Reflections on blue sky research

Serge Haroche from College de France, Paris:

Mankind has always been fascinated by fundamental questions about the Universe and our place in it. This has led to the development of curiosity-driven research, whose successes are among the jewels of our civilized world. There is indeed an aesthetic truth in a scientific theory, comparable to the gratuitous beauty of a piece of art. In addition, basic science is essential to the development of new technologies. I will show that the knowledge accumulated by the fundamental approach to science has led, often in unpredictable ways, to practical applications which have revolutionized our daily lives. I will also reflect on the dangers blue sky research faces in our uncertain global world and explain why it is essential to protect it and to make it thrive, in spite of the present economic difficulties.