Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Suppression of science alleged

The NY Times reports:
The most famous case of scientific suppression remains that of Galileo, who in 1633 was forced by the Roman Catholic Church to disavow his finding that the Earth revolves around the Sun. But over the centuries, the big clashes between science and the authorities came to center on highly destructive arms.
The story was prompted by the US govt not wanting to publish details of some research it funded on how to engineer a deadly bird flu virus.

But it is just not true that Galileo was ever forced to disavow any scientific finding. He was free to publish any evidence he had for the motion of the Earth. He was even invited to publish a book with the arguments for and against the motion of the Earth. He just was told not say that the motion of the Earth was proved unless he really had the proof. And he did not. He had faulty arguments that were shown to be wrong by Church scientists.
In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of passing bomb secrets to Moscow.

But atomic lore kept leaking. Today, nine nations have nuclear weapons, and dozens more are said to possess the secretive information, the technical skills and — in some cases — the materials needed to make them.

A new field came under scrutiny in the mid-1970s, when Washington tried to clamp down on publications in cryptography — the creating and breaking of coded messages. A breakthrough threatened to make it easer for the public to encrypt messages and harder for federal intelligence agencies to decipher them.
Washington did not try very hard to clamp down. No papers were supressed. The field exploded after the US govt put the Data Encryption Standard into the public domain. It was the first time a state-of-the-art encryption system had been published.

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