After my earlier post about the defense budget, I thought it might be nice if there were some other similar-sized revenue streams that we could tap into other than DoD funding. It got me thinking… who has the most money? Governments aside (which already have schemes for funding science), it has to be large corporations and big investment banks.
While some large corporations have R & D divisions (e.g. the quantum group at IBM), I’m not aware of any investment bank that has one, despite the large number of physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists that they employ. Could we possibly get a bank to directly fund scientific research? After all, what is the entire NSF budget of $7 billion to a big investment bank? A JP Morgan executive loses that kind of money in the cushions of his couch.
Here is something that could possibly entice one of these entities to invest in physics: using neutrinos to do high-frequency trading. While all those other suckers are busy sending signals overland via satellites and fiber optics, you just take a short cut with a neutrino beam straight through the center of the earth! My back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests an 18 ms difference to send a signal through the Earth from NYC to Shanghai rather than over the surface. You could make the trade and still have time to enjoy a quick blink afterward.
In fact, a group of physicists at Fermilab have recently done an experiment (arXiv) that demonstrated using a neutrino beam to (classically 🙂 ) communicate through the Earth. The bit rate was low, only .1 bits per second, and the distance was only 240m. I’m sure one of the milestones on their Goldman-Sachs grant is to get that up to 1bps and 1km before the program review.