Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Geniuses harassed by morons

The death today of Charles Townes, one of the men who introduced lasers into our lives, reminds RtO that the malefactors of the national security state did their best to prevent it.

Focus, a site that covers optics and photonics, has the story of Gordon Gould, who eventually shared in the patents on the laser:

Gould needed money to build his laser and proposed the project to the Pentagon. He was exceptionally good at impressing the military scientists, who imagined the laser as a “death ray” and consequently provided him with more funding than he had originally asked for. But there was a problem: Gould had been related to some communist propaganda activities and the Pentagon could not allow a potential Soviet spy to work on a project that had become classified, despite the fact that this was his own project. Gould was neither authorized to know the results of the experiments he proposed, nor given the security clearance to physically enter the building where they were being performed. TRG, the company for which Gould was working, even had to refurbish the building to allow Gould to go to the bathroom without violating security!
Focus does not say so but national security state goons seized Gould's laboratory notebooks and it was decades before he got them back. Wikipedia has more about this, though even it does not relate that the morons of the right seized the notebooks. I suppose Gould should have been glad they didn't kill him to keep his brain away from the commies.

Ironically, or not as the case may be, the commies were just as capable to figuring out light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation as the capitalists and two of them shared the Novel Prize with Townes. 

By the way, the "communist propaganda" was Gould's mildly left political views. But rightwingers do not now and have never believed in liberty of conscience.


  1. I'm not sure what you're trying to say here. Let's start with something simple. Do you think we should general publish all military secrets and or invite enemy spies to study our advanced weapon systems?

  2. It seems clear enough to me. The idiots couldn't seize his brain (or understand what he knew) so they seized his notebooks. Also, they couldn't distinguish between loyal citizens who weren't as stupid as them and enemies of the state. (See Operation Paperclip)

    Who was the greater threat to democracy? Not Gould.

  3. You didn't answer my question.

  4. We were doing that at the time Gould had his notebooks seized. But since the enemies were fascists, everybody was cool with it. See Operation Paperclip.

    Gould's 'commie propaganda' was the same as commie Ike's position.

    In the particular case of lasers, they weren't weapons and the commies knew as much about them as we did.

    More generally, the enemies of our democracy doing the most damage were in the Pentagon and its allied lunatic asylums (nuclear-powered airplane, anyone? No? How about clairvoyance? Sure a good thing we kept that weapon away from the commies, right?)

  5. You still didn't answer my question. I'll repeat it:

    Do you think we should general publish all military secrets and or invite enemy spies to study our advanced weapon systems?

  6. Why do you ask? Does it have anything at all to do with my post?

  7. I need your answer to the question to understand the context of what you're writing about.

  8. Let me reframe it for reality:

    Do you think we should general(ly) publish all military secrets and or invite our allies to study our advanced weapon systems?

    Specifically, should the United States have shared atomic bomb technology with the UK? (Hint: It didn't)

  9. I hope to find time to expand on it, but there is no general rule because often it turns out to be advantageous not to keep weaponry secret. Two examples: the Norden bombsight and the proximity fuse.

    However, this is far off the original post, which did not concern enemies or spies but loyal Americans. We can ask, how did it benefit American democracy to purge its best researchers in the '50s? Not at all, in my opinion.