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I could cite the Cold War’s end and other conditions that contributed to this crisis. But let me try another tack. Read our special report, “10 Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World”. Then ask yourself, What will a report like this look like 10 years from now if the government continues to neglect investment in these critical areas?

Or turn to “Supercomputing Resurrected”. This powerful story showcases how Japan, with its Earth Simulator, has taken the lead in supercomputing-and how U.S. neglect of this vitally important technology has left the nation scrambling to catch up. Indeed, Japan’s success points to a golden age of big scientific computing that promises payoffs in global-climate modeling, understanding how the body’s proteins work, and simulations of similarly complex systems. The United States initially responded to the $350 million Japanese effort with a few $3 million research grants to pursue new supercomputing architectures. Last November the Energy Department upped the ante by awarding a $267 million contract to IBM to build a faster supercomputer than the Earth Simulator. These may be prudent first steps. But without a commitment that goes beyond playing catch-up, the nation risks falling further behind and delaying important discoveries. Yes, I realize that this sounds like the same argument we heard about Asia and Europe in the 1980s. But vigilance must be eternal.

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