Oral History Transcript — Dr. Allen Peterson
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Allen Peterson; July 6, 1986
ABSTRACT: Discusses his early life and education; his work at SRI; his involvement in the formation of JASON; the decision to move JASON from IDA to SRI; member selection; selection of projects.
Yes, one thing that I should ask you before we start, you know your career interview is about your papers, letters, and documents, manuscripts, notes, you know, that kind of thing, because there's another aspect of the Institute's work, not to deposit things with us because there's no place for such things in New York City, but to you know help the relationship between the scientists and the repositories that would be most logical to —
Peterson: — OK, well, I surely must have several collections. I keep a lot of my things at home because ordinarily I work two places, over the last 40 years or whatever, I work at SRI and at Stanford, so there are things at Stanford and there are things at SRI, and then a lot of my own stuff at home, so —
Aaserud:Yes, but there is no arrangement with the repositories there or anything?
No, not at the moment. I tend to keep probably a funny kind of book keeping, it's more topics than historic or, I mean, than chronological, and so there are batches of things like, when we were dealing with, more with nuclear test detection and test ban treaties, that was sort of one era, quite a while ago now, but I probably have a box full of that stuff. Ad even before that when I was studying in detail the ionosphere and the effects of meteors and things, aurora, boxes on those topics.
But they are safe?
Peterson: They exist. Most recently I've been in digital signal processing, associated with radar and building integrated circuits, all these things. So it's kind of wide ranging.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. Maybe I should ask your secretary at Stanford or
Peterson: — for a bibliography?
Aaserud:For a bibliography of your work.
Peterson: Yes, there's a reasonably good one at Stanford, and a less well organized one out at SRI.
Aaserud:Covering the same?
Peterson: Well, they are somewhat different things, although there have been attempts to put them together. They're never completely so, I guess because it takes effort on my part to do that. And with a lot of ongoing things, it doesn't so far seem to be the time to do it.
Aaserud:Yes, right, right. With the science policy things in particular, there's a tendency to have half-published reports you know and things of that sort. Would they be included with the bibliography?
Peterson: Well, a lot of technical reports from SRI would be included in the bibliography now.
Aaserud:Yes, but it wouldn't be, — talks?
Peterson: Yes, some talks.
Aaserud:OK, good. What about papers on Jason in particular, do you have any of that, just for my own —?
Peterson: Well, there's a Jason publication list, you know, of reports.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. Just the titles of the reports.
Peterson: Yes. But I haven't extended very many of the Jason things into published reports. Most of that work has been classified work of one kind or another over the years.
Aaserud:Yes, of course, that's a problem too.
Peterson: Yes. My earliest exposure to defense related things, I guess, was when I was only about a year out of high school, I guess. I got involved with installing the first radars up and down the coast of California at the start of World War II. So radar has been a continuing thing since then. But that was kind of an unusual one.
Aaserud:Yes. Alright. I'm interviewing Allan
Peterson on the 6th of July, 1986, and you would not have any specific prior restrictions on the interview? We can work that out later if there's anything.
Peterson: No, I don't.
Aaserud:Yes. And we're going to talk about essentially your involvement in Jason, but talking about it in the context of our career and life more generally.
Aaserud:So that we'll start with the beginning. You were born in
Santa Clara, California, on the 22nd of May —
Peterson: Right, 1922, right. That part's correct.
Aaserud:So did you grow up there?
Peterson: Nearby. I went to high school in Los Gatos, California, and spent a year at San Jose State, at the start of World War II, and then I went into the service.
Aaserud:What was the background of your parents?
Peterson: Well, Middle West background, one in Ohio, one — well, both from Ohio really, I guess. They came West a few years before I was born.
And then I've spent the rest of my time in that general area, with a lot of traveling, but —
Aaserud:Yes. What was their occupation?
Peterson:Well, sort of general middle class business activity. Nothing distinguished.
Peterson: Their education? My mother went beyond high school but my father did not, so, I don't think there's much else there, other than —
Aaserud:OK. Which generation Americans were they, were they long time Americans?
Peterson: Long time, and I don't even know for sure when it first happened.
Aaserud:Right. Well, your name,
Peterson: That was Swedish but I've never traced it back.
Peterson:So I don't know the details of that.
Aaserud: Yes, but you know that your father has Swedish origins anyway.
Peterson: Right. The rest was probably British and Irish and several things.
Aaserud:Yes, but American before you —
Peterson: — way before I was born. They didn't remember. My grandparents didn't seem to remember very much. At that time they weren't searching very much. It's more popular nowadays.
Aaserud:Yes, certainly. Did you have any brothers or sisters?
Peterson: Yes, two brothers, one of whom was a machinist and the other
is a research engineer at Lockheed.
Aaserud: Oh, right, so they're both in the technical —
Peterson: Yes, sort of. Yes.
Aaserud: OK, you started talking about schools. What were your schools, to college?
Peterson: Well, there was something over a year at San Jose State, its now San Jose State University, and then the rest was all Stanford. I started research as an undergraduate and stated on.
Aaserud:Yes, OK. When did you know that you would do engineering? How
did that come about?
Peterson: Well, I think I knew that in high school, at least, and was involved with amateur radio and various other electronic things at that time.
Aaserud:Like a lot of people.
Peterson: I went on and did related things in the military during World
War II, and kept at it.
Aaserud:Yes, right. Was that with friends or on your own or things that —
Peterson: You mean in high school?
Peterson: Oh, it was pretty much on my own, I'd say. Books were always
Aaserud:— yes, yes and you had enough of them?
Peterson: Lots of books, yes.
Aaserud: They were in the home or in the school?
Aaserud:Was there any particular teacher say in high school that —?
Peterson: Not uniquely so, I'd say.
Aaserud:No, you can't point to anything in particular; it's just sort of —
Peterson: Just sort of grew, I'd say. They were good high school teachers, good math and science and so forth. But —
Aaserud:Yes, your war experience — you got your bachelor's degree
Peterson: — afterwards.
Aaserud:Afterwards, yes, and then you were 26 years of age.
Peterson: Yes, I think so.
Aaserud:Was the war experience part of that?
Peterson: Yes, sure, I was several years in Europe, England, Holland and so forth, so there was that interruption, and then I came back and finished.
Aaserud:So you volunteered for service?
Peterson: Partly yes, partly no. I was working in civil service, installing radars, and then eventually went into the Army afterwards, two or three years, two years I guess involved in early work on radar.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. What was the time of this civil service, which time did you enter?
Peterson: Oh, when I was about 20, I think, 19. I had enough background in electronics and things to be useful.
Aaserud:OK, and you served in Europe as well, did you say?
Peterson: Yes. I was only in the military for about two months, I think, before I was in Europe.
Peterson: In England at that time.
Aaserud:Yes, right, and then you were in Europe for?
Peterson: Oh, for another two years, 2 1/2, before things —
Aaserud:What kind of service?
Peterson: Well, I was involved with electronics maintenance and related things, first the Army, and I ended up eventually being in the Air Force, when the Air Force was formed finally.
Aaserud:How important was that from an educational point of view?
Peterson: Not very. It was a giving rather than receiving operation, I would say.
Aaserud:Well, you might have —
Peterson: The earlier part was quite useful, I think, that particular part was.
Aaserud:But at least you got some experience with the uses of —
Peterson:— oh yes, sure.
Aaserud:OK, then after the war you went to Stanford University, immediately after?
Peterson: Not immediately. I spent, well, it was almost immediately after at the junior level I entered Stanford and continued.
Aaserud:Then it was all set what you wanted to do at that point?
Aaserud:And the war experience might have matured you in that respect too.
Peterson: Oh yes, it certainly didn't hurt.
Aaserud:So you measured in?
Peterson: In electrical engineering, right.
Aaserud:And you went through Stanford University, you're a true
Peterson: I'm a true California person, yes. I finished my bachelor's degree and just continued on. I was already involved in research programs and so —
Aaserud:Even at the bachelor's level.
Peterson: Yes, by the time I'd been there about a year, I guess.
Aaserud:What kind of research?
Peterson: This involved studies of upper atmosphere and ionosphere, and particularly certain uses of meteor ionization trails to measure winds in the upper atmosphere, and building of radar instrumentation. Some communications systems research.
Aaserud:Any teacher in particular?
Peterson: Oh yes, Professor Villard at Stanford, who's still around, was probably the principal one.
Aaserud:He's around at Stanford?
Peterson: Yes. He's mostly over at SRI now. His research group was involved in a number of defense things, and during the late sixties the group moved to SRI to kind of be off campus, and —
Aaserud:— yes, yes, but is —
Peterson:— oh yes, he's very active at this point.
And then your BS you got in '48.
Aaserud:Then your MS in 49, so it was —
Peterson:— right —
Aaserud: — so it was a continuation of the same sort of thing.
Peterson: Yes, same — and the PHD I guess in 52 or somewhere. I don't know. Yeah — and at the time I guess I thought I would probably move to
SRI full time, but since I'd been doing some work there, and Professor
Terman, who was then I guess Dean of Engineering or whatever, along with Professor Bowker, convinced me to stay on at Stanford as well, and made arrangements that have continued ever since.
Aaserud:Who was your dissertation advisor?
Peterson: Professor Villard.
Aaserud:What was the relationship between SRI and Stanford then?
Peterson: Well, at that time they had the common board of trustees, and it was really an applied adjunct to the university, but that changed.
Aaserud:It was established when?
Peterson: About 1950, I guess. I wasn't the earliest one there but amongst the older ones.
Aaserud:But you were earlier than the SRI at Stanford.
Peterson: Right. I had started a number of activities there that led to the Communications Laboratory and a Radio Science, Radio Physics
Laboratory at SRI, and recruited a lot of colleagues from Stanford, even at that point, some of which are still there. In fact, several of the division leaders are former students of mine.
Aaserud:And your dissertation was connected as much with Stanford as SRI?
Peterson: No, it was Stanford at that time and certain of the things transferred over and started up when I moved over. My dissertation was in the area of radio propagation, using the ionosphere as a reflecting means and backscattering from the earth's surface, so-called backscatter sounding, that was invented at that point along with some work that was going on in Germany simultaneously but independently.
And that eventually led to the over the horizon radar things that are now, many years later, very popular and being installed by the Air Force and the Navy.
Aaserud:Yes. Did you have contact with the German side of it?
Peterson: Yes, we went to numbers of meetings of the IRSI,
International Scientific Radio Union, and Deminger was the guy who was
most involved in Germany, — we exchanged notes around 1950.
Aaserud:Had you met personally?
Peterson: Oh yes. We still keep track of one another, though he's long since retired.
Aaserud:Where was he then?
Peterson: He was at Lindau and associated with the university in Germany there, I forget which one, but he had an interesting story. His group was rescued from Germany, from the Soviet side, at the end of World War
II by a British group, brought out, and then went back. It was kind of a strange story.
Aaserud:He's in West Germany?
Aaserud:Right. Was there any educational program at SRI at that time?
Peterson: No. Not really. That was the university.
Aaserud:Yes, but the connection —
Peterson: The connection was there. It never was extremely tight. And hasn't, even since they've separated, hasn't changed all that much. Those who want to work together do and otherwise they don't.
Peterson: But I found that in general. It's true at JPL and Caltech even though they're one management; still the ties are only those that spend the effort to work together.
Aaserud:Yes, so there's an effort involved, but some people —
Peterson: Yes. I usually am both places almost every day. So it makes a difference. You can really —
Aaserud:Yes, yes yes. How did you support yourself during your education?
Peterson: Well, I had some support from the GI Bill, having served, and then also a research assistantship.
Aaserud:Yes. Yes. And that sufficed in your case.
Peterson: Well — almost. By doing both I was able to survive, yes.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. How close was the relationship with other fields, in particular physics?
Peterson: Well, I took most of my undergraduate engineering courses that had a physics counterpart, I took in physics, like mechanics and electromagnetics and quantum mechanics and tings of that kind. In the physics department instead of in mechanical engineering or something.
So in fact I had probably pretty much an undergraduate physics background.
Aaserud:Was that common?
Peterson: Well, it wasn't the rule, but I'd say probably a third of the
EEs or a fourth did something like that.
Peterson: Our undergraduate program has always been until this day, has people who are often as much interested in business as in genuine electrical engineering.
Aaserud:OK. You have that —
Peterson: — so there's a kind of a, we don't get anywhere near all our graduate students, all of the undergraduates going on to graduate school in electrical engineering. Though it's changing again in that direction, but I think a lot of the serious students did take a lot more physics and math.
Aaserud:At that time?
Peterson: At that time.
Peterson: Well, I dunno. It may have been more so at the time, but still at Stanford there aren't as many service courses as there are at a lot of universities, where math is taught in the math department rather than by engineering courses, and the same thing true in physics. Pretty much.
Aaserud:Did you have any close contact or work relationship with people in other departments, in physics or?
Peterson: Oh yes. Let's see, in physics, not so much at that time, but
I worked with people in engineering mechanics, and one of the first things I did after finishing up at Stanford was to become involved with the computing activities and really installed the first machines at
Stanford in the early fifties, and worked with a lot of other departments in that regard, because at that time computers were pretty scarce.
Aaserud: It was an interdepartmental thing, so that —
Peterson: Right, that included the math department, people in physics and others. But, and then I worked with some of them in their research where they needed computers.
Aaserud:Yes, so you got very early into that.
Peterson: Oh yes, and have been ever since, although most of my research has been in communication and radar and space studies. A lot of the teaching has been in computer science, computer systems.
Peterson: Yes. Still is. I teach a switching theory and logic design course once a year.
Aaserud:Yes. What was the background for your becoming interested and involved in advisory activities?
Peterson: Well, I guess that probably grew out of my work at SRI, which involved a variety of research that used radio techniques of studying various things. There was communications research that needed to know a lot more about the ionosphere than was known at that time, and we did a number of studies of that kind, and one of the early things we did also was to form a research program that helped decide about the problems the aurora caused on early warning radars, when people were anticipating missiles, and that early work led to studies in Alaska to understand the aurora and also studies in Northern Scotland. When people were anticipating the installation of the BEMUS [?] system, and our work at SRI did all of the background investigations. We built some large radar systems and installed them in Alaska and in Scotland.
And that quite naturally led to a lot of inputs on how the radars that were to be operational would be designed, and that was one of the inputs, and there began to be worries about the effects of nuclear explosions on radar systems and on communications, and the group at SRI participated in measurements in those programs.
And it also, the detection of nuclear explosion events became an issue that led eventually to discussions on atmospheric test bans. And things of that kind.
Aaserud: Yes, the origin of that was much earlier.
Peterson: The origins were much earlier than that, and since we were involved in kind of a frontier of investigations of the effects in the upper atmosphere and so forth, we also carried the measurements over into those areas, and then that became an important issue within the early days of the President's Science Advisory Committee, the role in the test ban discussions, at least, and the background in the government. And so I was involved with those groups at a very early stage, and —
Aaserud:Before we get into that particular involvement, to what extent was SRI set up for that kind of advisory —?
Peterson: — well, part of its charter was to be research in the public interest and interactions with government, and so I'd say, although it wasn't exactly anticipating that particular role, that it was to advise the government, still is for that matter very heavily involved. So we were much more focussed on technical measurements and the physics all this and the engineering that goes with being able to make the measurements, but in fact I guess it was inevitable that it leads into policy questions. I don't think I ever sought out the policy side particularly, but it, nor do I even believe that scientists and engineers are necessarily better at making policy than elected officials even, but in any event, you do have to have the technical inputs.
Aaserud:Yes, exactly, exactly, the policy makers should be rather —
Peterson: So I guess in the earliest days of making the measurements that had to do with natural effects on radars and communication, and then also then following into the nuclear ones, I had an involvement in that area at a very early time in my career, and it was when it became policy issues that I got more involved with people like Panofsky and others in the test ban related things.
Aaserud:— That was through Jason in part?
Peterson: It was partly Jason, yes, because my involvement in this earlier work led to being involved with the formation of Jason.
Otherwise I don't think they would have looked for an engineer.
Aaserud:Right, we're anticipating tings again, I would like to go a little slower.
consulting activities, they appear in the MEN AND WOMEN OF SCIENCE.
Peterson: Oh dear, yes, I don't respond to them very well either, so well see.
Aaserud:That was the source I had.
Peterson: All right. OK, it's all right.
Aaserud:I hope that you will send me something more.
Peterson: Yes, OK.
And then we might expand it, it might bring you to other things as well. The first thing that's listed here is, "heads spec tech group SRI International, '53 to 58."
Peterson: Yes, that was a group that led into two laboratories there, the Radio Physics and Communications laboratories grew out of that.
That group, they couldn't think of what to call it because we were involved in a variety of things, so when we, when I moved over there from Stanford and formed up that group, it was almost entirely a bunch of, by today's standards, very young people. It was all kind of an activity, and there weren't all that many people to move in, so — but it formed a nucleus of quite a lot of what's SRI now.
Aaserud:Yes, so that was kind of a group forming the interests of SRI.
Peterson: Right, yes, in engineering at least, and of course there was another part of it that was specializing in physical sciences. There was a lot of overlap at that point. But we had, at the time, a kind of a keen interest in and a seemingly ready access to doing experimental programs on a somewhat larger scale than are easy to arrange at this point, so —
Aaserud:Then there's Communications and Propagation Lab.
Aaserud:Manager of the Communications and Propagation Lab. That was a continuation of that in a sense, I suppose.
Peterson: Yes, it was.
Aaserud:That was after the first group had created —
Peterson: — something, yes. And then there began to be a couple of leaders of activities, and I think sometimes groups separate because they don't get along slightly in certain areas and they begin to do their own thing, and we had a little of that, but it wasnt any uproar or anything.
Aaserud:Right. Was that your main job at that time?
Peterson: No, I was still teaching as a professor. That was about the time when it became difficult to both be line management and genuine full time professor at the same time. So at some point along there I — well, for some years it wasn't too — but a little later, I decided I'd best get into more of a staff role at SRI if I wanted to continue at the university and the graduate student approach, and so Ive been more in the staff role ever since, but I don't remember exactly the time when this happened. But when we got to several hundred people at SRI, it was a little harder to run as a —
Aaserud:Yes, well, the book lists you as manager for three years.
Peterson:Yes, that's probably right.
Aaserud:And then you kind of decided to —
Peterson: — right. When does it list me as not, as ending that? Was that 60 something?
Aaserud:Manager, 59 to 62, it says.
Peterson: Yes, probably another year after that or something, I don't know, but anyway, we managed to get strong enough leaders into the activity that I could become ore program development and staff. I never felt that I had to run things to influence things.
Aaserud:Was there anything in particular that you would point to that was started at the laboratory during that period?
Peterson: Well, we started this rather strong radio physics lab activity that went on for many years, in, studies in radar and space and related things of the kind. It has been kind of a repository for knowledge on effects in the upper atmosphere of nuclear explosions, kind of a memory arm for the defense nuclear agency after that time.
Peterson: DNA and then also the nuclear detection people for many years were very closely identified with one of the groups there, primarily because all of the measurements data or most all of the measurements data were taken by the group. We never had any real involvement with the weapons themselves.
Aaserud:What other groups would you compare that lab to at that time?
Peterson: Well, that lab and the group at the, that belonged to the
National Bureau of Standards at that time, their Radio, Central Radio
Propagation Laboratory and the extensions of that, were probably the two strong labs in the country in the business that we were in, that had to do with applications as well as a fair amount of basic research in radio physics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. There wasn't any other comparable group at a university or any of the other research institutes at that time anyway. I'm not sure there is even yet, but we also had strong ties with the Geophysics Institute of the University of Alaska, and I was quite a few years on their advisory council, and they specialized in studies of in the orthland and —
Aaserud:— yes, that was a direct connection with a project, so to speak?
Peterson: It started as — well, it didn't quite start as a project.
As a graduate student I took a little transportable radar to Fairbanks at the request of Chris Elvy who was running the place at that time, and did some early work, but then there became projects that had to do with beam use background studies and things of that kind.
Aaserud:Then it lists you here as member of the board of directors at Grangers Associates, Palo Alto, 64 and onwards?
Peterson: Yes, that's a little company that worked at various kinds of instrumentation. They built ionospheric sounders and built some of the instruments that were used on ships in the Pacific in high altitude test measurements, but later turned into a company that manufactures telephone system hardware and the like. That was more of a second generation of that company, which had kind of languished at one point, but, and that incarnation — another one of my students, originally from India, took some of our signal processing techniques over and applied them in telephone systems, and that turned into a really thriving activity, and I think a couple of years ago they sold several, 200 million dollars worth of signal processing stuff into the telephone systems. But that's a different generation.
Aaserud:Who was this, the student?
Peterson: Oh, Dr. Narasima who's been teaching at Stanford part time, and their director of research.
Aaserud:Yes. But originally anyway there was a close relationship of the work at Grangers.
Peterson: Yes. Well, several people from SRI went to Granger and founded that little company, and Granger himself who had been at SRI.
Aaserud:So you were with it from the founding, so to speak?
Peterson: Well, I was never fully with it. I was on their board but I didn't ever actually go as an employee.
Aaserud:No, no. But you, it was founded about 54 when you joined the board.
Peterson: Right, could have been 54, I was thinking 56, 57 but it must have been right there. That was probably something that was looked up. I don't know. Yes, that was an offshoot that was kind of interesting.
Aaserud:Yes, but it didn't take all that much of your activities.
Peterson: No. No. I contributed a few students to it.
Aaserud:Then you were a member of a, what does it say? Member of, yes, that one, Third and Fourth US —
Oh, that's these commissions of ISRU, International Scientific Radio Union. That isn't policy per se, but it's like the International Geophysics Union. I guess there must be a physics society equivalent of that. I forget what that one is. IUPP or something.
Peterson: There is a fair amount of international science policy that's generated there.
Peterson: I got involved also in the —
Aaserud:— International Union for Pure and Applied Physics.
Yes, that one, and also you know we had this International
Geophysical Year that was partly operated by...
Aaserud:— yes, 57, was it?
57, 58 and I was involved with the planning activities on that, which is definitely not defense science but international science, in the sense that that planned measurements. Sidney Kaplan was the international chairman of the Geophysical Year.
That was a lot of fun and I worked at that quite a bit, spent quite a lot of time at it. We even put, from the university, put out a number of special sounders in places like Greenland and oh, where else, Peru and several US places and Okinawa and things of that kind, to make measurements during that common period. So —
Aaserud:Who did you collaborate with in that work both nationally and internationally?
Peterson: There were national and international panels on various things, like the ionospheric studies and things of that kind, so there was a well-organized international collaboration in geophysics in general. In particular, the kinds of leaders were Chapman and Bruckner and all the historic names in geophysics in the US and internationally, for that matter. I think I got involved with that one probably because Bruckner was impressed with our early work on the ionosphere. But Henry
Booker was much involved. He's still here in La Jolla. He joined the physics department. Well, actually what was sort of applied physics and engineering here when the university was first founded. He'd spent a year on leave with SRI from Cornell, and when they were organizing the department down here, I recommended him here so he had early ties here too.
Aaserud:And then you were a member of an NSF panel 57 to 66 it says.
Peterson: Yes, that I guess must have been this Geophysical Year activity.
Aaserud:OK, yes, to 66 it?
Peterson: — that sounds a little long, but they were still putting data together and all that stuff. Maybe it lasted that long. It was a large documentation effort at the end of that program. But that still sounds a little stretched. I certainly wasn't doing much on it by that time.
Aaserud:OK. Was that closely associated with that former work?
Peterson: That was closely associated with the Geophysical Year work, where we got a wide variety of measurements that were coordinated in all locations.
Aaserud:And it was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Peterson: Yes. Well, it was funded largely by the National Science
Foundation in the US, and various international —
Aaserud:Yes, and then there's the Defense Atomic Support Agency.
Peterson: Well, that was the work on measurements of the effects of nuclear explosions on the atmosphere and ionosphere, that started I guess in 58 or something like that.
Aaserud: Yes, it says that.
Peterson: When they had the first high altitude explosions in the
Pacific, and because of our earlier work on the BEMUSE problems with the aurora and the expectations that nuclear explosions would do comparable or worse things, we organized measurements activities, actually acquired a small ship at SRI and sent it off to the South Pacific to make these measurements, so — although it was under Air Force sponsorship, Defense Atomics sponsorship through the Air Force.
Aaserud: Oh, that's an Air Force agency, is it?
Peterson: No, it's a separate agency that reports at the Joint Services level, but this particular program was funded through the Air Force.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. Is it still in existence?
Peterson:It's now called DNA, the Defense Nuclear Agency —
Aaserud:(crosstalk) Oh, that was, OK...
Peterson: But it was started in the late, middle to late fifties.
Aaserud:Yes, all right, I'm learning.
Peterson: No, no, no. And so, we deployed equipment to make measurements in connection with the first high altitude explosions, and then there was a moratorium for a period, agreed on by the US and the Soviets, which many of us didn't believe they intended to keep, but — and as it turned out, they did for a while, and the US played a very interesting game of living strictly by the rules, not even having planning sessions officially to think of what would happen if they didn't abide by it. There were some informal, not sponsored, discussions, because there was clear evidence that they were preparing to resume.
And as it turned out, they of course were, because they resumed with great evidence of preparation.
Aaserud:OK, excepting PSAC and ARPA that we'll come back to, are there other activities, consulting on science policy or whatever, that you would point to during this early period?
Peterson: During the early period, well, probably not. I think we probably hit most of those things.
Aaserud:Of course you can add or subtract later.
Peterson:I think that's most of the things, until the time of Jason, at least. PSAC, one that I guess probably dated, when did PSAC start? It was Eisenhower.
Aaserud:Yes, PSAC started in, I think late 57.
Peterson: Yes, I think we were involved. I must have been involved in that activity one way or another in the 58, 59 time frame, I don't know.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, but we'll get back to that. I don't think we covered sufficiently your academic work or normal work or whatever during that period.
Peterson: Well, I got appointed as an assistant professor and then associate professor and professor, and I taught classes in logic design of computers and communications during that period, and had generally probably somewhere between a half a dozen and a dozen or so graduate students.
Peterson: Extended periods of time. I still have that many, so — it's quite a collection of graduate students that I've supervised, worked with.
Aaserud:At one time, you had 12?
Peterson: Yes, I have that many now. I've had as many as four or five complete their degrees in one year, but —
Aaserud:Yes, and most do?
Peterson: Most do. I have a few notorious exceptions, like one of the people who became the most senior, but for the president of SRI, never finished his degree because he never passed his French exam, but he turned in a thesis. You know, there are some bad cases. It hasn't hurt his career any.
Aaserud: OK, so research?
Peterson: At the university.
Aaserud:At the university at that time?
Peterson: Yes, I've always carried on a research activity at the university. The only way to support graduate students. Although there have been a few that did their work at SRI, but most have done it at Stanford, in research activities that involved NSF and NASA and DOD sponsorship.
Aaserud:To what extent was that research related to SRI work?
Peterson: Well, there was always a kind of an overlap, in the sense of the university being basic research and the other one almost always applied, in some sense, and I haven't maintained both because in the university, even before the recent era of DOD relationships and so forth, it's never been convenient to have classified things at the university, because we have complete international group of students and so I've always had access to those things that I wanted to do that were restricted or for one reason or another not appropriate for the university, I could do at SRI.
Aaserud: Yes, yes.
Peterson: So I never really noticed particularly the problems that developed on campuses in the late sixties and so forth, because those things that I might have been doing were all at the other place, and while I could be blamed for them, I certainly couldn't be — and so, they've overlapped a lot, although I've done a lot more with computers and related things at Stanford than I've ever done at SRI. But radar and communications — various nuclear effects and things have all been at Stanford, and —
Aaserud: — yes, right — particularly successful students during that period?
Peterson: Well, there have been, you know, the usual. They go on to universities and companies and things of that kind.
Aaserud:In about the same proportion or how is that?
Peterson: Yes, I think they — similar proportion. A number of students as I mentioned have gone into SRI. One for many years was vice president for the engineering side. Two or three of the present division managers of SRI were former students of mine in engineering. So, and they're —
I think they're generally pretty successful. I don't at the moment think of an example. Well, numbers of them have been involved with starting new companies. You know, Silicon Valley is an area for that sort of thing, and — but they're all professionals, career people in research or teaching.
Aaserud:Yes. OK, back to consultantships. We started with PSAC and your vita says from 58 onwards here. What was your involvement in that?
Peterson: Well, that was primarily this business of the, it got started because of the nuclear test detection issues that arose, when there was consideration of moratoriums or bans and that sort of thing, and that continued for some time. There was this Technical Working Group formed that involved atmospheric test bans, and we spent some months or so preparing for meetings in Geneva that took place.
Panofsky was the chairman of that group for the US. I remember, he and
I were sworn in as foreign affairs officers or something at the same time. He's so short and I'm fairly tall, so I remember that scene, with hands on the Bible or something, being sworn in, but that was a kind of a first exposure to how things are done at the international level, I guess.
Aaserud:Yes, and also to science policy.
Peterson: In earnest, yes.
Aaserud:Yes, in earnest.
Peterson: At the State Department level. There's lots of times science policy in the Defense Department level that I've been exposed to, but that was kind of interesting.
Aaserud:Yes. Was that of the establishment of PSAC, do you remember?
Were you involved in that at all?
Peterson: I wasn't involved in the establishment, but it must have been pretty early in the business. I was involved in that activity which was kind of organized through PSAC, and there were lots of meetings in the White House and whatever on those issues, and a great deal of preparation for that.
Aaserud: How were you approached to?
Peterson: Well, I'm not even quite sure. I suppose, since I was working in the research activities of the agencies that had to supply the technical information, it just was a natural extension. I certainly didn't look for it. I can't identify a particular person who did it, although there were a number of Jasons involved at that time. Kenneth
Watson was on that group and let's see, who else? He and I and Panofsky may have been the Jasons that were on there in that activity.
Aaserud: Yes. Was it mainly physicists in the group?
Aaserud:Was the group set up specifically in preparation for the negotiations
Peterson: I think so. I think so, although it could have been to
well, it probably was. I don't know why else the White House would have spent much time worrying about it. It was hard enough to get the State Department to take the technical issues seriously anyway. I'm sure you'll find a similar statement from Panofsky if you were to ask him about this. I know we felt that the preparation of the diplomatic side of the house was greatly deficient compared to the technical side of the house. They may have thought otherwise, but we had a heck of a time figuring out at times what the Russians were trying to do.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. Maybe you could say a little more about that. That was a rather new and interesting experience — how you sensed that kind of communication between the technical advisors and the people you got the input through to hopeful in some way?
Peterson: Yes, I guess we must have, because something eventually came out of it, but — well, I think what we were surprised at was how well the ambassador at the time at that meeting appeared to be able to divorce the science from the rest. He sort of felt that we could take care of the science. When we get these things all argued out, then you can have the diplomatic side of the thing — and we were having to get him back to tell us what he thought was really going on here, what were the aims of the other people. It's certainly one thing to argue about the effects of X-rays on the upper atmosphere and how well you can measure them, but the real issue was, what the heck does this have to do with a potential treaty or something that might come of this?
Aaserud:So you are implying that there was some difficulty in —
Peterson: Well, I don't know that we could really call it difficulty. It was just; it seemed to me, different worlds. They felt we were somehow doing a different job than they were, whereas I'm sure since that time we've learned a lot more about the fact that those things have to go hand in hand, than we knew at that time, but it seemed to us that they felt technical issues were somehow pretty separate from the rest, and once you settled all those, then you could have serious negotiations, and it seemed to us that that wasn't the way it was going — and still does seem to me. We can still see signs of it in the most recent treaty, you know, attempts on arms reduction, where you'll often work on technical issues, and, although I think it's more organized now than it was at that time.
Aaserud:Yes. Well, this was rather — it's not the first thing, but
Peterson: It was pretty early, an attempt at that kind of thing. And — that was, in addition that was a three way negotiation. You may recall, the British and Americans and Soviets were involved. And so, although there was never any particular splitting between the British and the US, there still had to be a meeting of the three way minds, and —
Aaserud:Yes. Were there the same kind of problems in the other delegations, did you feel?
Peterson: I'm sure the British felt the same. Well, some of the
British technical people felt the same, at least.
But I think they were a bit better prepared than we were, to be honest, although we had the, we really had the biggest say of the two, but the — however, I do recall, one time suggesting that they have one of their other technical people come over to the meeting because they seemed to not have understood some of the things we were arguing about, and they arranged this over the weekend, and he flew in and explained how easy it was to do some of these measurements that the Soviets were arguing, terrible thing, and would only lead to intruding on their domains and things of that kind.
Aaserud:Essentially you were two independent delegations, I mean, the British and the Americans.
Peterson: Yes. We did a lot of discussion together, but it —
Aaserud:What about the Soviet side, did they have the same kind of problem, do you think?
Peterson: It's really hard to tell in the Soviet case. They also brought in some people that had not been very much identified with their defense department, at times, and in one case it turned out to be a very bad thing for the particular individual, in later years, but this is one Y.A. Alpert who was an iononpheric physicist of considerable stature, but obviously when he came it was clear he didn't know much about the defense activities in the Soviet Union, and they later restricted his travel and so forth, as apparently having learned too much or something, which is a not very good thing from his career point of view. In our case of course we didn't have that facing us.
Aaserud:No, no, no but —
Peterson:— but the Soviet unclassified science and classified in that period were completely separate. There's evidence these days of more overlap, but —
Aaserud:OK. OK. It's strange that he was picked out in the first place.
Peterson: He was their leading expert on some of these ionospheric matters. And they either didn't have one or they wanted a name. But later, he was of Jewish ancestry, and later I guess applied to emigrate, and that really did him in. He is now in the same category more or less as the others that are persona non grata.
Aaserud:He's still around.
Peterson: He's around, but he's stripped of us. (...) Anyway, that was the most unpleasant eventual outcome of that, although it was fun talking with him at the time, but —
Aaserud:Yes, OK, maybe we should move on.
Peterson: Sure. We should, get finished with this.
Aaserud: Yes, we just keep on for hours, which we probably will.
Peterson: Well, no, I hope not. I'm enjoying it.
Aaserud:Your ARPA consultantship started in 1958, and that was probably also in connection (crosstalk)
Peterson:— it was in connection, yes, it was, and also we had of course research contracts from there, but let's see, what was that particular — well, a variety of things that had to do with weapons effects and missiles and things of that kind. So that, yes, I don't remember all the details, and probably if I did, who knows, it still may be classified, I don't know.
Aaserud:But it was substantive.
Peterson: It was substantive at that time, much more so than it is now,
Aaserud:Yes, right. To what extent was that in anticipation of the establishing of a Jason like activity at all? I mean, Jason was mainly funded by ARPA after this. If there's any relation there.
Peterson: There probably were some relationships, but I don't know that there was. I think it's conceivable that I was more involved with ARPA at that time than most of the other Jasons, probably is, because I had this SRI connection.
Peterson: Which was a little closer to the defense side than most of the other people were at that time, who were largely complete university associated.
Aaserud:Yes, right. But that particular consultantship did concern substantive technical issues.
Peterson: Yes, technical issues, but not, I don't remember very much in the way of policy issues at that point.
Aaserud:Yes, and also not administrative issues at different points of advising or anything.
Peterson:No, not particularly.
Aaserud:Right. OK, we've covered Geophysics Institute at the University of Alaska.
Peterson: Yes, I had been involved with them for many years. I still see them occasionally, but I'm not intimately involved. I suspect I've made some contributions to their success over the years, because of the contacts that we could provide with the other agencies and things in
Washington. They're pretty isolated up there, at that time especially so, and so —
Aaserud:Was that a new start for them in this respect?
Peterson: No, they had organized that probably in the late forties, and
I think Chris Elvey in the early fifties was an astronomer, was their second director, I think. He had been technical director at the Naval Ordnance Test Site in Inyokern, California, before he went up there, though he was a legitimate practicing astronomer, but there was a defense related tie that way because he had headed this Navy organization.
Aaserud:OK, right, and then —
Peterson: And they counted quite a lot on ONR and other Defense support for their work in basic research in the Arctic, and it was pretty well provided without strings, so I think, although it drew on Defense funds, they couldn't have done it by NSF alone —
Aaserud:Right, well, ONR is known for that.
Peterson: Yes, right, definitely, but that's another example in which it really worked without constraining them in any particular way.
Aaserud:Right, right. Before going into Jason, finally you were a member of a panel advisory group for aeronautics research and development at Avionics, 1960-64.
Peterson: That was AGARD I guess which is this civilian or research side of NATO, must be.
Aaserud:OK, was it, yes so —
Peterson:I'd almost forgotten about that, but they had different panels of AGARD on various subjects and one of them had to do with communications and propagation in upper atmosphere related things.
Aaserud:That was another European.
Peterson: That was another European — US, yes, in fact I think we met and had some meetings in Bergen or somewhere, and some in England.
Aaserud:OK, so that was your first exposure to Norway, maybe your last also.
Peterson: No, no, no, I've still been there a few times since.
Peterson: Speaking of Scandinavia, not Norway, I have a son whos been living in Sweden for, it must be almost ten years now.
Peterson: He went to be with a Swedish girl friend who had been in California, and has never really come back, so —
Aaserud:Does he want to?
Peterson: I suspect not, at this point. I don't know. In true Swedish style, though they've never gotten married, they've lived together ever since.
Aaserud:Uh hun, all right.
Peterson: In fact we had a letter saying if worst came to worst they'd get married.
Aaserud:That's similar to our case. We were forced to marry by the Immigration Service.
Peterson: Here? They thought they might have to be there, by the
Immigration authorities, but apparently they've not had to in Sweden.
Anyway, so, —
Aaserud:OK, it says Avionics with a capital A here, that isn't a corporation?
Peterson: No, I think it was Avionics Advisory Group or something.
Aaserud:OK, 60 to 64, does that make sense for AGARD?
Peterson: Yes, it probably does.
Aaserud: OK, were there other activities that you see as forerunners for Jason activities, on your part?
Peterson: Well, from my involvement, all these things we've been talking about were probably background for it, because in a number of cases, we had members, people who became members of Jason were consultants in one way or another to these agencies I was working with, so we encountered one another and I think developed certain background relationships that crystallized in the Jason group.
Aaserud:Yes, so the personal interconnections are just as important as the substantive ones, so to speak.
Peterson: I think those were the ones that got it started, frankly. If you want my honest opinion rather than some government attempt, because it was pretty much organized by individuals and then picked up by the government.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, and of course the simultaneous development within
IDA was —
Peterson: — oh yes, and that had the university people as trustees.
I think Fred Terman was the Stanford one, although my involvement with
IDA was never directly through him.
Aaserud:That's right; Stanford was part of that —
Peterson: It was part of the early — yes, that's right.
Aaserud — it started out with Killian at MIT and then —
Peterson:— right, and I think Killian got Terman involved — long history of personal involvement.
Yes, yes. So maybe before we go into Jason, we will — do you have some...?
Peterson: (laughing) — oh sure, no, no that's all right.
Aaserud:We should make a little digression about family and the role of family in your career. You were married in "42, it says here, so you have been married for a long time.
Peterson: A long time, that's true. In fact, before I was eligible to do it on my own I think I had to have approval of the family or something. My wife was old enough but I wasn't. Yes.
Aaserud: OK, so you were —
Peterson: — by law. OK. Well, I suspect that family's very much involved, mostly by being supportive and tolerant of a lot of travel I suppose. Though after the first few years of running around a lot, I guess I decided it didn't pay to stay any place just to avoid another trip. I'm almost always home on weekends even if I'm traveling somewhere.
Aaserud:Is your wife working?
Peterson:No, she's never had to in our case. She does a lot of volunteer work. Always has. But she was a kind of a little, before the general two career —
Aaserud:What education does she have?
Peterson: She had partly completed her university but never quite did because — well, it was partly interrupted by World War II and then children, so, she should have and would have in this day and age.
Aaserud:You have four children?
Peterson: Four children, spread over 20 years, so we have always had young ones around because by the time our own were gone there were grandchildren. In fact two of the grandchildren are with us now, so —
Aaserud:OK, that's, yes, and they followed their father's footsteps?
Peterson: No. One graduated from Stanford and one from Humboldt, and our youngest is about to graduate at UCSD, and, but no, I don't know, they seemed a little to shy away from identical careers in — I suppose that's natural, but I —
Aaserud:All right, Jason.
Peterson: Jason, all right. I didn't realize there was that much
Pre-Jason. But we've covered other things that overlap the period.
Aaserud:Background and motivation for joining, who approached you in the first place, how?
Peterson: Part of the early group, I guess, Watson and Goldberger probably because I'd worked with them some before.
Peterson:Oh, I suppose motivation for joining was that it was an interesting group of people, and at the time I guess I probably was as interested in physics as I was in engineering.
Peterson: And they're really not that separate.
Aaserud:No, no, they're not, they were not.
Peterson: But I've noticed in recent years that the newspapers are totally unprepared to cope with the difference between engineering and science. Every article talks about the scientists doing this, when in many cases they're not officially scientists but engineers.
Aaserud: Yes, yes.
Peterson: It's a wonder the engineers haven't declared their opposition to this.
Aaserud:Yes, well, as y ou say, there are close interconnections, but sometimes it might result in the engineers being totally left out of the
Peterson: Well, not usually left out, but identified as scientists when they weren't claiming to be at times. I remember getting some nasty articles about building some big antennas, and quoted as "built by the scientists who were doing the work," and we got complaints by professional engineering groups saying that you had to have professional engineers to be legal, because of the requirements on safety and all that stuff, whereas there was no problem with that, but we were just identified in the newspapers as scientists.
Aaserud:And you don't like that?
Peterson:No, no, I don't mind it at all. But it's kind of a strange — in fact, I masqueraded for many years in geophysics.
Aaserud:Right. In addition to the prospect of collaboration with these people were there other motivations? The international situation at the time for example, Sputnik and all that?
Peterson: Probably, although I was already involved in a number of ways with that. Yes, I'm sure I felt that collectively it would have additional influence.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. What, when did you join at any rate, when were you approached? Was that at the very outset?
Peterson: I think it was the second year but I'm not quite sure.
Sometimes I get identified with the founding group. It was pretty early but I don't think I was in the immediate founding group, probably in the next ones.
Aaserud:I guess the founding took place around the turn of 59, I mean, 59, 60?
Aaserud:And you joined in 60, do you think?
Peterson: I think probably, yes. It was pretty early, anyway.
Aaserud:Your entry in MEN AND WOMEN OF SCIENCE lists you as a consultant also with the Institute for Defense Analysis, was that the same thing?
Peterson: It probably was. It probably was, although at one time or another, I could have been doing some things with them before that. I probably was, because of some involvement with the radar programs.
Peterson: But I don't remember.
Aaserud:Well, it says starting in 60 so it couldn't have been much before.
Peterson No, it was about the same time, I think.
Aaserud:Yes, but at any rate you did do independent work with IDA?
Peterson: At one time or another, I have, yes. Independent of Jason.
Aaserud:Yes, but Jason is the more important of the two?
Aaserud:Were you involved at all in the pre-history of Jason?
Peterson:No. Not directly.
Aaserud: No, but you knew about what was happening before you joined.
Aaserud:I'm thinking about such things as Summer Study 137.
Peterson: No, I wasn't involved with that one. I forget when that was
but I think I was pretty well occupied at that time.
Summer of '58 —
Peterson: Yes, I think I was much involved with some other activities
at that time.
Aaserud:Yes. I suppose that the direct founding fathers of Jason are,
well, Goldberger, Watson —
Peterson: — Watson, yes —
Peterson: I don't recall whether Gell-Mann was that much involved or not. He was certainly involved in the early times of Jason. He might have been.
He never seemed to be, to have the same dedication to Jason as the others that you mentioned.
Aaserud:Yes. The first three at any rate, I think they sought to start a private company.
Peterson: Yes, at one point they did, and that's come up a few times since but never very seriously.
At least, my view of private companies is that you'd better find something that can actually make money rather than simply consulting, or else it isn't worth it.
Aaserud:Yes, well, I think their expectation was that they could do both.
Peterson: Yes, but if you don't get into something more than writing reports, I don't think you, I don't think it's very —
Aaserud:— no, but (crosstalk) anyway to a great degree by Charles
Townes, I think.
Peterson: Yes, I think so.
Aaserud:— who was the chief scientist at —
Peterson:— at IDA —
Aaserud:— at IDA at the time, so, and I think he has largely responsibility for the idea of Jason.
Peterson:I'm sure, yes, I'm sure that's true. I don't have any particular insights into that but that's my recollection as well. He certainly was responsible for sort of the launching success.
Aaserud:Yes, One of the main motivations for setting up Jason was to define a vehicle for introducing a new generation of scientists into that kind of work.
Peterson: Yes. Yes.
Aaserud:Of course that wasn't necessary for you needless to say, but —
Peterson: No, I certainly recognized that at the start, and over the years it's less important because the others are still involved in one way or another, but it's true, at the time, I didn't need an introduction into defense science, but —
Aaserud:Yes. Were you involved in or aware of any counter-arguments to forming Jason, that that was not the most appropriate vehicle for that kind of activity?
Peterson: No, I don't think I was.
Aaserud:No. No. OK.
Peterson: I guess it wasn't even the kind of thing I would have worried about much at that point. I might now.
Aaserud:I was told by Bruckner that there were some —
Peterson: — objections?
Aaserud:Objections from, well, I think Fred Seitz.
Peterson: Oh yes, maybe one or more of the MIT crowd, it's hard to say.
Aaserud:Well, if you weren't involved in it.
Peterson:No. I wasn't in there.
Aaserud:Yes, and ARPA was the only contractor during the first few years, right?
Peterson:Yes. I think that's right, although it was really the Department of Defense. Well, I guess it was ARPA, but over the first few years, it was always the Office of the Secretary of Defense in some way or other. Of course DARPA has always been attached there, but it wasn't, oh, the funding I think was always from DARPA.
Peterson: But there were contacts that at times were above DARPA, as to, like when Johnny Foster was DDR and E or something equivalent, whatever it was at the time, it was really he that was the principal point of contact, and then the next level was DARPA.
Aaserud:That personal connection was —
Peterson: — right, was strong.
Aaserud: Yes, yes. That was a little later, of course.
Peterson: It was a little later, but as I —
Aaserud:It started with York.
Peterson: It started with York, that's right.
Aaserud:OK, to what extent did you find that the people who entered
Jason were new to Defense concerns? You might have acted as a teacher in some respects.
Peterson: Well, there were cases of that. I remember giving a series of lectures on radar in the early days, that I believe at the time were well received, at this point they would probably be less important. And, but, yeah, I suppose at that time I had more contact with Defense agencies than most of them, but I think, I probably would even recall not pushing that too much, because there's no lack of egos to be bent in Jason.
But no, I think most of them had already had consulting arrangements of one kind or another, or a lot of them did.
I guess I had had earlier contact with DARPA. We, Herb York, through the urging of a, somewhat overlapping with Jason group of physicists, had started a study of particle beam weapons, maybe in 58 or something like that, and that involved Panofsky and various other people that didn't want to do this sort of thing at the universities, and the focal point for that was set up at SRI, I think, in the first case, and I was kind of the contact point for that, and so I knew a number of these people, I think Watson and Panofsky and Goldberger probably, in that context. There were some people from Illinois, Nordsek and others.
Mostly high energy physics people.
Peterson:...never did look all that feasible anyway.
Aaserud:Yes, it has a long pre-history.
Peterson: It has a long pre-history. I think —
Aaserud:So that was the most direct precursor of Jason as far as you're concerned.
Peterson: Probably that was, yes.
Aaserud: It didn't lead directly to it but it was the same people?
Peterson: Some of the same people, but a lot of other people that were never in Jason, too, that were involved in that And it continued during the early days of Jason, as a separate program that DARPA was funding.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. For how long?
Peterson: Oh gosh, I think it continued into the early seventies or something, before people decided that —
Aaserud:What was the institutional base of that study again?
Peterson: Well, it was just another DARPA program.
Peterson:That for report, correction and general oversight was for many years at SRI.
Aaserud:Yes. Yes. To what extent do you see Jason and similar activities perhaps as the response of a new generation to science advising, a new generation?
Peterson: Oh, I'm sure it has contributed a lot. During the earliest years, it was at least a younger generation. In recent years, well, there was some intermediate period during which it seemed to be growing one year older per year, but in recent years I think it's done a pretty good job of getting new people in. Bill Press, for example. Horowitz and so forth.
Aaserud:At that time you were pretty young.
Peterson: We thought we were wise old people at that time, I'm sure, but it was a younger bunch.
Aaserud:Yes, but of course you were brought to this by the older generation anyway to some extent.
Peterson: Sure. Yes. Yeah, I think everyone thought it was important to policy and to guidance, I don't know — most, it's hard to say. I don't know how you found others talking about the policy importance of it all. Surely you got a lot of input on that from Drell.
Peterson: There were the others who mostly looked at the science advice rather than policy formation.
Aaserud:Yes, oh yes.
Peterson: We've both been criticized and praised for the policy connection, as you probably know. Certain of the directors of DARPA have felt we ought to keep our noses well out of systems considerations and high policy, and give advice on technical issues.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. What was your view on that?
Peterson: Well, I guess I feel a certain amount of constraint is worthwhile. We can easily lose credibility of we make booboos on things that we're no better informed on than other professionals.
Aaserud:Yes, right. On the other hand, the continuity of Jason —
Peterson: — that's helpful. That's very helpful. So I think there are times we've been too outspoken. At other times we probably haven't said enough, influenced enough.
Aaserud:Yes. Well, maybe we can get back to specific instances of that. But from the outset, how clear was the purpose and the structure of Jason? To what extent did it gradually evolve?
Peterson: Well, it's never been strongly structured, but I think in the early days, the small founding group kind of pretty much guided the activity, and then over the years, the internal steering group has become more important to Jason.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. So there has been a formalization, so to speak?
Peterson:Yes, I think so. Eventually there were some things even written down, charter, in a few —
Aaserud:— yes, did you discover the charter?
Peterson: Well, I'm sure there must have been a charter at the start, but in between times it was pretty well forgotten. And the rules and so forth and method for choosing people, sort of apprenticeship, if you will.
Aaserud:Even from the outset there must have been a core of people; I don't know how many people constituted the core from the outset and how many people —
Peterson: — three or four, at the start. I think it's more like eight or ten at this point.
Aaserud:OK, OK, three or four being Goldberger, Watson and Bruckner, I suppose, very early.
Peterson: Pretty much, yes.
Aaserud:And they of course constituted the steering committee from the outset, with Goldberger as —
Peterson: — chairman, yes.
Aaserud:— in the chair, and maybe —
Peterson: — oh yes, also Hal Lewis was much involved in that time.
He's no longer a member.
Aaserud:From the very beginning, yes.
Peterson: Yes, and was the second chairman.
Aaserud:That's right, yes. But that was seven years later, though.
Aaserud:I guess I will talk to him tomorrow, actually.
Peterson: Oh, will you?
Aaserud:In Santa Barbara.
Peterson: Oh good. Are you driving up?
Aaserud:Yes, we're driving, after lunch or in connection with lunch so we look forward to that.
Aaserud:We look forward to that.
Peterson: Good, that should be fun.
Aaserud:Yes, it should be a good drive. No, it doesn't affect my — I
feel comfortable with the time, so —
Aaserud: OK, what was your place in the organizational structure? Were you part, you were part of the steering committee, I suppose?
Peterson: A little later, I was. I think I felt, I probably felt not too inclined at the earliest time to be a part of running things, although I'm sure I wasn't shying away from the comments, but no, I don't think I had, I don't remember having too much to say on running things in the early part.
A little later, I was on the steering committee for a long time.
Aaserud:Do you remember when that started?
Peterson: No. We could probably find out, but I don't remember it now.
I think there were a couple of different times, you know, some rotation.
Aaserud:I should have that information. It can probably be pulled out of papers somewhere — if you have that information.
Peterson:Oh, I probably do. See, I had a little additional interim of almost conflict at one point when they decided to move Jason from IDA to
SRI, and —
Aaserud: '73, I think.
Peterson: I guess it was about 73. And I was involved in that move, but tried to stay out of any direct running of it at SRI. So I had to be rather more careful in the nature of the interaction than I had been before. I was always still at Stanford, but still, there were times, times even when DARPA wanted SRI to manage it more, and told SRI that and didn't tell Jason that — in fact, told them different things — but I think over the, in all those cases, it worked out pretty well. The nature of the operation hasn't changed appreciably for the three different sponsoring agencies.
Aaserud: No. No. Well, the number of contractors has increased after the SRI involvement, I believe.
Peterson: Contractors? Oh, you mean the number of sponsoring agencies?
Peterson: Oh, that came about because I guess at one point or another there was kind of a tendency on one or two of the ARPA directors to reduce the group or something, in some sense, or at least limit the funding, and so there were a number of — some of that got started while SRI was involved. In fact, there were actual separate contracts for a while from different organizations. That got reversed at one point, and now it's all separate funding but funneled through DARPA.
Aaserud:Oh, really? OK, it's a package kind of thing.
Peterson: There's supposed to even be as government steering group, that looks at what's going on, but they don't meet very often, and so
I'm not sure. They do send, however, the Air Force sends some money — well, I guess in the Air Force case they don't have to because it's now an Air Force contract — but in most of the agencies, they transfer some money to DARPA who transfers some money to the Air Force.
Aaserud:So everything is funneled through DARPA now?
Peterson:That's my understanding anyway.
Aaserud:So it's not direct contracting in that sense.
Peterson: No. For some time it was.
Aaserud:The steering committee isn't involved in that.
Peterson: The government steering committee?
Aaserud:No, the Jason steering committee, in going after the agencies.
Peterson: They are, yes, but the money isn't separate contracts, it's actually —
Aaserud:So it's more an administrative thing than —
Peterson: — right, right —
Aaserud:— a thing that has strong practical applications —
Peterson:— right, correct.
Aaserud:During your tenure, are there any Jason members that you would point to as particularly important? They're all important, of course, but —
Peterson: Well, yes, I think in one way or another there are particular ones. I think in the Navy work, Walter Munk is particularly important. And in somewhat earlier times, I think Watson was especially important for his sort of very high quality technical inputs, and rather calmer outlook on life than some of the other Jasons. You need some steady hands, and that sort of thing.
Aaserud:Yes, and he's been part of the steering committee for a long time.
Peterson: He was. He hasn't been on the steering committee for a while now, but, and, oh, certainly Ed Freeman has been a major contributor, less in the last several years. And Nierenberg has been I think a useful and productive chairman, in this last while.
Aaserud:For a while, right?
Peterson: It's been two, five years, or something, I think.
And well, I think you can point to important contributions from all of them. I'm particularly pleased that several of the newer generation has picked up a great deal of leadership, Bill Press and Kirk Callan, and Mashan.
Aaserud: Yes. This is of course the first time that a non-founding member (or close to that) becomes the chairman.
Peterson: That's right. Will is another extremely able technical person. I think he, if anything, would shy away a bit from actually being the leader, but he seems to be picking up on it. I think that's good.
Aaserud:Yes. He told me that he was surprised about this election but that is just —
Peterson: — well, I'm sure he would have been surprised. I think it's a good move.
Aaserud:Yes. Yes. It's probably about time that a younger person gets the position.
Peterson: Oh, sure, definitely.
Aaserud:What about selection of members, how has that been done?
Peterson: Well, in recent times, there's been a membership committee that assembles suggestions and kind of reviews these things, and then sort of recommends to the steering committee, and it's in that sense fairly formalized at the moment, and then there's a period of a year or so, indeterminate status and so forth.
Peterson: Earlier I think it was pretty much, as I recall, it was pretty much whenever someone had a particular suggestion, and it was discussed and eventually acted on.
Aaserud:But there's always suggestions from within.
Peterson:It was pretty much within. There have been attempts to suggest from without, like from DARPA or some place, but that has been resisted over the years and probably rightfully so.
Aaserud:Yes. I notice on the current membership list, at any rate, there are three persons that are prospective new members.
Aaserud:And they go through a trial period.
Aaserud:Has it always been like that, or
Peterson: Well, my recollection is that it hasn't always been like that. There are probably some who have another recollection, but it seems to me there have been members come in and just sort of be members without any particular thinking of —
Aaserud: — yes. There are also people like Luis Alvarez and Charles
Townes listed here. They have a particular status, don't they?
Peterson: Yes, this is almost like emeritus. I don't remember what we called it—
Peterson: Senior Advisor or something, yes.
Aaserud:To what extent did you find yourself different, in being an engineer, or were you —
Peterson:— well, no, I think I've always been close enough that I never noticed it particularly, because at the time when we first all got together, I was mostly working in what could broadly be called geophysics or something of that kind. But — oh, I guess there's always been a little difference. I'm obviously not in a physics department.
But electrical engineering runs all the way from physics to mathematics anyhow, so —
Aaserud:That's right, but the founding members at any rate weren't just physics, they were theoretical physicists.
Peterson: Well, that probably set us aside a little more than others, since I've always been involved with experiments and building things. At times I've been quite helpful in the group. Yes, I suppose it's always been a little different. It's part of the attraction for me, in that at least during the summer interaction period, I see things from the theoretical side, even when they're trying to be applied. So yes, there's certainly a bit of that.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. And what's been the turnover of membership during your period?
Peterson: Well, there's only been a few people leave over the period. I guess the biggest turnover was during the late sixties, when the disruptions on campus or what have you were taking place, and several people dropped out one way or another at that point, either just not coming or formally doing it. But by and large some people have either taken on jobs in Washington or what have you, that caused them to drop out or else that one period was the only one that I can recall when there's been very much. But some people I guess, like Panofsky, have always been rather busy with other things and not participated all that much, and Goldberger was probably a bit of both. I think he had a different view of things at one point. And then of course when he became president of Caltech he really didn't have time to do anything.
But I think he actually sort of dropped out before that.
Aaserud:In fact he still is a member, but I guess he also is in the category of senior advisor now.
Peterson: Even less than Luis or Peef, I guess.
Aaserud:But you weren't affected by the Vietnam uproar?
Peterson: Well, I think all of Jason was, but I was never really very much involved with Vietnam side of things. Certainly we were affected at Stanford. That's when SRI separated from Stanford, but my own work wasn't very close to that whole —
Aaserud: Yes, you didn't participate in the electronic barrier work, for example.
Peterson: Well, yes, I did some things with that, but I wasn't a principal. I can't remember. I think there were a number of things came up where I helped find some answers, but that even involved some people outside of Jason for part of the time, and I'd always felt that was a questionable move. For whatever reason, it just didn't quite fit the normal mode.
Aaserud:The Easterners or whatever they were called.
Peterson: Yes, the Northeasterners even.
Aaserud:The Northeasterners. Wisner and whoever.
Peterson: There was a significant splitting of outlooks on ABM-related things, and I certainly was affected by that. But once again that was a
Northeastern contingent in that argument, and —
Aaserud:OK, yes, now we're coming to projects. We talked about membership. We should talk about projects.
Peterson: I might just comment, I don't know if this is the appropriate time, I've also been involved in a number of other non-Jason things.
I've been on the Air Force Science Advisory Board, Naval Research
Advisory Committee, BIA Advisory Committee, others of those things, which are separate from Jason, in the sense that their individual participations, so there are other opportunities for influence. Now, most of those don't take a public stance, you know, newspaper-related things, but they're strongly policy-oriented in the sense of guidance to elements of the Defense Department.
Aaserud:Yes, maybe we could talk a little more about that, if we take one agency at a time.
Peterson: Well, you can, but all I meant is, there is that as background in addition to Jason. Certain of the other members have been doing those things too.
Aaserud:Yes, right. What is the timing of those other involvements?
Peterson: Well, I rotated off of the Air Force Science Advisory Board last year, having been on I think for seven years or something, seven or eight. And I was for four or five years on the Naval Research Advisory
Committee, and for a longer period —
Aaserud:From when to when, approximately?
Peterson: Oh, from 78 to 82, something like that. And for example, at the moment I'm on a Voice of America Advisory Committee which has a different sort of — actually it's for their engineering activities, but we also interact with USIA people, which is something I've never done before but it's kind of interesting.
So there are a number of those things that also are kind of parallel to Jason in some sense.
Aaserud:Yes. Of these things, were you a member of PSAC?
Peterson: Not a formal member of PSAC, no.
Aaserud:But you were on panels.
Peterson: Panels of PSAC for many years, yes. Anyway, there are those things that kind of supplement Jason.
Aaserud:Right. If we don't go into them in detail, maybe you could say, compared to Jason their importance and —
Peterson: Well, yes, in some sense they've been at least comparably important in a policy sense, involved less technical detail, you know, report writing or actual technical research in any sense than Jason does, where we work for six weeks at a stretch or something, but they — in terms of guidance to useful things — and I was also on the NASA
JPL outside advisory committee for about ten years, which had a significant role in how, in things that went on in NASA.
Aaserud:In the establishment of NASA or?
Peterson:No, it was after that. A group at Stanford had had a lot of activity with NASA on planetary exploration issues and things of that kind, so I was asked to serve on the JPL outside advisory group, partly for the Stanford involvement and partly because the Stanford SRI relationship was somewhat similar but quite different in many ways from the JPL-Caltech activity, and that was an interesting time too, and an opportunity to look at space research issues from the NASA point of view.
I had already had significant involvement from the National Security side in space before.
Aaserud:How different were the setups, the memberships of these groups as related to Jason? They were much broader?
Peterson: Very very much broader. In the JPL one we had lawyers and we had senior business people and all sorts of different groups. And the
Air Force and Navy advisory groups are more broadly based in industry, only a few university types, and do they're somewhat different backgrounds, which is probably why they've been interesting in their own right.
Aaserud:After all these are different inputs.
Peterson: Quite different inputs. But often fairly influential in terms of things that get done, so I was, I perhaps should mention those.
Aaserud:Generally how do these different involvements complement each other?
Peterson: Well, I think they tend to be inputs at different levels in the organization. The Naval Research Advisory Committee, for example, reacts most directly with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development and the Secretary himself. In the Air Force, it's somewhat similar although it reports to the Chief of Staff of the
Air Force, which for a while for example was Lou Allen who's now the president or director of JPL, and I had known him for many years previously in the Air Force, so there are overlaps in some of these things, but they're generally somewhat different types of inputs than the Jason one.
Aaserud:Yes, all right, I'll get back to the question of Jason before
Peterson: (crosstalk) — sure —
Aaserud:— so we can compare those things, perhaps...
OK, while we're on other things anyway, maybe you can say a little bit about severing of ties between Stanford University and SRI and your involvement in that, if there was such an involvement.
Peterson: Well, I'm sure there was an interaction. I didn't have to make the decision. Well, I think at that point the faculty more than the students were being kind of unreasonable about life in general, and there were all kinds of interactions. I think it was just that — it didn't really have to happen, probably, in any real sense, but it took up a lot of time in attempts at discussion and meetings on the faculty and staff of SRI and so forth, over one and another kind of emotional demand, and it turned out that it appeared to be better to set it up as a separate entity, still with some ties, and that was done. There had been a number of picketing operations and things like that. Actually I think the bigger effect was on certain activities on the Stanford campus. There had been an Applied Electronics lab that did a lot of Defense-related research — decided when there were changes in the research rules on campus that they should in part move to SRI, and that happened, at that time, and because there was a decision not to do any classified research on campus— as I mentioned earlier, I had not felt that problem because I already was in the other role, but the — so there were a number of things that led to a re-arrangement of the Stanford-SRI involvement, and —
Aaserud:What practical effects did it have?
Peterson: In my case, it didn't have any. In other cases, since the actual daily ties back and forth were never extremely strong, I don't think it had a terribly big effect either. There were still a number of joint activities, particularly for example at this point between computer science on campus and at SRI, but there never had been too many really close ties, and the student relationships, there were ties between Stanford and a number of companies and organizations like NASA-Ames and so forth anyway, and they were never that different with SRI, enough different to make much change. There's an honors cooperative program at Stanford that allows students at various outside organizations to take courses at Stanford, partly by TV and partly directly on campus, and so if there had been a major involvement in student research at SRI, I think it would have made a much bigger difference than it did otherwise, because in a certain sense, except for a few joint appointments like my own, the rest was all consulting or related things anyway, and so it's not clear that they ever have been close enough to make the separation very difficult.
Interestingly enough, although they've always claimed to be very close, the Caltech-JPL one isn't noteworthy different, in a way, a little bit different, but there aren't a huge number of faculty interactions with
JPL either. They're a little bit different cultures, in a certain sense, the applied research activities and the basic ones with students, and so — Anyway, there was a lot of fuss for a while and picketing and so forth, but there have been other issues in which there was almost as much, I would say, and —
Aaserud:You have been able to maintain connection with both, it hasn't
Peterson: It hasn't been, no, it hasn't come to that.
Aaserud:OK, let's switch onto the —
Peterson: — let's return to the other, yes.
Aaserud:To Jason. The selection of projects, how were projects selected and what kinds of projects were there?
Peterson: Well, there are always attempts to get suggestions for summer topics from the different agencies.
Peterson: And lists, and there's most always been contacts with separate agents, agencies, within the Jason group. At the moment, for example, I'm supposed to be a contact with the Air Force, and with the SDI office. At other times, agencies within the — at other times I've been involved with other ones, but — and they make suggestions for things that they'd like to have looked at, and it usually reflects their feeling that the group is by and large a group of theoretical physicists, and what should these kinds of people want to do? And they sometimes pick topics that the group would rather not do, but there's usually a feedback process whereby if there's something of particular interest, it gets done, and at times it's been harder in recent years to find good topics out of DARPA than out of some of the other places, even though that's the place that should be the easiest to do.
But I would say, it's been — as much a Jason input as a sponsor input, in most cases.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. Have the agencies come to Jason sufficiently, or does Jason have to —
Peterson:— I think in most cases Jason has to help the process, and I don't know the full reason for that. In some cases, some worries that
Jason will want to be involved with things that the sponsor might not think is appropriate. Most of the time I don't think we've had much of that kind of trouble. There were worries at the time of the ABM arguments, and there are worries again now over SDI 0, about the public pronouncements and the private research, and although by and large, at the top level of the organizations that Jason deals with, there doesn't seem to be any particular concern over the way those things have happened.
Aaserud:Yes. To what extent have there been independent projects pursued by Jason, and to what extent has Jason evaluated other projects?
Peterson: We don't often ask to evaluate or particularly want to evaluate programs that are ongoing, a continued review type of thing, although we've done some of those. The free electron laser research has been looked at by Jason people for several years. In the earliest time, it was clearly basic research activity in which the members of Jason were quite interested. Recently, the last couple of years, there have been major projects that DARPA or SDI have under way and that they would like looked at. I think the attempt at Jason is to illuminate technical issues, rather than pass judgment on the wisdom of doing a particular project, although you can't avoid all of that, if it looks too dumb:
But I think mostly Jason is more successful at sort of paving the way in new areas, when such things come up, and although it can be very helpful in reviewing projects, so it's not the thing that most people would most like to do. They'd rather be involved in the formation process.
Aaserud: Yes, at the forefront of research, so to speak, yes.
Peterson: But both have been done. Certainly.
Aaserud:Yes. Is there any evolution in time in that respect, in respect to which kind of project is in the majority?
Peterson: Well, I think it's stayed over the years mostly on paving new ground rather than simply reviewing things.
Aaserud:How close is the contact with the agencies during a project, and how is that contact maintained? Do you have any experience in that respect?
Peterson: Well, yes, we usually have some particular contacts within an organization in the government, and they often either themselves provide documentation where it's possible or send working members from government labs or industry to do briefings with Jason, and then always, with few exceptions, they're presented with reports and also oral presentations of what's been done at the end of the summer, in the fall, and in most cases they're really pretty interested in what's being done. I think there have been a few cases where they were trying to get Jason out of their hair, and they'd just as soon not hear back, but that's usually fairly apparent early on. There are some places where we're not especially appreciated I think, but —
Aaserud:Are projects discontinued for that reason?
Peterson: Probably by mutual consent at least, yes, because that, you can't get people to work very long on something that isn't, doesn't have any input, yes.
Aaserud:All right, what have been the main projects during your tenure, would you consider, to the extent that you can talk about it?
And especially projects you have been involved in yourself, of course.
Peterson: Well, I think Jason was very heavily involved in aspects of re-entry physics, where one might be able to discriminate targets from decoys and so forth, and that was certainly one of the major ones that
I'm sure is public enough that — and that was true in the late sixties, and it's true again now in the SDI business and ones that we can't talk much about also include anti-submarine, submarine detection, SW, we've been significant involves in some of that work and mostly that can't be talked about.
Aaserud:Right, right, the Navy is notorious for —
Peterson: The Navy is notorious for that. I think all Navies are notorious for that.
Aaserud:No, that's not an American phenomenon.
Peterson: I don't think so. But there are a lot of physics problems there, so it's a good problem for Jason and one that should have highest level competence if it's to be successful, unless one can do away with submarines and the weapons they carry, will need to be looked at, I guess. Those are a couple of examples at least of major ones. They've carried on for quite a few years.
Let's see, what other things can I think of that are particularly — of course, those take on different roles. There have been a number of programs, a number of different kinds that have been at least partially successful. The one on C02 in the atmosphere and that sort of thing is published. I don't know whether one can say that that situation would have been any different without Jason, but it might have been.
Aaserud:That started in the seventies. Those projects.
Peterson: Yes, right. I don't know whether you've had thoughts on those from other Jasons or not.
Aaserud:Not much. Not much.
Well, I think there were some quite interesting and competent things done there, but they were probably already more academic involvement in one way or another otherwise. And let's see — I mentioned earlier this fairly long term involvement in the free electron laser business.
Peterson: Which I think has been a major one at Jason. You already mentioned that Vietnam one, which probably was a technical success, but in view of the nature of that whole mess, it's not clear whether it had any positive or negative effect on the outcome.
Nierenberg I think would claim it was a major success.
Peterson: I would claim it was at best a questionable success.
Aaserud:And Goldberger would say it's a disaster.
Peterson: A disaster, right. You've got it. There certainly can be technical achievements without any other redeeming features. In most cases, the things that I've been mentioning have been important. I don't know if you had any other ones that you recall?
Aaserud:Well, no, I think, the ABM thing but that's part of the (crosstalk)
Peterson: Yes, that one you'll get different views from different people, but I think in terms of public views of Jason, that probably had more involvement than most others.
Aaserud:Yes. What have your involvements been in these respective
Peterson: Well, I've worked on those, on each of those, in significant
depth. I have not taken public stand I think on any one of those, but
I've certainly had some significant influence on things that are done in the program.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, technical work in all of them.
Peterson: Yes, definite technical work in them, and I, when it's possible to help define technical issues, I think it's useful. I'm particularly unhappy about engineers and science types that take a stand on an issue and then try to prove their point with questionable science.
There have been a number of cases that I can identify of that kind where the science has just plain been wrong. But it served some purpose, I guess.
Peterson: No, I don't think I can accuse Jasons of that. There were some pretty strong opinions on things where the outcome is nowhere near as clear as certain Jasons' views, but I don't really identify Jasons with any wrong technical outputs. But I do recall a group of university people that were trying to avoid this ERF communications system that involved the antennas in the Midwest, I don't know if you remember this or not, but there was a group from Wisconsin and other places that took a stand on this thing and claimed that, wrote several long reports to
Congressional people from Wisconsin and Michigan and so forth that were just plain wrong science, and the Navy had the measurements and the research, and it turned out to be more than a little embarrassing to science in general, to have them have to admit that they had gotten wrong advice, and this was partly because it was an anti-defense type argument rather than a good technical look, and we've got to be pretty careful when we indulge in that kind of thing.
Aaserud: If Jason hasn't been contributing to that —
Peterson:— I don't think we have. I think in fact it's helped clarify those things.
Aaserud:To what extent has it clarified those things?
Peterson: I think it has, even in the ABM and the SDI arguments that take place, I think the inputs have generally been technically correct and the judgments I suppose could go either way. But no, I think it's important for Jason to be very careful about the things that are endorsed publicly, to be sure that the technical content is valid, is going to not be proven as sloppy science.
Aaserud: I ask you all these questions about projects, specific projects, essentially because I would need to choose one or one set of projects, as in the case of the case study, to amplify how —
Peterson: I don't know how much detail you can get into on these things even yet. It's sort of hard to know. Because — well, I suppose the
ABM and SDI ones are enough talked about that you probably could.
Aaserud:ABM possibly at any rate or your early work. I'm thinking of restricting myself to the first 15 years at least to start with and that simplifies —
Peterson: Yes. Well, I'm trying to think of important early ones but they don't completely come to mind at the moment.
Aaserud:OK, very early ones, yes. ABM questions were —
Peterson: They were around pretty early.
Aaserud:— almost from the —
Peterson: — from the very start, right, and there was a lot of technical work on that, detailed technical work on the re-entry physics and the like. But whether or not that's all open now is not clear to me. In that the issues have never been completely solved.
Aaserud:Right, and they might not be under declassification either.
Peterson: I don't know, but it's probably a better candidate than the Vietnam fence, for example.
Aaserud:Yes, that would be hard.
Peterson: Well, you could probably get the information on the other one, but I'm not sure what it would prove.
Aaserud:Yes. Yes. And it's good to get a broader perspective from it too of course.
But that's an important involvement of course that I have to get into some way or other. What about the relation of the work in Jason, your work in Jason in particular, with your university work?
Peterson: They don't overlap terribly much. There's more overlap with some things that go on at SRI. My university work is largely sponsored by NASA and NSF and occasionally ONR. But oh, there are some cases, Walter Munk and I got involved in a joint university program on radar oceanography, and I had a group at Stanford and several of his people at
Scripps kind of pioneered studies of ocean wave measurements by radio means, and that's turned into an ongoing thing that's kind of an international way to do the job these days. I think neither Walter nor
I are terribly involved in that in an academic sense at the moment, but former students of both of us are. That came up in connection with some work in the summer, I can't even quite remember.
I think there was a DARPA program that was worrying about the attenuating effects of ocean waves on radio propagation across the sea, and led to some initial papers that they got us thinking about more involvement with radio techniques, but by and large I think most people, including myself, work on things in the summer that we're not doing ordinarily.
Peterson: Both from the point of view of possible conflicts, but also just because if you're going to spend as intense an effort as one does in the summer, you usually would prefer it to be something you're not doing the rest of the time.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, and there has been some discussion about whether or not one should combine those two, of course.
Peterson: Yes, that's gotten a little fuzzy in a few people's cases.
Aaserud:That might be easier for the particle physicists than for the engineers and oceanographers to —
Peterson:— well, yes, it is. I think it's happened mostly in oceanography, the questions that have been raised. Several of the physicists have turned oceanographer as a result of Jason involvement, I would say.
Aaserud:Yes, that's true.
Peterson: Watson for one.
Peterson: Zachariasen to some extent — no, he's still doing high energy physics, but Abarbanel is another, I guess.
Peterson: Flatte is the one that's closest, I think, to academic in other ways.
Aaserud:Yes, right. So, would you have any general reflections on the effect of such advisory work on science? Do you think there is some kind of interrelationship there that is significant for say the post-World
War II period? That's a broad question.
Peterson: Well, I'm sure the things that get studied in Jason get a little extra push in terms of sponsorship, and probably there's a significant influence because many of these same people are on other activities, like I mentioned Naval Research Advisory Committee and things of that kind. DSB and all those things, where there's a significant influence on future funding, I'm sure, even if you're not looking at it directly with that in mind, and —
Aaserud:yes, because that is the main trend or one of the main trends of science before and after the Second World War, that it makes a strong interconnection with the government —
Peterson: — right, right —
Aaserud: — and defense affairs of course —
Peterson: Right. There is NASA and NSF, but NASA is somewhat limited in scope and NSF is limited in dollars.
Aaserud:Oh yes, very much so.
Peterson: And so my own view is that NSF is almost too limited in dollars. The projects are often so small that they barely support a single student or something.
Aaserud:Yes, yes. They've really never taken off the ground, I guess, like some other support.
Peterson: Right. Right. I have over some years worked with the Polar Programs Office. We did a remote weather station, unattended weather station, for that office, to deploy in Antarctica, which was a little bigger. We did mostly the engineering aspects. It was kind of fun.
It's harder to do than the space programs, in terms of the weather and temperatures and winds and things are so much worse than you have in space. But that's probably the last one I've done with NSF that was any size.
Aaserud: ...mode of collaboration, mode of working together in Jason as compared to other research work.
Peterson: Oh, well, I think Jason is more on a peer mode, whereas in a normal university it's a student and faculty mode, so there are certainly some differences in that. I think the level of technical capability or maturity is certainly higher in Jason than it is in a university environment: So there's sort of a lot of unstated pressures to keep up or lead or do something in Jason, that probably aren't the same in a university. I'm not sure that the results are any more startling, but —
Aaserud:But there are strong peer pressures.
Peterson: Yes, because that's, and there are different backgrounds so that reduces that a little bit, because it isn't across the board, but I think that's kind of part of the fun of it, I guess.
Aaserud:What about the size of the groups collaborating? Are they larger or smaller?
Peterson: In some cases they're larger than the equivalent university ones, I guess.
Aaserud:The size of the projects have been larger in earlier times, right? That's the impression I get.
Peterson: Well, maybe. I suppose, although if you look at some of them, they're probably not really so, there are a lot of sub topics, but the tendency is to look back on things as one project when it really was a lot of little things too, and so I'm not so sure that I'd be able to say that.
Yes, well, general headings like ABM —
Peterson: yes, but you see, there are a whole myriad of different things there, from radar measurements to IR studies to all kinds of things that weren't really one total thing, although there has been a lot of talk of Jason being more successful on things that were a little broader and more people involved with, but, we do have too many separate topics these days. Maybe we always did, though. I'm not so sure that —
Aaserud:But do they fit together as easily under a general rubric now as they did then?
Peterson: Probably a little less because there are more agencies involved and therefore different topics.
Aaserud:Right. Well, we talked a little before about Jason doing mostly technical tasks, not policy work as such, but are there exceptions to that that you have been involved in or that you know about? Where there have been projects explicitly devoted to general policy questions?
Peterson: Well, there are not very many of that kind, by the design of the sponsor.
Peterson: There was a study last year on the proposition of going from total dependence on offense weapons to a combination of defense or bringing in the space defense thing, and in a sense that was, would be in the category more of policy, a lot of possible technical issues but it was more, I guess it was called deployment stability studies or something, but there was lots of ground for fuzzy reasoning in that business, and I, quite a few people worked on that, and SDI didn't object. They were nervous. But —
Peterson: That's one of recent vintage that probably should come in the category you're talking about, I don't know.
Aaserud:OK, but that's recent. Are there earlier examples that you can think about?
Peterson: That was purely —?
Aaserud: — well, more in that direction anyway.
Peterson: No, I'm not sure I can think of a successful one. Others probably can. I don't know, have you gotten something on that?
Aaserud:— it wouldn't be successful.
Peterson: Have you gotten some inputs on that?
Aaserud:I haven't found specific projects. I think Nierenberg told me that the, his first exposure to Jason was some kind of science policy study, but he didn't exactly remember what it was. He did it together with Gell-Mann and —
Peterson: Oh yes, Gell-Mann and maybe Goldberger.
Aaserud:Yes, I guess those are the policy persons, in Jason.
Peterson: It might have involved some aspect of Vietnam or something.
I can't remember. But I don't think we're world famous for it.
Aaserud:No, I —
Peterson: There's a great deal of interest always when those sorts of topics come up, within Jason.
Peterson: And I think individuals have been more involved, like with
PSAC, and with test ban issues, and various weapons systems policy decisions and things, but probably more as individuals involved with outside government review groups, rather than Jason itself.
Aaserud:Such things can be —
Peterson:— they're sometimes combined, very often, I'm sure.
Aaserud:And can be reflected in —
Peterson: — and I'm sure the ABM one was somewhat like that.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, OK, that makes it interesting.
Peterson: And to some extent, the various aspects of the test ban things have involved Jason. Expertise based on things that were done in Jason. They are probably more successfully expressed in terms of panels of the government that are set up to advise on the policy side, rather than as an output from Jason. I think we would probably disappear rather quickly, in sponsorship, if we every year took a policy stand on something.
Aaserud:But the choice of tasks of course may be an indirect reflection of —
Peterson: — sure —
Aaserud:— of what kind of issues you consider right.
Peterson: Sure. That's true.
Aaserud:And that's policy in an indirect sense.
Aaserud:I don't know if that rings a bell in terms of —
Peterson:— well, I'm sure that people pick things to work on that they have some feelings about. In some cases their feelings are policy and in some cases, they're a technical thing that's just great fun to look at but —
Aaserud:Right, but it is that —
Peterson: Oh, sure.
Aaserud:Has that been a consideration on your part? About projects?
Peterson: Oh, it certainly has, in terms of things that — new technology of things of that kind. And yes, if I weren't interested in helping supply inputs, I probably wouldn't have worked on test ban issues.
Peterson: Though I particularly feel that there are aspects of those issues that can get better answers from elected officials than they can even from a technical person like myself, in that I may know what makes certain things work, but in terms of the right outcome for the country, it's never quite as clear to me as it sometimes seems to some of my colleagues, that I know the issue better.
Aaserud:Yes, but at least it's important that the communication is there.
Peterson: Oh yes, you need the communication there, that's right. But I often don't feel too bad if they don't believe that the technical issue is the overriding one.
Peterson: Because too often it has appeared that other things are at least of equal importance.
Aaserud:Yes, and of course of that kind of reflection of science policy concerns, or whatever might be purely individual, too, it might not be a reflection of Jason, let's say.
Peterson: Probably isn't. It may be of some Jasons but certainly not all.
Aaserud:Yes, groups perhaps, yes. Has there been any kind of debate about that? Or on issues generally?
Peterson: Oh, I don't recall any particularly. There are certainly elements of debate involved in SDI, ABM. Relatively less so in certain other issues, I guess.
Aaserud:Yes. So — are there political discussions on which projects to choose, ever, or is that something up to the individual Jason member?
Peterson: Oh, I don't know whether they are political discussions.
There are certainly discussions that reflect views of politics, but I don't know, I'm sure there must be some subjects that none of the Jasons would want to work on.
Aaserud:Yes. Of course that was highlighted during the Vietnam period.
Peterson: Sure, oh definitely, there were certain ones that didn't want to stay in Jason because of it, and others that simply didn't work on problems that were mostly of that kind.
Aaserud:Yes, right. But I mean you're allowed a freedom within Jason.
Peterson: Oh sure, nobody works on anything that he doesn't want to.
Yes. What about the demand for secrecy? That's something that's traditionally not —
Yes, that's always a — I suppose that's an individual problem. But by its nature, if Jason is going to succeed, there will be classified things. No one has to stay involved. But I think there — it certainly can be argued that you may have more influence for perceived good by working inside than you can by simply shouting from the outside.
Aaserud:Yes, that's the inside, outside —
Peterson: I think most Jasons feel that way, or they would not be there. Certainly I don't think that's simply a matter of finding consulting to do in the summer.
Aaserud:Yes, but I mean scientists have been bred in a different tradition, so to speak.
Aaserud:Their openness is —
Peterson: — oh definitely, that's true. That's always a bit of a problem, but —
Aaserud:And they deal with contractors for whom this is the natural way of behaving.
Peterson: Sure. Sure. Well, that's, yes, that's probably a negative feature of the whole thing, but I think even in that part, the, there's so many parts of even classified programs that are completely open physics that it's probably significant individual gains out of the work, but I guess there's really no choice between not working on certain problems, or abiding by the rules.
Aaserud: No, no, of course not.
Peterson: And I think most Jasons feel that it's important to participate in some of these.
Aaserud:Of course there's another problem which arose in the seventies, I suppose, that different contractors apply different clearance demands.
Peterson: Oh yes, sure.
Aaserud:And even within Jason, you can't discuss openly your projects.
Peterson: Yes, that hasn't been too much of an issue most of the time.
Peterson: There are a few cases where that's been true, but generally, one tries to avoid that.
Aaserud:Yes. OK, maybe we should digress a little bit about your career. We went through your career up to 1960.
Peterson: Really? It hasn't changed all that much, topics of research and specialization have sometimes, but —
Aaserud:You became full professor, right, in 61?
Aaserud:And then assistant director for the Electronics and Radio Division at SRI in 62.
Aaserud:Did these positions change y our career in any way?
Peterson: Well, certainly not the university one. The other one broadened somewhat my area of interest at SRI. But I've maintained ties at research level ever since that time, more a staff role than a director role, even in that particular one, because of, it's probably not possible to maintain a professorial teaching and research role and still run a major activity on a daily basis outside.
Peterson: I get lots of kidding about more than one
Peterson or something but there's still a limit.
Aaserud:Yes, there's only 24 hours —
Peterson: Yes. At one point, it was described as my mean point being somewhere over mid-continent, but also because of a lot of trips to
Washington and things, but that's settled down a little in recent years too.
Aaserud:OK. Are there any specific contributions you would point to in that later period, scientific or otherwise?
Peterson: Well, I don't know, lots of good students output, and dissertations and things. Well, I think that latter period involved the early development of the radar oceanography thing, which is now a fairly big international issue, and I think Walter and my early efforts in our two groups probably pushed that to a point of being an accepted tool.
Then we've made, my university group has made significant contributions in the general area of digital signal processing, it's been used in both defense-related things and very successfully in commercial activities.
That was kind of a change from the physics to the algorithm and hardware side of things, in the last sort of ten years or so of my university group, which is more oriented now in that direction than it used to be.
But we've done quite a number of important applied mostly classified programs at SRI in that period, but one of the ones that developed out of the earlier work that has not been classified was an effort at studying the upper atmosphere and ionosphere in the Polar regions, by radar, which was first sponsored by DOD and more recently by NSF. This was an establishment of an electron scatter radar facility at Fairbanks at Fairbanks that studied all sorts of aspects of the region, and was used by other investigators from around the country and outside, for that matter.
A similar facility in northern Sweden and Norway now that's a
European-sponsored activity; but the one that SRI started is now at Sonderstrom in Greenland, having been moved inside the aurora, so there's some 200 research publications on making use of that facility, as an international research thing, which I think is an outgrowth of the things that we started during that period.
It originally was sponsored by the Defense Nuclear Agency, as was some of the work at Arecibo, you know, the one in Puerto Rico, but was transferred as general research facilities to NSF and has been run there as a basic science thing, so it doesn't always go the other way.
Peterson: And —
Aaserud: — yes, so, OK — you did not play a role in the transition from IDA to SRI in 73?
Peterson: Unfortunately I did. Well, not unfortunately, but I mean, it was one of those in which I would just has soon have been outside Jason, because that was, well, it involved a lot of fussing around and the reasons for it are a little obscure, but based on the fact that the government had manpower ceilings and so forth on IDA, and besides wanted a little bit of a change, thinking they might get slightly different direction, but it went relatively smoothly, but whenever an organization that's been running under one activity moves to another, there's bound to be a certain amount of ruffled feathers here and there. But I think it was a period of significant growth for Jason, in terms of its interactions with government. It's a period in which they did get additional sponsors, partly because DARPA was questioning what the role was, and partly otherwise, and then the next change really was one of probably initiated by Jason, in terms of the cost of supporting Jason, the actual overhead rates of MTA and SRI are somewhat different because they reflect different organizations and therefore MITER runs in facilities owned by the government, and SRI has to supply their own and so forth.
Aaserud:I'm getting a new tape.
Peterson:Oh, are we out?
Aaserud:Thats fine, you can go on.
Peterson: Oh, OK. Well, I think, no, I was involved certainly in attempting to facilitate the changeover. There were several places looked at at that time, and none of them looked particularly satisfactory. There was even some talk, once again within Jason, of maybe becoming a private organization, which looked a little hazardous to me, because you have to set up a structure to do bookkeeping and all these things that are certainly somewhat foreign to most of us in Jason.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, right. You have an executive secretary of course already.
Aaserud:But you have to have more of a —
Peterson: Oh sure, you have a lot more behind it than that, to make checks and write proposals and keep all of the things up. Anyway, no, that went reasonably well, I would say.
Aaserud:What was the background for choosing SRI? Were there discussions of other possibilities?
Peterson: There were some other possibilities, as I recall. I think there was some urging of SRI from within the government also, and — but
I don't remember any particularly strong reasons. I think it looked like there might be some advantage of broader range of technical programs going on within the organization, a feeling that there might be more interaction. That was only partially true, and I think even now it's only partially true. There's not very much interaction between other things going on at MITER and Jason, nor were there as huge number of interactions within SRI, or IDA, for that matter.
Aaserud: No, because —
Peterson: They're just mostly doing somewhat different things.
Aaserud:Yes, but not all that different.
Peterson:No, but there's a feeling, there's certainly a feeling within
Jason of being independent and self-sufficient that comes into the relationship. And maybe that's the only way it can be.
Peterson: So I think all three organizations have been largely supporting in one way or another, in terms of typing, documentation control, payroll, all of these things. You get different views of the wonders of one of the organizations or another from different Jasons, but—
Aaserud:Was there ever a thought of discontinuing the Jason activity, in connection with leaving IDA or at other times?
Peterson: Never a thought of disbanding, I think. I don't think we ever believed that was the right outcome. I think people were enough dedicated to it that they weren't thinking of that. There may have been some government thoughts on that line, I don't know.
Aaserud: Yes, yes. I should get that side too, of course.
Peterson: Yes, that would be useful, perhaps.
Aaserud:Yes. What about discussion of Jason-related problems in public, either in press or in other advisory connections? Have there been any problems with that? There are some —
Peterson:— there are some problems, and there are some outspoken people, and various members of the government at times are quite unhappy about this, because they believe, one way or another, that at times the information is gathered from inside, brought outside — I doubt that that's provable, but on the other hand, it only has to be a strong perception to raise controversy, and we have some of it going on now.
Aaserud:There hasn't been a break of secrecy, has there, in Jason?
Peterson: Not that I know of, and I don't think anybody can prove there was, but as I say, there can be relatively strong feelings on this subject. So I don't know what you do about it. It probably would be better if those issues that people feel they want to be very public about, it would probably be better if they didn't work in any detail on them within Jason.
Peterson: That's not as easy said as done, but, as a rule, sponsors tend to think all of the important things on their programs come from within their program, so it's very easy to be critical, so I don't know, and we're not immune to that.
Peterson: I think, by and large, though, we've done pretty well with it, and as you say, there haven't been any security breaks. Did Bill tell you that he had sort of organized an attempt at a history of Jason a year or so ago?
Aaserud:He did. But what generally —
Peterson: Yes, I'm not quite sure what happened to that. There wasn't great enthusiasm for it somehow within Jason.
Aaserud:There wasn't. Well, I'm probably I wouldn't say surprised, but I've got positive feedback from people.
Peterson: Yes, I guess I'm a little surprised that you're succeeding.
Aaserud:Yes. Well, you're an example of it.
Peterson: Yes, I'm an example, because I was certainly not encouraging the other ne, I'm not sure I'm encouraging this one, but we'll see.
Aaserud:I hope you don't regret it.
Peterson: I hope not too.
Aaserud: No, I wouldn't think so. OK, the internal reaction of Jason in such circumstances has been generally to, well, what has it been?
Peterson: Well, discussion, I think, and the feeling that people should be able to have their own opinions on things.
Peterson: And there would certainly be concern if there were security breaks.
Aaserud:Yes, of course. But I mean, if it came down to excluding people —
Peterson: — well, that's never been done. And probably will not. But
I think there may have to be some recognition of the problem of appearances of this kind, even if —
Peterson: And that's about all I would want to say. I think it's easier to cope with if the individuals who have strong opinions express them as their own, that it is if they're involved with outside groups, lobbying force of one kind or another.
Peterson: In most cases, it's been individuals.
Aaserud:—- but there are —
Peterson: — but there are exceptions recently. And there, they're people who I think are involved in both sides of organized groups in the
SDI discussions at this point, and I would feel much better if there were none of that involvement, and that's my own opinion.
Aaserud:On the other hand, if it came down to the question of exclusion you would probably —
Peterson: — oh yes, I would side with not doing it. But I have the feeling that we're better off without being identified as a major lobbying group.
Aaserud:What about the relationship of Jason with the more general science community? Has there ever been a discussion?
Peterson: You mean, in terms of general science types being unhappy with Jason members?
Aaserud:Yes, for example, yes.
Peterson:Oh, I'm sure there's been a certain amount of that, although
Sid's president of the American Physical Society.
Peterson: And other members are well involved in the throes of this or that organization. I don't think it's ever become a particular issue.
Aaserud:Right, except under very special circumstances like Columbia during the Vietnam period.
Peterson: Well, Columbia was a particularly bad example for Mel Ruderman, and Henry Foley I guess, at that time, maybe Letterman, although he was already not really involved with Jason at that point.
Aaserud:I think he quit in that connection.
Peterson: Yes, but he hadn't been coming for —
Aaserud:— that may be —
Peterson: — for a year or two before.
Aaserud:I think actually he postponed his formal —
Peterson: — formal quitting —
Aaserud:— in order not to, the other side being able to argue that that was the immediate reason.
Peterson: Yes, that's true. But in fact, that wasn't with scientific colleagues either, by and large. Certainly mostly it was some other part of the universities. Now, at Columbia there was some more involvement like that, — but the Berkeley things, the Stanford ones and so forth — not primarily people out of the hard sciences.
Aaserud:Yes, not in a broad organizational sense.
Aaserud:I mean, it could be individuals discussing with individuals, but it doesn't come to any —
— anything else. How unique would you consider Jason, as a body, combining basic research and government advice, I mean, on the background of your own experience with other —
Peterson: Well, I think it's unique in the sense of the continuing long term in depths technical research. There are other major science advisory activities, like the Naval Research ones and the Air Force ones that have academic members, but they're not the same kind of in-depth work operation.
Peterson: I don't know of other ones that are similar.
Aaserud: No, no, not any that you might point to that's closer than others that you collaborated with or competed with?
Peterson: No, I don't think so. I think there are projects within the government that have members from many organizations, that meet regularly and comprise a community of researchers, but, that are maybe somewhat related, but not the same as Jason.
Peterson: There's been some talk about setting up such things in other countries, like Britain, of course, but I don't think it's ever been doe.
Aaserud: No, no. Gordon McDonald was involved in that, maybe you were too.
Peterson: No, I wasn't. I've worked a lot with groups in Britain. Particularly. But in other auspices.
Aaserud:Yes. Originally, and still today, Jason consisted basically of theoretical physicists. Is that because talking as a non-theoretical physicist, such people are specifically fitted for the task? Or?
Peterson: Well, probably physicists, I don't know whether they have to be theoretical ones or not, I think mostly they're dealing with physics-related problems, but it's probably hard to mix too many — there are a few others like a couple of mathematicians, at least, Freeman considers himself a mathematician, I think, or he was to start with anyway, and Oscar is a mathematician.
Aaserud:Right, but that's a —
Peterson:— very small. Other attempts haven't worked out too well.
It seems to me there was a biologist or an occasional chemist or so, but — I don't know, I would think there could easily be such a group that involved public policy. Maybe there is one, I don't know. There are schools that claim to be in that business. I have a little trouble with their content, but that's probably a personal —
Aaserud:Could a group consisting of different kinds of people play the same role as Jason?
Peterson: Probably not, for the in depth studies. It would be
fragmented more, I would suspect.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, but —
Peterson: Some of these Navy or Air Force or other advisory committees play somewhat the same role, in looking at problems with either ad hoc committees that get set up for a period of a year or so to do things.
There is in fact, within the Academy of Science and Engineering, a Naval
Studies Board, which I've also participated in occasionally, and an Air
Force Studies Board that have a lot of academic as well as non-academic members and do studies sometimes in pretty good depth.
Aaserud:Right, technical studies.
Peterson: Technical studies in some depth. From an individual's, an academic individual's point of view, they probably have a disadvantage in that they don't get paid.
Peterson: But there are quite similar activities there.
Aaserud:Yes, OK, so that would be the closest.
Peterson: That's probably the closest which has an academic involvement and senior scientific involvement.
Aaserud:That's at a lower level, too.
Peterson:Lower level in what sense
Aaserud:In relation to defense, I mean, it belongs to the different services.
Peterson: Oh, the different services.
Aaserud:That's what I meant. Of course, Jason has that connection —
Peterson: We have that connection too, although we claim to be plugged
in at the Secretary of Defense level.
Peterson:I'm not sure anyone's seen the most recent one, though. We have interacted with a lot of others in the past.
Peterson: But mostly with DDR and E and those. We definitely do at that level.
Aaserud:Oh yes, there have been quite a lot of contractors, mostly defense but also on the civil side. To what extent do you think Jason has succeeded in being a training ground for younger physicists getting into advisory —?
Peterson: — well, when the younger physicists get into Jason, I think it's worked. We should perhaps accelerate that procedure.
Aaserud:Yes, but —
Peterson: — the younger group are really impressive people, that are there now, and I don't think there have been any mistakes in that line.
They seem to be very enthusiastic about doing some of these things.
Yes, if anything, some acceleration, although in recent years I think it's done pretty well.
Aaserud:Yes. Yes. But I mean, on the number scale, it's too small a group to serve as a general training ground.
Peterson: Oh yes, I don't think that — I don't think that's totally successful. That's right.
Aaserud: I guess a majority of Jasons have Jason as their only connection in that respect, I mean, I think most Jasons —
Peterson: — I'm not so sure that's totally true. Even some of the younger ones, Bill Press is on the Defense Science Board. And Oscar is on the Air Force Science Advisory Board.
Aaserud:Yes. But the great majority of Jasons in any case value very highly their connection with academic (crosstalk)
Peterson:— oh yes definitely —
Aaserud:— and are not —
Peterson: — wouldn't want to give that up, oh no, they won't do that, no, no, in terms of full time other involvement, no, that's right, I agree with that. I misinterpreted what you meant.
Aaserud:Well, that might include yourself too.
Peterson: Oh, it does. Yes, I would not want to have given up my university involvement.
Aaserud:Right. OK, the crucial question —
Peterson: What's that?
Aaserud:One of them, anyway. The impact of Jason, how important has it been, what difference has it made?
Peterson: Oh, I think it's occasionally made significant differences in certain programs. It's really very hard to evaluate.
Aaserud:Yes, it is, very hard.
Peterson: I don't think it's had as much influence in universities as it's had in the government, on the reverse side.
Peterson: I'm not sure. I believe when the people involved in the government have been seriously interested in Jason, it's made significant inroads. When Bill Perry was DDR and E and Foster was DDR and E, there was a lot of listening. Whether or not you can trace particular decisions to those things is pretty hard.
Aaserud:That's right, right.
Peterson: And when PSAC was more of an important input in policy, there was quite a lot of —
Aaserud:Yes, because — you consider that as being important, the dissolution of PSAC as a?
Peterson: Oh, I think so. They still interact, we still interact with that office, but the office doesn't get the ear of the administration as often as it might have.
Aaserud:Right. So in short you would think that the impact of Jason has varied strongly over time.
Peterson: I think so, but I think it's been, in any case, positive.
It's a place where people could in general ask for technical research and expect to get as accurate answers as people know how to do, rather than the answer they might want to hear, and I think that's been valued by people in government.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, but the DDR and Es may have been the most —
Peterson: They and the DARPA directors were probably the most. There's something comparable in the Navy, certainly in the program they've been involved with, but I think that's right. You have to have somebody to interact with.
Aaserud:Yes, that's an important personal level to this.
Peterson: From the policy side.
Peterson: From the technical side, there are any number of examples of important guidance given in which things to pursue versus other technical approaches and things, you know, where some careful looking of a very capable group can help inspire work in the right directions to solve problems. But those are often not policy problems unless you can say changing the direction of some research funding is policy. In some sense it is. Not the same as whether to have a test ban or not, that sort of thing.
Aaserud: Right, yes, that's science for policy and policy for science.
I'm interested in both.
Peterson: Well, yes, I think both are very important.
Aaserud:And they're not entirely unconnected.
Peterson: No, that's right.
Aaserud:To mention such an impact, where do you suggest going or do you have any ideas on that?
Peterson: Well, on pain of some problems, you might go to some of the former DARPA directors.
Peterson: Most of whom have been annoyed with Jason at one time or another in their career, and most of whom have come around to feeling it was a useful thing, and it might be fun for someone unbiased to discover how that might have happened.
Peterson: Because I can guarantee that some of them had at times been quite unhappy with Jason is some role or other, and changed their minds often. Sometimes I heard this from two sides of my life, the Jason side and some of the others, "Why can't you get those guys to do something useful? Why do they have to cause me all this trouble?" — sort of thing, you know.
Aaserud:Of course ARPA too has had different impact at different times too.
Peterson: Absolutely. It's been several different kinds of organization, much easier at times to interact with than at other times.
Aaserud:Yes. But Jason has had its impact mainly through ARPA, you would say, except for?
Peterson: Well, I don't think it's mainly through ARPA but the sponsorship has been mainly ARPA over the years, and I think often the influence may have been through DDR and E more even than DARPA, but they're intertwined quite a bit, and it would —
Peterson: So I would think talking to DARPA people and some DDR and E people would be useful. They've probably been listened to more than their numbers of people would suggest or deserve. But who knows whether that's been a totally positive influence? I don't know.
Aaserud: No, no.
Peterson: I think we probably all feel we're doing something useful or we would do something else.
Aaserud:Yes, right. I think it's particularly interesting, because of this close relationship with the academic side, this continuing connection, and on the other hand its rather close connection to the policy side.
Peterson: Right. Right.
Aaserud:It's that broad sphere I'm interested in and how they connect, and I think Jason might be a way of —
Peterson: — right, right, well, it may be a way. It's possible that
Jason itself is too close to know the answer. Also by and large Jason has or Jason members have a very high opinion of themselves. And so that needs some discounting to get at the truth.
Aaserud:Yes, right. I'll discount that. How do I discount that?
Peterson: Well, I don't know, not by asking more of Jason, probably, but maybe talking to some of the people they work with.
Aaserud:The wives perhaps.
Peterson: The wives probably don't have as high an opinion. I don't
know. But — well, OK. It's been somewhat interesting. I hope it comes out all right. We'll see.
Aaserud:Yes, yes, it should.