Unethical and Elitist Conduct Found Shocking

Arnold Bloom reported in the Letters (APS News August/September) that around 1960 Varian Associates of Palo Alto took an Army contract to study ways of canceling or shielding the force of gravity; Varian knew the idea was nonsense but took the contract with the intent of redirecting it. It was exceedingly unethical for Varian to take money and promise to do work they had no intention of doing. It was also very elitist of them to assume they should redirect Army funding into “fields more meaningful to the Army” as Mr. Bloom put it, as though they naturally understood better what research the Army needed than did the Army personnel charged with that responsibility. I suspect their motives weren’t even that pure: had they convinced the Army to redirect the research before taking the contract (Did they actually bid for it?) they may have lost the competitive bid and thus the revenue and fee. I don’t know whether I was more shocked by such unethical and elitist conduct on the part of Varian or the cavalier reporting of it by Mr. Bloom, who apparently thought he and Varian behaved properly and the story just reflected badly on the “ha, ha, stupid” Army. I do know this: If the readers of APS News are not revolted by the story, we are indeed the technically competent but amoral, elitist profession so many laymen think we are.

Paul Dickson
Aiken, SC

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff

November 2007 (Volume 16, Number 10)

APS News Home

Issue Table of Contents

APS News Archives

Contact APS News Editor

Articles in this Issue
Seven Apker Finalists Meet in Washington
Physics Fans Get Chance to Win World's Smallest Trophy
2007 Nobel Prize Honors GMR Discovery
Eight Physicists Honored at November Division Meetings
Monica Plisch, Catherine Mader Join APS Education Team
Lidar, Laser Sperm Traps Highlight Annual OSA/DLS Meeting
From Researching the Universe to Running the University: The Physicist as President
National Summit Urges Commitment to Competitiveness
Media Fellows Bring Science to the Masses
2008 Prize and Award Recipients
Members in the Media
This Month in Physics History
Washington Dispatch
International News
Zero-Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
The Back Page