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A Plea for THINK before you PUBLISH!

  1. Jun 19, 2011 #1
    A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    I posted this here because this is really an ethics question. This is a plea to those here at PF that actually 'work' in physics and publish papers. And those who may 'one day' publish.

    So I'm pretty much a 'nobody' in the science world, but I've been working on my little "theory of everything" recently. Alternating between having goose-bumps that I may have discovered something, and chills that I could be right. Chills at possible ramifications in terms of the knowledge that could eventually trickle down to the general populace.

    Consider Einstein-it's apparent he didn't fully explore the ramifications of publishing E=mc^2 since Leó Szilárd had to come bonk him on the head and say "Hello? e=mc^2? chain reaction? 'BOOM!?'" Now almost everyone on the planet knows that famous equation!

    Luckily we "kind of" dodged a bullet that time. It's (currently) very difficult to go from e=mc^2 to BOOM! And luckily this 'has been' the providence of governments-usually large governments.

    But I would contend that it need not be the case that the next BIG discovery would be a bullet so easily dodged! I won't provide any argument(s) to support this idea-I'll leave it to you to realize the truth in that statement.

    I would also implore those you that DO publish (especially in theoretical areas, or cosmology ) to consider FULLY the ramifications of what you want to publish BEFORE doing so. If you wanna run your idea(s) by your buddies in the field-cool. But in general, please keep that shtuff under your hat until you know how your idea(s) would play out if everyone on the planet understood.

    I hope you also realize that sometime very soon another "more secure" mechanism needs to be implemented to allow scientists to communicate with one another, while restricting access.

    Thank you :)
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2011 #2

    Char. Limit

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    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    Everyone on the planet knows that famous equation, but hardly anyone knows what it really MEANS. And besides, why should we halt science just because of a fear that a bad man will use it for evil? I mean, just look at all the potential evil alternating current could have made. You could kill people with it! I guess Nikola Tesla should have just stopped before he ever revolutionized the entire modern world.
  4. Jun 19, 2011 #3
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    So you say we should stop doing science because some people could abuse it? Without science, we wouldn't have the clean energy of nuclear power plants, nor would we have telephones, GPS, computers,...

    Everything can be used to do bad things. Science is no exception. You can't throw out the baby with the bathwater...

    Science is all about discussing ideas with others. It is that way that we could progress so much. I don't think it would be fair to stop science because of some crazy people. We could also stop babies from being born because they will turn out to be terrorists...
  5. Jun 19, 2011 #4
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    I am not saying that all. I am just asking for people to be careful.

    Also, I don't know what the solution is. I think some secure way of 'doing science', and discussing it ought to be implemented. But what form would that take? How would it be implemented? How would you decide who a 'good' scientist is? And who would make that decision?

    Anywayz, please remember this is just a question/statement about ethics. :)

    "...now I am become Death [Shiva], the destroyer of worlds..."-Oppenheimer
  6. Jun 19, 2011 #5


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    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    Keeping a lid on scientific discoveries is a terrible idea. Many technologies carry a dual nature, but overall serve to facilitate a greater good. Science should not be banned/kept secret simply because of the potential to cause harm; if we did so we would be banning most things.

    This would accomplish nothing. Many scientific discoveries have been made by researchers independently. Nothing would prevent any "secret" technology from being rediscovered. As it's said, information wants to be free, especially with the global communications infrastructure that is the Internet. It is far better to maintain the openness that is integral to science and have people research ways to mitigate harm than it is to censor information.
  7. Jun 19, 2011 #6

    Char. Limit

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    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    "The man who gives up a little science to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both." - Paraphrased from Ben Franklin

    Basically, my point is, science in itself is pure. True, there are people who will do bad things with science, just as there are people who will do bad things with anything. However, this doesn't mean that we should watch out, or caution ourselves. That would inhibit research, and considering the current situation of the world, that in itself would be extremely bad.
  8. Jun 19, 2011 #7
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    What if a discovery would result in putting a huge amount 'power' into the hands of everyone?
    Ya know? e=mc^2 "just" resulted in nukes, and they are hard to make. What if a discovery brought that kind of power into the hands of anyone that wanted it?

    Just a thought! :)
  9. Jun 19, 2011 #8
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    And nukes were dropped with airplanes. Airplanes which couldn't fly if it wasn't for gravity. So we should have stopped the theory of gravity too... Let's blame Newton for the nukes.

    Scientists just wanted to understand the world, and they should. Science has lead to wonderful breakthroughs like medicine, computers, airplanes, etc. All those things came into existence BECAUSE we shared science. Sharing is a good thing. But occasionaly, some evil thing like nukes are made, but that's not an argument to restrict talking about science. It is an argument to elect smarter leaders.

    And also fun to think about: it is because of nukes that there has not been a major conflict in the last 70 years!! So nukes bring peace...
  10. Jun 19, 2011 #9


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    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    Then it would be far better to have the information spread to as many researchers as possible in order to find a way to minimize potential harm.

    Keeping it secret only delays the problem.
  11. Jun 19, 2011 #10
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    You are preaching to choir here :)

    But nukes are 'controlled.' It need not be the case the next BIG discovery requires such difficult to obtain materials...maybe a trip to Radioshack is all that's needed.

    And while true, major conflicts seem to have diminished due to fear of the horror that would unleashed...bar room brawls happen all the time.
  12. Jun 19, 2011 #11
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    All that's needed is a trip to the supermarket. Some terrorists already tried that round of shopping.

    If all that's needed to bring down this world is some backyard brew, then that's inevitable and there's really not much anyone can do to stop it. What is really needed is the perseverance of our authorities who watch for these things. There is a balance at work in the advancement of our civilization and ultimately it all makes us a stronger species.
  13. Jun 19, 2011 #12
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    Hrm...ya-I guess maybe this would work huh? It results in a never ending race between measure/countermeasure which would be...tiring. But it could work. It doesn't necessarily follow that 'would' work, but it would at least be possible.

    I dunno...I guess time will tell. Judging by the reaction to this thread looks like people will just share outright...without thinking about the consequences.

    I wish you all the best and hope none of you ever have to have the look on your faces Oppenheimer did?

  14. Jun 19, 2011 #13
    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    I don't think this could ever work. Well...unless you wanna go all "1984." hehe
  15. Jun 19, 2011 #14


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    Re: A Plea for "THINK before you PUBLISH!"

    This is closed.
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