Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Science and secrets

  1. Apr 8, 2005 #1
    I want first to say that I am not anti-govenment, anti-secret or aniti-science. I also want to say that I am asking a question that I do not consider myself well versed on but have noticed things kept secret for many years that I have wondered about. For example, I know that the U.S. government has some very sophisticated capabilities for spying on people. The stuff that I know about is that they can spy on anyone, anywhere, at anytime. I also know from personal experiance that, at least in the U.S., they are only interested in national security issues and have been almost flawless in keeping spyees personal life's personal except when necessary for the protection of national interests.

    But there are other issues that concern me. Mostly, when technology has far more value to the citizens of a country when it is made public, than it does to the national security, should it be kept secret? As an example, if an ambient temperature superconductor were developed, that has spectacular value to everybody, but questionable value to the defense of a nation, should it be kept secret?

    Another aspect would be along the line of being able to trust the people in government. As an example, if the government was able to build a hydrogen rocket that could take us to the stars (if Einstein was right about time, then it would be possible for a propulsion system to do it), what guarantee would we have that they wouldn't do it in secret and claim new planets for themselves? Or try to build some kind of super society by creating secret superqualifications for people traveling to the stars?

    I'd like to hear some of your thoughts on the subject.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2005 #2


    User Avatar

    That's what they'd like you to think...What government wouldn't want to portray themselves as being able to see anyone at anytime.

    As for making new technology public like the ambient temperature superconductor, the average joe won't be able to afford most of these top secret technologies. But for those corporations and businesses that can afford them - I'm sure that with the right connections nowadays, they can already get their hand in top-secret technology (perhaps less powerful when made for the public, like how the GPS system works). In other words, I'm sure that the proliferation of technology is not so limited by "the government". Especially considering that military technology is becoming more and more dependent on the inventions of civilian contractors/companies (ie. camelbaks, goretex).

    Also, this claiming new planets deal takes A LOT of money. This isn't TV - it's not like it's "just a few million dollars" to go to a planet, claim it. Claiming any new planet would require a lot of study. Research would involve checking into whether there are sufficient resources to be extracted, how easy it is to extract resources and bring it back and overall - and to check if it is financially beneficial overall.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2005
  4. Apr 9, 2005 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    As GeD said, no, they cant spy on anyone anywhere anytime. Realistically, government spying is about as easy as it is you or me to spy when you think about it so you can go pick a victim and try to stalk them and see exactly how far you can get because thats pretty much how far the government can get too. Wire tapping is easily done by people just as its easily done by the government. I can bug a house just as easily as the government can. Thanks to the internet, mini spy equipment is widely available. I can listen into conversations as easily as the government. The things that you think the government would be able to do that is far beyond personal spying capabilities are in most cases, fiction and peoples imagination going wild. There is no scientific way to "look through walls" at will so theres obviously no practical way of doing so either even with a government checkbook. People can't read your mind.... Well, ok, to simply it, basically all there is to it is that what the government can do, the people can do just as well and there are VERY VERY VERY few things the government can do that the general public cant do (and those things dont give them much information at all)

    As far as the semi-conductor thing goes, the thing is, as we have seen throughout history, is that the public is privvy to pretty much all the technology the government has but it usually takes a few years or decades for it to reach public hands. This is because the government can spend $5 million on a mini-spy airplane no problem. But wait a few years or decades and the commercial sector gets a hold of that technology because theres profit in it and you end up being able to make a 'spy' airplane of your own for a few hundred grand. All technology does inevitably hit the general public when costs can be driven down far enough. Lets say they have an anti-gravitational thingy at Area 51 or something. Theres no reason they wouldnt get it to the public at some point eventually OTHER then the fact that it costs bookoo bucks and impossible to sell to the general public.

    Theres a few things that probably wont get into the commercial sector though such as stealth technology. Thing is though... that stuff is very unsafe in the hands of the public (which is actually 1 reason some things will not go to the public... but will be known by the public at the least). Plus no real value exists for having a commercial boeing 747 being invisible to radar....

    But meh... i dunno. One thing you must remember htough is that if some people did come together and were pondering whether to release some technology to the public, history dictates a few things for us. For one, most military technologies or government technologies are never seen as having military applications. Thats actually the story with most technologies period. When a technology in the end has a huge impact on the general public, its usually thought of as a 1 use wonder when it was first conceived. I mean telephones (or was it radio) was invented solely to broadcast opera's! Most technologies cant be forcasted as far as their usefulness in society is concerned. And again, if its government, its probably incredibly expensive and useless to the public at that price.

    And as far as 'government' conspiracies with people like that planet thing; its illogical. To think that a huge government would try to keep a secret is improbable unless it was military. People inside governments love digging up secrets and exposing things (especially when there a different party) and getting camera time. Its just illogical to think that you can get thousands of people to go along with keeping an entire planet secret.

    Plus of course we have enemies spying on us. They keep a watch on US space launches and would realize something is weird if a spacecraft is going some place it wasnt meant to go. They would jump on it and throw it into the international press and boom, exposed. Plus of course, if we found resources there... its going to be REALLY hard to keep it a secret that the resources are coming from a different planet. I mean the people involved in anything involving resources is just... pff, forget about it. Plus people would start wondering why theres a crap load of re-entries into our planet everyday delivering stuff no one knows about or claims exist.
  5. Apr 9, 2005 #4
    How likely is it that a technology discovered by secret government projects will also be discovered by the private industry?

    Does it largely depend on the field of study?
  6. Apr 10, 2005 #5


    User Avatar

    It probably does depend on the field of study. A super tank or rifle would be useless for most public use and would probably not be open to the public for a long time, whereas a new superconductor or new form of energy source would be useful to the public and would probably be easier to move to the public in a few years time.
  7. Apr 10, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That's not correct. The amount of fuel that would be required is way beyond prohibitive, no matter what the propulsion system is.
  8. Apr 10, 2005 #7
    In today's New Scientist, there is a discussion of pre speech readers. This device is designed by darpa, and picks up on the neural impulses that precede speech, and reads the words that are said in the mind, prior to speaking them. The secret is out, and the real secret is that you don't have to have a special collar for this to happen, a sensor at a distance can do the same reading off the surface of the skin. So now I know why mantras and meditation, and a clear mind are so important, and are a part of the ancient technologies that existed and manifest in spiritual practices of the Himalayan foothills. This has all happened before. Apparently silence, is golden.

    Last edited: Apr 10, 2005
  9. Apr 10, 2005 #8
    Interesting. Every comment is rifled with error. I really appreciate them, though. I'll probably start another thread called 'Possibilites to ponder' some time later that will address some of these issues. I think most people will enjoy what I have to say except for the people trying to keep the lid on secrets and physicists who are trapped in convention. I'm not really interested in what is being kept secret, but the whole process of secrecy. I would like comments from people not involved in the intellignece community nor people who have secret clearances nor people involved in secrets policies.

    I want to know what ordinary citizens think is acceptable for government classification. In other words, what kinds of technology do you think is acceptable for classification? And, what kinds of technology should not be classified? Also, what kind of people should be involved in making these determinations. Should it be people who make their living from the government? Should it be only civilians? Obviously, it requires people with the technical skills to evaluate any technology under evaluation.

    Soon after the U.S. Patent Office first went online, they put out a call for 700 missing patents. They had the record of their existance, but no documentation. Doubtless, most of these patents covered technologies that had application in the U.S. Defense, which, in my opinion, should be removed from the public, even though that is contrary to the rules governing patents. However, I also believe that some of these patents involved energy efficient systems and were probably removed because they were deemed harmful to the economic status quo, a point that I think is only partly correct. These are the kinds of issues I wish to address on this thread. Not secrets in particular, but secrets policies. Tell me what you think.
  10. Apr 10, 2005 #9
    I don't think that there should be any secrets. I think that secrecy betrays reason, honesty, and ethical considerations. If we would drop all secrecy, shortly we wouldn't need it, because we would be practicing transparency at all levels of government. Remember that government is alleged to be the will of the people, with the good of the people at the forefront of all decision making.

    Unfortunately our secrecy practices allow private entities to make obscene profits to the detriment of our social well being. Ideas are bandied about in these cliques that are so shocking in their reality and inhumanity, that the light of day would end them. Huge monies are spent in the purchase of opinion, so that the most ghastly experimentation occurs that should never occur among civilized peoples.

    Examples, electromagnetic crowd control devices that burn skin, or burst eardrums, or vibrate the brain. These will be used on you or your children. If these ideas were presented in town hall meetings, they would not fly. If the reality of the pathogens that the government is working on, or plans to; in newly expanded facilities 40 miles from my city were fully explained, then our pro life budget would not be spent on things that are inherently so anti-life.

    Secrecy forwards dishonest dealings, forwards elitism and corporate profit taking, masked as enlightened diplomacy. If we really knew all the dark science our government engages in, it would not be funded, but alas it is secret, so we have no control over its content, or intent.

    It is an awful/wonderful world, and we have no choice in the matter of how our nation behaves, if we are not informed of how it is behaving, due to secrecy. Secrecy exists, not to protect the interests of the people of the United States, but to prevent accountability in government, on any level, whether it be financial, ethical, or simply functional.
  11. Apr 10, 2005 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    And when we live in an utopia, you can make that argument.

    As a rather extreme example, do you think we'd've had a chance in WWII if we didn't keep secret the fact we could read the Axis's encrypted communications?

    This goes all the way from governments down to individuals -- very bad things can happen to you when you don't keep your personal information personal.

    Secrecy is a very important thing.
  12. Apr 10, 2005 #11
    Hurkyl, it can't hurt to have a telos in mind, can it?
  13. Apr 10, 2005 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I don't see how having a Star Wars planet in mind would help... :biggrin:
  14. Apr 11, 2005 #13
    These aren't utopian comments on my part, they are extremely pragmatic. A nation such as our own, comes up with a mission statement, that is about us, not the world, maybe yes the wellness of the planet. We state our territorial sovereignty, and explain that we are happy to play nice, but if you don't play nice, this is what we do. After that, everything is transparent. The old "Don't Tread On Me", stays in effect.

    I think that, for instance, Liberians should be rich off their resources, Bolivians, Ecudorians, or they should be able to sit in their rainforests and live as they have. I think that Americans should farm their land, raise their herds, make commerce as they may, but playing well with others.

    The fall of feudal systems and monarchies the world over, was a long time coming, and there were different economic systems to facilitate the move. With democracies springing up it should be easy for democratically elected governments to engage in meaningful and polite discourse, and we should be able to save our world, and live on it peacefully. Secrecy is no help in this adjustment to democracy.

    People who profit on secrecy will tell you differently, since they have so much at stake. I looked up Telos, and it is an interesting company. They probably know what is on my desk at this moment, and how much space I take up in my living room. I am aware that I have no secrets. This is the thing. Not one of the citizens of the United States Of America, has any secrets that cannot easily be discerned, by many means. However, our government, which is supposed to be by and for us, has some secrets. Most of the governments secret keeping, is handled by civilian contractors any more, and therefore they are for sale to the highest bidders. As long as we are the highest bidders, I guess our secrets are safe. But the people of this nation are not the highest bidders, not even close.
  15. Apr 11, 2005 #14
    This is mighty frustrating. I don't even like Star Wars! :tongue2:
  16. Apr 15, 2005 #15


    User Avatar

    Thanks for calling our comments as errors, yet do nothing to provide any PROOF or ARGUMENTS to show that this is so.

    What's the point of learning about the civilian point of view in this matter? They have little to no knowledge or experience in dealing with national security, and the civilians who act all high and mighty as armchair intelligence experts have knowledge so they feel secure - but have no actual field experience. The relevant points of view here are those we elected or will elect to be our representatives with dealing with our national defense.
    It would be like asking random people on the street how they would manage the financial 5-year plan of an nfl team.
  17. Apr 15, 2005 #16


    User Avatar

    I guess it just depends which Starwars he's talking about lol :rofl:
  18. Apr 15, 2005 #17


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I say if any secret, if revealed to an enemy nation or accidently to an enemy through an ally, would put our nation at risk or compromise an 'system' we currently deploy, it should not be revealed to the general public until the said enemy is no longer an enemy. Rather vague idea and crafty people could probably stretch it to entain a lot of things that probably shouldnt be classified.... but hey, im not in charge of this stuff :D.

    And careful when you make assumptions of missing patents. They may all very well be secrets on bread making.... every single one of them. And i really dont think a government has to patent military technologies... doesnt seem to make sense... They also, like all people, dont HAVE to file for a patent. Theres a company in oregon who produces some product that everyone in the industry is envious of. Their production method is the reason they are the best and they decided not to file a patent. This way, the secret is never public knowledge which actually provides more security then the intended security a patent is suppose to deliver.
  19. Apr 19, 2005 #18
    I like your basic premises however, I do have a question for you. Would you want terrorists to know how to build atomic bombs, particle beams or other weapons of mass destruction, knowing that they would use these weapons againest innocent civilians and the militarys of the west, especially the U.S.?

    Also, since the government has to work with industry for the manufacturing and deployment of these technologies, do you think there has to be some give and take on the profits necessary for businesses to remain viable?

    The point is that the people involved in secrets tend to get tunnel vision because of their involvement and also tend to forget that they are supposed to represent the will of the people (at least in a democracy or democratic-republic such as the U.S.). The point of this thread is to provide a forum for ordinary civilians to express their views for the legitimacy of secrets so that some of the arrogant bureaucrats can have a broader view of what ordinary civilians feel is just and right. Remember, it is the 'educated elite' who cause most of the misery of the world. They are the ones who start the wars that ordinary civilians have to fight, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. So, don't discredit ordinary civilians. They are a lot smarter than most of the 'educated elite' would like to believe. And, they almost always have a better perspective of right and wrong than the 'educated elite'. And again, many of them do have 'field experience' and others have insights far greater than you or me. These are the people who I would like to hear from. I think a lot of people involved in the intellegence community would also like to have a citizen's view of these matters also. It never hurts to review the reasons why policies should exists. So, please do not try to intimidate ordinary citizens from responding.

    But, you are right about the need for (at least) some secrets. I would like to know what the citizenry thinks should be kept secret, hence the purpose of this thread.

    It probably works more like this: Somebody patents something that has a useful military application. The government makes him an offer that he won't refuse. The government then removes all evidence from the PTO so that foreign nationals won't have access to the information. This would usually happen during the two years between the submission of a patent and the patent approval, at which time it would become public. But you are right about the rest. Secret projects financed by the government are placed under the secrets act at the beginning so that no information is ever in the public domain. I just want to know what ordinary citizens think those secrets should be.
  20. Apr 23, 2005 #19
    It seems to me that what it means to be a nation, has been forgotten. Sometime after the industrial revolution, socialism and communism appeared, as attempts to economically level the playing field, and make the world more safe and fair, after millennia of rule by despots, and centuries of warfare in Europe between petty monarchies.

    Then the new independent entrepeneurs of the world stood up and declared capitalism good, and godly and just, and the best way for the world to function. Gradually enormous corporations began to infiltrate the government and procure a huge percentage of our gross national income, to promote their economic interests in the name of national security, making a military-socialist system, that has taken on a life of its own.

    Now huge corporations use our armies as their own muscle for international business endeavors. When these corporations misbehave, or misrepresent their interests abroad, or manipulate the government to do their bidding, we the people will pay by loss of security, caused by corporate acting out. It is the government and their workers that will be safe, not the people of the US. Secrecy shrouds this, and spin and racheting of terrorist threats, keep us, willing or not, spending our GNP on secret military industrial matters. A great deal of new secrecy has been legislated by this government, there are whole arrays of what used to be everyday activities of government, and various industries, that are now classified.

    I am going to sound like a mother here, when I say, that if we behaved better, and were more generous abroad, rather than backing up scheming banks, and giant commercial enterprises that forget they are not the people of the US; then we would have less security issues. If we had not gone to Iraq, we would be in a much better place, if we had spent all that money on the people of the United States, or if the people of the United States could have just kept the money, it would be much better.

    Our security people were busy working as chumps for large corporations, and scheming to put in pipelines, and working to keep governments in place that let the oil companies do whatever they want, they were so busy serving corporate intentions, that they failed to protect the people of the United States, which is what they are paid to do. This is why 9/11 happened, we were busy brokering a pipeline, we were busy keeping industry friendly governments in place here and there, we were busy working intelligence at the bidding of anyone but the people of the US. We were looking out for a certain segment of the population, we were playing a high stakes game, somewhere else but right here, and we were being paid to not pay attention, to a great deal of dealing and wheeling. It is going to be much worse, because we have made a lot more enemies, and our diplomacy has been high handed and lousy, and we are looking to put a histrionic, mustached, menopausal maniac in our seat at the UN.

    It is very important that we get back to being America, within our borders, living our lives, growing our food, growing our internal economy, finding ways to decrease our energy use, and making life better for us, in a fundamental way. If we had used all that Iraq money for helping Africa overcome aids, or making sure there are no hungry American children, or cleaning up our environment, and helping industry get clean, again we would be in a much better place.

    Instead, because we are at "war", all this secret spending of the US economy goes on, more and more gruesome weapons systems, crowd control systems, invasive domestic spying, biological warfare revival, carte blanche to any industry that wants a piece of the American economy. All this secrecy, and our system of Social Security is being bankrupted in the name of spending money where this corporate friendly government would prefer to spend it.

    The fact is that if it were all transparent, then 3/4 of it would not be necessary. The Air Force would fly out off regular airport runways, and would buy garbage cans and toilet seats at regular prices from regular retail merchants. The myth is that the military is more American, than the rest of the American people. If we could clearly make the good of the American People our governmental goal, then foreign nations would not need to defend themselves from us. We would be here, doing business, working, growing our food, growing our technology and peacefully engaging in trade for domestic goods, not weapons systems. This is not utopian, this is functional. We are making enemies of our neighbors to both the North and South.

    Regards to secrecy and top secret weapons systems, there are no secrets. Private corporations, handle the computer support for this government at every level. Private corporations, have no loyalty except to the bottom line. In a capitalist society everything is for sale. Secrecy, again, just leads to gross lack of accountability.

    We do not need advanced crowd control weapons, mind control weapons, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons, we need peaceful intent. We need open, honest, transparent foreign policy that has to do with the welfare of the American People, not the welfare of multinational corporations, or weapons dealers. We need to turn back to our nation, and be content with being The United States Of America, not a superpower, or an empire, forming.

    At the dawning of the Nuclear age, it was the people that revealed the secrets that kept the world safe. We are not safe as long as the intent is there to rule the world by might. Secret weapons systems that give us the edge over enemies that I consider to be non-existent, just make the world poorer, and much less safe. Largely this secrecy, and war-mongering, is a game that has gone on for far too long. This is what a lot of people do for money, but it is also what a lot of people do for fun. This is the ultimate high level game, and it is ridiculous.

    Keep in mind, this government has no secrets, only information it keeps from the American people about the real intent of the power brokers.

    I was just reading up on the international protocols for experimentation on humans. Above all there is a protection of privacy, for those that choose to participate in human trials. The rules are that trials of things requiring human subjects have to be benevolent, just, and of value to the population where the experiments are carried out, unless some government guy says that it just isn't necessary. Rules regarding privacy are suspended for elected officials, or someone running for office. Private contractors hold information on every citizen of this nation, information that the government is not allowed to gather by law, but information they can purchase from private sources.

    Again, there is no real secrecy, only misrepresentation, profit taking, manipulation of fact, and the most icy and indifferent greed. The people who get to play in the big game, are terribly addicted to this, and to making it real, all the threats, and secrets, by any means available to them. It is as if the most paranoid personalities in any arena are employed to terrorize us. This includes the politicians, the generals, the religious leaders, the terrorists, the wheelers and the dealers, the diplomats, and the mercenaries. This group of individuals can all go backstage at will and trade uniforms, they are all the same as far as I am concerned, this game is played for their entertainment.

    A small magazine in Salt Lake reported that locals from the editorial staff were in Rome for the funeral of the Pope. They saw Condoleeza out to dinner with Bill Clinton, and asked for Bill to autograph their menu. He was not pleased, but signed anyway.

    The big secret is that we are all paying the admission price for the players, and neither we nor the rest of the people of the world, can afford it. My distant American ancestors, came here on the second boat, not the Mayflower. When they arrived here some of my ancestors already lived here, long before any of the boats came. If you added up all the income generated by both familial lines, down to the landing of that first boat, we would have not made enough money to pay for one B-1 Bomber. Think about that, that is very out of balance, that cost of this stuff is much more than the Earth can bear, than the people, animals and plants can bear. Secrecy, warfare and terrorism, and gross profit taking, deliberately cloud the judgement of all of us, and puts us at odds unnecessarily, unnecessarily for our well being; not necessarily for the well being of the well paid and well fed profiteers.

    No single American citizen has even one secret, except for those that live completely off the grid, that they are homeless people, and desert rats, the individual living in this society lives in a very small, very transparent fishbowl. This needs to be turned around, the government should by comparison, be like a free aquarium, where every move is seen, in 360 degree clarity. It should be that if you work for this government, you and every branch of this government should be visible, every phone call made for official business, everything espoused, stated, or acted out, while on the clock, should be open to the scrutiny of the owners, which is us.

    A lot of people might not care what happens day to day, in government. They might care if they knew what was being done in their name. Secrecy breeds a disassociative state in the national psyche. Coupled with the economic disaster of the last six years, and the outrageous spin, the whole country has post and ongoing traumatic stress disorder. Trillions of dollars have been milked out of this trauma. The planning that went into this was all secret.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook