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Re: rant on the morality of confidentiality (fwd)



Forwarded message:

> Date: Sat, 10 Jan 1998 16:51:05 -0800
> From: Tim May <[email protected]>
> Subject: Re: rant on the morality of confidentiality

> Doesn't matter how the establishment (whatever that might be) looked on him
> or not...you challenged me to name _one_ example, and I named several. Oh,
> and it is not true as you later claim that all of my examples "eventually
> published" all of their findings. Fermat did not, Gauss did not.

Gauss and Fermat both published or shared their works with others
contemporaries as demonstrated via their short biographies that I submitted
to the list.

> My main point has been to refute your notion that any one who elects not to
> publish in the open literature cannot be a scientist. I know of many
> scientists who could not publish, or chose not to for various reasons.

If one doesn't publish (which in the scientific sense means to share
publicly ones discoveries, *not* necessarily in open literature - which is a
constraint you have never implied before now - changing the rules in the
middle of the game are we...and while you go ballistic - when Gauss and
Fermat were alive there were no magazines, work was published via
demonstrations, books or by letters shared between co-workers) then be so
kind as to explain how anyone would find out about the work in the first
place, divine intervention?

> I mentioned the Manhattan Project scientists. (Choate made some bizarre
> claim after this mention that all of the science was known in the 20 and
> 30s, and that no actual science was done by MP "engineers" and
> "technicians." Might be a surprise to Ulam, Teller, von Neumann, and all
> the others who worked in secrecy on the atom bomb, then the hydrogen bomb,
> and so on.)

What Ulam, Teller, Von Neumann did regarding actualy making the devices;
such as the work on explosive lenses; was *engineering or technology* it
wasn't science. Science as was extant at the time was quite capable of
describing what needed to be done, the question was how to build the damn
thing. THAT question is technological not scientific. Furher, at *no* time
did I imply that those working on the bomb simply quite working on the
theoretical issues that were still unanswered. The reality is, as my
original claim, that the process *required both*. However, taking this to
the extreme, as you are want to do, of equating them is a disservice to
their achievements and the endeavors of science and engineering.

Further, if you had done one whit of research on the Manhatten Project you
would have found that the *primary* issue for most of the scientist was that
the military wouldn't allow them to *share their work*. In many of the
letters, depositions, minutes of meetings, etc. there are continous and
heated discussion on how the secrecy impacted negatively the process of
meeting their goals. Ulam, Teller, Von Neumann, et ali. would be the *first*
to refute your claim.

> Oh, and what of all the many fine Russian scientists of this century,
> nearly all restricted in what they could publish? Because they could not
> submit their work to open publication were they not doing science?

And very little of what they didn't publish outside of the CCCP made a big
difference to what others were doing. As a matter of fact, because of this
many of the Russian scientists are reaping the rewards by being passed over
for Nobels and other such rewards for sharing their work. A very clear
result of this policy in the CCCP was the technological 2nd class that
resulted in just about every aspect of Soviet science and engineering
outside of some very esoteric and theoretical work. A primary example of
*why* and *how* such secrecy *inhibits* rather than promotes science is a
study of Russian biological sciences. If you seriously claim that the policy
of state secrecy didn't inhibit russian science then be so kind as to
explain their clones of the Apple II or the IBM 360, which were truly
attrocious in their technology. Just look at the impact on China because of
these sorts of policies, it was in the late 1970's before they ever managed
to build a TTL equivalent quad-NAND gate, something that the western world
had been cranking out since the late 1960's. I got involved in computers and
electronics in 1969 *because* those self same 7400 chips were *dumped on the
surplus market*. Prey tell how we managed to create a technological millieu
that allows 9 year old kids to play with chips for pennies when a whole damn
country with a population in the billions can't manage to build and use till
nearly 10 years later? 

> The point being that open publication is only a part of the methodology of
> doing science, and a fairly recent one, too.

Malarky. If you simply review the history of science (something that is
becoming clear you haven't) and study some of these great luminaries works
you find that *critical* to all of them was *sharing* their work(s) with
others of a similar bent. Their biographies are replete with mentions of
letters, meetings, books, etc. they both supplied and received from others.

Back to Newton, he graduated in 1665 w/ a BA from Cambridge. Shortly before
this he had begun his experiments in light. He published these results in
'Philosophical Transactions' in 1672 and was elected a fellow of the Royal
Society the same year because of it. In 1687, at Halleys prompting to
abandon his chemical studies (he was an alchemist) and focus on mechanics,
he published 'Principia'. This same year is when he became involved in
politics which eventualy resulted in his appointment in 1689 to the
Convention Parliament of the university. In 1695 he was appointed the Warden
of the Mint. In 1727 he was appointed Master of the Mint, which he held
until his death. In 1703 he became the president of the Royal Society.
That same year he published 'Opticks'. In 1705 he was knighted. He also
wrote religous works, two of the best known were 'Observations of the
Prophecies of Daniel' and 'Church History'.

How in good faith you can claim this doesn't qualify as sharing their work
and that such sharing isn't critical to advancement is truly revealing.



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