Myhrvold confirms the link between basic research and profit by pointing out that technology companies founded in the last 30 years that rely on basic research carried out since the second World War now have a market value of over a trillion dollars. He also criticizes certain "misconceptions" that exist about long-term research in industry. For example, he writes, although Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center is often considered a failure because the company failed to capitalise on the invention of the graphical user interface at the Palo Alto lab, profits from laser printers - also discovered there - have more than covered the cost of research at the company.

"There is no useless research"

Myhrvold is most worried the decreasing investment by both industrial companies and governments in high-risk basic research. Governments in particular, he says, "should consider longer time scales [50-100 years] and make investments accordingly. Even the most hard-nosed politician should realize that supporting science makes money and brings very tangible non-monetary benefits."