APS News


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

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
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