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Interview of Sidney Drell by Finn Aaserud on 1986 July 1,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Education and early professional experience; undergraduate studies at Princeton University; graduate studies at University of Illinois; Ph.D., 1949. Teaching at Stanford University and MIT during the 1950s. Involvement with JASON (Charles Townes) from 1960; JASON-PSAC relations; member of PSAC in 1966. Leaves Stanford for SLAC in 1963. Discussions of selection of members, projects in JASON; collaboration within, political views. Clearance levels and comparison of JASON research and academic physics. Impact of JASON on ABM and his role in ABM policy decisions; JASON's role in public policy making and its unique contributions. Describes the evolution of his career from JASON physicist to activist against SDI and Reagan's Star Wars initiative. Chairman of HEPAP; relationship with Andrei Sakharov. Research from 1960 to present.
What about your papers, manuscripts, letters (are they taken care of?)
What do you mean by my papers? JASON or overall?
I have no order in my papers. I have my filing cabinets and I have some categories which probably will be of interest to the American Institute of Physics, like my correspondence and activities for Sakharov. Other than that I doubt there are any that anybody's interested in.
I don't know if you know Joan Warnow. You probably do.
Well, I know that people have asked. I've thrown away old working papers, but I've kept my files mainly intact, and my correspondence on all matters. So that exists, but there's nothing special about them.
We're not putting pressure on you in any way, but that's the kind of help we would provide.
Yes, I'm prepared to do it, and some time when life's calm and quiet, I will do it. Not in the near future.
Yes, it's not that now obviously. I don't know if treating your career, particularly in science policy which is what I'm interested in, starting with JASON and making that the focus of it, makes sense to you at all.
It doesn't matter because historically that's the way it started. And so it'll branch out from that, as you wish. But science policy involvement did involve eight years as chairman of the High Energy Physics Advisor Panel, HEPA, which has obviously nothing at all to do with JASON.
That came later historically speaking.
So it makes sense to start with that. I just wanted to put that question to you at the outset.
We're in Sidney Drell's hotel room on the 1st of July, 1986, and I would like to talk to you about your involvement in science policy, focusing from the outset on JASON. However, I would like to start out with your earlier career. You were born, to begin with the beginning--
in Atlantic City, New Jersey, September 13, 1926.
Right, that agrees with my information. Your parents? How were you brought up?
My parents were both immigrants and I was brought up in a middle class family with a European background and a high value on education. I went from there to college.
Occupations of your parents?
My mother had been a school teacher before she was married, and my father was a pharmacist.
Did you live in Atlantic City?
Born and raised there, yes. Lived through the Depression there.
So you went to school there.
Graduated from Atlantic City High School, and all the places in between are on the Monopoly board.
So when and how did you decide to go into physics?
Well, I liked mathematics as a high school student. I liked Latin as a high school student. I discovered, during my senior year in high school, that applying mathematics to physics was more fun than doing mathematics, and that was one thing that took me to college. Another was classics; emphasis on classical reading came out of my father's tradition of reading them. I didn't know what I was going to major in when I went to college. Physics came later.
So then you went to Princeton.
I went to Princeton University in the summer of 1943.
What was the background for the decision to go there; was it anything in particular?
Well, quite frankly the background to go there was that there was a famous person living there by the name of Einstein, and I had no idea whether the university and the Institute where he happened to be were different or the same. But he had a very strong academic reputation and it struck me that, if I could be admitted there, I would go. So I applied.
But it was not physics as such that attracted you specifically then, was it?
No, it wasn't; it was the broader academic lure. But physics and mathematics were part of the picture, and that's how Einstein was relevant to it.
So you entered in 1943. That was in the middle of America's involvement in the war.
Did that have any effect?
A very profound effect, because Princeton during the war was a much more serious place than its reputation before or since. So the social life was very different. It was an accelerated course. I started in the summer. I was 16 years old, and I went continually for(July, November, February, July(five semesters through the middle of my junior year, at which point I turned 18.
To get this out of the way(by the time I turned 18, when the war in Europe was nearly over, my vision was such that they classified me limited service, and in January of 1945 I had a ruptured appendix and peritonitis so I was out of school for four months. I was actually quite sick. But that was in the period when the draft also came, because of the change in manpower predictions after the Battle of the Bulge.
However, I was then 4(F for a year. So my education was interrupted four months by illness(but not longer. I graduated in 1946 and went on to graduate school at the University of Illinois.
What about the education as such?
My education was outstanding. I look back with great fondness upon several teachers. In physics I had a very fine undergraduate rigorous training from Joseph Jauch who was there at that time, and who also introduced me to string quartet literature. Then in my senior year, which was a postwar year, John Wheeler came back to Princeton. I wrote a bachelor's thesis for John Wheeler on propagated action at a distance theory, which he and Richard Feynman were working on.
So I was introduced to that world. In fact what probably made a physicist out of me, was the independent honors work that every student had to do at Princeton. I did my junior year with Jauch and my senior thesis with Wheeler, which was what convinced me that life as a research physicist was really something great to look forward to, and motivated me to go on to graduate school and be a physicist. I consider John Wheeler really crucially responsible there; he was a great teacher. It was quite an experience, which I think is duplicated in no other American university I know, namely, to have a great research faculty so heavily focused on undergraduate teaching.
Princeton is a university with no professional schools, and the tradition, as well as the emphasis on undergraduate teaching, is unique. I've been to many universities. I've been on advisory committees to many universities. My children went to different places, and I have a lot of good things to say about them, but my loyalty to Princeton is very strong because of that emphasis on their undergraduate program, and the individual attention one got from a world class research faculty via the senior thesis junior honors work. So I consider my Princeton education a great time. It was an interesting experience(the social adjustment and what not. But it was great, and I had one year of postwar Princeton. That was just enough.
It was not a conscious decision on your part, with the knowledge that they had a particularly good undergraduate program.
It was subconscious. No, I had no idea. I had no idea that they had a particularly good undergraduate program. I've told every university that I've been at or been advisor to since then that you ought to look carefully at it because you're not doing as well as they are.
And then it was Illinois.
I went to Illinois as graduate student starting in the summer of 1946.
What was the background for going to Illinois?
Well, they had a great theory department, and theoretical physics was clearly what I was going to do. And there was also the competition with all the people coming back from the weapons labs and going to graduate schools. They both provided me with an assistantship and a bed to sleep in; getting a bed to sleep in a postwar college town was not that easy either. But the attraction of the theoretical physicists there was the main thing. Three names are coming back: Bob Serber, Phil Morrison, and the man I did my thesis with, Sidney Dancoff. That was a very strong and very attractive group.
I was encouraged there, and went. It turned out that Serber and Morrison didn't stay long, but Dancoff did and Arnold Nordsieck came. I slept on a basketball floor with 299 room(mates and 150 double decker beds for 15 months, and it was a great department. The spirit was great and one couldn't have asked for a finer advisor than Dancoff to come under the tutelage of, because again he was young, in his early thirties. He was a brilliant theoretical physicist(one of Oppenheimer's students who came back from Metallurgical Lab work at Chicago after the war. I was his first student.
I got lots of attention. He was both patient and wise and in every way fine. And it was just great luck to have him as an advisor, and I'll always cherish that. It's a tragedy that less than two years after my Ph.D. he died of cancer. I was one of only two students. He died at a very early age. I think he had just turned 37, when he died. It was a great great experience there.
Was Wheeler in some sense responsible?
He advised me to go there. I took his advice to go there, that's right. He said, "You should go to a different school than you did your undergraduate work and that's a good school."
Any fellow students in particular?
No. In fact, before I went to graduate school, I was somewhat dubious. I saw some very brilliant graduate students around Princeton, all of whom said, "We're very discouraging about people ever being great theoretical physicists; it's very hard. They're right; it's very tough.
Your dissertation work for the Master's?
Well, the Master's was really a formality. My dissertation work was first a practice problem in studying magnetic internal conversion. That was my first practice problem. It turned out to be an extremely nice problem. There was a numerical difference between two papers that had been published. One derived the magnetic internal conversion coefficient assuming that the electrons in the atom were non(relativistic. But you had to keep the spin degree of freedom present for the magnetic multipole transitions. This work was done by Goertzel and Tralli, then at NYU.
They used the two component Pauli theory, and their calculation that was valid for all values of the charge Z? but was non(relativistic for v/c <<1. There was a second paper done several years earlier, by Dancoff and Morrison in which they had used Born approximation valid for small Z?(for low(Z atoms(but fully relativistic, with large v/c~1. These two calculations should have met when the relativistic calculation was applied to a non(relativistic limit and the large Z? Pauli theory calculation was applied to low Z?, but they missed by a factor of 2/(2l+1) where l was the order of the multiple transition. So it seemed like a simple little problem to find the reason for this difference.
It turned out that it was extremely interesting. The reason for the discrepancy was that you can't make the usual two component Pauli reduction in that problem because the magnetic multipole moments are so singular for outgoing radiation that you have to keep the four component relativistic Dirac theory and treat it more carefully. But the interesting thing was that the physical implications of my calculation, in the cases of interest, where there are lots of isomers, in the middle Z region(such as Z52 tellurium(it turned out that this correction, which was 2/(2l+1) for low Z, got enhanced into a very large numerical correction which had a lot to do with the interpretation of the isomeric transitions around the island of tellurium(one of the closed shells(which at the time was very interesting in connection with developing the shell model.
So I got to work with nuclear physicists, and it turned out to be a very interesting and very important result. This work was quickly superseded by the calculators(the computers(because you didn't have to make analytic approximations any more. One could just put the Dirac matrix elements on the computer and grind out tables and numbers. But I beat those, and I had my own great success and my great first fun. From that I went on to collaborate again with Dancoff on one of the first generation theoretical studies of the applications of field theory to higher radiative corrections.
When I say field theory, I mean meson field theory, doing relativistic perturbation theory for coupled meson nucleon fields. This is in 1948-50, and the very hot issues then were the calculation of the anomalous magnetic moments of the proton and the neutron, and of the electron(neutron interaction, because there were the Rabi and then the Fermi experiments, and that's what we did. We did it right and we published it and that was a flying start for my career.
That was after your Ph.D.?
That was my Ph.D.. I actually got the Ph.D. formally in 1949, but I stayed at Illinois for the year 1949-50 and didn't leave Illinois until 1950.
And then it was
(after a summer at Oak Ridge, Stanford as an instructor for two years. What drove me to Stanford was a combination of things. First of all, I'd never been West. That seemed attractive. Secondly(this is probably interesting in the history of physics; it's slightly critical of some people, but I think an important part of physics as seen by a graduate student in 1949-1950. I had three possible options for my first choice. One was to go to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton as a postdoc, where Oppenheimer was building a school. That was the normal thing to want to do.
But in the winter of 1949-50, I remember Dancoff went there to give several seminars on the newly developed Tamm(Dancoff method. We didn't know it was Tamm(Dancoff then because unknown in the west this intermediate coupling scheme had been developed independently by Tamm in the Soviet Union. So Dancoff went to the Institute both to give seminars(Pauli was there, Oppenheimer of course was the director(and at the same time to make arrangements to spend his sabbatical year of 1950(51 at the Institute. His original plan was to work with Pauli in Zurich, but because Dancoff had relatives behind the Iron Curtain and had worked at the Met Lab on the atom bomb project, it was not possible for him to get a visa to go to Europe. That was the times.
So he had to arrange to work domestically, and he went to give seminars; he came back obviously quite beaten by the experience. Oppenheimer had been extremely critical of him during the seminars, and from that point on he was advising me maybe that wasn't the place to go, for whatever reasons. An alternative might have been to go to Harvard as a Junior Fellow, but the finals in that competition, which I was in, had a later decision date there then opened up the instructorship at Stanford. Since the Institute had lost its luster for me and I couldn't be sure how the Harvard thing would come out, I said, "I'll buy a car and go West." So off to Stanford I went as an instructor for two years.
You didn't regret that.
Didn't regret it at all. I'm out there now.
That's right. So what was your first exposure to Stanford like?
Well, I saw what was a relatively quiet university. In fact, I have to say there was a little less there than I had anticipated. Felix Bloch was a great man but he was no longer doing the theoretical physics I was interested in. He was hard to talk physics with. We played violin/piano sonatas with great pleasure. Leonard Schiff was a very sweet man, but Leonard used to work alone pretty much. He was not the kind of person you had big open probing discussions with. That led me to develop a lot more independence working by myself. I developed contacts with colleagues at the Rad Lab in Berkeley, and then in 1951, the second year of my instructorship, Stanford was totally transformed by the arrival of two senior people.
One was Willis Lamb who came from Columbia, with whom I had a marvelous time arguing at the black board and talking with, and found it very satisfying. And the second one was Wolfgang "Pief" Panofsky. He decided at that point that, although he had no trouble signing loyalty oaths(after all, he had worked on military projects and was a cleared individual(Berkeley at the time of the loyalty oath was not a place he felt comfortable with, and so he decided to leave. He wasn't fired; he didn't refuse to sign. And he came to Stanford to head up the high energy laboratory. That of course was a great transformation. That made Stanford modern, as far as I'm concerned.
And I saw that, and I saw that in Stanford's future. Another thing that happened at Stanford that I enjoyed very much was that as an instructor I was given two graduate courses to teach; I was given two courses in which my training as a graduate student had been the weakest. One was general relativity and another was statistical mechanics. So there was the challenge to do research and at the same time be a teacher. I enjoyed teaching, I apparently did it well, and I found that it was altogether a very happy experience. In my second year I decided a third year of instructorship there was not for me. I thought two years there was enough, I should move on, and that's when Weisskopf picked me up as his research associate.
I went to MIT and there met another great person, Amos de Shalit(we were both Viki's research associates that year. That's another story. Amos died, unfortunately, 17 years ago(another young tragic death of a prince. But it was very nice at MIT for four years on the faculty(all totally great years. In fact, in three years Stanford invited me back to a permanent position, but it took me a year to make up my mind. It was a very tough decision for me whether to stay at MIT or go back to Stanford. But I saw the future with Panofsky and the monster(the future potential accelerator(and I said, "This is a beautiful place and it's got a fantastic future, I'm going to go with it."
You stayed at MIT for one year?
No, four years. One year research; then I was on the faculty for three years. At the end of my third year there I had the option to go back to Stanford, but I stayed one more year because I made my decision late enough in the year that I was committed, so I came back to Stanford in the fall of 1956.
And then you went back to Stanford and stayed there.
I've been here since. First I was professor in the Physics Department till 1963, then at SLAC, when the special faculty was built at SLAC.
Just briefly, the main scientific contributions during that period up to 1960 say.
Up to 1960. Well, after the thesis, there was a work that I did together with Ernest Henley when I was an instructor at Stanford. He came as a research associate and we worked together for a year. We first introduced some strong coupling into the meson nucleon problem for the S waves, as a pair term, which we showed, when treated not with the Born approximation but exactly, give a very small phase shift for the S wave scatter, and resolved the problem of the S wave phase shifts.
Then, when I went to work at MIT, Viki put me onto studying many(body forces in nuclei and the saturation problem. Again treating meson theory partially perturbatively, partially non(perturbatively, particularly the S wave core term being treated to all orders, I showed how one could get many(body forces that might be important for the saturation of the nuclear force problem. That doesn't happen to be the way it works out, but that was an important and interesting problem. I went on from there to study, by using the Chew(Low methods, the S wave problem for meson photo(production with Fred Zachariasen. We showed how to derive the Kroll(Ruderman theorem, keeping gauge invariance, in a context that again was very interesting.
Then when I went back to Stanford I would say I made my big move, because I got onto studying electron problems, and proposing a set of experiments to test quantum electrodynamics by choosing in electromagnetic pair production and trident production the kinematic conditions which were experimentally practical but allowed you to get the particles far off the mass shell and to test quantum electrodynamics at small distances. So I started a series of efforts in which with students like Jim Bjorken and Steve Frautachi we developed tests of quantum electrodynamics at small distances. In 1958 this, together with work I did on the electromagnetic form factors, led me to give an invited paper at the socalled Rochester Conference which was then held at CERN, and that propelled me forward into whatever prominence I achieved. That was the 1958 meeting.
The work goes on in this vein until 1960. I wrote a little book with Zachariasen, with whom I did some of this work, on electromagnetic form factors. We analyzed and provided some of the basis for the resonance interpretation of the rho and the omega. We did a lot of dispersion theory studies of quantum electrodynamics, and then developed during this period the test for electrodynamics, the dispersion approaches, and dispersion calculations of the anomalous moment. I then wrote the books with Bjorken on quantum electrodynamics which still seems to have some value.
I have the German version of that.
You have the best version. I've tried to get McGraw(Hill to put out either a paperback version or a cheap version in this country and they said, "You do what you do best and we'll do what we do best." So the only decent copy of these two books available for students to get at a proper price and carry around paperback was put out by the Germans. I'm disgusted with American publishers. I think they think they make more money this way.
It was the cheapest book but it was not the worst. In 1956 you started to consult at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, right?
I stopped by there on the way back to Stanford. I was a consultant; you remind me, I'd forgotten that I consulted. But it was just a physics visit and it was almost not at all. I stopped there for a week when we drove West, I guess it was, and I may have had one or two visits in the four years in between. Also, I should say(it may have been 1953 or 1954, I forget(I spent a summer consulting for Lincoln Lab, doing a study of radar reflection from ionospheres(to see whether you can introduce inhomogeneities in the upper ionosphere with crossed beams and use that as a diffraction grating to scatter long wave radar beams. It is the Luxembourg effect, which I worked on with Felix Villars. But this is very occasional and very low level(almost none at all. I say that in preparation for saying that JASON in 1960 really was a change.
So you wouldn't emphasize this consulting business as a major preparation for JASON work.
No, I had no clearance. It was physics. In summer time physicists went down there and did physics. I remember, Ken Watson was there and invited me to come by and I talked physics. I could be wrong but I'm almost absolutely sure that I couldn't have been cleared. It was not any involvement in defense work. Physicists went to work there in the summer; I stopped to visit physicists, climb a mountain and talk physics.
Yes, it was a personal connection.
Maybe we could make a little digression about family life, marriage, and etcetera.
The bare facts, yes. The bare facts are, Harriet and I were both graduate students at Illinois. She was in German literature. That's where we met and we were married in 1952 when I was at Stanford. I have three children.
OK, that's the short version.
Two born in Boston and one at Stanford.
At that point I think we can turn the tape over. We're getting into a new chapter.
There were three extremely important elements in my background which led to where I am. One obviously was the respect for learning and reading and books at home(from my parents(which really was extremely important and was very strong. The second was the liberal arts education I got at Princeton. It was not only John Wheeler, but it was very strong training(in literature, and I had courses in philosophy. These obviously played a very important part in my development later in life. It was such an important part of education, that one continues that.
And then the third element were the specific science professors who actually motivated me and showed me the world out there that I was not aware of(Dancoff and Wheeler above all. And then obviously what had a major influence on me beyond the Ph.D. was the four years at MIT with Weisskopf and the great humanity in that man(the honesty and modesty. Then in terms of my overall development, in public policy areas as well as my closest colleague in all the years since then, of course is Panofsky; but we'll get to that. Panofsky was my model. He's the reason I am at Stanford(that I went back, that I could see the future there(and is truly one of the great people of the world.
I'm hoping to see him in Berkeley. What was the background and motivation for joining JASON?
I was sitting home one January evening in 1960. I got a phone call from Charlie Townes. He was then the Vice President for Research of the Institute for Defense Analyses. He called to say that a group was being invited to a briefing. The plan was to create a group of young prominent scientists who might find it of interest and value to work on problems of national importance. And would I come? Of course. One's honored to be called by Charlie Townes. I'd never met him then. My immediate reaction was, on the one hand, if there's anything I value most in my work, it's my time to do my physics.
I had two small children at that point. I was teaching. I was doing research. I had no time. So the notion of taking on an outside obligation like that did not arouse a positive reaction. On the other hand, I said I would think about it, and I was aware of the kind of problem he was raising because there I was at Stanford with Panofsky, and I saw all the activities that Panofsky was engaged in in 1960.
He was already then.
He was already then engaged in various activities in connection with defense advising on working committees of the President's Science Advisory Committee. I don't think he was yet on the President's Science Advisory Committee(you'll get the date from him. But he was heavily involved in their working panels, and Pief and I were so close together and talked a lot. I saw what motivated him. I learned from him of the importance of good technical input into the national security planning.
I was aware of the fact that after Sputnik we were entering an era in which there was going to be high technology competition with a major adversary(the Soviet Union; that President Eisenhower created the President's Science Advisory Committee in 1959; and that there were people who were very busy(who had come out of World War II(working very hard on these issues. I knew all about the Oppenheimer(Teller controversy, which after all showed five or six years earlier how scientists were playing a very important role in shaping defense policy. These were issues that were part of my cultural background and training. I had keen interest, and had been active from the outset in the Federation of American Scientists. And I saw Panofsky's involvement.
So I went to talk to Panofsky. I came away with the conclusion that there was a reason to train a new generation. In 1960 after all Bethe was 55 years old, and Panofsky was 41. But it was an aging group, and the notion that a new generation should be trained and might be valuable was one which I found should be looked into. So I agreed to go to that first briefing. And with open mind and no preconceptions I went to the first briefing, and we got briefed on various issues.
Maybe we should backtrack a little bit. You talked about the Federation. Was that your first exposure?
That was my first exposure, yes. We should go back all the way to graduate school, because that was my first involvement. The issue of the first policy debate that I remember being involved in was the question of civilian control of atomic energy. It was the McMahon Bill versus the May Johnson Bill, which by the way was part of the reason for Oppenheimer's unpopularity. He not only was very harsh on people in the seminar then, as he was losing control of physics, but he was a big shot running back and forth to Washington and consorting with the military(things which we then looked down upon. We now do it ourselves, but we did not have an appreciation for it then as young students, so one was involved in that. One was involved in the loyalty oath for people getting the National Science Foundation fellowships(why loyalty oaths? This was the McCarthy era. One was involved in the attack on Oppenheimer's security clearance. And so I was politically sensitized to these issues.
So you were much much more sensitized through that route than through any other?
That was the only route I was sensitized through. I had done no consulting. I'd consciously done no consulting on the outside. I'd literally had no time for it. I thought that between trying to do physics research, teach physics and raise a family, there was no time, so I had no interest whatsoever in outside consulting.
I'm glad I caught that. That wasn't included in my prepared questions.
So this was really quite a point of departure, when Townes called and I went to that first briefing.
You slowly decided that you would accept.
Well, I came back and I talked to Panofsky, and then decided that I would commit myself that summer of 1960 to the first summer study of JASON, which was in Berkeley for six weeks. I commuted back and forth from Stanford(didn't live there(and I got working on a good problem. The problem was one that I did together with Mal Ruderman, also an original JASON and a friend, and we worked on it together. It had to do with detonating a nuclear weapon at high altitude, so that, after the fireball, the X-rays would be absorbed at the top of the atmosphere at ranges like 80 kilometers altitude.
They would form a big pancake of heated air, which would be heated and therefore would radiate in the infra(red. The question was, how much would it radiate, was the radiation time long enough, was the radiation area large enough to disrupt or prevent observation of missile launching from space. This was then very classified, but it is now public. It was the beginning of our development of sensors from space to detect the launch of a missile. You detect the launch of a missile by looking at the plume. It radiates a lot in the infra(red, and you choose a nice atmospheric absorption frequency, so you're only looking above the atmosphere.
One was going to see the plumes, and get early launch warning. This would supplement the radars(the DEW line(to get maybe 25 to 30 minute warning instead of 15 to 10 minute warning. The question was, could you make those systems blind by high altitude explosion which caused a big cloud to be formed(a pancake(that would radiate in that same IR region and obscure the launch of a missile? Well, we studied that. We wrote a nice paper which was published, in fact, in an English Journal, Infrared Research(an unclassified version. But what I learned then, which was crucial and set my whole course, was that what one could see and what one might do from space was good technical intelligence. It was, A, important for stability, and, B, important for just knowing what was going on when it comes to dealing with a closed society.
In other words, open skies could to some extent be made a reality, and I quickly began to realize the potential of learning things from space so you didn't claim the other side was 10 feet tall, and make things like the false missile gap, which President Kennedy campaigned on not because he was dishonest but because we didn't know. I understood that technical intelligence from space was going to be extremely important if we were going to maintain a stable peace in the world, and what's more, was a crucial first word of arms control. And that's how I actually found that this work was going to take some of my time and I should do it.
Now, there is always the point that one is flying back and forth to Washington and dealing with big shots with stars on their shoulders and feeling important. How much of an element that is in this respect, I'm the wrong person to judge. All I can tell you is, it didn't take long before I was tired of flying on airplanes. But I went on from that. That not only convinced me it was something to do. Because of the work I'd done that summer, I was approached by Jerry Wiesner, who was Kennedy's Science Advisor, in the fall, I think. Again, there may be an historical moment, right or wrong, here, but it's irrelevant whether Wiesner asked me after he became head of PSAC or whether Kistiakowsky asked me when Wiesner was still a member of PSAC.
But some time during the 1960(61 time frame, I was invited into a working panel of PSAC(the Strategic Military Panel. That's where this kind of problem(what the country could do by way of early warning, what we could do by way of ballistic missile defense, the whole technology of space defense, intelligence(was making great bounds. This was a very high level technical working panel. I was invited onto it. I worked on that panel and I've been trapped ever since.
Yes, so that was the introduction to it.
It was an introduction which led me into an area which I thought was quite important, and one which I thought I could contribute to and wanted to contribute to.
So could you say that JASON was the technical introduction and the PSAC panel was more science policy?
JASON was absolutely the technical introduction. The PSAC panel was both technical and policy oriented. There is no such thing as a science policy panel that doesn't have technology. If you show me a bunch of old men on a science policy panel that are not doing some technology, I'm not interested. It was always necessary to do that. But I think that the important role of JASON, was the introduction of a new generation of scientists into these kinds of problems. Then there were mechanisms being opened up(being developed in Defense and in the PSAC mechanism(to bring what really has to be admitted was a relatively talented generation of scientists to doing something for the national good, both defense and non(defense, because a lot of work for NASA and for the Department of Energy, could also spin out of this.
Did you feel that the motivation for joining JASON was the same among the people joining?
Yes, I think so. Oh, I absolutely think so, yes. And of course it was self feeding, because we were all friends. It made it very nice to be at JASON, because there was this community of 35 or 40 people(largely theoretical physicists, largely in touch with each other intellectually during the winter, and coming together, so there was a lure. I mean, it wasn't unpleasant to go to Woods Hole or La Jolla for six weeks during the summer, and one saw one's friends. It certainly was an attraction. But I think it was a reasonable bait.
And it provided some kind of recreation.
That's right. And we all were raising small children then. We all had families and we had to quite properly pay attention to everybody being comfortable.
And it added to the income, of course, in addition to that.
No, no. Not really. If you're interested in adding to your income, you go and consult for industry; you do not go to JASON. In fact, after I'd been in JASON for one year or maybe two years(two plus or minus one year(industry invited me as a fallout of the problem that I'd worked on that I mentioned, the early warning system; in fact, it was Lockheed, because they were working on it. They invited me to consult for them on this problem, and I said, "No. I consider the purpose of JASON to make me not an industrial captive, but to be security cleared and have access to the technology.
I would be very glad as a JASON, which costs you nothing, to do the consulting you ask, and to advise you on what you're doing." But they said no. They wanted that only as a consultant for them so that they would control the product. I said, "Thank you, goodbye, I won't do it." So I never did consult for industry. In fact, I think that's proof of why you need institutions like this, because industries have their proprietary knowledge.
In fact, that was one of the motives of setting it up JASON, because we have to go to different companies and we were going to find out different technologies. That's the way PSAC panels operate also. But we have to not be a conduit by whatever means of privileged company technology to other companies. I mean they had a legitimate concern, and so just like we had to be cleared for military secrets. We had to be trusted for understanding what we did by way of not being industrial spies.
Some of the founding fathers, so to speak, of JASON did go that way.
They went that way. They did it that way. Absolutely, some went that way. I assure you that JASON doesn't make it painful to consult. But if you want to make money, this is not the way to do it.
Of course. So you've stayed a member of JASON?
I've been a member of JASON ever since; never dropped out. I've managed through the thick and thin of Vietnam and being thrown out of classrooms.
We'll get to that.
You'll get to that.
Did you have any connection with the establishment of JASON?
No, Townes called me, and I came and I joined and was a soldier(a foot soldier.
Well, were you involved in or did you know about any discussion at the time of whether an entity like JASON was the appropriate vehicle?
No. I mean, I've heard all the stories about Project 137, but I was not involved in any of that. I knew that people(my friends, Murph Goldberger and Murray Gell(Mann and Watson and Brueckner(were going to Los Alamos during the summers, and I was aware of some discussions that they had. I was not party to it. I knew nothing specific about it. And the JASON call came as a shot out of the dark. I had no idea something had been done at that moment.
Did you hear any discussion within the physics community about whether JASON was the appropriate vehicle for the purpose?
No. I wasn't thinking about those things at all. I went onto the PSAC Strategic Military Panel in 1960 or '61. In the fall(this is also very important for my involvement(of 1963(is that right, yes 1963, because in the fall of 1962 I was at Harvard as Loeb Lecturer, yes(I was invited to chair a technical study in Washington for the government. This date is important in terms of my quitting the Physics Department at Stanford in January 1963. Part of the history of Stanford is that Panofsky and I were unable to integrate the creation of SLAC into the Physics Department.
There was just an out and out bloody war on the Stanford campus about how SLAC was going to be created. The net effect(it's another story after this(was that Panofsky and I resigned our professorships in physics in the winter of 1962(63(I came back from a fall at Harvard. In 1961(62 I was on sabbatical in Europe(at CERN with Weisskopf; in fall 1962 for four months I was Loeb Lecturer at Harvard, and came back to Stanford January 1963, and taught freshman physics. I quit the department to create a new faculty with Panofsky out at SLAC. So I am a professor at SLAC, not in the Physics Department. The important thing there is that in the fall of 1963 I'm a professor at Stanford, we're building SLAC, I have a theoretical physics group I'm building, but I have no courses to teach, because the Physics Department had to do all the lecturing.
I had graduate students. So I was flexible and free, and I was asked by Washington to head the first working panel to find out what the problems were and what not with the beginnings of our photo reconnaissance program. I won't go into that at all. That's not a subject to talk about. Let me just say that that got me heavily involved in a much deeper way, which meant that I then got involved also very heavily with the President's Science Advisor in that area.
So my initial interest in open skies became a consuming focus of activity. So all through this period, from 1961 or so to 1966, I was heavily involved both on the Strategic Military Panel and on a Special Panel called the Land Panel after Din Land (of Polaroid) who chaired it, and then in 1966 I was invited to become a member of PSAC. At that point I spent two years creating the first Ground Warfare Panel of PSAC, stayed a member of the Strategic Military Panel, which I then chaired for the last two years, and the reconnaissance work continued on throughout.
How would you compare the work in JASON to PSAC?
Well, you see, PSAC does many different things. Different PSAC members organize different panels that study different problems. It's a mixture of policy and technical. JASON tends to be more technical. Every once in a while we would get a big study going, which would talk policy issues because I always felt it was important to do that.
I chaired a number of them, whether it was earlier studies of hardpoint defense, earlier studies of basing of the MX missile and what not; I always like to put a policy hook onto a technical study. But technical studies had to be the heart of JASON, whereas for PSAC to do its job, you had to be more both policy oriented and long range future oriented. You don't put out fires on PSAC.
A real PSAC panel develops institutional memory, but it looks forward and says, "Where in the future is technology taking us, and therefore what kinds of future policy options are opening up?" That's when it helps the President the most(some longer range view with more of a policy implication.
Yes, and of course the constitution of people are different in both cases.
That's right. They were. And remember, PSAC was really a holding company(16 members who were already, or becoming, senior people, who chaired working panels. And the JASON types were best as members of working panels, until they worked up into the more policy role. So it was an apprenticeship. I thought the working panels of PSAC were one of the most important apprenticeships this country ever had, in training the younger generation. JASON introduced a lot of us to technology.
PSAC gave us the clout(here we were doing something for the President; here we were having a policy implication looking far ahead; here we had access, because the President's signature was back in the study(nobody could keep you away from it, you were free to roam and look far ahead.
And it was quite prestigious. After all, you are asked to do something for the President of the United States(you do it. And so I thought the training ground and the opportunities that those PSAC panels created for developing my generation into the process were crucial(this two step, JASON to PSAC. Now it's considered one of the unfortunate things that the JASON process is really much less than it was.
I consider JASON now as doing more detailed limited technical studies. I think that's less satisfying. I also think that the turnover of people coming in is too small. Only a few people come in every few years, whereas a whole generation of us were brought in at once in 1960. And suddenly there are no PSAC working panels. PSAC is a total failure now as far as I'm concerned. It's a total loss.
And I think it's a factor that there's another generation that ought to be trained, that's not being trained now. We'll come back to that later, because that's what I'm trying to do at Stanford at the Arms Control Center in a program supported by the Carnegie Corporation.
At that time there was an overlap between JASON and PSAC.
Yes. That's right. And there was a big flow into it. I was just one example of it. There was a flow not to PSAC, but at least the PSAC working panels, or the Defense Department working panels, the Department of Energy working panels. But there was a lot of incorporation. Remember also that, there was not entrenched in the 1960s what there now is(a very large defense science community. DDR & E was just being organized as one of the PSAC creations.
Now, the lopsided weighting is there's a huge defense scientific community, there are a lot of in(house people in the Defense Department, there are a lot of the beltway bandits and the consulting corporations; the question is, where do you get the independent voice? That's to my mind the crucial one. Now, if you have to get contracts from Defense or SDI to do studies for them, you are sure as hell more likely to please them, not because you're evil, but because it's human nature(we all get pushed that way.
Also, if you're in the Defense Department, the parallax in your vision as you view a problem is determined by your operational responsibilities. The need for a staff function that has no operational responsibilities and is totally independent(but presumably by having achieved some stature in science, has some perspective and some future vision(is what's crucial. And I just think that we're not doing it adequately now at all.
What was the amount of work in JASON as compared to PSAC and to the rest of your work that time?
Well, as I got more involved with PSAC, I used JASON as a home to help and support me, but I did relatively little JASON work. As a member of PSAC, if we talk about 1966(70, I ran one panel, I was a member of another panel, I was deeply involved in the reconnaissance activities, and so the amount of work I could do for JASON per se was much more limited.
I often tried to have one of my PSAC panel summer studies overlap with JASON studies, so there'd get to be cross ideas and what not, but my level of involvement in JASON was considerably reduced, except for one spell when, near the end of the Vietnam War, PSAC as a whole(that was PSAC, not JASON, so that's the wrong remark(got involved in analysis of the air battles in North Vietnam and made a very strong case that they weren't doing what people said they were doing.
At that time JASON was involved exclusively in military work, right? The contractor was ARPA essentially.
You have to ask the bosses. I just don't know. I was a steering committee member after that time. What I do know is that if anybody had a good idea and wanted to work on it, it was always possible to find somebody to sponsor it. And that's the key to JASON: if we had a good idea we could take it to the steering committee. We weren't all working on one thing. We were able to free(lance in creative ways. That was quite helpful.
Was JASON a generational thing? To what extent was that a group of physicists with something of a special approach represented by that generation, or was it that at all?
There's no doubt about it. Again, one should look at the list, but my impression is that for at least the first 15 years JASON was the same generation. Then some people retired. Some people quit during Vietnam. Then it was realized that we were getting older, and a concerted effort has been made to bring in a new generation.
I think a finite part of JASON now is a post(1960 generation. If I were to just go down the list, here I see one, two, three, four, five(if I take one more page it will be my statistics(a third to half of JASON is now the post 1960 generation, I'd say.
That's too little, perhaps, but that's another matter.
To what extent did you represent as different approach from previous generations to science policy issues.
I don't know what any previous generation was. I mean, the previous generation were the Bethes, the Panofskys, Wigners, Tellers, who got drawn into war, and there was no parallel. I mean, they came in and they had a task(to build radar and to build an atom bomb(and they did it. We in a sense were following in their footsteps.
Yes, you were recruited by them anyway.
We were intellectually recruited by them. I think that's right. We saw them as our models. Panofsky was my model.
Yes, and some of them stayed on as senior advisors.
So there is a continuity.
That's right, I think it really was a continuity, consciously bringing in a new generation.
To what extent did actual work fulfill the purpose that it was set up for?
If you say that it trained a generation that got involved and made themselves either constructive or trouble makers, it succeeded greatly. If you say, did the technical studies of JASON influence US policy I'd hate to say that. Clearly we were part of a learning process of the limits of ABM and learning about ballistic re(entry physics. We did clever things, and I think that one would probably say, given the way money is spent and the standards used to evaluate success in this field, that JASON is a success, because even if our own study wasn't right, the interaction with the defense scientists taught them things. They relied on JASON and they came to JASON for technical studies. So I think that overall it's a very successful experiment, and I would like to see it continue.
Of course the impact has varied with time.
It varies in time, that's right.
What about the organizational structure? That was set up from the beginning.
Yes, there was always a leader. Murph Goldberger was the first leader. Then there was a steering committee. That's the same structure as now. It still is. I put my time in on the steering committee like everybody else.
And then there were some senior advisors.
There are some senior advisors now.
What has been your place in the organizational structure?
As a member I've suggested problems and worked on them. When I was a steering committee member, I was the contact with various agencies. I'm a member now and my role is to get to the briefings when I can, to suggest what I think is emerging as a serious problem. For example, right after President Reagan's Star Wars speech, it was absolutely clear to me that the Star Wars issue was going to be a major technical policy issue, because it was going right to the heart of the assumptions of the ABM Treaty.
So I said, "JASON, you've got to get briefings, we've got to become expert, we've got to be active in this area," and so we have been. Before then at one point I thought that the MX basing debate was not getting very far, and I thought that it would be useful to look at MX basing and make independent analyses of some of the various multiple aim point systems. We invented and analyzed the small submarine basing system. That was an example where I chaired studies for a couple of years because I thought that was an important technical issue to be resolved.
I didn't think it was being satisfactorily studied in government, and it had very important policy implications. Other times I've just worked on issues where I taught there was technical interest and I thought it important enough to work on. I always like to work on a problem with important policy components. I'm going to do a straight technical problem, I'd rather stay home and do particle physics.
That's always been my attitude. But if I can find a technical problem that I may have something to contribute to, where I think that the policy implications are worth getting involved with, to me that's JASON work.
For how long and when were you on the steering committee?
I think I've already confessed on the tape that I don't remember what years I was on the steering committee. I was on the steering committee at an appropriate time, and my guess is(but one would have to check the records with the poobahs(that it was after PSAC, because I would not have been on it the first few years.
Then I was very busy as a PSAC member and would not have been on it. So I would suspect it was in the early seventies that I put in a term on the JASON steering committee. I was several times asked if I would be the head of JASON and I said no.
How were members selected? Was there some strong effort to recruit?
Increasingly in the mid(seventies and on, the effort has been made to retire inactive members and to bring young people on. I gather the effort's successful. It's a slow rate. But there is a membership committee. In fact, every member of JASON is reviewed every two years, whether they've been active enough to continue them.
Some are gracefully retired to make room for new ones, as the group doesn't want to get larger. And then there is a trial period. Members are nominated. They're brought in for several years for a trial period; then they're evaluated. Some have been continued, some have not. But once you go through the trial period, you're considered a regular JASON, so the onus is a little bit more difficult on somebody else for you not to be continued.
Is there a tendency to choose people you work with outside JASON?
The tendency is for someone in an area who knows another person who's bright, has the skills, and would work with them(there is a tendency that way. But if you look at the members, there are a number of universities represented; it's not just a few places. But clearly the nominations for membership come from people who are colleagues and who know they might be interested and are good at this kind of work.
And there is a tendency to work with people within JASON?
Yes, that's right. No, I would say that collaborations form in JASON that are different from collaborations outside JASON. I mean, it's a community, but I have not been impressed(let me put it this way(that there's a tight correlation between collaborations outside JASON and collaborations inside.
Is that because of the difference of problems?
Yes, there are different problems, and so you get a different mix or blend of skills working on a problem in JASON. And often when you're outside of JASON, it's people at the same university.
How constant has the membership been? Vietnam, of course, played a role.
Some people defected over Vietnam. Didn't want to be involved. And that was a tense period for JASON, when membership lists became very hidden because people didn't want to be known as JASON members. When these membership lists were known, people whose names were on those lists were given some grief to different degrees, depending upon where they were. There were boycotts, there were protests. I ran into these in Europe myself.
I've been going through Henry Foley's papers, at the university there.
Columbia was particularly bad, yes.
Before we get to that, how were projects selected(on what basis and what kinds of projects?
At the members' meetings there were discussions of problems that various funding agencies(the funders(would like JASON to look at. There was also welling up out of the members themselves, suggestions for problems that we thought that people should look at, or we wanted to look at because they were important.
And through discussion, the budget and the talent were matched in a very flexible way. That was the key to JASON's success. No one said, "Work on that, work on that." If you had no idea, there were plenty of problems, so one said, "Would you work on that?" But if you had a good idea, you were often able to sell it.
So there was a variety of ways to choose problems.
Yes. One year in the early sixties, I heard a physics colloquium at Stanford by a professor of electrical engineering who talked about the whistler phenomenon. It's a particular magnetic hydrodynamic disturbance, low frequency, just a little bit above the alfvén wave. Bob Helliwell of Stanford was a great expert on whistlers. They had a property such as a lightning bolt that creates a disturbance which follows the earth's magnetic field lines over to the conjugate magnetic point and bounces back.
I said to myself, hey, that's terrific, you know. If a missile launch creates a terrific shock wave, there may be a whistler signal that comes over and bounces back. Maybe one should study whistlers and find out whether that's an early launch warning signature. And so with Foley and Ruderman we studied that for a couple of years, and found that really wasn't so good. But we learned of the existence of an even lower frequency disturbance, the alfvén wave, and out of that grew a notion for an alfvén propulsion engine in space called the "Ape in Space" which we even patented partially as a joke.
It's an expired patent; no one, including the government, wanted the patent. They knew that no one's going to make money on it. But this is the way problems grew. We could bring them from academia, and study magneto(hydrodynamic disturbances triggered out of our experience that way, so that was as good example.
That's published in the open literature?
That's published in the open literature. That's exactly right. We discovered a drag phenomenon which almost was responsible for some of the Echo balloon drag measurements, but not quite. We observed that you could turn the drag into a propulsion by using a reactor to drive the current in the opposite direction, and thus "push off" on the earth's field lines, so we had great fun. Great fun. And we learned magneto(hydrodynamics.
The selection of projects(you said that you would only want to do technical problems when they fit into some kind of broader policy framework.
When I felt there was some policy reason that made it important. That's right.
Was there any discussion over that when you selected problems ever?
No, not at all. The discussion was, is it a good technical problem to do? But I always felt that one shouldn't work on a problem for JASON if it doesn't have that content.
But was there agreement?
I think so. I think everybody had that as an ideal. In a more limited practical way, one had to recognize that sometimes there were important problems of a technical nature that the Armed Services wanted, and maybe one was more fascinated simply by the technical problem. I mean, there are people who get fascinated by the technical analysis and forget the policy. So it was a personal weighting but it was never a problem.
No, there was never a discussion of principle?
No. It was generally understood that this was a valid working principle.
What about the way the results were represented?
First we'd have internal briefings to the fellow members. Then we would have briefings to the people from Washington who would come out(the customer. Then we would have contacts with the different project offices that could follow on through the year, as whatever we did that was worthwhile was fed into the system. An example would be, after some of the work on the X(ray laser, the contacts with Livermore and Los Alamos.
How close was the connection with the individual agency throughout?
It varied. Some were very close and extensive and very supportive. Others thought they weren't getting their money's worth. It was a mix.
And sometimes of course projects came out of JASON itself.
Absolutely. Absolutely. JASON created projects, that's right.
You talked a little about the projects during your tenure. Maybe you could expand a little bit about the projects that you see as most important(to the extent that you feel you can talk about it, of course.
Yes. Well, the one I won't talk about is anything to do with reconnaissance. Let me say that I consider(in terms of my overall science policy involvement(that the whole quality and success of our "national technical means" of verification has to me been the overwhelmingly important issue of this country. I'm not taking credit for it; I was involved in it. I think that the JASON studies on MX basing and the small submarine system that grew out of it, back around 1978 or 1979, made a great contribution to the national debate; it caused me to have many Congressional appearances, led to the OTA study, and is partly responsible for the fact that we didn't go forth with the racetrack system that the Carter Administration wanted.
To what extent we have been able to contribute realism to some of the claims that have been alleged for the SDI system, and are doing that now, time will tell. I think we're playing a useful role, because I think that's a program that has been so badly overadvertised that it needs an element of technical realism and constructive dialogue. Back in the mid(seventies when JASON certainly was involved in Vietnam, my own involvement in Vietnam was via the PSAC mechanism, not JASON, so I'm not the one to talk about that. Before then, I think there was a lot of technical education which was part of building up the technical community in this country, and so maybe what Ruderman and I did that first year or two(which helped people understand high altitude explosions and created understanding(had a long impact beyond any little thing we did. It's hard to judge.
From my own perspective(my historical study(I'm proposing to do the first 10 or 15 years of JASON. Is there any project or set of projects that you would put forward as constituting a good case study for the case study, so to speak?
I think that probably a good case study would be the work growing out of the 1961 summer study at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, on re(entry physics, because that was the beginning of the involvement of this whole generation in the ABM debate. I did most of my work for the PSAC panel(not through JASON(but we were all being trained. Bethe and Garwin came and spoke on re(entry physics, the problems of distinguishing decoys from RVs, and the countermeasures. I think the building up of a knowledge base in this country on what the limits of ABM were was very important. JASON in training people was important in that. As I say, my involvement there was largely through the PSAC work, not through the JASON work.
But maybe that connection can be traced somewhere else.
That's right. There are a lot of other people who were involved in that early work(Hal Lewis, Murph Goldberger and what not(who probably have a lot more to tell you about that.
Yes, it should be seen in that larger context.
I think so. That's right. To me what I learned during those years working on those problems became part of whatever contribution I made to the Strategic Military Panel of PSAC in understanding how to analyze the limits, shortcomings, countermeasures to the early defense concepts one had to understand the opportunities and the limits in negotiating during 1969-72 leading to the ABM Treaty of 1972.
And that of course has repercussions today.
Well, it sure does.
What about the relationship of the JASON projects to work in academic physics in your case?
In my case, the relationship was zero. This Ape idea grew out of a sidelight. It was never my center work, because doing academic physics during the sixties was doing dispersion relations(doing the books with Bjorken. In the sixties I got on to deep in elastic scattering and the work I did on scaling, and the various threshold theorems and what not into the seventies, culminating in the Yan process for electro magnetic pair production of massive pairs(in hadron collisions(that was a totally different world.
But that wasn't the case for everybody.
No, no. A lot of people moved. You've seen some JASONs have moved into hydrodynamics and fluid dynamics and their academic careers have been deeply affected by their JASON work.
Any specific examples?
Ken Watson, I would say, is one; to the extent that Roger Dashen is doing much more in that area now, he has changed.
Flatté's whole career is going that way, that's right. Those are good examples.
And of course, I guess the particle physicists(
(we escape back to our particle physics.
Whereas say the oceanographers are, by the nature of the subject, more likely to change.
By the nature of the subject, that's right. But they made oceanographers out of a lot of particle physicists(Dashen, Callan and Zachariasen have all moved to some extent that way.
To some extent as a result of ZJASON.
Would you have some general comment upon the connection of the development of physics with that kind of work, in general terms; that is, if there is some systematic connection there. It's a difficult question, but if you had some comment on that?
I can make comments on all sides of the issue. I can say, bright young particle theorists were pulled away from particle theory(it's particle theory's loss. I can say the particle theorists, when they got beyond the age of 30 or 35 and were going to be less creative there, became more creative in more applied fields; they broadened their physics and became better physicists. Which one do I believe? I don't know.
Probably both are true in different cases. What about the way of collaboration within JASON and the way the work was done as compared to academic physics?
Well, there's much more collaboration today in studies than there is individual effort. When you go home, you work much more by yourself, or with one collaborator. Here there were often teams, in fact overlapping teams. Some people would be at JASON for six weeks and work on five different projects. My own style was to work on one at a time when I came to JASON(to grab onto one big one and sometimes even chair it(and work one at a time. But many people could float, and a guy like Dyson could contribute to all of them at once.
He made important individual contributions too, of course.
Absolutely, yes. The whole idea of active optics, rubber mirrors and what not was given a big stimulus by JASON work. I wasn't involved in that.
It's interesting, what happens during a summer meeting.
The whole structural development of it and how it can function that way.
Maybe if you can describe that experience.
Well, friends get together and you go to briefings. You start talking. You find a common interest or a past problem that orients you, or you see a friend and you just start talking; it's good to work with a friend and great collaborations develop. So it's a terrific collegiality, one of the important things is not to get too fractionated, so that different people are working all on different things and don't know what each other is doing. I think it's important so that there is a general awareness of what's going on, because sometimes you may know something that can contribute to another area of work.
Well, you had meetings on that, I suppose.
That's right. Collegiality is a very important part of it, in the best sense of the word.
But it must be an incredible hectic time.
Oh yes. It's very convoluted and there were too many things and not enough time to work, and all the work gets done in the last two or three days.
What has been the division within JASON between technical tasks and policy discussions? I suppose technical tasks(
(they dominate. They've always dominated. Yes, absolutely.
Has there been some important policy output of JASON that you could point to?
Only indirectly. I mean, the fact is, the result of a technical study(if it convinces people what are the limitations of an ABM, or what are the limitations of a multiple aim point system, or that small submarines would be a way to go for the future deterrent(help spawn or nourish a policy view. You know, we said five years ago, six years ago, that small submarines are the way to go. Now the Scowcroft Commission said, in the future our submarines should be smaller submarines and we should have more of them. I mean, it helps develop an appreciation of a problem. But I wouldn't say that the policy impact has been great. It's indirect, totally.
So you can't point to any specific report that has had unquestioned policy impact.
Some of the people may be able to point to it. I can't.
I mean, you haven't chaired or been part of such an effort.
I would not say that I've chaired a group that had a direct policy impact. That would be exaggeration beyond the realistic.
How diverse are political views within JASON?
Quite, they're quite diverse.
Does that have any effect on the choice of problems?
I think not. I think there's a lot of good natured discussion of politics now and then. We have Republicans and Democrats. But I don't think it affects problems. I would say that, if there is a common view, there is a view that good technology properly applied can make the world safer and that good technology if understood better can lead to wiser decisions, not because it leads to more weapons, but more understanding of the limits as well as the possibilities.
Has the demand for secrecy had any effect on the work?
I think increasingly there has been an effect, because there's so much compartmentalization, and now we know less and less about what other people are doing. I think the modern trend toward more and more compartmentalization is a good example of a harmful trend, because a lot of JASONs are cut off from work other JASONs are doing just because of the compartmentalization. I believe firmly that if we have more open exchange among good scientists, good ideas get ventilated criticized and created. So I think it's all harmful. But it's a growing trend, an insidious trend, perfidious trend.
I suppose that wasn't as bad during the early days.
In the beginning we didn't have it at all. No, we all knew what everybody was doing, except, you know, I was always off by my side on non(JASON work on reconnaissance. Obviously that's been very highly secret(also one is not going to discuss Operational Navy problems. But there's more and more of that, and there are more and more categories of compartmentalization within the SDI program now. All are very harmful trends.
So even the JASONs themselves can't talk among themselves.
That's right, you can't on some issues. There are briefings that are only available to subgroups of JASON, who are cleared for specific purposes. That's a trend that I consider very bad, very unfortunate.
Of course, the project or the work in JASON that reached the headlines was the work with the electronic barrier.
The electronic barrier. That caused the great grief. So we get to the electronic barrier. I had no involvement with it. I had none whatsoever, absolutely no involvement with that. My contacts with Vietnam during that period were chairing the Ground Warfare Panel of PSAC, and then PSAC as a whole had a panel doing an analysis, near the end of the Johnson Administration, of the bombing in the North. But I had no involvement in the JASON work. My only involvement in the electronic barrier was that because I was a JASON and known to be a JASON member and JASON was doing that work, I ran into problems in Europe. In Rome I was on sabbatical for spring 1972. After being at the Physics Department at the University of Rome for several months, I rose to give a theoretical physics seminar on work I'd been doing.
Some of the people in the audience immediately confronted me and said, no, they wanted me to talk about Vietnam, talk about my involvement, discuss the American policy, and then they'd vote whether to let me give a seminar. And I said I'd been there for two months, it's a subject I'm deeply disturbed by, I'll be glad to talk to them about it. Let me give my seminar and we'll go out and talk as long as they want to on that subject. I had no idea they were going to do this. It came as a shock. But I gave the right answer, I'm convinced, when I said that I would talk to them afterwards, any time they wanted. After all, I'd been there for two months; they could ask me any time. And they said, no, they wanted me to discuss American policy and denounce it.
Then they'd vote whether I could give the theoretical physics seminar, and I said, "I'm sorry, that's an Inquisition, and I won't let you or anybody else give me an Inquisition." I started giving the seminar, talking very loud, but the people were protesting(it just went on for about 10 or 15 minutes. Then some other people in the audience rose to my defense. But after a certain amount I said, "That's all I'm going to say about politics." I again started giving the seminar, the protestors left, and I said, "Good, resolved." But about five minutes later, there was a huge disturbance. Maybe a hundred students came in with bullhorns and what not, and at that point it became ugly.
I picked up my papers, and the door was at the back of the room; I had to walk all through them to get out. I just picked up my papers and walked out and they didn't put a hand on me. But it was clear that it was a total disruption, total chaos. The next day when I showed up at work, they were there, and they shouted obscenities in Italian, but I didn't understand them. They walked up the stairs after me but never put a hand on me. I ignored them, and then they caused a bomb threat. There were bomb threats; they had to evacuate the building. They were making disorder.
I felt that the students at U. Rome were very unhappy with the professors, because they were getting no attention out of their professors, and I was just a good excuse to protest. It passed. My visit there was almost over. I went down to Erice where there was a summer school(the Erice Summer School that I'd been at many times. Rabi was there. They tried to make a protest when Rabi was talking, Zichichi and the head of the school threw the protestors out and said, "Anybody who makes any more noise, they're off; off they go." The Mafia was in good control. There was no more problems. The man who had led the opposition against me in Rome was there(Buccella, a young post(doc. A graduate student of mine was present, who'd just finished his Ph.D. thesis at Stanford, tried to make a rapprochement by having us meet and have a discussion about why he did this, and Bucella said, "Protesting and preventing you from giving a seminar at a university is much less serious than what your country is doing in Vietnam, and we have to protest."
I said, "I'm sorry, I think the principle of free speech, particularly at a university, is something much more serious to guard, than your taking liberties with it, because if you can stop a protest so can the right wing fascists and so can anybody else, and to my mind it's an uncompromisable position, and you are a Fascist." That was the end of the conversation. You don't call a young Italian a Fascist. But there was no more trouble. I went from there just to get it all out of the way.
I went from there to Corsica. At Corgese there was a French(run international summer school, and of course the minute there's a protest, it gets around. I had been thrown out basically in Rome. Murray Gell(Mann had been kept from speaking in Paris at a meeting. And so when I got to Cargese immediately the students were ready. But we were ready, of course. Maurice Levy was head of the school, and knew that they were going to confront me. I said, "My formula is, let me give my first lecture and I will talk to them all through the evening. It's a serious problem, what's happening in Vietnam. I'm not at all happy either. But the principle is, I give my first lecture." And so he agreed. When I got up to give my first lecture, they protested(no first lecture.
I stated my conditions, and Maurice Levy said, "Drell has to give the first lecture; then we can talk." The students said, "No." He said, "You have 24 hours to resolve this question. If Drell can't give a lecture, the school is closed." The students went off for 24 hours, and a minority managed to hold the majority at bay. They never would let me give the first lecture. The school was closed. So I enjoyed with my family a week at the beach. Then I went up to CERN where again the protesters were going to be. I told the director general, Bernard Gregory at that point, "Look, let me not come to CERN.
You don't need my problems." But CERN wanted me to come, and they worked it out that I would give a theoretical seminar, and then that evening there would be an all(hands open meeting at the main auditorium of the lab. I gave my seminar, and that evening, together with Gell(Mann and a couple of European physicists, we had a meeting at the Great Hall there, an auditorium of 400 to 500 people.
We had a big open free discussion for a few hours, and we all expressed our views and held our ground. I think it was quite good. The last thing that happened was that I came back to Berkeley and they tried to prevent me from talking there too. But the Berkeley people at the Rad Lab agreed that I would give my seminar, and then they could question me afterwards. They questioned me afterwards at great length, unconstructively(silly questions, but we had it out. After that, no more(for me anyway.
How typical or untypical was this?
It was mixed. You saw Foley's papers. People like Garwin, Foley, and Ruderman at Columbia had someone bothering them all the time. I don't think there were all that many incidents, but there were some all around the world. And the point was that a list of JASON members had gotten out and some papers had been stolen from the files of a sociology professor at UCLA, in which statements about a meeting on Vietnam were discussed. People not understanding how Gell(Mann talks, saw it written down that Gell(Mann said, "Maybe we should cut off their ears," as a way of classifying people. Gell(Mann didn't mean that, but these comments(perhaps not wise to be made, but out of context(get blown up into something very significant.
The fact of the matter was that a lot of JASONs, with very good motives, tried to see whether the idea of the McNamara Line could be used to isolate South Vietnam from North Vietnam and contain a civil war. I might have worked on that, who knows, had I not been consumed with my PSAC activities. At that time I was chairing the PSAC panel and I felt that the SALT process which was in being was the most important thing I could contribute to; the analysis of what kind of ABM treaties(what kinds of limitations(would be important for the United States, I felt was something that was very important.
I mentioned my activities in terms of the preparations for SALT I in this period. There's another thing which I haven't mentioned which I think is quite important. When Nixon and Kissinger came into power(remember that my PSAC years overlapped, two years Johnson, two years Nixon, Nixon tried to do two things with PSAC, which I want to have on the record. They'll be on the record from other places. They've been recorded already. One is, at the very beginning when Nixon decided that he wanted to deploy a light ABM system for defending Minuteman silos, he asked PSAC to endorse it, and PSAC said, "No, we're not going to endorse that." That started a strain, because it was not PSAC's business to endorse a political decision. And we said no.
DuBridge, head of PSAC at that point, asked us, and we said no. The second thing was that Kissinger was not about to share with PSAC all his involvement as the poohbah, the major domo controlling all the strategic matters. But he did meet regularly with five people, almost every month for two years, to go over a lot of technically(based policy issues on continued underground testing, ABM treaties, whether we should have limits on MIRVs, SALT, offensive limits and what not. We met with Kissinger almost once a month for two years in the basement of the White House.
That was my major input during those years. It started in summer some time around 1969; it started when the SALT process got going and went up through 1971. It's briefly mentioned in Hersh's book, Corruption of Power, or whatever the name is, but with a twist which is inaccurate(that's another story. I'm just saying that I was not involved in JASON's work during that period because I was more than overloaded, and it's not because I thought it was right or wrong or I was wise or dumb. By choice I had involved myself heavily in SALT matters.
What about the long-term effects on JASON?
A lot of people left, as a result of disillusion. Some of those who left have come back; some have stayed out. But there was great strain.
Well, the lesson is one that one always has when a scientist gets involved in public policy. You go in with one motive, but the way the fruits of your labor will be used or put into policy can be very different. But you don't have to talk about JASON, you can just talk about Sakharov for that. I mean, he built the hydrogen bomb for the Soviets saying it was going to be good for world peace. He saw the tests going on, the buildup.
And look what happened to him. Many people(but you should talk to them, I shouldn't speak for them(who got involved in the electronic barrier, went in with the best of motives, and saw some of the technical contributions they made used in ways that they feel quite unhappy about. But that's inevitable, you know. The laws of physics are fixed. The laws of politics change. And you're supping with the Devil in a difficult way. It's to be expected. It's unavoidable. And you have to have your guard up.
Goldberger was very unhappy about the use of what he thought would be used for completely different reasons.
Did that debate leave you anything positive in terms of the discussion of the scientist's role?
A lot of us who saw it developing, talked about it, and that certainly decided some people to stop working on JASON and not work on this kind of problem. I think everyone who thought about it was touched by that era, and looks a little more cautiously when getting involved in issues. We were more naive then.
Well, you did speak about PSAC, during the two Presidents. Do you have anything to add to that?
I wish we had a PSAC again. I think that, had the President had a PSAC to warn him off before he gave the SDI speech(like earlier PSACs warned off Kennedy and Johnson, and even Nixon to the extent that he didn't go for a big city defense(we would have been saved an awful lot of acrimonious debate and threat to our arms control regime which exists still today.
I mean, the emperor had no clothes; there was no study behind the Reagan speech. In fact, there had been(I think it's all well documented(a study done by the White House Science Council of Keyworth about the limitations of ABM, which the President was never given. Keyworth never gave it to the President. If Keyworth had done his job and told the President(you know, he'd had a working panel working for him, it was no longer a Presidential panel but a White House one(he might have tried to persuade the President that what he was doing didn't make all that much sense. That's another story.
Well, it's a question of the President wanting to see it through of course.
It's a question also of people in office doing their job and telling the President what he ought to hear whether he wants to hear it or not. And that is of course the corruption of the issue. You know, very few people in this world are going to tell the President what he doesn't want to hear, because if you tell the President what he doesn't want to hear, you have to pack your bags and go home. It's been a long time since we've had somebody in Washington who is willing to pack his bags voluntarily and go home; we do it occasionally, sometimes too late. I mean, Cy Vance did that after the Iranian invasion. He could have done it earlier. But he did it.
We're back again after a nice dinner. And we're continuing.
At dinner I remembered one point I left out; namely that in 1951 John Wheeler telephoned me when I was an instructor at Stanford, and said there were important new problems to be solved, and invited me to join him at Los Alamos. And at that point I said, after thinking about it and talking with senior colleagues, that I thought that at that stage in my life I was interested in doing physics; I would continue doing physics and teaching, and I declined. I just now mention it.
So what was different then and eight years later?
The difference between 1951 and 1960 was that I'd done nine years more physics. And a number of events had occurred, such as the Oppenheimer trial, the McCarthy era. I appreciated the advent of the hydrogen bomb. And there were my association with Panofsky and my appreciation of the problems. I'd done more physics, and felt in a better position to consider it.
The first science policy item on your publication list that I have discovered at any rate is the Senate testimony of the 29th of June, 1970, where you presented testimony along with Goldberger on(
The ABM essentially, yes.
Yes, the occasion of that was that during the first year of the original ABM debate(the deployment of the Safeguard system(Congress insisted that before the next year there should be an independent outside technical review of the system and its technical ability to meet the challenge, because at issue was, not whether ABM was good or bad only, but basically whether the ABM system that had been designed out of existing technology could do the job that it was advertised for. And a panel was formed under Dr. Lawrence O'Neill, head of the Riverside Research Institute(some such thing like that.
I served on that panel, and by then I was also savvy enough to know that any time you write a report, particularly one that has a controversial policy implication, you write it carefully so that every sentence and every paragraph stands alone as a correct representation of the views. We very carefully made a point in that study of talking about technology, but we did not say, "This is what the system was designed to do and it can do that." And yet in the testimony by the administration that year, that claim was made about the study(that there had been an independent study, that people like Goldberger and I had been members of it, and we said the system would do what the Defense Department said it would do.
That, I am convinced to this day, was just simply a misstatement(a misspeaking by John Foster who was Director of Defense Research and Engineering. But it caused a stir, because immediately I was called by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff and asked whether in fact I'd said that, and I said, "No way." So I was called in for public testimony, as was Murph, because we'd both been identified. We said in fact what the study had said, what it hadn't said, and then Senator Fulbright got on my case because what he wanted was to have me call Johnny Foster a liar for having said that, and I felt that I had no evidence to make that charge. I may have disagreed with Foster on policy issues, but there was no evidence of this, and I said that I couldn't say that.
I even went so far as to add to Sen. Fulbright that I have made incorrect statements when I have many things on my mind, when talking to my students. Well, Fulbright got very upset that I wouldn't call Foster a liar, and he walked out of the hearings, and turned it over. He left. That's not in the record. That's why I tell you this. He left at that point because he wasn't getting any satisfaction out of me.
I felt bad because here I was being asked to speak about another man's motives about which I had no insight. To this day I think, knowing John Foster as well as I do, that he would have liked to have his statement be true, and he honestly thought it was true. But anyway, that was my first public testimony.
He gave you a hard time.
He gave me a hard time, as you can tell from the record. Atlantic City came to the rescue, though, because Senator Clifford Case was on the committee, and he observed that I was from Atlantic City, New Jersey, and since he was the Senator from New Jersey, he was on my side.
Yes, the rest of it is all agreement.
And of course it was not disagreement on the case, it was disagreement on Foster's intentions.
No, Fulbright was trying to set up. He had made a big point about the Panofsky(Packard conversation the year before, when Packard had said that he had met Panofsky in the Ambassador Lounge at the airport, and Panofsky had backed deploying the ABM for hardpoint, which was again an overstatement. I was present at that meeting, but Pief will tell you all about it. The ABM proponents of the administration were trying to make the case, misrepresenting critics. I think this was just as I say, a slip.
Well, this actually was your first testimony.
That's right, first of many.
Is that a reflection of the Congress getting into these questions?
That, I think, was a watermark in American weapons history(namely that during the 1969 debate, for the first time a major weapons system was debated in a public hearing. It's the basis for a statement I've often made(namely that when you can get a public constituency involved in an issue, then it can have an important effect on policy. The reason the public got involved in 1969 was that the original deployment that the Johnson Administration had proposed was to defend the big cities(the northern cities(in a thin "anti-Chinese" area defense. And that meant that people living in the northern large cities(Boston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle(woke up to the fact that a system was being advocated(and the government was intending to deploy it(which was going to have interceptor missiles with nuclear warheads(ABM missiles(located near their backyards, figuratively speaking.
They objected, mad that public concern about nuclear weapons in the backyard forced a major public debate. I think it's a turning point, and I think it set in motion something which of course many people who make policy(particularly the Defense Department(groan about. It's an important development for the United States, because we now have, on major weapons decisions, very thorough public debates(on the desirability, the arms control impact, which is part of the law, as well as on the technical merits and deficiencies. This has even been formalized, five years later, by the creation of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.
But the ABM debate has gone on since the origins of JASON.
That's right. But it became a public debate only when, for the first time, a system was advocated. Always in government there were these studies(whether it was JASON contributing information, but basically the PSAC was operating it(making sure that the Defense Department heard and learned from the independent critics, as well as from the enthusiasts, say, in the Army BMD office, what a system could and could not do. So the administration all during the sixties, up to 1967, was protected from doing something silly that was technically impossible.
Was this a question of the Congress entering science policy generally? Was it a turning point in those general terms?
I think probably it is, because I can't think of any precedents. Well, there's a broader perspective on this which I'm not giving you, so I can't answer the question. I don't recall how well Congress was involved in the NASA debates. That's a whole area I wasn't paying attention to. And then there's the nuclear power debates, and of course there's the fallout from atmospheric testing, which was an earlier era, so there were a number of cases. But this is the first weapons system debate.
So it's at least more general than the ABM.
Then in 1969 you became a consultant of the US Arms Control(
(and Disarmament Agency, that's right.
And you stayed for 12 years.
Until I was told, "Thank you, goodbye," in the first month of the Reagan Administration. And all during those years, I forgot to mention, what was I doing during Vietnam and PSAC and what not. I was also a consultant for ACDA doing a lot of analyses for their Deputy Director for Science and Technology(just technical calculations(on an issue which was very important in the runup to getting the ABM Treaty. The issue was, could the very extensive Soviet air defense system be covertly upgraded to being one with a considerable ABM potential? We did a lot of analyses on that because in Defense and DDR & E they claimed it could. So that was the kind of work one was doing(doing technical work in the trenches.
In fact, it reminds me(I even remember now heading at least one JASON summer study if not two on that issue; I think it was two. During the early seventies, SAMs(the Surface to Air Missiles SAM 2, SAM 5(were always being "upgraded" in US analyses. That was two summers at JASON I headed studies on the SAM upgrade problem, doing technical analyses, given the radars, given the interceptors, what you could do, what you couldn't do covertly. Particularly how to inter(net all those thousands of elements into a nationwide system. That was JASON work.
How would you relate the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the work there to the other activities that we've talked about?
They were all the same because we were using our technical knowledge, and we were a resource. We were just spreading tentacles where people wanted them. And what I learned by doing JASON summer studies or what I learned by working for ACDA was all interchangeable. It really boiled down to whether it was done as a JASON consultant or done pro bono publico or whatever; for the government it was totally totally interchangeable. It was an example, as far as I'm concerned, of the value of JASON(making it possible to train people who could do this kind of work.
It was very necessary, because at a certain moment President Nixon decided he wanted an ABM treaty. We got an ABM treaty in 1972, but meanwhile between 1969 and 1972 there was an awful lot of just plain grub work going on to prepare the basis by analyzing issues as: what was the risk, from the point of view of verification, system upgrade, and so forth?
So how much work did you put into this, how much did it involve?
As much as necessary. I made lots of trips to Washington. Harriet will tell you.
Whenever there was a fire to be put out, or a point to be made, or a presentation to be made to the Secretary of Defense or something, we went in and had to do the work. There were good people working in the agency, but somebody with an outside perspective, somebody with fresh views, somebody with a certain breadth of experience and achievement in science, always had a lot to contribute. Panofsky never stopped getting on an airplane to go do that when he could, and I learned from him.
Well, one thing that comes out of this testimony, I think, is the danger of unnecessary secrecy; that's one point that comes out here.
That's one point that comes out here, that it's possible to draw opposite conclusions when the secrecy is tough enough.
Yes. But it also shows you the importance of the public constituency, because there is no effort to suppress information; but to get the information out there has to be a public upwelling of interest. At the same time we got the ABM Treaty and we found that that was in our interest, we decided to deploy MIRVs. Now, there was no need to deploy MIRVs once we had the ABM Treaty. MIRVs were developed to penetrate a defense because of the possibility that the Soviets were building an ABM system.
But once we signed the ABM Treaty that possibility was removed. Had the public had a debate, realized, and been exposed to all the issues of what it would mean to MIRV and how that would breed the concerns about instability we've had all during the eighties(now people are worried about the Soviet threat to our ICBM force(we might have avoided MIRVs and been far ahead on arms control.
But there was no public constituency worrying about putting more warheads on missiles sitting out in the middle of nowhere in Montana, North Dakota and what not, where the missiles themselves already were anyway; you were just taking those missiles and jamming more warheads on them.
But that debate never got the public eye, and although there were experts(the five of us that I mentioned earlier(talked about it, and certainly spent hours and days talking to Kissinger about it in those meetings in the basement of the White House although there were hearings, it didn't have a public constituency, didn't have public attention, so effectively it slid by on the quiet and we made a terrible mistake.
Another case in which you did extensive advisory work was in the civil defense debate of course.
Yes, that's the next one. Shall I tell you how that started?
The point is that the ABM debate goes on till 1972 or so, and there was secret testimony and also public testimony and debate. Then along about 1974 the notion was developed that we ought to build an extensive civil defense system. This was pushed by the Pentagon, and the spokesman turned out to be Secretary of Defense Schlesinger, who should have known better, by the way.
The idea was put forward that you could think about limited nuclear wars(that the casualties would be of a low enough level that you just couldn't dismiss them as unbelievable and incredible, and that indeed a limited nuclear war against military targets, if we had a civil defense system, could cause so few casualties that we had to prepare for this, and therefore we had to develop a civil defense system. Well, the interesting thing there is that there's another coincidence of timing, and that occurs in 1974 at the time that Congress had created its Office of Technology Assessment.
It created the Office of Technology Assessment out of the efforts of many scientists in the post(Vietnam generation(the Joel Primacks and Charlie Schwartzes to some extent(who said that there had to be more public involvement in science advising(not just these privileged consultants behind the door of secrecy on PSAC. Congress was persuaded that it ought to have its own, more open science advisory mechanism, for independent analyses involving the "people(scientists", so to speak. That also, by the way, coincided with the demise of PSAC, because in 1973, at the beginning of the second term, Nixon killed PSAC.
So there existed the Office of Technology Assessment, and the first thing it was asked to do that I know of was to follow up on Schlesinger's testimony and say, "Hey, what's this business about limited nuclear war and few casualties?" So a panel was organized, which I was chosen to serve on. We looked at the Schlesinger testimony, which was written for him in the Pentagon, and observed that indeed the attack that he was describing against missile silos would have caused limited casualties if you had fallout protection. The only reason was that the attack was so light that it also wouldn't destroy the targets.
And so we asked all the questions back to the Pentagon(that is, Congress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I think, asked it. The Pentagon had to answer them. They did the analyses which their computers told them they could do and which the Congress insisted upon be spelled out, and back came the answer showing that indeed if you designed the attack to really destroy the missiles, you also killed a hell of a lot of people. So that caused a couple of years of intense public activity for me while the civil defense issue was re(debated.
It had had a major debate during Kennedy years. Then a PSAC panel issued a report, which has never been published, by the way(you should talk to Paul Doty at Harvard because he was chairman(in which they said that a civil defense system, to be effective, would have to involve such a degree of organization of the society(marshalls and trained people and what not(that we could never do it. The expense would be very great.
And Kennedy backed away after that. So it was reasonable to have another debate and re(question the assumptions, and that's what was done. So during this period we were heavily involved in that civil defense debate for several years running.
That's a long period.
That's right, and who knows when we'll have it again? Maybe after SDI is put to sleep.
Well, the story started in the early sixties.
Yes, but it's episodic. Each administration comes to power and each President says, "I've got to do better than deterrence, we have to defend the people. Can I defend them with shelters? Can I defend them with missiles?" It's perfectly appropriate. It's a good question to ask. Why not try to defend them if you can?
But then you study it, and you find out that in a nuclear era when the weapons are so destructive, you can't do it; or you can't do it in any realistic way that we understand today. So you go back to the proper level, do research to find out better understanding, but don't change a policy and don't commit yourself to something that's like the light at the end of the rainbow.
I think this is a very good example of technical advice in relation to broader policy issues.
In particular, perhaps, if you look at this debate in relation to your debate in Physics Today(
(with Wigner and Broyles, yes. Well, you know, technical facts, laws of nature, can dictate limits to policy. The policy cannot coerce the laws of nature. And that's the priority that sometimes gets forgotten. We would love to defend ourselves. We'd love to have a defense like we used to with castles. But then you look at the realities of nuclear weapons, and you have to ask, "What would it take?" And in fact, what it would take is a hell of a lot of disarmament. That's where we are now.
But if you don't look at that relationship, of course, it would provide a little better chance to have a ten inch wall than a five inch wall.
And I think this is an excellent example of that.
It was a good debate and common sense won.
I agree with you.
But that does open up the fact that a new avenue of scientific advice was created in Washington, which till this day has been very effective, and that's the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.
What's the positive effect of that?
It's had positive effects. Some will say it's had negative effects. It's got a broad charter. It covers all problems. It's got a lot of panels, a lot of working people. The quality is uneven. Some of the staff is uneven. It's got to walk a tightrope because it's bipartisan and you can't lose the support of leadership of both parties; otherwise it's dead in the water, so there are constraints. But so far as I'm concerned, in the military panels that it's had(most of which I've served on an advisory role of(I think it's been a very important contributor.
It contributed very importantly to the civil defense debate, and led to a very important report on the effects of nuclear war that was published; I was on the advisory board too then. It had a very powerful study on where to base the MX missile(on the MX basing. More recently this past year I was on the advisory board for two reports, one on ASAT possibilities and the other on SDI and ballistic missile development(excellent studies which have been very, very effective, I believe, in helping shape Congressional and public views.
These specific topics that you've been talking about civil defense and ABM to what extent was that related to continued work in JASON? I think you said something to the effect that there was a relationship with respect to the ABM.
That's right. The ABM debate took place in the early seventies, then in the middle seventies(I suspect that maybe for a year or two I didn't do much in JASON(but then I remember heading up studies in the late seventies on the MX basing problem. I draw a blank on what I did between the ABM studies of 1972 and 1973, and the MX basing studies of 1977 or 1978 and 1979. Maybe I was taking it easy. I don't know. I don't really remember what I was doing.
There were various things, but nothing that comes to mind.(outside of reconnaissance(a "national technical means" issues.) Well, I know why, because I was busy at SLAC in those days. The theory group at SLAC was building. There was a lot of civil defense work in there, that's right, and so I can't remember. But then I think the next really heavy involvement comes with the problem of the new missiles(what kind of new missile system to build, basing the MX and those kinds of things.
If we look at your bibliography, you were able to do physics work pretty much up to about 1977, and then it peters off.
Than it's almost exclusively science policy.
That's exactly right.
I would like you to comment on why that is so, and if that signifies a real change in your career.
I'm trying to remember to get the years right. After the Drell(Yen work of early seventies, I got heavily involved in bag theory and lattice calculations with Marvin Weinstein and Helen Quinn. These are hard calculations. And so I was still doing a lot of physics, but the output was smaller in quantity. But in 1978 and 1979, I get wrapped up very heavily in the MX basing debates. I think there's a natural period in the productivity of a theoretical physicist that when he gets past 50, the field is moving further away. Particularly if you have a mixed life of doing public policy and science, the areas in which you remain expert become smaller, so you end up doing more through post(doctoral students and the like, but that's absolutely right.
In 1975 I become one of the point people in the MX basing fight to prevent the racetrack system. That was an unusually heavy load of work, but the work then was on lattice gauge theory with collaborators Weinstein and Quinn. Then comes 1980 and the period after that, and the last four or five years, and I really have been much more heavily involved in public policy. I'm co(director now of the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford, so I'm doing more by way of teaching and training in the arms control area. My work's going to become books on SDI and what to do, what not to do, and where we are going in arms control. So we can get back to that. I can't think of anything else in the physics line that needs to be answered at that point. I'll come back to it.
What about JASON and the discussion of science policy issues related to JASON in public? There has been a tendency I think among JASON members to keep a low profile.
Yes. JASON got a high profile because when I testified(as I did extensively during the 1978 to 1981 period on the MX basing(I was identified and identified myself as a member of JASON who had headed a study on MX basing. The fact that JASON had made a heavy study and that this had been a very controversial issue during the Carter Administration meant that the public perception of JASON here was relatively high.
Also at that time there was involvement with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Reconnaissance Technology Panel, which was the other part of my involvement as it continued. But there were those who felt JASON should be quiet. I think by and large most would agree that the line that Garwin and I took at that time was totally appropriate. We were JASONs but we were speaking for ourselves, on our own conclusions, totally unclassified.
Did you ever encounter any problems with that?
Not from within JASON, but from without?
No, I've never encountered any problem at SLAC, as a national laboratory in high energy physics, caused by the fact that Panofsky and I, respectively director and deputy director during all these years, have been outspoken in what we have done. I think that most people would credit us not only with being responsible and never compromising classified information, but in separating off our personal activities and our role as lab directors; I've never felt that SLAC suffered at all.
What about contractors?
The only contractor is the Department of Energy. So if the government was going to get at us, they'd get at us through the budgeting process, through the budget each year. I'm saying I felt that we were treated fairly based upon the success and the merits of the laboratory, which after all is and was very successful. It has the highest merit.
So you never really have encountered a problem.
I've never felt in any way pressure or a problem.
So there is a general tendency within JASON to back such public activity the few times it has arisen.
The times it's happened I have never felt myself in any way that there was any concern about what I was doing. I felt comfortable. If I had not felt comfortable, I would have quit JASON, because it was not my view to make JASON bear a burden that it didn't want, but I've always felt comfortable.
What about the developing relationship of JASON with the rest of the physics community? Has there been some?
I sense that the younger generation of physicists cares less about these things. I think the intense interest that commanded us in the sixties and brought us in is no longer reproduced. I think most young physicists now couldn't care less. I think it's a sign of somewhat of a detachment from government and government processes. I'd even say it's somewhat of a disillusionment.
Yes, that goes both for and against.
Yes, it goes both for and against. There are a number of reasons for it. It's not a statement about the politics of the United States; it's a statement about what has grown up in the country. There's a very large defense science community. There's no vacuum to fill. There are lots of scientists working in weapons labs and the government, and the younger scientists I think don't feel(well, let me be careful. I really don't know what I'm talking about. The SDI may be changing everything, because I am impressed that 6,500 physicists, including the majority of physicists in 15 of the 20 major departments, have signed such strong petitions. Now, I have not signed that petition.
I clearly cannot sign that petition. I'm working on SDI(working, if you wish, as an independent critic. I'm working in JASON. So for me to say I won't work on it would be a silly statement. But I think that's a perfectly understandable way for people to express their views. I think it usually is not a constructive way to say we won't work on something like that, and it does bring reactions from people who are saying, "Who are these physicists supported by government money who say they won't work on something the government wants?" It does in fact cause a reaction.
On the other hand, what we have here in the SDI which I think is unfortunate is that we have a major program presented as a direct challenge to an arms control regime. That's the way it was first put up by the government and talked about by many of the senior supporters, from Weinberger to Perle and others. They are saying, without scientific basis, that something can be done which most people think is not true, and that has political value against some of the treaties. And I think it has been made unfortunately into a major political debate, whereas it should be a sensible technical debate about what is the right amount of resources of this country to put to the problem of what technology might do for a strategic defense as a protection against technological breakthrough, technical breakout, or what have you.
It could have been a very sensible debate, but the community was polarized by what I consider an unfortunate political approach in the way the program was presented. Hopefully we'll work our way out, but I don't think it's a healthy situation to have the majority of the good physicists in the country saying, "We won't have anything to do with that." I don't think it's healthy also to have a lot of the research money of the country coming from military projects to a disproportionate degree.
I think we have a problem to work our way out of. All this is a long way of answering the question, "What about the new generation of physicist?" I think they've been sensitized by this issue. Whether it will take a constructive or destructive course, whether they'll forget about it, I think we're not going to know for another year or two, because the debate's engaged now.
It's like the atomic bombs in the backyard kind of thing.
So it might have a policy effect indirectly, in sensitizing them.
I think if another generation of scientists are sensitized now, and think constructively about the problem(make the effort to become better informed on all sides of the issues, and not look at it simplistically, yes or no(then we'll gain something out of it. I hope so. In fact, a lot of us who do a lot of debating and lecturing on the campuses these days are doing it just for that reason(to help train another generation to think about these things. And we're teaching it at Stanford, too.
Has the work in JASON affected communication with other physicists, in the sense that there are things you couldn't talk about and you have a different mode of publication?
That's a good question, because that goes back already to the middle of Vietnam, when I would sit and debate at lunch several times a week with my students and colleagues in the theory group. There I was, asking them to have faith in what I was doing that they didn't know about, at a time when they had great distrust for the US defense establishment in Vietnam. You know, the open exchange of ideas that makes the community of physicists(this collegial community of ours(was being tested, because there was a part of Sid Drell that wasn't there, and they had to somehow or other trust that I wasn't evil or something in that other part.
Now, I understood their concern, because after all I was dealing with the Defense Department and the Defense Department was doing things that none of us liked at that point. So that was a strain. I don't think that exists now. And particularly in terms of the SDI debate and my own personal role(because I have been so outspoken(I am on the top of the administration hit list of people who are listed as critics of SDI. So for more reasons than are valid you tend to become a hero, which I think is equally useless, but at least it's open. At least it's open.
Has it had an impact on your publications?
Yes, I don't do as much physics as I used to do, because I spend more time on this.
It's as simple as that.
It's as simple as that. I know less.
How unique is and has JASON been as an institution or organization for combining basic research and government advice?
I don't know of another organization quite like it. There is a group of material scientists that sometimes carries the name Mason. I don't know much about it, but whether it still exists or how much it's doing, I don't know. This year something good has happened. A Junior JASON has been formed. I don't know whether it's IDA that houses it. There is a Junior JASON that's been organized this year. We call it Junior JASON. I know one of the members because he's one of my science fellows in the Arms Control Program at Stanford. It's called the Defense Science Sub(group or something like that; I don't know what it's called. Who could tell you about it? Maybe Bill Press can tell you about it. He's a JASON.
Bill Press, not Frank Press. I think he may be able to tell you about it. In fact, if you'd like to talk with a new generation scientist who's just been brought into the group and is a member of that group, then you want to talk with Fred Lamb. Fred Lamb is a professor of astrophysics at Illinois. This year he's been a science fellow at the Stanford Arms Control Center working with me and my group, and he will be going to their meeting in Washington on July 18.
Here's a man who's also been one of the leaders of the anti(SDI petition, so you have a man of deep social concern with a good conscience, who also understands the value of trying to work in the system as well as outside. I think that he would be a very good one. By the way, you should talk with Jeremiah Sullivan; he's one of the JASONs you should talk with. He's a thoughtful person. He's been in it(not since the very beginning, he's a young one(but he's very active for at least 20 years now and he's a very thoughtful person.
But we were talking about the uniqueness of JASON.
This is the only group. Now, the Defense Science Board has a lot of working panels, but they tend to be poobahs from industry who sit around and talk and have their technical people do the work for them. And then the National Academy of Sciences has various military panels. I even served on one for a year and then I quit because I decided that that's all it was going to do(we were going to meet and then we were going to bring in staff to do the work and then we were going to review it. I thought given that, and what I thought was an inefficient staff, that it was not a good use of time. It was a Navy panel. I quit. One of the things you learn to do is protect yourself from these things, because you can get sucked in 200 percent and you try and protect something.
Which organizations if any has JASON been competing and/or collaborating with over the time?
Well, we contract with all the defense organizations(DARPA, Army, Navy, Air Force and so forth. There's no other civilian group I know, except of course that the services can go to independent consultants(RDA, RAND, SAI, and what not. But there's never been lack of support from the customers in Washington who value the work we do for a relatively inexpensive cost to them.
What is the significance of JASONs being mostly theoretical physicists? Is that by chance?
I can only tell you that 20 years ago we were the smartest people. What else can I say? It's not any more mostly theoretical physicists, I think. I think that the new members that have been coming in are coming from oceanography, they're coming from experimental fields; certainly the laser(people who understand lasers are extremely important. That's a revolution in technology and so we have a lot of people with experimental training and background. Originally, it's just true that the smartest people in 1960 were theoretical high energy physicists. You can't deny it. That I was a part of it was probably a mistake, but it's true.
So it was not just by chance that theoretical physicists dominated?
No, I don't really think so. I think these just really were the people who had been in the war effort, and who had come up after the war. That was a field that just started and commanded a tremendous group of young people coming in. It was very exciting.
Why is that? Is it the nature of the field, the nature of the background of those people entering the field, or just chance?
I don't know. One thing you have to understand is that theoretical physicists mature earlier. The theorists are recognized earlier than the experimentalists, because you do that work early so you get there quickly. Secondly, it just was a field that commanded tremendous attention. Physicists came back out of the war and they went on to do physics. And a lot of us who came up who were just too young for that period came in afterwards.
It was very exciting(smashing atoms, finding out what's inside the proton. It still is. That kind of romance you see in microbiology and immunology, if you look at the fields now. My son's an immunologist; I've talked with him. It seems that what the immunologists and geneticists are doing with hybridomas and monoclonal antibodies and genetic engineering; it's fantastic what they're doing. I think they and some of the artificial intelligence fields are getting the fantastic brains now too. I think physics has to compete to get that level of brains.
I saw Heisenberg give a lecture in Oslo, not long before he died, and he was asked whether he would have become a physicist now, and he said, no; he would enter biology.
Absolutely understandable. I absolutely understand that.
I spoke to Ruderman, and I asked him whether JASON had been successful as a springboard for physicists to enter other activities. He said that there were two kinds of JASONs essentially(the ones like him who entered JASON only because they were at the same time able to retain their complete contact with the academic sphere, so that there was a kind of equilibrium there, and another category, which is in the minority and which would include you, for which JASON became the stepping stone to a whole other world of activity.
It drew us out of the field into other areas more, right. Garwin and I and MacDonald are probably the most extreme examples of that.
So you would agree with that.
I would agree with that, yes.
There are people in JASON who have not(
(gone beyond. They come and they do their studies(make very important contributions(but maintain the center of gravity more heavily in the research. Through the years I have moved into the policy area more, even to the point now that, as I say, I co(direct the Center for International Security and Arms Control. I have a Science Fellows program where at Stanford I'm trying to train several new people each year to be a new generation of independent, informed analysts, critics, supporters, whatever, in this field. I have three science fellows each year starting last year. This year it continues, all supported by the Carnegie Corporation of N.Y. as another way of bringing a new generation(new blood(in. I think it's important. So it has certainly pulled my career away from straight theoretical physics in the last 15 years or so.
What about the crucial question(the impact of JASON, what difference has it made? You're in a particularly good position to say something about that since you have this broad experience.
Well, I'll just sort of summarize the picture I've been making by saying that I personally think the biggest impact has been creating a generation of scientists, whether they are more like Ruderman or more like Garwin, who have had an impact through their direct involvement(either because of the studies they did which then caused defense scientists or parts of the Defense Department to see things better, or because we've entered the public debate. I think it's created a cadre that are doing our own thing in different ways. I think if you say, JASON created A or B as a technical product, you'd be hard put to say they did it. But I think that in the interaction of all the individuals with the services(various parts of the defense establishment(and to the extent that it's made some of us into independent public players in the process, its overall impact has been crucial, and I'd hate to see it lost.
Yes. Where should one go to answer that question?
Well, I think what you have to do is, you have to go to the people who receive the information(the customer. We JASONs could only give you a personal view(perhaps enlarged somewhat with the parallax of trying to make it seem like we did more than we did. After all, we have to justify why we did all this, and why it obviously was worth it; how can we say we failed? Some people say that; it's a personality question, whether you say you failed or not. The question is, can you get any judgment at all from the people who were in Washington?
And that's where I think you have to go(to people who spent full time in Washington for a while, and get their assessment. And that's why it would be valuable to get an assessment of a question like that(and forget everything else(from a Jerry Wiesner or a Herb York or a Harold Brown or from some of the heads of various research chains in Washington, heads of DARPA(to go through the succession of them and see how their organization viewed JASON, because a lot of our support has come from ARPA.
You should go to the DDR & E(Bill Perry and Johnny Foster were two major ones(including Harold Brown and Herb York. I think one has to get their perspective. I don't know who are the best ones in the uniforms. Those are the civilians I'm giving you. It would be interesting to get the uniforms' names. And these you may find, if you talk with Walter Munk(he's had a lot to do with the uniformed Navy, and I don't know who are good uniform people. Maybe the DDR & E(the civilian people(could give you the names of the military. But you've got to go to the government people, that's right. That's a good question to ask Charlie Townes, who's had a lot of perspective.
How was JASON affected by the demise of PSAC, and the demise of that advisory structure?
Well, I think it hurt it, because you see it came at the same time when there was the alienation from defense due to Vietnam. PSAC goes down in 1973; the Vietnam malaise goes on till 1974 or 1975. People quit JASON; JASON was unhappy(a lot of JASONs were unhappy. The morale I'd say was probably not at its highest then. But JASON's come back now. There are young people in it(good young people. I think in the last few years my criticism of JASON is that it's been too fractionated; there hasn't been enough coherence in the program. Too many people are doing too many different things. I think quite frankly that's a matter of strong leadership, and I'm looking to Will Happer to provide that.
JASON is in a completely different environment now.
But you don't think there's a danger of it becoming an anachronism?
If it becomes an anachronism, it's its own fault for not retiring the older and inactive people and not bringing in(not succeeding in attracting(the young people. It's got to continue to search for outstanding young people, and if it can't get people that way, it will become irrelevant.
I've noticed in your vitae, you tend to distinguish between your role as a physicist and your role as a national security specialist.
Does that imply that you see these as two completely different environments that you are in?
I think they're logically different, yes. My particle physics is my physics, and to keep that alive, I have not become an expert in space exploration; I've not become an expert in nuclear reactor safety; I've not become an expert in CO2 or anything else. I want to do particle physics. I view my national security role as something which certainly distracts me from something I love to do, but I think it's something very important, and so I've made my pact that that's what I will work on. So I view it totally separately.
But it is as a physicist that you have entered it to some extent.
Yes, but I'm doing a different kind of physics, and the heavy involvement of policy is there, particularly these days. The physics I know(and the work I do, either for JASON or whoever, mainly because I visit Livermore through invitation(makes me much better able to be authoritative in whatever I say about for instance the X(ray laser; or my analyses of SDI are always based upon what I do as a physicist. That's not particle physics, that's largely classical and atomic physics. It's physics, but it's almost two separate worlds. You have to think quantitatively. You have to challenge yourself to think accurately, not let politics drive you and take you away from thinking physics; so there are traps, but it's really very different.
Well, I think I'm asking you this because I'm dealing with, as I said, the physicist's role in science policy.
Yes, that's right. All I can say is that the physicist's role in science policy is to look where technology is going(based upon the advance of science(and decide first of all what opportunities there are out there, and secondly to understand what limitations there still are. And then from that you can infer something about how policy can change or not. You know, it would be terrific policy to have an astrodome over us, and not be threatened by nuclear weapons. But you have to ask yourself, can you do that, unless you get rid of most of the nuclear weapons in the world? What are the counter measures? And so forth.
But the physicist has a special role and has had a special role.
He's had a special role and he should not forget that role. If we just become public policy spokesmen, then we're bad politicians.
Well, there's the Institute at Stanford that reflects your(
(that's a deep commitment now, that's right, yes.
Could you say something about the history of that?
Well, it grew out of a teaching program which managed to pull together scientists and political scientists committed to giving a good basic strong course on international security, in all aspects(not for science students but for good smart undergraduates. We needed to make them understand the technical components and the negotiating, historical, political, and strategic aspects; and out of that grew a collaboration(a fellowship of professors including Panofsky as another one(that was able to build something. We built around that program research programs, and then my involvement grew as I pursued this notion of training a new generation and getting science fellows. And so we have a major center now supported by private foundation money. It's a teaching commitment and a research commitment. We have written reports that have had a great impact.
In fact, there seems to be a magazine in Washington called The National Observer(if I have the name right. Just last week they came out with an issue listing 150 people who make a difference. Of that 150, 15 were academics, and of those academics, one was me(for all these works I've been doing and the report that we published at Stanford on the Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative, a technical, political and strategic analysis. It's written by a retired diplomat who's there with me, (Philip Farley) a British historian who's an expert on Russian military doctrine and systems, (David Holloway) and me; so that's been the new direction. And we have, I believe with singular success, brought the different cultures together so that we have the diplomats, the political scientists, the historians and the scientists working together with technical seminars and research projects going on and young people involved, and it's very exciting.
That's the other world, then.
That's the other world.
And JASON is somewhere in between, I suppose.
JASON is somewhere in between. Tape 3 side 2
Could you say a little more about your activities in the 1970s?
In 1974 I was appointed chairman of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel for the Department of Energy. This is a national panel which advises the Department of Energy. Its role was to try and help the program office recommend(I guess it was first to the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, then to the Commissioner or ERDA and eventually to the Secretary of Energy(a coherent high energy physics program for the country each year. That's a program now supported at about 700 million dollars a year in which 100 universities or more participate.
It's forefront basic science. But there are only two or three frontier facilities at which the experimental work goes on. And so to have a long range plan as to what accelerators to start building to be available eight to ten years away, how much to support the utilization of existing accelerators, how much to support the individual groups where the teaching goes on back at the university, what equipment has to be built to do experiments at the facilities, how much to support students, fellows, theorists(this was an important function.
It was created after the Ramsey Panel first recommended the creation of Fermilab in the sixties. Weisskopf chaired it for about five or six years, as I remember, and then I succeeded him in 1974. That was a major involvement in science policy from 1974 until 1982. I accepted the job for three years and got out of it after eight years. One of the ways I paid my debts to the field that had nurtured me, was by chairing HEPAP. That involved some testimony, a lot of studies(summer studies too. That was one activity which I shouldn't overlook.
That's a reflection of change in physics during your lifetime.
That's right. Clearly some people had made it possible for me to enjoy doing theoretical physics, from the time I went to graduate school in 1946, until I started veering from the beaten path during the sixties. Clearly it was our turn to make it possible for the next ones coming. I think everyone agrees that HEPAP has been a very successful mechanism. It became a model for other national advisory panels, when science became big and coordinated, because you couldn't just let each scientist do his own thing. You needed an overall plan(some way to exploit what you have, train for the future, and build for the future.
We've talked about science for policy before; now, we talk about policy for science.
Exactly right. So that was a major involvement.
Has there been any interconnection between those two kinds of activities?
They have been entirely separate.
So you regard that institution as a complete success.
It evolved into my being president of the American Physical Society this year. That's only one year.
Now, public activities.
As Harriet said, as I got more involved in public issues, I got more involved in public debating and public education. It is in fact true that during the MX debate, from 1977 to 1980, there was a lot of Congressional testimony. But there was a lot of public speaking, a lot of public debating, bringing the issue to the public. Then once the President gave his speech for the Strategic Defense Initiative, I got very heavily and publicly involved in that debate. I have been extensively involved in debates with Edward Teller and people from the SDI office, like Jerry Yonas, the chief scientist, and General Abrahamson. In fact, the most recent public expression was the Time Magazine issue in June(I forget the date, June 6 it may have been or June 13(in which the cover story was on Star Wars, based on a one day symposium at which I spoke and played an important part.
I was extensively quoted in the story. There's been a lot more public outreach because I think the debate over the SDI is the fundamental strategic issue of this decade. Are we going to retain deterrence as we've known it? Are we going to try and strengthen it? What's going to happen to the ABM Treaty or the SALT framework? Are we going to emerge with a well balanced prudent high quality research program within the treaty, as a hedge against future breakthroughs technically or breakouts by the Russians? Or are we going to use the program as a way of trying to weaken or destroy the ABM treaty, as some would do by going with spectacular demonstrations which have big PR value?
Right now, considering the fact that we've only advanced inches out on a journey that's many miles long, that would just be bad science. So I have been, I thought, involved in the extremely important national public debate(the public debate(of this period, and on every occasion where I felt there was a worthwhile audience, I've participated and spent a lot of time.
When did this activity start essentially?
Right after the President's speech, March 23, 1983. It goes on now.
What kind of feedback do you get on that?
I feel I'm being effective. That's why I do it. Everybody's conscious of the fact that you don't want to flatter yourself. It gets to be a habitual drug to some people to get up and give a speech and rouse people. There's nothing that's more wasteful than to give a speech to the converted. What you have to do is find people whose views may be different, and who you can have a good exchange with. I consider, when I think about it, that the way I do it is effective enough that it's worth keeping up. And so I do it.
Do you find that to be in any kind of conflict with other activities like JASON?
It doesn't conflict with JASON because I feel I'm comfortable speaking to points that are public and work that I do as a scientist outside. It doesn't in any way involve my JASON work. No one has challenged my ability to keep out of the debate things that are secret or privileged, and so that's no problem. The only problem is that it takes time and energy.
It's quite a different activity from doing physics, of course.
It's very different, yes.
The transition has been gradual anyway.
Yes, it's been going on(the erosion.
Your involvement in the Sakharov affair?
Yes. I went to the Soviet Union early to scientific meetings, but I hadn't been there for 15 years, when in 1974, I decided to attend a conference in Moscow. It was a small working conference, sponsored by the Soviet Academy, on a subject having to do with composite nucleon structure I'd been working on in that period. I went to the meeting, and Sakharov was at the meeting. What I considered a great compliment to me, he apparently knew enough about me through whomever to sit down next to me at the meeting.
We exchanged notes, because his English is very poor and my Russian is worse. We could both get along a little bit in German, but between German and notes and what not, we communicated. He asked me about people in the West and invited me to his house for dinner. In fact, it was the last supper he had before his first hunger strike, because this coincided with the 1974 Summit, when Nixon and Brezhnev met. He had gone on a hunger strike then to call attention while the world's press was in Moscow, to the fate of all the ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union who couldn't travel back to their families or emigrate to the west. So I had the last supper with him. His wife, Ellen Bonner, came from the hospital where she was having treatment for a glaucoma, and we had dinner.
It was a very exciting evening, obviously very thrilling, and that established a contact with Sakharov. I saw him again in 1976, when I went to the High Energy International Meeting in Tblisi, Georgia. He and his wife were there and I spent a week together with them, and so we established a close and warm rapport. We corresponded. We were in touch. His wife's children came to this country and I've been close to them. They live in Boston. Then in 1978, I didn't go to Russia because I wanted to protest what was going on with Orlov and Sakharov. But in 1982 I was invited by the Soviet government to come for discussions on arms control. I met with members of the general staff and people in government, but I put as my condition for going that I would not consider going to Moscow without seeing Elena Bonner.
In December 1982 Elena Bonner could still be in Moscow. She went back and forth to Gorky. Sakharov had been exiled from 1980 on in Gorky. In fact, in 1980 we had a big international conference that I organized in New York to celebrate is 6Oth birthday. We continually protested his treatment. So I had a lot of activity, always trying to call attention to someone I respect and love as a saint. If you meet the man, you know how special he is. In 1982 the Russian government invited me, even though I said, don't invite me if it's a problem, and in fact I spent time with Elena Bonner.
In fact that was when I left papers and speeches I'd made about arms control which caused him to write the letter to me that was published in Foreign Affairs and is included in my Danz Lectures, and which led her to then being not allowed to go to Moscow any more. So I mean, it's a very simple principle. It's one of my commitments, to keep attention and support for Sakharov. We protested during his hunger strikes and helped get them resolved. We saw Elena Bonner extensively when she was here this year. And now, we sit here with the worst seeming to come to pass for the time being. She's back in Gorky, and is not allowed to go to Moscow.
There's no contact except the phone conversation last weekend, and what the future holds for the Sakharovs, I don't know. He's 65. He's not healthy. She's had a major heart bypass operation. She's much healthier than she was. We'll keep doing everything possible we can to show the Russians we won't forget them. We keep doing everything possible to make sure Sakharov understands that as a physicist, he's not forgotten in the West. We send him all the material we can, return mail registered receipt. It's being signed by him now, those pink slips. The last one was even signed by Elena Bonner; it got there after she's back. We send him all the evidence that he's not forgotten in the West and we send him all the physics. I don't know what else one can do.
Have you seen results of that work in any way?
Certainly, the fact that we keep him in contact he says is important; Elena Bonner has said so. We publish his papers in the West. I think that the fact that the world rose up on his famous hunger strike(I guess it was three to four years ago now(to get the fiancee Lisa of her son Alexi to come to the West, and his being near death from the hunger strike, finally forced them to relent. I consider that an example where we changed their will. I think that her being allowed to come to the West for the operation was mainly owing to Sakharov's heroism and devotion in spending, out of the last 18 months before she came, something like 200 days in the hospital on hunger strikes. Keeping the attention focused, making it an issue that isn't forgotten(one believes it has some effect, and that's the best one can do. So we keep up the contact, we continue to support, and we will continue to do so. I think the man will go down in history books along with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other people like that in this century, as one of the real saints.
You have drawn the parallel between Oppenheimer and Sakharov.
There is a parallel in the sense that both contributed enormously when their countries asked them for their national defense, but then realized that things were moving off beyond what they wanted, withdrew, and were condemned. In Sakharov's case he's paid a severe price(his career, and almost his life. But it's an example of what happens when a scientist gets involved in the political process. The electronic barrier and JASON and Vietnam is another very good example. People went in, like Sakharov went in to build the H(bomb; he said the world would be safer if there were a Socialist bomb to balance the Capitalist bomb. My colleagues who went in on the electronic barrier said, "Maybe we can help resolve all the murder and terrible things in Vietnam if we help isolate it." But in fact the product of what they made was used in ways which made them feel very bad, and in fact Sakharov after a while saw continued H(bomb testing and armaments buildup leading to something which he hated and protested against. That's the nature of the pact that a scientist makes with the devil when he gets involved.
There's no resolution to that.
There's no resolution to that, because you have to work through the political process to change the latter one.
Do you want to say anything? Harriet
I thought maybe he'd run out.
Is there anything else I should say? Mrs.
No, you have my point there.
Of course we have spoken very little about your scientific career after 1960.
Well, the main lines I think we mentioned; there's not really much to add. In the early post(1960 period, it was dispersion relations, quantum electrodynamics, writing those books, then getting involved in the deep and elastic scattering after the Bjorken scaling was discovered, and doing a whole set of papers with my collaborator Tung(Mow Yan who's now professor at Cornell, in which we set out to show how one could go from the deep inelastic scattering to the time(like region(the deep inelastic annihilation(to get scaling there. That culminated in our constructing the so(called Drell(Yan process which has been quite useful in all the P(P bar, P(P, ?(P annihilation experiments to make massive pairs, and continues to be a measure for designing and using baryon colliders. From that, I moved into studies of composite baryons, and then got interested in the lattice gauge theory.
Pretty soon I realized that the computer was going to do more than I was, and most recently the research that gave me the most interest is trying to study scaling laws for very super high energy collider accelerators. It's quantum electrodynamics; it's not 10(dimensional unified field theory and what not(strings and the like; they've left me for the moment. I did do a very interesting analysis with Kroll and Ruderman, to mention two other JASONs, plus two younger people, (Mark Mueller and Stephen Parke) when it was thought that a magnetic monopole had been discovered.
We showed that the slowing down of heavy monopoles in matter would cause scintillations(and could be understood very well by mixing of atomic levels, and we could calculate it. In fact we put some very severe limits on the possibility, which are subject still to experimental tests, but that whole question of the magnetic monopole seems to be disappearing because there's no more experimental evidence. But that was a fun problem.
Physics when you started as compared to physics now?
The biggest difference, I have to say, is me. I don't care what anyone else says. When I started physics in 1946, when I'd just turned 20, as a graduate student, the biggest thing was that, wow, we were going to understand the world and I could understand it. Forty years later, it seems a hell of a lot more complicated, but not to the guys who are twenty years old; they still think they're going to solve the world.
But if I look at what's happened in between, who would have thought 40 years ago when I started physics that one could now talk about unified field theories. Einstein spent from 1915 to 1955 trying to unify gravity and relativity, and here we think(we don't know, but we think we've unified strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions. We think we have some basic elementary building blocks in a not too complicated scheme of gauge theories. And we think we have, out of our understanding of particle physics, a way of explaining the evolution of the universe, the synthesis of the elements, and everything since the first 10-43 seconds after the Big Bang. That's incredible.
I think that long after we're gone, in another century, and long after the nuclear scholastics have stopped arguing about nuclear weapons(if we don't have a war and we don't lose our history(people are going to look back on the 1960 to 1980 period(1950 to 1990 period let's say(and say that man understood the physical universe to an incredible degree. We argue now about whether these big bubbles that make up supergalaxies can be explained, at the same time that we understand that the background radiation from the Big Bang is so uniform. We didn't know what any of those things were then.
It's just incredible, the unification of concepts. It's like when Newton told us that what sits on the table can be explained in terms of the way the planets move. Now we say that the most tiny elementary particles(billions of times smaller than an atom(can be understood by the same laws that explain the most distant reaches of the universe 20 billion years away. I mean, what else are people going to talk about, for the last of the 20th century, but that?
You haven't changed so much after all.
But then I thought I could solve those problems. Now I know I probably can't!