal nurturing ground for bold, new concepts in computer
I believe it is fair to say that the familiarity
and interest in computers by a very large number of our
younger population is probably unique in the United States.
Research in this new science, a science which did not exist 40 years ago, is important industrially. Since it is not a natural science it is a new type of science which is syn
thetic rather than analytic.
In this sense it deserves the
deepest basic research since it may be a model for other presently unknown synthetic sciences. There can, however, be no doubt presently of its intrinsic intellectual beauty
and technological importance.
Since most of my remarks are devoted to physical sciences, I should like to somewhat abruptly emphasize the lead role National Science Foundation plays in the support of basic
Ninety percent of the support of basic math
ematics comes from the National Science Foundation.
we have a unique responsibility to assure the health of this discipline. The strength of American mathematics, which has developed over the past 40 years is great. To maintain this strength, a major portion of the budget request of $29.3M for mathematics will support research projects in core mathematics. Current discoveries confirm the power existing in classic fields such as topology and algebra. A high priority, however, is to also provide means for strong,
effective interaction between mathematicians from different
classical fields providing an environment to develop new
fields of mathematics.
It is the power and beauty of mathematics, a subject of pure thought, that of course motivates the mathematician. The
physical scientist and the computer scientist have reaped
great benefits from the labors of the mathematician.
appears evident that progress in problems of presently perceived great complexity will be aided by mathematical
developments. An example of activity in both pure and applied mathematics is bifurcation theory and the general problem of stability of nonlinear systems. The application of developments therein to diverse problems such as weather
forecasting, environmental pollution, fracture of materials
is, of course, speculative here but there can be little
doubt that developments in mathematics are used by scientists. The planned budget in mathematical activity will permit more
mathematicians to execute effective research programs,
attend specifically to the development of young mathema ticians, and to instill further vigor in this most beautiful
In physics, theoretical and experimental work in elementary particles is showing the detailed structure of particles previously thought fundamental. This frontier of physics promises to provide us with the revelation of the ultimate structure of matter. Theoretical and experimental work here is aiming toward a unified theory of interactions of particles which compose the universe. It is a difficult field requiring both highly imaginative, dedicated people
and the strong interaction between theorists and experi
mentalists. The unique atmosphere of university physics departments provides a forum for this interaction. We support experimentalists who are users of national accelerator facilities and also experimental cosmic ray groups. Our support of theorists include the 1979 Nobel