Talk #65, 8/24/11

Experience with the JASONs

Henry Abarbanel
Professor of Physics, Department of Physics
Research Physicist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Director, Institute for Nonlinear Science
University of California, San Diego 

“If necessity is the mother of invention, then the U.S. government’s midwife for much of the Cold War was a small, brilliant and fiercely independent cadre of physicists who assembled each summer to make scientific reality out of pie-in-the-sky ideas. Ingenious problem-solvers to a man (they were, for decades, an all-boys club), “the Jasons” agreed to help the government-and cash its checks-on the condition that their work be free from political influence; if the Pentagon or White House proposed a project the group found absurd or ethically reprehensive, they would say so in their typically blunt, intellectually arrogant manner.” (from the book, The Jasons) The speaker has been a Jason since 1974 and will discuss some of the topics that the group has tackled over the years as well as relate a few human interest stories about the group.