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Science Becomes Servant of Wars

Posted June. 20, 2003 22:07,   


`Science Goes to War: The Search for Ultimate Weapon, from Greek Fire to Stat Wars` written by Ernest Volkman and translated by Seok Gi-yong as Korean title `War and Science; the History of Collision`. 510 pages, retail for 23,000 won, published by Imago.

“I will find no excuse if God and fellow humans punish me for developing technology that could inflict pain on others and harm the entire mankind.”

Tartaglia, an Italian mathematician from the 16th Century Venice wrote in his letter as such. He referred to his research on ballistic missiles. His formula used to hit targets was near perfection. Tartaglia had long refused to work with warlords and noblemen for development of ballistic systems.

But his country faced with the great Osman Turk forces. “Wolves are drooling over sheep.” He released the results of his study and became a savior of his country.

Since humans began to resort to force, wars and science technology have been close friends to each other. The author of the book, who has worked for such military journals as `Defense Science,` describes how scientists have contributed to development of military technologies.

The elite French forces faced the British army on the run in 1415. In a gesture of contempt, they exposed their buts to the enemies in some 200 yard distance. At that moment, myriads of arrows filed in from the British camp. The weapons were long-range bows French soldiers had never heard of. In less than two hours, the force of armored knights ended its 1000-year-long history.

35 years later, French warriors encountered with their British counterparts again. Then, they put black powder and stones into steel pots. Soon, sound of explosions rocked the battleground and a shower of stones began to hit the British camp, signaling the emergence of gunpowder.

A group fascinated with superiority of a newly-developed weapon had to yield its place to another when changes took place. Machine guns, armored vehicles and fighter planes changed the paradigm of wars completely. Y

et, the shocks did not last long. In 260 B.C., the Roman Empire, ruler of the Mediterranean Sea, seized a war vessel built by Carthago and dissolved it. Over the following three months, Romans made 220 copies and defeat Carthago completely. There was no copyright protection arranged for the enemy force. The same rule goes to nuclear bombs that put an end to the World War II.

Military and private-sector technology have been one body with two faces. Efforts to develop strong spears, shields and cannons had led to advance of steel technology. Development of cans gave birth to the invincible Napoleon expedition forces.

The need for encryption has led to development of computers, and thanks to the efforts to secure enhanced military communication networks, came the Internet. With countries competing for high-tech fighter jets, people travel across the world in increasingly speedier ways.

`Technology of destruction` has turned into `technology of production` or vice versa. Tartaglia had to act against his conscience to save his motherland facing a crisis, but not all scientists have agonized over what to do.

Galileo visited Governor of Venice carrying his telescope as he ran out of research funds. The governor, seeing the device capable of detecting approaching enemy ships, granted him a lot of money, and the great scientist could continue his research work.

Harver, the father of the `Nitrogen Fixed Theory`, which has made the fields in the world abundant with the nitrogenous fertilizers, received a call from the German Headquarter during the First World War. What he invented was the chloride gas, which `can chase the enemies out of the trench`. However, the inventor of the poisonous gas did not have any qualms. He boldly clarified that `the responsibility of a scientist during the wartime is to serve one`s nation.` However, Harver, who was a Jew, faced a misfortune when the Nazi grasped the power.

“The contract between a nation and a scientist is Faustic. Scientists who serve their nations with their fullest will be loved and compensated.”

Harver was betrayed despite the Faustian contract he had with the Germans but some scientists have resisted such contracts. Marconi, the father of the wireless communication, rejected the cooperation request of Mussolini. Kapitsa, a Soviet physics scholar, came out of the nuclear development group but he received a Nobel Prize in Physics by successfully avoiding the purging. However, the number of the geniuses who have sold their souls to such contracts like Faust surpasses those who did not. The authority figure of the Japanese 731 unit, Ishii, survived and contributed in the development of the infectious diseases studies in Japan and Struckholt who drove the Jews into the gas chamber became an important `contributor in the space development` under the protection of the U.S.

Today, a monumental result of the science so called the decoding of the human genes, is taken as an evidence of the `bio bloodshed machine`. How much longer would the `technology of the massacre` accompany the `technology of the abundance`?

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com