Sunday, April 6, 2014

Jason's eerie UCal specter

The first chancellor of the University of California at San Diego was physicist Herb York, a Jason, as were some 10 other scientific colleagues whom he recruited to the school's physics and math departments when UCSD was first established in the 1950s at a time the Cold War was dominating American politics.

The Jasons were and are a shadowy group of scientists who advise the Pentagon on scientific matters, and who sometimes dream up technical innovations deemed beneficial for military purposes. In the past the Jasons, many of whom are highly rated professors at top-notch academic institutions, were affiliated with Darpa, aka the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency. Darpa finances all sorts of weapons research, including military robots that respond directly to a handler's thoughts. Though still Pentagon-sponsored, the Jasons are no longer subject to Darpa's control.

Considering the death and mayhem associated with weapons-related research, the chararacter Jason of the Friday the 13th movies is not an altogether inappropriate association, though doubtless the Jasons considered their military work a patriotic duty.

Except for a few former members, you won't find their names on the internet. Ann Finkbeiner, in her 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite, talked with about 36 Jasons, but outs only a few old-timers.

The Jasons have issued numerous reports. For example, one unclassified report with Stanford University's imprimatur, suggests changes that could be made to assist those engaged in computational ("applied") mathematics.

There are various reports as to how the romantic mythological name "Jason" (of the Argonauts) was chosen, but it replaced the whimsical name Dept. 137, which refers to the fine structure constant of physics.

Of course, the Jasonite colonization of San Diego dovetails nicely with the heavy military presence here, along with the thriving defense contractor industry.

Noted Jasons include the likes of John Archibald Wheeler, Freeman Dyson and Luis Alvarez. Wheeler, of Princeton University and the University of Texas, was a major force in the field of quantum mechanics. Freeman Dyson, of Princeton University, won accolades for synthesizing the work of Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger in quantum physics. Alvarez of UCal Berkeley, won the Nobel prize for his work in particle physics. Alvarez is famous for his role in identifying an iridium layer that coats the planet as evidence of an asteroid or comet impact that, he and his geologist son Walter argued, wiped out the dinosaurs.

Wheeler managed to get Hugh Everett, author of the now-respectable "many worlds" (parallel universes) interpretation of quantum theory, a position at the Pentagon, though Everett was shunned by academic physics departments. In fact, Niels Bohr, to whom Wheeler had sent his student, received Everett with displeasure.

The Jasons were pulled together as a "new generation" of scientists who would quietly assist the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies, following in the footsteps of Manhattan Project experts, many of whom by 1960 were either dead or on the retirement rolls, or whose loyalty was questioned as a result of clashes over nuclear weapons policy or as a result of suspect associations.

Alvarez, like his Rad Lab mentor Ernest Lawrence, were fiercely anti-communist to the point that their peers in academia tended to distrust them. Alvarez was known as a big backer of hydrogen bomb research.

The defense-intelligence clique with which the Jasons were associated took a dim view of President John F. Kennedy; the stories circulated that JFK was weak on communism -- despite his masterly performance during the Cuban missile crisis -- and that early in his term he had "betrayed" the CIA invasion of Cuba. He was detested by those who thought that JFK had given a raw deal to Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, chief of the CIA and the CIA's "director of plans" respectively, who were cashiered for their role in the Bay of Pigs misadventure. Dulles went on to a seat on the Warren Commission, which was impaneled after many questions were raised about the FBI's "lone deranged gunman" theory.

In 1976 Alvarez used his prestige to defend the government as essentially accurate concerning JFK's murder. The paper conjectured that, if enough material had been ejected from the back of the president's head, this could have caused a recoil that made the head snap backward after being shot, supposedly, from the rear. Yet Alvarez did not address the many inconsistencies that demonstrated that the Warren Commission tale was a tortuous attempt to place all the blame on one man, Lee Harvey Oswald.

The general public was unaware of Alvarez's role as a Jason at the time his report was published.

An examination of copies of the Zapruder film available on the internet shows that Kennedy's head jerking backward was preceded by an explosion of debris -- presumably organic matter from the president's head.

If the bullet came from the rear, this explosion at the front of the head could conceivably have been caused by a tumbling bullet exiting the cranium. Alvarez's claim is that the ejecta from the back of the head [including chunks of JFK's brain] could have carried enough momentum to have caused a recoil. Such a scenario would seem more plausible had the bullet not exited the head, instead explosively gouging out material and using the front of JFK's head to contain the force, bringing about a rocket-type reaction.

Even so, one might argue that the recoil force could still have been the greater.

However, for Alvarez's conjecture to be plausible, we should have seen JFK's head first lunge forward from the impact of the bullet from the rear, and then jerk backward, from the momentum of the rearward ejecta -- much as if one strikes a ball attached to a spring. But one does not see a violent forward jerk first.

Hence, one must wonder about the esteemed physicist's mental competency in 1976 or about his motivation.

And then we have UCal chief Janet Napolitano, whose tenure at the federal Department of Homeland Security was checkered with complaints that she was stretching, or even violating, the Constitution in order to promote what is today known as the Surveillance State or the National Security State.

She is castigated for her role in cracking down on Occupy protesters, a theme that has accompanied her presence at UCal, where activist students accuse her of using heavy-handed police tactics against student protesters. Certainly, the California national security industry's interlock with UCal suggests that, though no Jason, she fits well with that set.

Zapruder film links

Alvarez's article defending the Warren Commission

Wikipedia article on the Jasons 

1 comment:

  1. We're trying various ideas to get this blog rolling. The title 'SanD Says' has been dropped in favor of 'SanDial.'