Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 23  |  Friday, February 25, 2000  |  Number 4
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Principles had priority on passage to India
Althoughh the santions prevented Fermilab scientists from traveling to India using DOE funds, Fermilab physicist Rajendran Raja paid his own way to the Hadron 13 particle physics conference to present his scheduled talk. Here he explains his reasons:

by Rajendran Raja

Rajendran Raja The sanctions, as applied in this instance, only affected physicists who worked at DOE National Laboratories. The conference was attended by 21 U.S. physicists from U.S. universities, some of whom were under DOE grants. I asked the Fermilab Directorate whether it was all right for me to give the invited talk, "Tevatron Top Quark Physics," as a private citizen. I was told that it was OK.

At a personal level, I opposed the move by India to test nuclear weapons. I think that India's greatest contribution in contemporary world affairs is Gandhian non-violence; the decision to test flew in the face of guarding that heritage. Having said that, I think the pursuit of pure science and the investigation of how nature works at its most fundamental level is an activity that has tremendous potential to bring people together. In Europe after the war, no one thought that the Germans and the British could work together, but CERN proved them wrong and served as a model for the European Common Market.

The laws of physics are the same whether in India, Europe, the U.S.A. or anywhere else in the known universe, and the unfettered pursuit of their understanding is a fundamental human right, just as free speech or free expression in the arts. To prevent the free exchange of scientific ideas by using science as a tool for political leverage was anathema to me, and to the Fermilab tradition of science without borders begun under the late Robert Wilson (which survived the cold war intact).

Preventing eight physicists from attending the conference, while permitting 21 others to do so, did nothing, I believe, to further the cause of non-proliferation. As a U.S. citizen, I felt it my duty to register my feelings by going to the conference and giving my science talk as a private citizen.


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