tv Book Discussion on Big Science CSPAN September 5, 2015 8:00am-8:53am EDT
[inaudible conversations] >> good evening, everyone. we are going to get started. my name is candace. i work with the events here at politics and pros. we have a will the of events coming up this fall. i encourage you to grab one of our print calendar, sign up for our e-mail list at the info desk as well as online for the events in september. as for tonight's event, first thing if you would check again that your cell phones are on silent or off so that it doesn't disrupt our time here. what we are going to do is have an hour-long event, half of the
time from the presentation from our speaker and half of the time to our questions. we are recording, c-span is here and it helps us catch your question on the recording, so makes it a full recording. after that, we are going to have a signing. we will form a line and signing will happen right up here. books are for purchase behind the register. before we form that signing line, if you don't mind serving up the chairs, that would be help f for us for cleanup. this is a story of a man who ushered in a new era an science moving away from quote, unquote
small science. lawrence won a prize. such project lead science to government and big private wealth for advancement. this shift was and now is conducted, made way for developments that were very large for their time and some might say that there were some that were even tragic. big science is timely to read. that decision made 70 years ago is still one that's debated today whether or not it was necessary to end the war. and in mr. hiltzick book, he
went to write for the la times. he won the in 1 999, a couple of a his previous books is glasses and a new deal, a modern history. so please help me in welcoming michael hiltzick. >> well, thank you candace for that gracious introduction. it's great to be here at yet another independent bookstore and thanks for all of you for joining me to take an hour
respite, and as candace alluded to it's a pertinent subject tonight, i think, because we find ourself sand -- sandwich we find in two anniversary. and i want to approach these two events in sort of a new way or a different way because they were so fundamentally connected with the work of ernst and we will see how his work lauched a -- launched a new phase, the tools
of its own disruption. lets begin about talking about the man himself, who was ernst lawrence, he was the most famous american scientist in the country, all purpose validation of international celebrity, prehistoric era as we think of today the age of print. [laughs] >> he received the nobel prize in physics. you might notice that there are parking spots that says, nl. special parking, and if you know
california, that's actually worth a lot. [laughs] >> all this for a son of a nor -- norweigan family, he grew up with the 20th century. his inspired invention the clycotron. but his overarching legacy was a new way to do science, capital intensative, research in which teems of tens or hundreds of researches work together with funding from foundations, government and industry. big science is all around us
today, funded by the nih, national foundation, received $40 million a year, that's big science. the effort to put a man on the moon and send probes, that's big science. the human gene project in big science that helped to launch not only new fields of study but also new industries. solving climate change, we won't be able to do that without big science. the large collideer which discovered in 2012 is the latest generation of first clycotron that ernst invented years ago. it cost less than a hundred dollars of materials and it fit
in the palm of his hand. 17 miles buried under the french country sides. you could see something the evolution of the paradigm that started in his lab. but the central theme of our book and i hope the version of this evening once we open the floor to all of you to ask questions and discuss is that big science raises many questions of human thirst for knowledge as it answers. one of the most important aspects of this method of research that we are still grappling is that it gives access to forces to destructive power, force that is we found very hard that we hope not impossible to control. one of the first physicists to
warn of the change in the way we do research was lawrence's own colleague james trunk, two months before the first atomic bomb detonated over japan, observed that the age was passed, as he put it, scientists could disclaim direct responsibility for the use to which mankind has put to their disinterested discoveries. the reason frank said what big signs has brought about fraud with greater challenges than all intentions in the past put together. but we need to talk tonight not merely what we do with the knowledge brings us but the resources we devote to that quest. the legacy challenges us to think about how the way the monumental high-profile efforts
to put a human being on mars or discover the next particle. all this together factors into what makes lawrence an intriguing personality today. that brings us back to the intention that made his name. he had join it had faculty of the university of california at berkeley and physics was at a cross roads. scientists had been probing the atomic nucleus with what nature gave them from radioactive minerals.
but they had done about as much as they could with nature's gifts, and to go further they understood science would need probes of much higher energies to dell -- delve into the nucleus. yet, the safely accommodated in a med yuim-size room. scientists all over the world took up the challenge, but they discovered that when you load appear -- [laughs] >> so laboratories filled up with chards of splinter grass. one group of strung a cable
between two alpine peaks, and they did one of them was blasted off the mountain to his death and that ended that. one night in berkeley lawrence had a brainstorm. what if you don't put the voltage but build it up on the projectile, now it's got energy of 200 volts. another jolt and it's 300 and so on and so on. now a linear designed to keep delivering jots by electro would be mildly to achieve desired. here comes the second part of
lawrence's brainstorm. he knows that a charge particle will apply and you can bend it into a spiral allowing it to get repeated jolts from just a single electrodes. all you have to do is aim it at a target and let it go. the possibilities are limitless and it al could fit into a medium-size room. he sees something. i'm going to be famous. [laughs] >> and so he was. and in the next decade the
invention was flexible machine, the team he assembled discovered scores, carbon 14 was discovered through clycotron. others became the foundation of science, the nuclear medicine, the sources of new curious and therapeutic processes that we use today. and then came the new elements heavier than uranium. elements that had never seen in their stage, element 93 and neptumium and pluto that was called plutonium. lawrence responded by
discovering each one bigger than the last. each wanted its own clycotron. lawrence obliged freely sharing all in the name that became lawrence's empire. it wasn't the accomplishments that made him famous but personality, so perfect for a country striving to emerge from the shad -- shadow of european traditions, very different from the popular image of mad scientists, wild hair and foreign and a little bit strange. lawrence was so business-like, down the earth, western.
amazingly easy to talk to and completely american as apple pie. and then as i said in 1939 lawrence won the nobel prize for the clycotron. but he demonstrated more than inspired technique. he showed that when you need today raise millions of dollars to build a machine, you had to have a genius of an entrepreneur, ceo, foundation boards, industrial executive and government officials by serving their own goals without compromising too much. for scientists this was the new religion and lawrence was its prophet. well, the 1939 nobel prizes were the last to be awarded until the war clouds over europe began to
decippate four years later. >> the manhattan project would validate and the atomic bomb could not have been invented by a solitary physicist. the manhattan project was the first great big science program and it proved how powerful an approach could be while hinting at how high the results might be to control. now many of you no at least the outlines of the making of the atomic bomb.
signed by einsteined observing that the recent discovery of nuclear implied that bomb can be constructed from uranium and warning that gnat zi -- natzi germany would be working on the problem. lawrence and big science would play a paramount role in that effort. the clycotron was an essential component in the research leading to the bomb. lawrence converted his newest clycotron still being build in a ravine. then he designed an supervised the construction of the industrial plant to manufacture the enriched product in a rural district in tennessee known as
oak ridge. that plant would produce every atom of the uranium of the bomb that was dropped in heroshima. to isolate plutonium that destroyed nagazaki. the head of the manhattan project came to head the actual design of the bomb at the lab that became lose alamos lawrence nominated friend in berkeley and got him the job. but now we must turn to the moral dimensions of this work. not only lawrence's role but big science's role in war. something that's still the subject of debate today 70 years later, as you can tell just by reading the papers last week.
the study of history, you know, is an exercise in looking at events through the eyes of the people who live them but applying the perspective of the decades, i'm sorry centuries. it's complicated with nuclear weapons because we are so familiar with their consequences. we know the toll and lives from 150,000 in the very first days, perhaps that many more over time. they probably underestimated the figures. we know of the horrific long-term suffering of the civilian survivors of those cities unlike anything experienced by any other survivors of warfare in history. we know the cloud that civilization has lived under because of the decision made in
the 1940's to unleash the destructive capacity. the nazi's never had a working atomic program. the scientists who stayed behind in germany, got the physics wrong and concluded. i don't mean by all that that we shouldn't judge the scientists of the manhattan project at all, only that we toweled temper our thought from what they thought they knew. they thought they were in a race with a maniac on world domination. they were focused on the emergency of immediate present. germany surrendered in 1945,
unlike germany, japan was not wildly feared as a nuclear threat, but by then, the bombs were nearly complete, the impulse to use them was very strong. in fact, the planes were in the island pointed at japan. final debate among scientists and political leaders was over whether dropping the bombs on the unsuspecting japanese was truey necessary or demonstration over a desert could deliver a sufficiently compelling message to the japanese regime. the record tell us that the last holdout against dropping the bombs was lawrence himself, but that eventually acknowledged that a dud was too great.
historians have devaited -- debated and still today whether it was necessary to secure surrender, but there can be no question that most of the people directed involved in the decision accepted the assumption that it was. many of the big scientist that is develop the atom bomb would eventually reconsider their role. some had began thinking even before the first bomb had dropped about how to manage the implications of the technology that it had helped to invent. many would work to promote the cause of international control over nuclear technology, recognizing that what big science had unleashed could be managed only through a conception of diplomacy. many would work to develop nuclear power and other peaceful
technologies, perhaps in the hope of expiateing moral that had brought upon them. physicists had come to no sin and responded angrily that nothing about his work had founded no sin. a weapon that many of his colleagues viewed a device and that even the pentagon acknowledged could never be used as a military campaign but only a weapon of psychological terror. for many laypersons the prospect of the hydrogen bomb, it can be
done and should be done. scientists capabilities had gun to exceed social and political institutions to manage them. and this showed the flaws of law -- lawrence's paradigm. he never apologized for his work on the h bomb or the a bomb. to him both programs were necessary for national security and he never looked back. indeed, he established a brand new lab to advance research into thermo nuclear weapons. because he died in 1958, we
don't really know what he would have been of the nuclear that big science helped to create as it reached extent. the widow thought he would have been a gasp and then the 1980's she was so appalled that he petitioned congress to take her husband's name off the lab that he had founded. while congress turned her down and today it's noun at the lawrence national laboratory. what we can say, however, that the history of big science tells us that science itself can't be seen as good or evil. we can render judgment of what human kind makes of it. lawrence paradigm have given us daig objection, techniques, it e
us yet with weapons against climate change even as it's given us the tools to destroy ourselves. now just before i open the floor for questions and discussion, i'd like to leave you with one last topic to debate and that's whether after 70 years we may have reached political and economically limits of big science. the reason the clydeer -- collider it's the united states aband oned the project mostly because the budget had grown so huge. almost since the exception the cost has prompted critics asked whether it can be get too expensive and leads us to value that bring in more money and publ -- publicity.
big science has helped make our universities great but it also has helped to turn our professors into administrators, all to make science even bigger. president eisenhower in the complex speech days before the end of his presidency forsaw how science was changing, today he said, the solitary inventor tinkering in his shop has been overshadowed by task force and laboratories, partly because of huge cost involved a government contract because a substitute for intellectual curiosity. the prospect of the domination of federal employment, allocations is ever prisoned and
greatly to be regarded. well, in light of the world we live in today, i think we can only be struck by the foresight of prophetic words. one thing we can be confident about is that the human thirst for knowledge is never quenched and served by big science at its best. if we want an illustration of that consider the excitement not only by astronomes but the public after nine-year 300 million-dollar voyage to the absolute limits of the solar system. findings that scientists understanding the life of an arc. he gave us access to knowledge, that gain came at a cost.
he helped us to learn a lot, but he also gave us a lot more to think about, and that with, i thank you for listening and i'm ready to take questions. [applause] >> you're on. >> i have a couple of questions. one of them is real simple and short. it seemed consistency between the fact that lawrence was the last holdout, as you said in decision to use the bomb, and yet he was the one that seemed most the least apologetic about the role of his lab and so forth in doing the science that made the bomb possible, maybe it was
discovery versus use -- >> i should say, i didn't mention that lawrence was the scientists who introduced for the first time at a government panel the idea of a demonstration. he was interested in seeing if that would work. he was basically outvoted and outargued by people who thought demonstration was really just too risky. the element of all this that lawrence never really apologized for was the idea of building a bomb and putting forth programs, making sure that america and the united kingdom had access to the weapons before the enemies did and could protect themselves. so life forces inconsistencyency upon us.
>> more importantly you seem to be saying that maybe there's evidence that we're reaching the limits of big science as far as, conducting collider and politcall failure in the country is evidence of that, and yet, you could say it was because -- the reason for it was not -- not very clearly appreciated by the publish. >> well, that's a very good point and i think we can gain a lot of lessons from the fate of the superconducting collider. the government has spent $2 billion on it. the prospect of expenditures, they looked to be limitless. a new congress was coming in. this was a new class of congressmen who had idea of less spending.
it was two minds about it. there were many physicists thought that it was too big a project and would suck resources for a narrow area and would leave too much of the area unfunded. so there were a lot of complexities there. what that tells us, when you're really faced with expenditures of this magnitude, they become a political issue and you really have to make sure that you do make the cases, you said, to the public that these are necessary expenditures of these projects, will produce outcomes that benefit society and mankind. that's not always easy to do, that's the task before scientists who want to push these programs ahead. >> thanks. >> in contrast the previous questioner, i think perhaps you're a little too weak in
seeing the end of the big science in the military industrial complex. waves of concentration of capital and the last big idea until -- against the kind of limits that einstein saw in pursuing the speed of light where you can get closer and closer at huge expenditures of effort, capital, power, but you never reach it. and i just wonder whether, you know, in reading about things like that new fuel-free engine that was invented by a schoolgirl in egypt and now validated by three national
laboratories, we maybe seeing a new paradigm that will destroy big science and start people working in their -- in their labs. >> you could be right. all i can say that paradigms are often visible in rear-view mirror and they're hard to spot when you're in the mist of them. there are concerns with scientists today that new projects of this magnitude are going to be a very hard sale. thus far, despite supper collider, we have found ways to fund the projects that scientists can come together and support. overall the collider can with us, it's the product of european
countries, some funding from united states, and there were plans to make it bigger and to extend its power, so we don't know -- there's cause for concern. i'm not sure that looking at things really gran -- we can say that big science is finished, but we'll know more in ten years, i suppose. [laughs] >> getting back to the dropping of the atomic bombs, a strong argument can be made that for the first one it saved american lives and japanese lives. my question is the second one, did it happen to quickly and the united states should have waited and allowed the thinking process
to come through? do you know -- >> there was a decision to drop the bomb and the notable thing that i found in this extensive literature is that it doesn't come to a conclusion. i think to really understand nagazaki in particular you really have to factor in political goals and also military goals. certainly there was a recognition that the geography of nagazak was different from heroshema. there might have been concern that the japanese hadn't actually spoken soon enough and that, you know, the second bomb would finally bring them to the table, as i'm sure you know, there's a school of thought that
the japanese were on the virtue of surrender anyway. there was a will the of thinking that was done on the ground that -- that's very hard to really appreciate, i think, in hindsight. i mean, hindsight is an educational process and we are still learning of all the aspects. >> thank you. on big science, what are the big organizations supporting big science. you mentioned nih, what are some other ones? >> the national science foundation, those are the biggest ones that are certainly government funded, $40 billion a year, that's a big source of funds, so nasa, noa, all of these -- all of these agencies that put satellites into space
and that fund important research and earth sciences, underwater, what have you. these are all really involved in big science in one way or another. >> thank you for the interesting talk. in this book you seem to characterize big science as unstoppable freight train. i'm concerned that you might be missing a crucial characteristic which is big science personalities, you needed einstein, now who runs the lhc, you needed actual people with political influence to make the projects happen. with modern science you don't need -- >> we don't have them. in my book i actually do address that question. the generation of high-profile scientist that is was
exemplified, was the -- in a sense the government supervisor of the manhattan project. people like that. they began to leave the scene in the '60's and '70s. he put his personal reputation at stake before congress to get that done and i think this goes back to what i said just a few minutes ago, which is when -- when you are talking about programs of this magnitude, they do become political and the issues become politcall --
political and it does have to have respect to make the case. i don't know who i would point to today. we could only hope in the name of science that people emerge over time. this gentleman here has a question but he probably doesn't want to get a microphone. [inaudible] >> do you have any idea why they call the early bombs atomic bombs since they're all nuclear bombs in the same way? >> you're asking why the early bombs were known as atomic bombs and now nuclear bombs? >> that's true. >> yes. >> they were all nuclear bombs.
well -- [inaudible] >> right, right. well, the gentleman said he spent his long career in physics. all i can say that this is the way the public -- it came to know them and this is -- this is the name we've given them. on a technical level, it is inaccurate or imprecise and all we can do as writers and scientists is try to make sure that people understand when we do use these terms. >> so i'm a small scientists. [laughs] >> i'm a social scientist in the healthcare field which i really think today is the new military
industrial complex. you look at the award that was just made a couple of days ago from the department of defense about 35 other companies of a multibillion dollar project to institute an electronic health record across the dod facilities. the science that's going to go into that, science that is maybe foreign to some people in the room, but the science of inoperate ability, the science of multiplexing. these are all areas of today's big science. the war effort was the generator of great deal of war-related science. we haven't really had that kind of war fever in this country really since the world war. what we have had is this growing
healthcare who are -- orientation that's taking years to get where it is today, and the new science is starting to how long can you live but how well can you live and how well the people that are helping you live do their jobs. do you have any thoughts on that? >> if i read you correctly, the point i would make is that the idea of bringing together science and technology and -- and industry is something that really was born in the need to find funding for private, for large projects and it has -- another paradigm which is patenting and entrepreneurial science, is certainly what we see in by -- biotech. we probably don't have time to
delve in all of the pros and cons towards commercialization of research, but i think you're right, we do see it very strongly in health care and health science. >> i'd be interested in your thoughts on how big science has affected our university educational system, both positive and negative. as i alluded to at the close of my thought, there's reason to be concern about the impact that big science and son-in-law of the aspects that big science has had. the man who actually coined the term big science was alvin weinberg who at the time was the director of oak ridge lab that lawrence had founded.
it was 1961. in an article in science magazine weinberg raised some of the questions. he said that we were going to replace thinking with money and that the universities were going to be very vulnerable to this sort of trend. he foresaw the evolution of professors and administrators and fundraisers and empresarios and was concerned about that and thought the need to take on projects that were -- that were amenable to publicity and journalism was something that wasn't going to work very well with the academy. we have seen that process continue. when lawrence invent it had clycotron he came into great
pressure to patent the machine from patrons. he had to agree to do so just to protect it from commercial exploitation, he he reserved free licenses for academic users. that was the beginning of a long trend. he was concerned about the patent, discoveries that should be for the public, but we have seen that. i think because of the entry of a big finance into the university in big science, you know, we've seen cases where discoveries are kept from people's own colleague, much more secrecy, much more commercial protection and that's a trend that has brought -- certainly one that eisenhower pointed out in his speech in 1963 -- 1961.
>> throughout the history of science, military needs scientific discovery and often scientific discoveries start technological uses and shift to nonmilitary uses. with big science it's much more lethal and much more expenses, but there are other differences that differentiate the flow of history? >> this is another concern that eisenhower brought up, if you bring up military goals, the risk that you're going to end up that serves their goals and not the public interest. he was very concerned about that. when you have scientific projects that require big patrons, when they are
industrial patrons, they are going to be inclined to focus on projects that they think have a commercial advantage to themselves in their core businesses, and i think one of the concerns that we should have is the shift of funding of expensive big science programs from government toward industry. government is going to be inclined to fund basic science, we need that. we need to have scientists working at a level where they are just going to follow their nose and take their research where it comes because that's the seed corn, really of anything that we end up to make our lives better and safer and simpler and healthier. i think if you look at the figures, you will see the industry has taken on a much larger share, certainly since the 1970's, a much larger share of america's research
overall, and that is going to end up in a narrowing of focus that's i don't think is going to do us any good at all. >> any final questions? >> okay, well thank you all for coming. thank you for the questions. [applause] >> just a reminder, if you need to purchase the book still, they're behind the register. [inaudible conversations] >> book tv is on twitter