We Never Learn…Update

Posted on November 19, 2010

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From “Anti-Matter Breakthrough May Lead to Starships, Says Scientist”:

While scientists have been able to create particles of antimatter for decades, they had previously only been able to produce a few particles that would almost instantly destroy themselves.

“This is the first major step in a long journey,” Michio Kaku, physicist and author of Physics of the Impossible, told PCMag. “Eventually, we may go to the stars.”

I can see that. When the countries of the Developed world figure out a way to harness this new anti-matter break-through, the first thing they’re going to think is “starships”. That’s because these governments don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to make their cohort richer by investing in new weapons programs, or how to make themselves more powerful by creating new weapons.

When they found out about gunpowder, Europeans only wanted to make fireworks. When they discovered radio waves, the first thing the West did with that technology was make pretty music, not create remote-control bombs that could be set off with sound waves. When the US figured out a way to make submersible vessels, they didn’t use it to mine harbors, their first thought was to explore our rich and beautiful marine world. And, of course, when they discovered the potential of nuclear energy, the world’s governments fell over each other trying to figure out a way to make safe energy, not in making bombs that melt people.

This proud tradition of science working hand in hand with the free market, government funded research institutions and benevolent peaceful states, continues today. Because no one has ever expressed any interest in a nuclear-level weapon that leaves no radioactive decay, no scientist working on anti-matter should ever have worried about their findings being used to eventually slaughter millions of people.  Who’d want to do such a thing? Certainly, not us. We’ve spent the last hundred years trying to figure out a way to get to Tallus 5, not trying to find new ways of destroying people who get in our way.We’re the inheritors of a proud enlightenment humanist tradition steeped in rational inquiry and egalitarianism.

We should worry about those Muzlims, though. Because you know what they’ll do if they ever get their hands on such technology.

Update:

I was just riffing here, making an observation based on how self-servingly naive our society–and especially our institution of science–tends to be. And how ravenously our governments search for newer, cleaner and more crony-enriching ways to kill unimaginable numbers of people at once. And how we always shrug our shoulders, as if scientific study were some force of nature like bad weather that we can be thankful for when sunny, and unhappy about, but totally not responsible for, when rainy.

But it turns out that there is a program in the Air Force to research anti-matter weapons. And governments around the world have been anticipating the advent of practical applications for anti-matter weapons at CERN for some time (here you can see that someone’s already gone to the trouble of drawing up a nice little schematic of a tiny anti-matter powered bomb). It really is a mystery to me how you could work at that place creating this technology and live with yourself. I mean, yes, they’ll eventually probably make some medical application for the technology, which is the excuse every scientist has used for producing body-to-bits-blowing technology since the A-Bomb. But you’d have to be really stupid not to understand the potential holocaust you’d be releasing on the earth. For what? To find out how the universe was created? Is that really worth developing a technology that can–and most undoubtedly will–be used to murder millions of people? WTF, people. Stop it.