Friday, June 5, 2009

Murder by Maxwell's equation - or how I learnt to love the magic bullet

Science magazines have become pop savvy in recent times. They dress up fairly mundane stories in provocative titles like "Hunks get more sex" (New Scientist) or "Secrets of the Phallus: Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?" (Scientific American). So I was only mildly piqued when I stumbled across "Radio-controlled bullets leave no place to hide" on the New Scientist site today.Far from this title being a snappy cover for say a new type of flu vaccine its rather banaly about, well, radio controlled bullets. The science content of the article is a standard application of Maxwells Laws. The said bullets, being rifled, rotate in the earth's magnetic field. A little loop inside the bullet has an AC current induced which radio receives the distance travelled in combination with the gun's 'smarts' - that's the electronic rangefinder - not the grunt who pulled the trigger. It gives the soldier "another tool in his kitbag". Now all we have to do is find someone capable of pointing it in the right direction.

From a scientific point of view it might have been a vaguely interesting article if it had gone on to discuss the effect of turbulence or whether the rotation speed, or pointing it north or south makes much difference to the range accuracy. Instead it read like a boring version of an arms fair advert

"the XM25 rifle to give its troops an alternative to calling in artillery fire or air strikes when an enemy has taken cover and can't be targeted by direct fire. "This is the first leap-ahead technology for troops that we've been able to develop and deploy," says Douglas Tamilio, the army's project manager for new weapons for soldiers."

The "X" stands for Xtremely smart bullet which after passing through the Afghan mudhut window (if it had one) dodges all the kiddies and takes out the wayward father sitting on the couch reading a copy of "Al Qaeda Monthly". Even if our smart bullet is unable to perform this feat of magic it can simply explode - and since the final range offset is +/- 3 metres - presumably with some force.

Oh did I mention that the bullet explodes? Yes, thats the idea. You cant actually see who is in the room, so better just to cause an explosion, killing or maiming everyone inside. Now the clue as to why this "tool" is any different from the current ones is given in the text:

"You could shoot a Javelin missile, and it would cost $70,000. These rounds will end up costing $25 apiece. They're relatively cheap," Tamilio says."

Now thats a word to the wise in our current economic troubles - carnage on the cheap. The best method (if a little bit of an overkill) would be just to nuke every town in Pak/Afghan/Iraq-istan, but have you seen the price of plutonium recently? That market has gone to the dogs since the North Koreans and Iranians cornered it..

As a little marketing aid, a helpful diagram of how the XM25 carries out its mission is enclosed (and reproduced here for your consideration).

Our do-gooder marine, outnumbered 2-to-1 by the dastardly foes is wisely prone behind his smart-rifle. Evil-doer number one is taking a rest in his trench after a hard morning studying the suicide bomber manual. Our smart bullet sails over the trench wall and explodes, gently showering our baddie in a black rain (thats the clue that lets you know it actually hurts). Evildoer number two after seeing the fate that has befallen number one flees - in case his uniform also gets wet from the black rain. We then quickly take out the retreater and his cowardly mates with a fuel air or DIME bomb.

As our advertising brochure picture rather gleefully informs us, "trenches arent safe anymore"... because we know how safe they were in WWI where millions of soldiers idled about on banana lounges, sipping cocktails and writing casual postcards home. And the trenches in the first Gulf War were also notably safe. There an older technology was employed - we simply drove giant tractors to the edge of the trenches and buried many tens of thousands of poor Iraqi conscripts alive. But at least they didnt get their uniforms wet from black rain.

From an earlier article in 1999, also strangely from the New Scientist (amazing what 10 years and a change of sub-editors can do) we have a more realistic description of what happens when an exploding bullet strikes flesh

"WHEN Red Cross surgeon Robin Coupland needs to demonstrate the horrific effect of outlawed weapons, he produces a slightly smudged photo of a wounded man on a stretcher. Your eyes widen as you realise what you're seeing. Like a cartoon character chomped by a shark, there's a beach-ball sized semicircle where his shoulder used to be. The man's arm is still attached to his trunk by a perilously thin strip of tissue. The grotesque injury provides ample evidence that an illegal exploding bullet has been used."

"Outlawed". Yes, thats right, by the St Petersburg Declaration of 1868, the Hague Declaration of 1899 and Article 35 of the Geneva protocols. But the world's remaining superpower saw fit to dispense with the Geneva convention sometime ago when it became clear that they only faced rag tag foes with nothing else much except for 50 year old kalashnikovs. That shouldnt be good enough for New Scientist though. How about some small disclaimer at the bottom of this banally amoral article saying that editors dont endorse the breaking of international law?

Perhaps I should go further...what the hell is something out of Dr Strangelove's laboratory notes doing in a science magazine?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Roentgen's Humanitarian Machine

Having the opportunity to do some travelling with my partner in Southern Germany recently, we happened upon the preserved laboratory of Whilhelm Roentgen in Wurzburg. Roentgen discoved what he called x-rays using a Crookes tube cathode to produce a stream of high energy electrons which generated characteristic frequency x-radiation via interactions with the tube anode.

Exhibiting admirable modesty, Roentgen attempted to resist the move to name the new radiation after him (an attempt which failed in at least Germany and Russia). On being awarded the first Nobel prize he declined to make a speech and donated the award money to his university. He was offered the noble appellation "von" from the Prince Regent of Bavaria but turned it down. He accepted honors from his university with a call to new students to focus on the essential joy of research.

"During the time when congratulations and honours were showered upon me [...] one thought has always remained lively and fresh, and that is the memory of the satisfaction which I felt when my work was finally developed and completed."

Noone could accuse Roentgen's attitude towards scientific research as being tainted by worldly values. He expressed astonishment at the amount of money available for research in the US (even then) and thought that essential physics could be carried out with simple apparatus and clever thinking. He refused to patent an x-ray machine and endorsed the idea of knowledge for its own sake. This was an attitude that others saw an opportunity in. For instance, Thomas Edison was quoted saying

"Professor Roentgen probably does not draw one dollar profit from his discovery. He belongs to those pure scientists who study for pleasure and love to delve into the secrets of nature. After they have discovered something wonderful someone else must come to look at it from a commercial point of view [...] One must see how to use it and how to profit from it financially"

This is either a pragmatic or cynical view depending on how you look at it. I certainly would take a hard line to such pronouncements. Not only should science be pursued for the benefit of all (not least because it is funded from the public purse), but one should prevent any individual or corporation from extracting profit from it to the disadvantage of the public generally.

This is particularly an easy case to make for applications related to medical health (as x-rays are). Profits are derived in proportion to the direct cost of medical machines. Without an enlightened public health policy this can only lead to restricted access based on the financial ability of patients. This is a societal disease which we are yet to eradicate.

Apart from his attitude to financial gain, Roentgen does not appear to have particularly left-wing though, expressing a horror of Bolshevism and cheering on the German war effort in WWI. To be fair, one had to have hard left politics to see the 'Great' War for what it was, an imperialist adventure in which workers were sent to kill each other.

One wonders what Roentgen thought of the use of poison gas in the trenches (introduced by the Germans but in the end used mostly by the British). Though Roentgen signed the pro-war proclamation of the 93 intellectuals (which Einstein refused to sign) he later expressed embarrassment and claimed he was persuaded to sign without reading it.

On his death, Roentgen ordered his scientific and personal correspondence destroyed. This act of self effacement underlined an earlier speech he gave sayng that scientists must expect their work to be surpassed and forgotten. Roentgen does us a disservice here in my opinion - there is much to be learned from the history of science and the thought processes (and mistakes) of scientists. It is not in the interest of science to obscure the background to significant work.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stand Up Obama - who's laughing?

Bush was a dull witted beast - a burger munching, pretzel choking, torture monkey who couldnt even tell a good joke. How refreshing then to see the current POTUS kick back with a few of his high society buddies and reel off the one-liners. I dont think I would add anything by parodying the actual jokes. I will try to categorise them though.

Lets see... there was the joke about Obama's kids hijacking Air Force 1 and taking it for a spin around Manhattan at low altitude (causing several buildings to be evacuated and presumably scaring some New Yorkers shitless) - thats a new 21st century branch of comedy called unintentional terrorism. And there was the jolly torture joke - "Cheney is busy writing a book; how to shoot friends and interrogate people". Out with the faux moral outrage about torture, the real agenda is scoring political points against the Republicans.

This all took place at the annual White House Correspondent's dinner, a distasteful nexus of film stars, mass-stream media and politicians. For this cabal, the real world of torture, terrorism and bombing raids is far away; a media image to be manipulated. There is for instance Clinton and Obama's crocodile tears over bombed Afghan villagers. The real pain for the administration is not that it happened but that it became visible.

We now have a 'rethink' going on in which "'tactical actions' should not undermine strategic goals". The focus apparently should be counter insurgency rather than conventional war. However the murder of villagers - that is the destruction of the resistance's base - is classical counter insurgency. If you cant coopt or corrupt then exterminate, is their motto. This has the same dynamic as the Israeli barbarity in Gaza at the beginning of the year.

Obama as head of the world's most irresponsibly powerful Imperium has nothing new to offer. He heads an historic relic which knows only how to wreak hideous amounts of casual destruction against whoever it designates 'failed peoples'. But Obama is not there to change the direction of the juggernaut, only to polish its exterior.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scientific Socialism for the dull

Roy Hattersley, former UK Labour Party minister, recently reviewed a new biography of Engels, "The Frock-Coated Communist" in The Guardian newspaper. Hattersley freely admits he finds Engels Anti-Duhring/Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, unintelligible, and then quotes from it
"Engels wrote that when the means of production become state property, "the proletariat abolishes itself as a proletariat, abolishes all class distinction and class antagonism, abolishes also the State as a State". I am still not sure how the thought-process that concludes with this fantasy can be called scientific rather than utopian"
Now as former Labour Party minister he should know all about how control of state property can still leave the working class fucked over. And its probably no accident that he leaves out a key part of the Engels quote, that it is the proletariat that turns the means of production into state property after seizing political power. That is to say that the proletariat itself should control the means of production and that the act of revolution should be the act of the working class itself.

The only fantasy at work here is possibly the idea that the Labour Party in government means that the proletariat runs the country. The Tories stopped trumpeting that obvious fallacy quite sometime ago, and I'm positive that the Labour Party itself no longer believes it, if it ever did. What I wanted to take task with however is the idea of scientific socialism that Hattersley feels free to parody without understanding.

For Engels, actually, scientific socialism was based on two principles. Firstly that history changes, and is explained by, material forces and political/economic contradictions rather than ideologies. Secondly that Capitalism was based on exploitation of workers on one hand, and reliance on them as consumers on the other, a contradiction bound to lead periodically into crisis. I would have thought the current economic crisis would be enough to suggest there was something fundamentally correct about Marx and Engel's analysis.

Instead of regurgitating the high ideology of the Cold War, that the Soviet Union proves that socialism will never work, Hattersley ought to look at whether it really was a test of the principles. In fact the idea that socialism can exist in one relatively backward country in the face of aggression from the rest of the world runs diametrically opposed to what Marx and Engels argued would be necessary - that it must be an international system with no military and economic competition and that it must be based on 'advanced' capitalism. It is no surprise that the USSR after being blockaded and invaded on all sides became a place where communism was not possible.

It is welcome however to see the revival of interest in Marx and Engels, a tendency not unrelated to the present round of capitalist war and crisis.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Manufacturing Mayday violence

Happy Mayday all. I joined a May Day protest/dance party in Hamburg, which was really a bit of a blast. Named "Krisenfest" we (looked to be a couple of thousand) danced our way to Hafencity and back along the waterfront to the Fischmarkt. Hafencity is a massive yuppie accommodation and business project which makes Canary Wharf in London look small. Specially commissioned apartment blocks, a philharmonic hall and many, many other buildings are built on former container and warehouse land. One would think with the crisis in full swing building would have slowed to a halt, as has the port traffic in Hamburg Port. But no, its full steam ahead on projects for the rich whereas workers elsewhere are being thrown out of work and social cuts loom. The krisenfest highlighted the disparity - plenty of money for banks and architecture firms and none for the rest of us. The philharmonic hall was 'shoed', banks water pistolled and generally a good time was had by all.

The cops were mostly hands off, except for one incident where the protest trucks/sound systems had to separate from the protestors for a short while( they went down a street and most of us over a footbridge). The cops took the opportunity to stop the trucks and harass the occupants. A potentially ugly scene was avoided when the cops backed down under the hard stares of the rest of the crowd.

There were a number of other (smaller) Hamburg Mayday demos which had a much heavier police 'footprint'. About 700 anticap/anarchists marched through St Pauli to Rote Flora, and there were a smaller number of antifa protestors in Barmbek later on. It was a pity that our forces were so divided, but I guess that reflects real differences in how to go about protesting

Elsewhere, Berlin cops who had whipped themselves into a frenzy about potential violence, managed to provoke it themselves when they raided a peaceful dance party. There is a rather good report on the Berlin activities here. In Istanbul the violence was again caused by the cops who wouldnt even allow free assembly. The mantra from media was predictable: 'violent protestors around the world' - blah!

Here's a report from Reuters trying to figure out the violence in Berlin,

Rioting on the May 1 Labor Day holiday, which since it started in 1987 has caused extensive damage to parts of the city, had been on the wane in the last three years after police shifted tactics from battling rioters to de-escalation. [...] Police in Berlin expect further violence when members of far-right parties, labor unions and leftists march. The trouble in Berlin on Friday began at the end of an otherwise peaceful gathering of about 2,000 people, police said. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at trams and cars. Glass windows at bus stops were also destroyed by rioters.

Now I'm not a specialist in cop logic, but I would have thought that if you had less riots with a policy of 'de-escalation' - then its probably anti-logical to convince yourself that there was going to be violence and then act in such a way as to ensure that it was going to happen. Unless of course your role as cop is not keeping the peace but bringing to bear the means of violence against anyone with ideas of changing the status quo.

There is of course a pressing social concern for the powers that be. In the context of a German economy forecast to contract by 6 percent in 2009, with unemployment likely to rise to nearly five million,

Michael Sommer, president of the German Unions' Federation, has warned that 'if business corporations react to the crisis with mass layoff of workers, it is very likely that social revolt take place.' Sommer said this was not a threat, but a comment on the prevailing atmosphere.

Instead of formulating policies to defuse the social crisis, the ruling class prefers to set loose its attack dogs

"Whoever throws a stone or wears a mask must be immediately taken out of play," [Rainer Wendt, chairman of one of Germany's national police unions] told the Neuen Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper.

And of course the cops/ruling class know there is a potential revolutionary in every disgruntled worker. So they raid peaceful events, kill a protestor in London, provoke more anger and all the time calling for an expansion of police numbers. So there you have a vicious circle of cop logic: more police=more violence=still more police.

But this is an old fight and an old enemy and in the best spirit of the day, there is always 1000s on the street willing to resist.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Capitalist pig flu

No, this is not a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory on current flu - that such an exotic mixture of swine, avian and human flu could not have been natural - has already been raised and defeated by basic science. The respiratory tracts of pigs have receptors for all three types of flu.

But, as has already been noted, the present (and unkosher) swine flu is not really natural either. 53 million pigs existed on a million US farms in 1965. Now its 65 million in 65,000 industrialised food factories.
"This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates."
As a result circulation of H1N1 flu amongst pigs - the living sucessor to the 1918 pandemic have risen exponentially. The H1N1 virus which was genetically stable has, since the mid 90's, begun mutating at a frightening rate. There has been plenty of warning since then that it was only a matter of time before a killer virus would jump species to us. The most likely origin for the current outbreak is one of the giant pig farms in Mexico. These are owned north of the border and operated south where the labour is cheap and expendable. Here is a concerned recent report from one of the biggest pig factory companies:
"Pork sales grew 19 per cent to $2.06 billion. However, hog-production operating profits fell, because of higher costs and the impact of circovirus infection at a number of production sites. Results for pig production were below a year ago due to higher rising costs and the impact of disease.[...] The company is implementing more vaccination programmes which is making substantial progress in increasing production levels."
Now that tells me two things, not all these poor factory pigs are vaccinated, and vaccination eats into profits. In any case vaccination assumes that the virus is genetically stable - which it no longer is. Additionally, vaccination helps select drug resistant viruses. There is only one real solution: deindustralise pig production, which will almost certainly mean removing the profit motive.

Nevertheless we now have an unknown virus circulating in our species, a virus that none of us have an immunity to and that may mutate into something that kills more readily at any time. Not that it doesn't kill already of course - predominantly the poor in poor countries. In terms of inequality nothing has much changed since the 1918 Spanish flu which killed 20 million Indians alone.

'Our species'.... it would be nice if we could approach things that way. Instead what will probably happen is that the borders with Mexico will be locked and the key thrown away. We setup super pig virus factories in their country, exploit their workforce, ship the profits north and then leave them to their fate.

Worldwide there are 220 million course of Tamiflu, the drug that can help reduce the severity and spread of the flu. Almost all of it is held by the West - 80 million courses held by the UK and the US alone. The reason is its expense and the huge profits it makes for the drugs company that has the patent on it. The Indian government has just announced that it will expand its stocks to 3 million. I don't need to tell you how far that will go in a country with 1.1 billion people

Again there is only one solution - break the patent, manufacture the drug in any way possible and distribute it as widely as possible. Undermine the drug companies profit motive - a position all but endorsed by the World Health Organisation
"WHO's [Director General Dr Margaret] Chan was asked about countries' freedom to break Roche's patent on Tamiflu, an antiviral drug that has proven effective in treating the H1N1 swine flu, in order to manufacture it locally and, presumably, more cheaply.Chan left the door open: "When and what the country is going to decide, it is their decision."
Hear, hear. And in the meantime take control of the entire world's stock of Tamiflu and distribute wherever it is needed the most.

Kaos (theory) on Wall Street

Is it really true that lapsed physicists who work in financial institutions applying physics to stock market modelling have caused the current world economic turmoil? This idea has been raised in a NYT opinion piece and has been discussed in other blogs.

The idea is that physicist influenced modelling became so esoteric that no one else could understand it or the now toxic packages of debt. Since no one understands where or exactly what the debt is, no bank wants to lend any more, ergo the crisis.

You see its just the packaging of debt that's the problem, not the shyster 100+% housing loans and the insane housing price bubble it produced. Nor the wholesale privatisation or the government approval of banking excesses. Its not really surprising that bankers are trying to spread the heat around. Not when the public sentiment towards bankers is something like,
"I'll tell you what we should do, spray them with wildebeest odour and make them run through the Serengeti, with a commentary by Attenborough"
But an investment bank cant be a very nice place to work at the best of times. One former physicist who works on Wall Street

"termed the market a wild beast that cannot be controlled, [...] There are a thousand physicists on Wall Street, she estimated, and many, she said, talk nostalgically about science. 'They sold their souls to the devil'."

Now thats a sad story. Though it is true, in some of my darkest moments, in the face of some crazy research grant cut, I entertained the thought of taking up the devil's offer. But my motives were noble you understand. I saw myself as a latter day Parvus who would expose the system for what it was. But since Parvus' scheme ended in disaster and that the bank interviewers would more than likely see through me to my bad attitude, I thought better of it.

Benoit Mandelbrot gave a lecture recently in which he railed against the prevailing economic models as (clearly) wrong. Attempts to model data as "random walks which assume that the price at any given moment depends on what it was the moment before" ignored the fact that stock prices were often discontinuous - jumping wildly from time to time. In fact, Mandelbrot went on the say, economists often ignore "outliers" - data from extreme events (like the one we are going through at the moment). But its the wild swings which constitute the reality

[Mandelbrot] contends that more realistic models of economics—including, naturally, models based on fractals—are driven by "wild randomness," wherein things don't average out and individual freak occurrences matter. This wildness, he said, "imitates real phenomena in a very strong way."

Mandelbrot leaves open the possibility that the stock markets could be modelled using fractals. As a guide I point out one feature of fractals - that they display the same level of complexity at all scales. To that end I took the liberty of posting here a plot of US GNP since 1950.us_gnp_1950

Now I would say, that plot shows a regularity that is simply missing from say, daily currency fluctuations (which I look up sometimes to watch my modest savings in UK pounds become ever more modest). The regularity is indicated by the grey vertical bands - the recessions. If you allow for the special case of the mid-70s "oil-shock" recession and the (relatively mild) mid-50s recessions, then there is a recession every, ooh lets say, 10 years:

since 1825, when the first general crisis broke out, the whole industrial and commercial world, production and exchange [...] are thrown out of joint about once every ten years. Commerce is at a standstill, the markets are glutted, products accumulate, as multitudinous as they are unsaleable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are closed
Fredrich Engels 1877 Anti-Duhring Part 3, Chapter 2

If referring to Engels(and Marx) makes you uncomfortable, then you can take a respectable bourgeois economist like Ricardo who recognised these cycles even before Marx and Engels. Or German chancellor Angela Merkel - herself a former physicist - a couple of days ago, "The world stands at a watershed. We cannot afford crises like this every 10 years".

Indeed. And to make a value judgement, why should we listen to our "leaders" when they spent the last 10 years encouraging greed, speculation and debt, and now we are suposed to trust them that they've seen the light? Actually I dont think they have any real idea about how the economic system works.

So that brings me to my point. We should bemoan the fact, not that so many physicists attempt to understand the economy, but that so much effort is wasted on daily stock fluctuations in order to make the rich richer. The system shows regularity at larger scales and its these fluctuations that really need to be studied and prevented - even if the system has to be stood on its head as Marx and Engels argued.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bad Science

Its a lovely sunny Friday afternoon in Hamburg, and the weekend looks equally good weather wise. I should be in a great mood and have a jolly physics tale to tell. I find, however, I've been disturbed all week about the release of the CIA torture memos and the subsequent pronouncement by Obama that the torturers had no need to fear as there was no intention to prosecute them - "it was a time for reflection", not justice. This reassurance had to be quickly followed up by a visit to CIA headquarters with the message that they (the CIA) had done a great job.

Now I'm not an ethicist or a lawyer. I will not attempt to understand the apparent contradiction between something which is morally repugnant and illegal (as well as ineffective) on one hand, and a "good job, well done" on the other. Likewise I'm sure I dont understand the legal subtleties in the position that torture under direction from the previous US administration was legal, and, say, the Nuremberg defence of the Nazis - that they were only following orders.

No what my concern properly should be is the "science of torture". For make no mistake, a lot of research time and effort has been spent in trying to understand how to break a person. A lot of the modern research was based on CIA funded studies from the 1950s and "experimented" on in places like Vietnam and Central America. One conclusion was that medieval type tortures (of which waterboarding is one) fail consistently to produce reliable information. As a case in point, we learn from the recent memos that one victim was water tortured 288 times. Presumably there were still one or two items he forgot to mention after the first couple of dozen sessions. Or perhaps he successfully managed to endure 287 successive boardings and then suddenly gave in on the 288th out of sheer boredom.

What was discovered, in the ever refining art of torture, was that other methods may be preferable

"Guantanamo Bay turned into a de-facto behavioral science laboratory," McCoy told LiveScience, where sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain—allowing a detainee who had stood for hours to sit if he would only "cooperate"—regularly took place. [...] Though captives are less resentful when tortured psychologically, it doesn't make their statements any more trustworthy

Now that sounds like my sort of torture. Anyone who has stood in a bank queue in the UK knows that they could put up with that almost indefinitely if pressed. A point complained upon by one Washington
bureaucrat privy to the memos, who himself "had to stand for 8 hours behind his desk all day" (why?) - couldn't they find something tougher? Its not all fun and games however

"You simply make somebody stand for a day or two. And as they stand - okay, you're not beating them, they have no resentment - you tell them, "You're doing this to yourself. Cooperate with us, and you can sit down." And so, as they stand, what happens is the fluids flow down to the legs, the legs swell, lesions form, they erupt, they separate, hallucinations start, the kidneys shutdown."

I dont want to go on at length about how torture - psychological as well as physical - hasn't helped. How almost all released (and tortured) prisoners from Guantanamo have had no charges filed against them or have been found not guilty. How after 8 years of war we are further away from an end to terrorism than ever.

Presumably if a whole swathe of people have a grievance against you because they perceive that they have been mistreated in the past, then torturing some of their innocent number wont help soothe them. You can't torture or kill everyone with a grievance. Even the most hardened hawk must get sick of infinite war sooner or later.

What my real concern, as a scientist, is what sort of people carry our 'research' like this? I like to think of myself as a person engaged in science because I see the value in knowledge for its own sake. What can we say of 'scientists' with stop watches and notebooks who try to find out the quickest method for dehumanising a person? Could we excuse Josef Mengele as being primarily concerned with advancing medical science?

Of course not. The conclusion I come to is that you can't separate Science from Society, or indeed Politics, Law or Morality. This must be because, as a human endeavour Science is related to all other fields of human activity. As a physicist I know who went for an interview at a well known multinational arms manufacturer and who was asked whether he minded doing research on things that killed people, I can state that there is such a thing as Bad Science.