Oh, this is classic. By now, youâ€™re all familiar with Carl Collins, the fringe physicist whose superbomb research Sharon Weinberger dismembers in her new book, Imaginary Weapons. Collins (right) is, understandably, a bit pissed off at Weinberger. He has lost most of his government funding, in part because of her exposs, which showed that no credible scientist could replicate Collinsâ€™ experiments. So heâ€™s launched a multi-pronged online campaign against her — including a spoof Imaginary Weapons website.
Step one in Collinsâ€™ push-back effort was to unfavorably compare sales of her book — “a ‘dirtyâ€™ book, demeaning to diversity, internationalization, and educators and scientists in countries with emerging economies,” he writes — to those of Kittenâ€™s First Full Moon. (Why exactly he chose this “sometimes slapstick struggle of Kitten, who sees her first full moon and thinks itâ€™s a bowl of milk in the sky,” as his comparison point remains a mystery.) In any event, Weinbergerâ€™s recent sales numbers, putting her book in the top few hundred at Amazon, have not been included.
Second, Collins responded to Weinberger on this site, urging readers to “lighten up a bit.” He adds, “I think that the root of my problem has been that for 42 years of academic life I have absolutely refused to accept a ‘Security Clearanceâ€™ from anybody.” Thatâ€™s turned the Pentagon and Energy Departmentâ€™s “Best and Brightest” against him, Collins writes.
Last — an in no way, least — Collins has set up ImaginaryWeapons.net, a site that looks almost identical to Weinbergerâ€™s ImaginaryWeapons.com. Well, except for the plea to “savor Sharon Weinbergerâ€™s unashamed bitter and ‘mean-spiritedâ€™ exposi of the Bush administrationâ€™s arrogant refusal to accept the censorship of scientific discovery by the ‘Best and the Brightestâ€™ of her friends.”
In her book Imaginary Weapons, Sharon Weinberger reminds us that vast amounts of the taxpayers money (about $50,000 per second) are spent on the technology of war. Improving of the technology requires understanding of the underlying science, a complex and challenging task. In order to “simplify” decisions that direct (or redirect) billions of dollars of contracts there have emerged cadres of “Experts” whose massive certainties about what can (and more often, what cannot) be done become the dominant factors in decisions about “who gets the money.” Membership in these elite cadres having been known as “the JASONS,” or “the Best and the Brightest,” is usually secret, self-perpetuating, and void of diversity. In Imaginary Weapons, Sharon Weinberger attempts to make an “in-depth” examination of the inherent conflict between the need for scientific advice that is “good for the taxpayer” and that which is “good for the preferred contractors.” However, in Imaginary Weapons, what she achieves is a portrayal of 2-dimensional actors in a grotesque morality play that is written without concern for the number of casualties that will result from her labeling of real people as being either Good or Evil according to her shallow level of understanding of the issues.
I guess she struck a nerve, hunh?
UPDATE 4:14 PM: It gets better. Collinsâ€™ wife, Doina, now has a blog up, dedicated to Sharon-bashing. Hereâ€™s a snip from the first entry:
[T]he boys and girls from the fly-over country that Sharon despises in such heavy-footed paragraphs donâ€™t only do great physics, they also write, perish the thought, great books. Like the physicists, they sometimes have trouble getting their work accepted and appreciated. With deep reverence and humble apology to John Kennedy Toole I have to state that to the musings, criticism and such that will follow, no title, dedication, or quotation is more appropriate than his finding in the writings of Jonathan Swift: “WHEN A TRUE GENIUS APPEARS IN THE WORLD, YOU MAY KNOW HIM BY THIS SIGN, THAT THE DUNCES ARE ALL IN CONFEDERACY AGAINST HIM”.