Volume 25, Number 4 October 1996
The articles in this issue are by and about physicists who are challenging governments, and/or the accepted societal paradigms, and the prices they pay for doing so.
Yuri Orlov challenged the Soviet Government=Soviet Communist Party and paid the price of professional and personal exile. His article represents the talk he gave at the May 1996 APS/AAPT Meeting in response to receiving the Nicholson Medal from the APS.
A. DeVolpe has challenged the Department of Energy on the issue of safe disposal of potentially weaponizeable fissile materials: DOE says useable weapons can be made out of spent commercial reactor fuels, implying that such fuels must be rigorously removed from possible commerce or use - reprocessing must be severely constrained; others, such as DeVolpe, say that reactor-grade plutonium has an inherent resistance to effective- nuclear-weapon proliferation susceptibility, thus opening up such materials to civil use or less rigorous disposal. He has been rewarded for his challenge with the suspension of his security clearance at Argonne National Laboratory.
Michael Stroscio's article uses elementary physics concepts to challenge the officially sanctioned non-conspiracy theory of the assassination of President Kennedy.
And David Hafemeister, rewarded for his long period of governmental service by receipt of the Leo Szilard Award from the APS at the May Meeting, used his acceptance talk, given here, to reflect upon the process of scientific advice-giving to governments. Perhaps his punishment for such service has been the long periods of exile from his California academic home to Washington, D.C. - which he is again undergoing this year.
Science, Politics, and Human Rights
APS Nicholson Medal Talk, 3 May 1996
I would like to talk about some problems of defending human rights and, in particular, the human rights of scientists living in totalitarian regimes like the former Soviet Union and China today.
The main problem seems to be stability. Opponents of strong human rights pressure on China insist that such pressure can dangerously destabilize the country given its huge, multiethnic and comparatively poor population. "Look at Russia," they sometimes argue. My answer is: "Yes, look at Russia!"
The return to a new type of totalitarian regime that may be less predictable than the previous ones is certainly possible in this country because many people who thought democracy would provide a quick fix for all their problems are now disaffected with it. This is to be expected in any transition from totalitarianism to democracy. Even so, a large scale civil war is unlikely -- Chechnya is a tragic exception -- and the texture of political democracy in everyday Russia hasn't been particularly unstable. The pace of political democratization after Gorbachev and his reforms has been more or less normal. There have been some big bumps, of course, like the 1993 bloody conflict between the President and Parliament, when the Russian communists and fascists -- in a radical attempt to stop reforms -- defended the "White House," and Yeltsin bombed it. However, a feedback system existed in this huge undeveloped democracy, and after the 1993 conflict both sides became much more careful. Basically, the country has been, and remains, calm
. The major sources of instability in Russian democracy today are not fundamentally political, but economic and legal. The situation would have been better had we democratic dissidents prepared economic ideas along with our political ones, but we were rather busy with human and civil rights. When the economic changes from the top came in '92, they came as a kind of revolution -- abrupt and inconsistent, without a prepared basis in law and law enforcement. The scale of crime and corruption in Russia today is the result of the revolutionary economic freedom, not political freedom. No one predicted these crimes or how quickly people could and would exploit the new economic situation. Perhaps they could have done so, perhaps not. China seems to be avoiding this problem: the economic part of the liberation there is already well under way and well under control. Of course, that control is partly possible because of a lack of political freedom. The legal swamp in Russia -- many laws in conflict, many needed laws absent -- does represent a failure of the democrats and intelligentsia. It's hard to imagine how to create a real legal system and body of decent laws overnight, especially in a country with so little experience of them. This would be a problem facing any country shedding its totalitarian past, but certainly more progress should have been made in the last eight years. A serious area of potential instability in the Russian Federation (and in China, too, perhaps) is multiethnicity. With the tragic exception of the war in Chechnya, which was begun by the Russian government itself, not by the people, there are no armed conflicts between minorities and Russians. Why? Precisely because the idea of solving the problem of national minorities in a maximally democratic way -- giving them the full set of cultural, economic and administrative freedoms -- was conceptually prepared by the democratic dissidents, in particular by Sakharov, and has been implemented by President Yeltsin personally (Unfortunately, Yeltsin is also personally responsible for the war in Chechnya, which is a colonial war that is being conducted in a way that is a war crime.)
This conceptual preparation -- democratic dissidents educating the intelligentsia in non-violent opposition to a violent regime -- went on for a quarter of a century. We tried to change the mentality of the intelligentsia and (less effectively) that of ordinary people, as well as new generations of bureaucrats, and in this we succeeded. Today there are several generations of intelligentsia in Russia and even high bureaucrats who have been educated in this approach, as well as most of the latest generation of journalists, who help to shape public opinion. The situation is very different in the former Yugoslavia, the Caucuses, and Central Asia, where anti-violent opposition to the communist regimes either has never existed or has been underdeveloped. As a result, mutual solutions of interethnic conflicts are hard and violent in these areas. This is strong evidence that long-time preparation of public psychology by an anti-violence democratic opposition is a crucial factor in avoiding civil war.
For such preparation to work, this opposition needs very strong support from around the world. The fact that we Russian dissidents had our partial success, and survived to see it, is partly due to the strong and steady support we received in the West -- in my case and Sakharov's, support especially from fellow scientists. It is extremely important to continue defense of scientists like us around the world.
The crucial issue, I think, is: What is really more dangerous for domestic and international peace and security -- a repressive totalitarian regime that may gradually improve itself without pressure, or an unstable democracy? I think choosing the former is wrong for the following reasons. First let me say that a totalitarian regime like China is a special case. You have the usual repressive regime with almost unlimited political power, a state ideology and restrictions on other ideologies, and a degree of xenophobia and conspiratorial secrecy combined with aggressiveness. In addition, however, you also have the dream of being a nuclear superpower. One more superpower is perhaps not a catastrophic problem if it is a strongly democratic one. From the point of view of international peace and security, it is extremely important that China become democratic before it achieves the status of a superpower. From the point of view of peace inside China, a democratic approach to social, national and religious problems can help avoid violent revolutionary explosions. All this means that scientists concerned with democracy and world peace urgently need to keep up the pressure for human rights in China, and help that small number of our extremely brave Chinese colleagues who oppose totalitarianism and push their leaders peacefully in the direction of democratic political reforms.
But what if such pressure helps give birth to an unstable democracy in China? Unfortunately, there seems to be no formula for making a transition from a totalitarian regime to a safe democracy. This is an area that urgently needs study and work. It is true that unstable democracies -- and even stable ones -- have terrorism and thefts of nuclear and other dangerous materials that you don't find in a totalitarian regime. It is obvious that disappearing plutonium and even tragedies like terrorist massacres are far less dangerous than having yet another confrontation with a totalitarian superpower. When faced with a totalitarian superpower, there is almost nothing to do but arm yourself as much as possible while trying to engage in negotiations to scale things down. What about a totalitarian regime improving on its own? The very notion of a totalitarian regime gradually improving itself, without permanent and hard pressure, can be a fantasy. (Recall that the Soviet regime was pressed -- very, very hard.) There is some threshold beyond which a totalitarian regime is too totalitarian to be amenable to improvements. It will suppress them unless pressured, and apparently in the case of China, often suppress them if not pressured hard enough. Granted that human rights in China is our affair, if only because an undemocratic China is a threat to international peace and security. We may still be uneasy about actively supporting Chinese scientific colleagues who are trying to protest against political repression, on the grounds they are only a tiny part of the scientific community there. Some scientists insist that they are a small minority not because the majority is afraid, but simply because it supports government policy. Even If this is true, it still does not mean that the majority is right. Moreover, to judge from my personal experience, determining who is or is not really opposed to their totalitarian government is a rather more complicated phenomenon than it appears.
For scientists in a totalitarian society, the line between the professional and the political collapses because neutrality is not tolerated by the regime. Scientists have only two choices: cooperation (some might say, complicity) with the regime, or resistance to it. Remember, your salary comes from the regime. Your promotions, opportunities for publication, and travel abroad depend on political evaluations. Your outstanding work supports the regime by adding to its international prestige and, in the case of technological and military work, its economic and military power. A line cannot be drawn between the cooperation and non-cooperation of an active, working scientist. It can only be drawn between degrees of cooperation.
How did scientists in the Soviet Union confront this dilemma? How did they respond to colleagues who resisted the regime by struggling for democracy and human rights? During the period that I personally experienced (1956 onwards), their responses were radically diverse. As some of you may know, in April 1956 -- exactly 40 years ago -- immediately after the famous Khrushchev "secret" speech, I declared at an open Party meeting in ITEP that we needed democratization on the basis of socialism. Along with three other speakers, I was immediately expelled from the Party and fired from ITEP, without the right to work in any scientific institute in or near Moscow. The decision was made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and confirmed by the Politburo, a body high enough to have scared anyone only three years previously, In Stalin's time.
In 1956, encouraged by Khrushchev's anti-Stalin's speech, scientists from the main physics Institutes -- Lebedev, ITEP (Moscow), Budker (Novosibirsk), Ioffe (Leningrad), and IPT (Kharkov) -- sent us, their unemployed colleagues, financial support, though secretly, of course. At that time, some 20-30 leading physics, including Kapitsa, Sakharov, and Alikhanov, were very active in writing collective letters (not for publication, of course) to the leaders protesting attempts to restore or protect Stalinism. The majority of scientists, however, were afraid to participate in such activity.
The behavior of even the majority of that leading minority changed rather quickly after Khrushchev's fall in the 1960s. Like most of the intelligentsia, they became rather depressed or cowed, and most were disinclined to continue their protests. In the mid-60s, only Mikhail Leontovich, Kapitsa and a handful of much less famous scientists risked signing protest letters written by dissidents, who were mostly intellectuals demanding glasnost, among other things. Human rights activists and other dissidents had emerged in the USSR, some opposing the regime on purely moral grounds like Sakharov and others opposing it on political grounds as well (like myself).
Very soon the society as a whole as well as the scientific community became sharply divided into people in open opposition, always some half-hundred still-not-arrested people (among them Andrei Sakharov), and others. (The Jewish refuseniks, many of them scientists, appeared later.) Under totalitarian conditions, there was a big ditch between these two groups, and a striking difference in behavior. That ditch was dug not simply by the repressive conditions, not simply by the powerful Party-KGB propaganda machine of disinformation, but by intellectuals as well. In about 1970, I told a friend who was a famous physicist that I was preparing a letter to the Soviet authorities about the situation in Soviet science. "But," he asked,"Do you want to continue to work as a physicist?" There was nothing wrong with this concern and indirect advice. What amazed me, however, was that after this conversation he always avoided me and at one scientific meeting bypassed me as if I were a pole on a complex plane.
The majority of scientists maintained an ambiguous or hypocritical public silence. Some did criticize the regime, but only in the privacy of the famous Moscow kitchens. Only a small (but significant) minority expressed strong professional and public support of the regime, and lack of support for colleagues opposed to the regime. This lack of support ranged from expressions of dislike to outright condemnation. A tiny minority chose ideological confrontation with the regime, which cost them their scientific careers and in some cases incarceration in prisons, camps, and exile.
In time, this picture changed. Nowadays, truly amazing numbers of Russians, scientists included, present themselves as having been longtime dissidents and democrats (but then, Russia is the land of revisionist history). Still, it is true that from the middle '60s when Brezhnev came to power to Gorbachev's time there were more and more free kitchen discussions, more people listening to foreign radio broadcasts, more samizdat readings, fewer and fewer citations of Lenin and Marx even by Party-member intellectuals, and more and more non-dissident "outsiders" -- including scientists -- secretly helping their oppressed colleagues by giving money and clothes, sending letters to camp, and helping to transmit our human rights information. Let me return now to the matter of our colleagues in China. What should we do apart from active support of persecuted fellow scientists? In answering this question, we need to face the issue of collaborating with the fellow scientists who are officially acceptable to the regime. Their cooperation with the regime is, as I suggested in connection with Russia, a matter of degree, so it is desirable to examine each case, putting our emphasis on science but not closing our eyes to the obvious. Here it may be argued that any and all contacts with our Chinese colleagues are necessary to "keep lines of communication open" In order to have some beneficial effect on the regime. So let me ask: what lines of communication are involved? Certainly not ones of genuine, serious political discourse. Remember that during the 1930s Stalin had several thousand Americans and Germans working in Russia, and it didn't make a bit of difference.
I would also like to suggest that it is one thing to invite Chinese scientists to the West, say, to a conference at one's university, and quite another to go to a conference in China. For we organize independent, scientific conferences. They organize official conferences that are always mixtures of science and state politics. Western scientists who think that scientists should not be involved in politics should bear this in mind: attending a scientific conference in China is participating in a political situation. My view is that attending such conferences is constructive if, when in China, one publicly speaks out in defense of scientific colleagues being punished for their political views. Keeping silent in such circumstances is not only not constructive; It helps the regime by legitimizing the persecution of colleagues. In short, just as scientists in a totalitarian society cannot separate the professional and the political, neither can visiting western colleagues going to China or any other totalitarian state. This is one of the many reasons why totalitarianism is an affront to us as scientists and as human beings. It is one of the reasons why we should, as scientists and human beings, do our best to oppose it.
Yuri F. Orlov
A Coverup of Nuclear Test Information?
Circumstantial evidence suggests government deception regarding withheld data on a 1962 US nuclear explosive test. The results have had and continue to have arms control, nuclear demilitarization, nonproliferation, and nuclear-fuel management implications affecting both civilian and military nuclear policy. An item-by-item consideration suggests that the withheld data is more likely to reinforce than to weaken impressions about inherent resistance of reactor grade plutonium to proliferation susceptibility.
The 1962 detonation involved plutonium of a quality below that of weapons grade. To reinforce its 1967 announcements that "high-irradiation level reactor-grade plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons," the US government added in 1977 that "a nuclear test was conducted using reactor grade plutonium" and "it successfully produced a nuclear yield." As a result of the Openness Initiative formulated by Secretary O'Leary, DOE announced in 1994 that the plutonium was "provided" by the UK and the upper limit of explosive yield was 20 kt. [1,2] Compared to data released about other nuclear detonations, the information disclosed about the 1962 test has little substance. Here are some examples of additional information that would not divulge sensitive technical details or jeopardize national security or nonproliferation goals:
(1) Did the 1962 test use an existing stockpile warhead, with the plutonium core (pit) fully replaced or was the pit of larger dimension, possibly with other modifications, to account for reduced fissile density?
(2) Was the plutonium consistent with current high-burnup reactor-grade (see diagram below), or was it closer to weapons grade?
(3) Was the material converted to oxide or a low-density metallic phase, or was it in the same chemical and high density metallic form as normal weapon pits?
(4) Did the explosion come close to the 20-kt upper limit (which corresponds to that expected for a device containing weapons-grade plutonium) or was the yield consistent with lower average output, compatible with statistical expectations from diminished fissile quality?
100% Pu-239 90% 80% 70% 60% 50% |--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|--------------------|---------- | weapons grade | fuel grade | reactor grade --> | ------ ------ UK 1953 tests US 1962 test ______________________________________________________________________________
In fact, the missing data are likely to be quite discouraging to potential proliferators, thus fortifying existing perceptions about inherent difficulties in weaponization of civilian plutonium. ______________________________________________________________________________
Technical Inconsistencies in Declassified Data
In addition to the previously described omissions of substance, inferences that one can draw from the declassified information are inconsistent with deducible scientific principles and other published data.
Emerging public evidence suggests that the fissile (Pu-239) quality of plutonium in the test might have been persistently understated. Fresh disclosures from London indicate that the plutonium could not have been what we now consider to be reactor-grade. DOE now implies, but doesn't assert, that the plutonium was fuel grade.
Meanwhile, other nations have publicized their disagreement with the DOE "spin" on declassified test information. In fact, the French "scorned the US government affirmation that it successfully exploded a weapon made with 'reactor-grade' plutonium." During the 1950s the British carried out two tests with sub-grade plutonium that they considered disappointing. Based on these results, they went on to make weapons only from high- grade materials. Although the results of the tests were reported in an official UK book, the information is considered classified in the US. This British data is not consistent with the 1962 test conclusions reported to the American public.
Inferences Not Resolved by the Declassified Information
Four possible inferences come to mind that could be deduced from shortfalls in the declassified information:
(1) The material supplied for the weapon might not have been reactor grade, but might have been fuel grade or better. This explanation has recently been prominent, with various quasi-official acknowledgments that it might really have been fuel grade. Redefinitions of plutonium grade by DOE allude to such an explanation. However, it should be noted that those redefinitions only apply to terminology used by DOE classification officials; it had been commonly understood in the nuclear industry that "reactor grade" implied high burnup with a fissile plutonium fraction well under 80% and usually less than 70%.
Some clues about the quality of plutonium used in the US test can be derived from the published UK "Totem" 1953 experiments in Australia, which were designed to evaluate the yield reduction resulting from plutonium of less than weapons grade. The plutonium available would have probably been close to the high end (93% fissile) of fuel-grade. Although the Totem explosive yield was highly destructive, they evidently confirmed that it was not good enough for military-quality weapons. Because these results would have been shared with the US, we can guess that the Nevada test might have been conducted with plutonium closer to the low end (81%) of the definition. Thus, a reasonable programmatic justification for the test in 1962 could have been to evaluate the effect of newer data, computations, and designs when used with such plutonium.
(2) The material might not have been produced in the UK, but was created from irradiation in a nuclear reactor of some other nation. The released statement about the source of plutonium does not actually preclude this possibility. It simply says the plutonium was "provided" by the UK. My dictionary clearly distinguishes between material provided ("to give what is wanted or needed") from produced ("to bring into existence...by machine"). Examples of another sources would be the Canadian NRX and NRU reactors. If the plutonium originated outside the UK, it would contravene published assertions and possibly violate some publicly acknowledged governmental agreements or treaties.
(3) The materials might have been produced in a US civilian reactor, rather than a foreign military or dual-purpose reactor. Although the DOE press statement points toward the UK, it might have been produced in the United States. Such a ruse could have been accomplished by actual or virtual transfer of materials from the US to the UK. Large quantities of fissile materials were exchanged between the two countries under the Mutual Defense Agreement. Could some or all of the plutonium for the 1962 test have been diverted from a US reactor? If so, this might have been something to hide, although not prohibited by legislation until 1983. .
(4) The explosive yield and the success of the test might have been grossly overstated. What if the yield were an order of magnitude less? If the yield were significantly less than 20 kt, considerable skepticism would have arisen about the published conclusions and the "successful" label attached to the test. The DOE statements about the need to bootstrap predictive capabilities with the results of the test tend to reinforce this possible explanation. Why was it necessary to invoke "extensive nuclear test data base and predictive capabilities" to reinforce the assertion that "weapons can be constructed with reactor-grade plutonium"? Was it not possible for the 1962 test to stand on its own, without being propped up by other undisclosed data? All of this implies that the so-called "successful" results of the test were not as good as claimed and would not be convincing.
Releasibility of the Missing Data
By DOE's own declassification criteria and practices, additional data should have been disclosed long ago. Among the general criteria are "benefit to be realized" from declassification, extent to which information would "assist in development of a nuclear weapon capability," and impact of continued classification on the "credibility of the DOE classification program." The criteria reaffirm that "detailed information" is of "vital importance to the common defense and security," while acknowledging that "general nuclear weapons related information has been declassified" where there is no "undue risk."
Let us consider, in the context of DOE criteria and practices, each the four 1962-test-related topics identified above for which I believe insufficient declassification has taken place:
Technology of Warhead. Whether the explosive device was a warhead taken out of the available stockpile or a special device was used for the 1962 test would not be information that would assist a proliferator. On the contrary, more specific data about the weapons configuration would add to the public sense of confidence associated with technological barriers to military quality weapons. DOE information already declassified includes "External observable features of stockpile weapons systems such as overall dimensions and approximate weight," stating more specifically that some fission weapons have "diameters down to 6 inches and masses down to 50 lbs." They further state that "4 kg of Pu [might be] enough for a nuclear explosive device." Therefore, releasing a general description of the technology used in the 1962 test could hardly be more sensitive than information already disclosed.
Plutonium Quality. If the tested plutonium was more fissile than current high burnup reactor grade, the results signify that even greater difficulties should be experienced by would-be proliferators trying to use lower grade plutonium in weapons. Disclosing more specifics about the fissile content would not aid any weapons design; after all, the plutonium grade used in stockpile weapons is already declassified to be greater than 93% fissile.
Metallurgical Chemical Form. It is already known that higher-density alpha-phase plutonium was used in the first two implosion assemblies. (The 23% higher density is theoretically significant in terms of explosive potential.) If the material in the explosive device were low density metal or oxide, this would imply further technology barriers to weaponization of reactor grade plutonium. Hence, clarification might reinforce the nonproliferation norm.
Explosive Yield. A 10-kt nominal explosive yield from the 1962 test would be consistent with independently derived statistical expectations. A lower yield would be suggestive of greater resistance to proliferant use. No nation with other options would choose such material as the basis for a nuclear-weapons program, and none are known to have done so. Since lower yields would further deter proliferation, release of such information could hardly be considered as damaging to national security. Specific test yields have been announced for many nuclear detonations, e.g., three Rio-Blanco tests at 33 kt each, Flask-Green at 105 kt, and five Buggy tests at 1.08 kt. So why isn't the yield of the 1962 detonation more specifically declassified, especially when any value under the announced 20-kt maximum would reinforce nonproliferation safeguards? Table 1 compares declassified information released for experiments that bracket the average expected yield using reactor-grade plutonium.
TABLE 1: Comparison of Declassified DOE Nuclear-Explosive Test Information(*) Information Category Declassified Test Example 1 Reactor-Grade Plutonium Text Declassified Test Example 2 Test Series Operation Crosstie Operation Nougat Test Name Buggy Aardvark Test Date 12 March 1968 1962 12 May 1962 Purpose Plowshare: Row charge feasibility of using reactor- Weapons Related experiment--five simultaneous grade plutonium as a nuclear- detonations explosive material Laboratory LLNL (LANL) Location Nevada Test Site, Buckboard (Nevada Test Site) Nevada Test Site Nuclear-Material Grade (weapons-grade plutonium) fuel-grade plutonium? (weapons-grade plutonium) Fissile Fraction (>93% Pu-239 or 93% U-235) 81-93% Pu-239? (>93% Pu-239 or 93% U-235) Nuclear-Material Origin (95%US/5%UK) UK? (95%US/5%UK) Explosive Yield 1.08 kt each of 5 explosions <20 kt 40 kt Weapons Technology (advanced) (advanced) Nuclear-Material (uranium metal or alpha-phase (uranium metal or alpha-phase Physical/Chemical State plutonium metal) plutonium metal) Test Category crater shaft Radiation Release detected off site detected on site only (*)Parentheses surround reasonably assumed information; question marks punctuate ambiguous information
Four types of technical data and two types of non-technical information remain classified or ambiguous about the US 1962 nuclear-explosion with "reactor grade " plutonium. Adequate data concerning the four technical factors--warhead technology, plutonium quality, metallurgical/chemical form, and explosive yield--has already been declassified for weaponized warheads. Information on experiment names and material origins has also been released for most nuclear explosive tests
. The examples in Table 1 show that considerable detail has been declassified for nuclear explosions. Of course, there are other detonations for which little has been declassified. Nevertheless, the two test series included in Table 1 are not unusual; such specific information as nuclear yields has been released for explosions going back to 1946. In addition, inferences about the indicated nuclear explosive experiments can be drawn from other non-specific information found in the public literature.
The glaring shortfall in data and information released about the 1962 test is cause for suspicion about the quality, origin, or success of the experiment. The unreleased information can hardly be of more proliferant value than the specific data already divulged for other nuclear-explosive experiments. In fact, the missing data are likely to be quite discouraging to potential proliferators, thus fortifying existing perceptions about inherent difficulties in weaponization of civilian plutonium. While such reassurances should not give impetus to relaxation of safeguards on the nuclear-fuel cycle, greater disclosure might help devise more cost-effective controls. Based on DOE criteria, no justifiable reason exists to maintain classification of policy-relevant information about the 1962 test.
The author, a physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, has technical and analytical experience in nuclear reactors, arms control, and nonproliferation. This paper expresses solely his personal opinions. A more detailed version of this paper is available upon request.
References 1. "Additional Information Concerning Underground Nuclear Weapon Test of Reactor-Grade Plutonium", U.S. DOE publication DOE FACTS, pp. 186-190 (August 1994). 2. "Drawing Back the Curtain of Secrecy: Restricted Data Declassifaction Decisions 1946 to the Present," U.S. DOE Office of Declassification report RDD-3 (1 Jan. 1996). 3. R. V. Hesketh, private communication. 4. Nuclear Fuel: 21 (8), pg. 8 (8 April 1996). 5. A. DeVolpi, Proliferation, Plutonium and Policy: Institutional and Technological Impediments to Nuclear Weapons Propagation, Pergamon, NY 1979. 6. "Openness Press Conference Fact Sheets," DOE (6 Feb. 1996). 7. "Plutonium: The First 50 Years: United States plutonium production, acquisition, and utilization from 1944 to 1994," DOE (Feb. 1996). 8. "Draft Public Guidelines to Department of Energy Classification of Information," U.S. Department of Energy Office of Declassification report (27 June 1994). 9. A. DeVolpi, "Denaturing Fissile Materials," Progr. in Nucl. Energy, 10:161 (1982).
The assassination of President Kennedy has been investigated at length by professionals from diverse fields but twenty-three years after this tragic event, the physics community has published little on this matter. There are isolated, albeit important, exceptions such as the revealing physics analysis published by Luis Alvarez. Herein, the Alvarez analysis is extended and new insights are gained which cast doubt on the one gunman, three-bullet theory which is the cornerstone of the findings of the Warren Commission's report.
Physical Basis for the Analysis
The physical basis for analyzing the assassination of President Kennedy is identical with that proposed by Alvarez. Specifically, it is known that disturbances such as the sound of gunfire or the sound of a siren cause neuromuscular reactions that inevitably produce rapid jerking motions of a hand-held camera. These jerking motions cause blurring of the images recorded in the still frames of a motion picture. On first consideration, this phenomenon may appear to be too ill- defined to be of use in shedding light on the assassination of President Kennedy. However, it is well-known that such neuromuscular reactions are involuntary and that the power spectrum for such jerking motions has a peak near a period of about one-third of a second. The results of this article will verify that the angular acceleration of Abraham Zapruder's camera at the only precisely-known time of a shot at President Kennedy -- when President Kennedy was struck in the head -- exhibits the expected characteristics. Such angular acceleration episodes provide clues that shed light on the time-history of the shots fired at President Kennedy limousine as it traveled down Elm Street in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
Analysis of the Zapruder Film
The angular acceleration of A. Zapruder' s camera as a function of time may be calculated straightforwardly from the measured streak lengths associated with the blurring of President Kennedy's limousine in the separate frames of the Zapruder film. Since the image on each frame was recorded during the one-thirtieth of a second when the shutter was open, such a streak length in a particular frame is directly proportional to the average angular velocity --- averaged over the one-thirtieth of a second exposure time --- of Zapruder's camera relative to a fixed point on the limousine. During the periods when Zapruder's tracking was steady, there is minimal blurring of the limousine's image since the relevant relative angular velocity of the camera was small. The angular acceleration is the derivative of the angular velocity, so the constant 18.3 frames per second recording speed of Zapruder's camera and the difference in the streak lengths recorded on successive frames can be used to determine angular acceleration.
In calculating the time-series for the angular acceleration of Zapruder's camera it is convenient to adopt the conventions of Ref. 1. Specifically, units and sign conventions are adopted as follows: streak lengths are assigned values from 0, for no streaking, to 5, for maximal streaking; one unit of time is taken to be the 1/18.3 second between successive frames; the sign of the angular velocity is taken as positive if the pointing axis of the camera is advancing in a clockwise sense relative to the limousine as viewed from above the camera in the camera-limousine system; and the sign assigned the angular velocity is negative for counterclockwise relative motion.
The streak lengths in the individual frames recorded by A. Zapruder on November 22, 1963 are readily visible upon inspection of the still frames of the Zapruder film. Alvarez analyzed only frames 171 to 334 since they were apparently the only frames available to him. If he had had access to frames before 171 he would have quickly come to new insights . As pointed out by Alvarez, selected frames of the Zapruder film exhibit blurred images of the President' s limousine that make the limousine appear to have been displaced by as much as a few inches relative to the clear image that would have resulted if the camera had been pointed at the same point on the limousine throughout the one-thirtieth of a second exposure interval. Since the President's limousine was never closer than about seventy feet from Zapruder's camera, a one-inch streak length corresponds to a maximum angular displacement of only about 1/(12*70) = 1/840 of a radian.
The calculated angular accelerations are shown in Figure 1. The frames numbers are indicated along the vertical lines and points to the left of the time-series line indicate clockwise angular accelerations. The fact that the angular acceleration is a more significant indicator of sudden jerking than the angular velocity was emphasized in Ref. 1, but this physical insight was missing completely in the analyses of the consultants to the 1978 U.S. House of Representatives investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy. These consultants did analyze Zapruder frames before 171 but they based their analyses on the simple magnitude of the streaking of each frame as well as on the fluctuations of the absolute direction of the camera's optical axis. Unfortunately, contributions to these angular displacements and angular velocities come from both gradual fluctuations and rapid changes in the pointing direction of the camera, but it is only the rapid variations that. are sensitive indicators of responses to disturbances such as the sounds of gunfire or a siren.
The angular-acceleration time series displayed on the second through sixth vertical lines of Figure 1 is an excellent approximation to that published in Ref. 1. However, the angular- acceleration episode on the first vertical line is completely absent in Ref. 1, because Alvarez used the Zapruder frames published in Ref. 2 which did not include frames before 171. The four angular-acceleration episodes commencing at frames 180, 220, 290 and 313 were explained in Ref. 1 as follows:
--- Based on the clear visual evidence, the episode beginning at frame 313 is unambiguously assigned to the shot that struck President Kennedy in the head.
--Since the Warren Commission asserted that there were three shot fired on November 22. 1963 with the first shot missing its target and since President Kennedy was holding his throat on emerging from behind a street sign on Elm Street at the time of frame 224, the angular-acceleration episode commencing at frame 220 was associated with the "magic-bullet" shot that presumably caused seven wounds to President Kennedy and Governor Connally.
-- The angular acceleration episode commencing at frame 180 was associated with the bullet that missed its target since it was the only episode known to Alvarez that occurred before frame 220.
-- Finally, to explain the angular-acceleration episode that begins at frame 290, it was noted that a siren sounded at about the time of the bullet that struck President Kennedy in the head.
The association of the blast of a siren with the angular-acceleration episode that begins at frame 290 was made by Alvarez but he stated clearly that he was not sure this assignment was correct. Indeed, as correctly pointed out by Alvarez, most eyewitnesses claimed that siren sounded after the fatal wound to President Kennedy's head. These witnesses held that the siren first sounded well after frame 313 and the siren could not be responsible for the angular-acceleration episode that began at frame 290. Alvarez points out that eyewitnesses frequently have flawed memories of stressful events, but it is difficult, indeed, to understand why many witnesses would make the same error. At any rate, these are the interpretations made in Ref. 1 for the four angular acceleration episodes beginning at frames 180, 220, 290 and 313. The interpretation of Ref. 1 appears to be consistent with the Warren Commission's conclusion that there was no conspiracy since a single gunman could have fired the three shots associated with the angular-acceleration episodes commencing at frames 180, 220, and 313.
With these assignments of times for the three sounds of gunfire and one siren blast, it was possible for Alvarez to state that the available scientific evidence supported the findings of the Warren Commission. However, if Alvarez had had access to frames before 171 he would have discovered that there was a fifth angular-acceleration episode that commenced at frame 152, about 1.5 seconds before the time of the "first shot" identified in Ref. 1. The magnitude of this episode is accentuated by the fact that the limousine is farther from the camera at frame 152 than at frames 180 to 334 but there can be no doubt that the angular-acceleration time series beginning at frame 152 represents a sudden jerking motion of Zapruder's camera. It is significant that the time interval is only 1.5 seconds in duration because investigators have agreed consistently that the minimum firing time between shots with the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found in the sniper's nest on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository was 2.25 seconds.
Discussion and Conclusions
By following Alvarez's prescription of taking the differences between streak lengths to obtain angular accelerations, it is straightforward to construct a time-series of the angular-acceleration of A. Zapruder's camera as he filmed President Kennedy's limousine as it traveled down Elm Street in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. This extended time-series contains a strong angular- acceleration episode which commences during the interval from frame 152 to frame 153, which was not discovered by Alvarez because he analyzed only the frames that were reproduced in the Warren's Commission's report. The most easily drawn conclusion from the extended time series is that the angular-acceleration episode commencing at frame 152 occurs about 1.5 seconds before the time which Ref. 1 denotes as the "first shot". This is a significant conclusion because the angular- acceleration episodes beginning at frames 152 and 180 could not have been caused by shots fired by one person using the Mannlicher-Carcano that was found on the sixth floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository.
The establishment of this fifth jerking episode of Zapruder's camera makes it extremely difficult to use Alvarez's method to support the Warren Commission's single-gunman, three bullet theory and their conclusion that there was no conspiracy. Critics of the Alvarez analysis may hold that the techniques of Ref. 1 are just not suitable technique for shedding insight in the assassination of President Kennedy. However, in this case it would also be impossible to use this analysis to support the findings of the Warren Commission. This conclusion is especially significant for the physics community since Ref. 1 is the only paper published in the physics literature that attempts to use physical data and laws to understand the assassination of President Kennedy.
References 1. L. Alvarez, Am. J. Phys., 44, 83 (1976). 2. Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Investigation of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, with twenty-six volumes on Hearings and Exhibits, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1964; also published by Associated Press, Bantam, Doubleday, McGraw-Hill, and Popular Library, 1964. 3. The Warren Commission's report published only frames 171 to 343; however, today there are many commercially-available videos containing the full Zapruder film including the earlier frames from 150 to 171 which also recorded the motion of President Kennedy's limousine after it had turned on to Elm Street on November 22, 1963. 4. Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations, U.S. House of Representatives, Investigation of the Assassination of President Kennedy, U.S. Government Printing Office, March 1979. 5. It is unfortunate that frames 155 and 156 of the Zapruder film are missing. However, the absence of these frames does not change the conclusion that a rapid jerking motion of Zapruder's camera began at frame 152. In the analysis done for the present article, it was rediscovered that these frames are missing. This rediscovery was made from the fact that in the first existing frame following frame 154, the limousine appears to have traveled three times its normal frame-to-frame distance; in fact, it has been known for many years that frames 155 and 156 have been removed from the Zapruder film. What is unknown is why the frames were removed and who removed them. It is also not known when these frames were removed. What is well-known is that the Zapruder film was kept from the public for many years; for a portion of this time it was retained by those who had paid A. Zapruder for rights to the film. Today, the Zapruder film is copyrighted and those wishing to reproduce, and make general use, of the frames from this famous film are asked to negotiate suitable terms through the Washington, DC law firm represented by James Lorin Silverberg, Esquire. 6. The Report on the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics, National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1982 as summarized in Science, Volume 218, page 127, 1982 does apply the laws of physics but this Committee, under the chairmanship of Norman F. Ramsey, concluded that suspected sounds on gunfire recorded on the Dallas Police Department' s dictaphone recorders could not have been gunfire since the receiving microphones were not turned on in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas during the few seconds when shots were fired at President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The Committee concluded that these suspected sounds of gunfire were recorded about one minute after shots were fired and that these noises were therefore not due to gunfire. The nature of this study is distinctly different from that of Ref. 1: the National Academy of Sciences study concluded that no relevant physical data existed on the Dallas Police Department's audio recordings.
Figure 1. Angular-acceleration time series versus frame number displayed along six vertical lines. Points to the left of the vertical time-series lines denote clockwise angular accelerations as described in the text.
Michael A. Stroscio
Taking the lead from the play Cabaret, I assert that it is "both substance and process that makes the world go 'round." Usually, it is preferable to write about substance, but this brief paper will attempt to deal with the unglamorous issues of "process."
Historians tell us that there are many driving forces of history, such as the forces of great persons, the forces that divide or unite nations, and the forces between competing economic systems. My personal conclusion is that science and technology is the foremost driving force of history. What we scientists and engineers discover, the industrialists will produce and society will consume. Take away modern agricultural, military, transportation and communication technologies and a very different society appears. It is clear that society is not going to follow the mythical Ned Ludd to destroy our looms, autos and CD players.
Along with this primal role of creation, physicists have the concomitant responsibility to do our best to determine the impacts of implementation. This is serious business. There is no room for errors of omission or commission. Because the stakes are very high and because science means knowledge, we are obligated to be honest, objective, and open. Too often our analysis fails to mention major uncertainties and competing issues that are not directly comparable. It is our job to lay out all the facts and ask the hard questions.
In my talk at the APS spring meeting, I gave some examples of issues in which I observed a less than stellar science/technology (S/T) policy process, such as:
-- lurching towards a plutonium policy in the 1970s -- determining the appropriate level of nuclear deterrence during the Cold War -- debating the extent and significance of Soviet cheating -- considering a 2 mGauss standard for powerlines.
These and other examples have convinced me that the S/T decision process needs help. I would argue that today's general cynicism of rational thought undercuts S/T policy process. As part of this, the anti-science movement has contributed to an environment in which the issues can be clouded and mishandled. This movement is not new -- it has been with us before Galileo was put under house arrest. Our main hope is the credibility of our scientific citizens who use an open, peer-reviewed process to state our limitations and uncertainties. Some ideas on improving the S/T public policy process are:
1. Individual ethics. The 1991 APS statement on "Guidelines for Professional Conduct" and the 1993 AAAS position paper on "Good Science and Responsible Scientists" are excellent statements -- as far as they go -- on nonfabrication of data, authorship, peer review and conflict of interests. In my view, the importance of S/T issues demands a stricter, more pro-active code of ethics. This demands a discussion of:
-- uncertainties, ranges of estimates in numbers, and opinions and lists of omissions
-- criteria, such as Hill's on epidemiology, for replicability, linearity for small effects, plausibility with regard to basic laws, coherence of data, possible confounders, economics, etc.
-- peer-review comments from a wide group of reviewers
-- condemnation of those who favor your conclusions, but who use data incorrectly or overstate the case
-- responses to questions from nonpartisan ombudsmen who represent truth-seeking as compared to advocacy.
2. A non-adjudicatory process to determine areas of agreement and disagreement. In the 1970s, there was a flurry of interest in Arthur Kantrowitz's concept of the Science Court in which scientific experts would be the judges and "case managers." These individuals were to be unconnected to the dispute with the hope of removing hard-charging advocacy. The science court was not to be empowered to make judicial decisions, but only to give recommendations to the courts or decision makers.
For a variety of conflicting reasons, the Science Court did not survive, but an excellent result appeared from its byproduct, the Scientific Adversary Procedure. In 1985, under the leadership of Kantrowitz, Edward Gerry (in favor of SDI) and Richard Garwin (in opposition) discussed under formal procedures and drew up a list of agreed statements that both could support. If the fifteen agreed statements had been widely publicized and ultimately accepted as honest output from two excellent scientists who fundamentally disagreed, the SDI debate could have been narrowed and made more rational. For example, consider statement #9: "In the continuing context of deterrence of nuclear war by threat of retaliation, technologies already exist to solve the problem of strategic force vulnerability sooner and at a lower cost than via layered defense with space components." Acceptance of this statement would have clearly helped to narrow the many classified technical meetings on SDI which I attended during the 1980s. At the time, it seemed that the government was locked into an unjustified kill probability of 0.9 in its discussions of the highly complex "preferential targeting" of reentry vehicles. If the Garwin-Gerry results had been read in executive branch and congressional meetings, it would have considerably raised the level of discussion.
3. Questions for the record. Sometimes the Congress has done a good job of handling controversial S/T issues, but often it has not. The Congress has a unique opportunity to produce hearing records with penetrating follow-up questions from and to experts. However, the members of Congress often feel that hearing records are of little importance and they are often printed after the issue has been settled. These decisions are often made by non-scientists who don't care about setting the record straight and don't worry about clarifying the issues. For example, the concern that nuclear waste to be stored at Yucca Mountain might explode could have been rapidly clarified with some penetrating technical questions to those on both sides of the issue. It would not have taken a great deal of effort to show what had and had not been calculated. Of course the National Academy of Science can and does perform this task, but it often seems to take too long for the NAS to produce its product and the system often doesn't know how to absorb it. And, of course, we can all think of an Academy study that we thought was wrong!
4. Benevolent Ombudspersons. Science must be honest, objective, and open, and the same holds for S/T policy. If two divergent groups of honest scientists could work together and prepare an annual report of errors and overstatements on the S/T issues, this would put pressure on scientists to pay attention to the code of ethics discussed above. The American Physical Society has the credible intellectual talent to do this, but I can't imagine the APS would want to get involved in all of the issues. Perhaps two nongovernmental organizations with differing constituents could develop panels of impeccable scientists to ask questions of the proponents and assess who went beyond the truth. This begins to sound like "Accuracy in the Media," but I am hopeful that our scientific training would make the difference for removing "lies, damn-lies and bad statistics."
5. Other. I am still searching for the perfect wave. Paraphrasing A.E. Houseman's "A Shropshire Lad;"
When I was one-and-twenty I heard a wise man say "Give me scientific facts and logical thought and the society will choose wisely." Now I am almost two-and-sixty, And Oh, 'tis not always true, 'tis not always true.
1. A. Kantrowitz, American Scientist 63, 505-509 (1975). Task Force of the Presidential Advisory Group on Anticipated Advances in Science and Technology, Science 193, 653-656 (1976). P. Boffey, Science 194, 167-169 (1976). B. Casper, Science 194, 29-35 (1976). S. Jasanoff and D. Nelkin, Science 214, 1211-1215 (1981).