July 20, 1999
Greetings. the Newsletter print is so small that I am finding it very difficult to read it. If I am the only person who is having this problem, then, you may remove my name from the mailing list (and the Forum Membership) and thus save time and money. On the other hand, if there are other older folks like me facing this problem, you might consider a bigger font size for our Newsletter - as in Forum on Education's Newsletter.
If you like, you might put the above as a "Letter to the Editor" and get some feedback from the other members.
The University of the West Indies
Department of Physics
Mona, Kingston 7'
Editors Comment: Paper, like the rest of the environment, has constraints, and priorities must be set - hopefully with the aid of our readers. The Forum has a limited budget for P&S which keeps us to four sheets (15 to 15.5 pages of text) except for the elections issue which usually has five sheets. In the past we allowed roughly 1000words per page (15000 words per issue) which gave us an open, easily legible, appearance but limited the number of items in any one issue. Because of the many pressing issues which I think are important to our readers, I have tried to cram more material into each issue, recognizing that this would lead to a smaller typeface in our paper issues. (However, each issue is also available at our Web site.) I assumed that I would soon hear from our readers if this approach was objectionable. So far, this is the only letter I have received commenting upon my reduction of the type size. As a result of this letter, I have attempted to make this issue more like the previous open style, to see what further comments would ensue. I would appreciate further guidance on this matter from the readers.
Physicists Responsibility for the CTBT Issue.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) involves physics in important ways: the extent to which the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons can be maintained in the absence of nuclear explosive tests, and the degree to which adherence to the treaty by other states can be monitored by national and international technical means. Bearing these factors in mind, the APS Council passed a resolution in support of ratification; and the APS President, Jerome Friedman, joined by a score of Nobel Laureates in physics, wrote a letter to the same effect to the Senate. Given these facts, and the Senate's vote against ratification, American physicists have a responsibility to become engaged in this issue. They owe this to their fellow-citizens, because statements by Senators on both sides of the issue, and by editors and correspondents of leading newspaper, displayed a remarkable degree of ignorance about the technical dimensions. There are various avenues to becoming engaged provided by APS, as well as by several independent organizations easily reached on the web.
Physics Department, Cornell University
and Union for Concerned Scientists
Editors Comment: The previous issue of P&S, in an article by G. Holton, contained a long list of organization via which physicists have, and can, carry out their scientific and social responsibilities. A little searching of the Web will provide access to these groups and many more, on "all sides" of the pressing issues of the day. We urge you to take advantage of this easy access and do your duty.
I just finished reading the October issue of Physics & Society, devotedprimarily to Arms Control. It was an excellent issue. It also raised an important question for me, which is the reason for this e-mail.
Ambassador Paul Robinson's paper, in particular, flagged what I view as an important element of arms control: the confidence building and information exchange made possible through public-key encryption. This allows the host country to read what is being sent out, to determine that only agreed upon data is being sent, while at the same time preventing tampering with the data. It seems to underlie just about all current arms control agreements.
My concern is this: present research, sponsored not surprisingly in large part by NSA, on quantum computing and quantum encryption appears to defeat RSA encryption based on the difficulty of factoring large numbers, and replace it with completely secure (and un-clonable) quantum encryption. Will this development (quantum computing is the one to be concerned about,and will reasonably take at least 30 years to happen) undermine future arms control? Is this something FPS or POPA should be looking at?
I think this is an issue that at least deserves to be discussed within the FPS community.
Comments and/or reactions, or suggestions are welcome. Thanks,
Dr. Peter J. Reynolds
Office of Naval Research
Atomic and Molecular Physics ProgramPhysical Sciences Division, ONR
331703-696-4205 (voice),703-696-6887 (fax),603-462-6385 (e-fax) <-- preferred
The very existence of nuclear weapons is the biggest nuclear secret we possess. This secret has been known since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and has been lost in the contentious debate over nuclear espionage at U.S. Government laboratories. Once this fact is known, any competent physicist can build such weapons given the proper amount of technical, financial, and industrial support. With enough time and effort, scientists can independently discover the other so-called secrets that comprise nuclear weaponry. Dr. Edward Teller, the father of the American hydrogen bomb, pointed out in the 1970 Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Secrecy, "It is unlikely that classified information will remain secure for periods as long as five years, and it is more reasonable to assume that it will become known to others in periods as short as one year." This report adds: "In spite of very elaborate and costly measures taken independently by the US and the USSR to preserve technical secrecy, neither the United Kingdom nor China was long delayed in developing hydrogen weapons."
Espionage occurs for a number of reasons. It helps to dispel fear and doubt about the intentions of both friends and enemies. It can serve to abate insecurities about one's actual position, for example, the myth of the missile gap between the US and Russia in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Spying saves money on prodigious research and development costs, thus it is necessary for developing countries, like China. The rewards from spying will ensure the future of espionage, despite our best efforts at curtailing it. Faced with the threat of continued nuclear espionage, how should we respond?
While many, like Dr. Teller, believe that the appropriate response to nuclear espionage is to accelerate our work on weapons, this response is futile and costly. Efforts to outpace others in weapons development become ever more difficult. Instead, we should heed his colleague, Dr. Hans Bethe, director of the theoretical division at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In a 1997 letter to President Clinton, Dr. Bethe stated, "Since any new types of weapons would, in time, spread to others and present a threat to us, it is logical for us not to pioneer further in this field." In other words, we should not continue weapons design work because terrorists and other potential enemies of the United States would eventually acquire this information and employ it in weapons against us.
In a 1995 Atomic Scientists Appeal to Colleagues, Dr. Bethe, "call[ed] on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving, and manufacturing further nuclear weapons - and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons." In a similar vein, this year, scientists in Japan have initiated a pledge for Japanese scientists and engineers to sign, promising to not participate in work on weapons of mass destruction. They intend to expand their pledge movement to other countries. While American scientists and engineers, committed to nonproliferation and disarmament, should fully cooperate with this movement, they should not wait for this pledge to reach them but commence their own pledge to dedicate to non-weapons work.
Charles D. Ferguson, PhD, senior research analyst
Federation of American Scientists
307 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002
Tel: (202) 675-1007, Fax: (202) 675-1010