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Hush-hush physics

  1. Apr 29, 2007 #1
    Is the potential for misuse of education greater with physics?

    Do the responsibilities of most physicists and the information they deal with require knowledge secure beyond that of other fields?

    Where are the required ethics taught in college?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2007 #2
    Are you talking about classified military research?

    At the undergraduate school I went to, there was absolutely no classified research, and my physics department had quite a few different research fields. At the physics department where I'm going to graduate school, there's also no classified research (at least not as far as I know, I just joined, so there might be someone in some corner of the department doing classified research, but probably not). As far as I can tell, physics doesn't seem to be "hush hush" at all.
  4. Apr 29, 2007 #3
    There are some classified researching at my school. It isn't with the government, but my school has a contract with several big research companies. In exchange for the ownership of what we make for them, they pay us a large sum of money and buy us what we need.

    Only people who know what we are making are the professors and researchers who do the actually work and the 1 or 2 students choosen to assist in the program.
  5. Apr 30, 2007 #4
    Thank you, arunma.

    I believe that physics, more than any other university subject, has great potential for destruction. What might be considered relatively benign in our schools often has applications for terrorism or other warfare. This is more than willful choice; it is the nature of our study. Even on Physics Forums I have seen questionable posts (e. g., asking about explosives, and posted from the Middle East) followed by warnings from our members not to reply.

    Take, for example, the Keck's laser used by many universities benignly for measuring atmospheric turbulence. It may just as well apply the technology to blind airplane pilots. This is not paranoia but the realization that caution must be exercized in all sciences, but especially physics. A person operating a car or buying a gun undergoes more legal scrutiny than an undergraduate manipulating radioactive isotopes. Many secrets are stolen by foreign national graduate students. Post secondary education represents a major gap in our security.

    After my freshman year at Yale, I worked for the office of Fusion Energy, where I had a Confidential clearance and many others had a Q-clearance. Maybe physics departments need to consider the reputation of their applicants as well as their GREs. This includes the recognition of morality among colleagues in our often introverted study.
  6. Apr 30, 2007 #5
    :eek: I'm scared.

    I believe I recall something about where in a room would be the best to set off an explosive or something to that effect, or maybe I'm just getting my memory mixed up and I'm actually refering to a mythbusters episode. PF helping terror? I'd hope not
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
  7. Apr 30, 2007 #6
    Sounds like paranoia.
  8. Apr 30, 2007 #7
    Am I suppose to laugh or cry? As the theperthvan pointed out, that sounds like utter paranoia.
  9. Apr 30, 2007 #8
    No, it's paranoia. :smile:
  10. Apr 30, 2007 #9
    I did not mean to implicate Middle Easterners, but to give an example of what happened after 9/11 - an incident on PF which apparently for many raises no red flags now but did then.
  11. Apr 30, 2007 #10
    yeah but you did.
    this thread is a joke. delete it.
  12. Apr 30, 2007 #11
    I doubt the malefactors behind 9/11 used PF as a reference! This said, one would not need to ask a question on PF to get specifics on detonating a bomb, especially if one has access to the internet. So as to get more on topic, the modern era has given physics a far more importance in warfare than ever before. This certainly means that physics now represents a great weapon in the hands (or minds?) of criminals... but I don't think the onus is on the scientists who have no criminal intentions. Just about every aspect of physics has positive as well as negative applications.
  13. Apr 30, 2007 #12
    This statement could lead to a negative view of education overall. Consider the possible damage that could be, or has been, wrought with chemical and biological warfare, eugenics, psychometrics, etc... then to take it further, it is not just the "hard" sciences, engineering and "soft" sciences that could lead to great damage. The liberal arts can, and in their most effective forms, provide medium for the aestheticization of various forms... including polictical aims and violence.

    I would worry less about education being a source of misuse and worry more about the uneducated being easily swayed by persuasive arguments and developed propaganda.
  14. Apr 30, 2007 #13
    At least at the undergrad level, I'd be a lot more worried about an engineer, chemist, or biologist going nuts and misusing their education.

    Of course, as VT showed us, anyone with the motivation to hurt people can find a way to do it.

    Does this really belong in this part of the board? Not flaming, just wondering.
  15. Apr 30, 2007 #14
    I wasn't sure myself, but neither was I joking. I appreciate your and other constructive comments.

    My mention of the Middle East was to relate an actual incident on PF regarding concern by PF members of a post from the Middle East asking about explosives in the wake of 9/11. I am sure that a lot of PF members are cautious, on certain occasions, not to share particular information. This need carries into the classroom. Others have rightly said that biologists, chemists and other scientists should also be wary.

    I encourage you all to make physics a field of peace. One reason I do not pursue my MS there is the preponderance of dangerous applications in the DC area and elsewhere. Maybe I am paranoid, somewhat like the Iraqis must feel. However, there is a need to consider the tradition of physics careers being used for offensive ends.

    Would you find yourself paid to promote the machinery of warfare?
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