Machines, People, and Politics RFG

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Research Focus Group TALK: The Chinese Typewriter: A History

McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB Santa Barbara, CA, United States

Chinese writing is character-based, the one major world script that is neither alphabetic nor syllabic. Over the past two centuries, Chinese script has encountered presumed alphabetic universalism at every turn, whether in the form of Morse Code, Braille, stenography, Linotype, punch cards, word processing, or other systems developed with the Latin alphabet in mind. Today, however, after more than a century of resistance against the alphabetic, not only have Chinese characters prevailed, they form the ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Cold War Curvature: Measuring and Modeling Gravity in Postwar American Physics

McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB Santa Barbara, CA, United States

A popular image persists of Albert Einstein as a loner, someone who avoided the hustle and bustle of everyday life in favor of quiet contemplation. Yet Einstein was deeply engaged with politics throughout his life; indeed, he was so active politically that the FBI kept him under surveillance for decades. His most enduring scientific legacy, the general theory of relativity – physicists' reigning explanation of gravity and the basis for nearly all our thinking about ...

The Lawrence Badash Memorial Lecture Series: Science, Freedom, and the Cold War: A Political History of Apolitical Science

McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB Santa Barbara, CA, United States

Why do so many U.S. scientists continue to lean on the language of apolitical science, even as political leaders display less and less interest in scientists’ claims to expertise, or even the existence of facts? In a new book, Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science, historian Audra J. Wolfe suggests the answer lies in Cold war propaganda. From the late 1940s through the late 1960s, the U.S. foreign policy establishment ...

The Lawrence Badash Memorial Lecture Series: Einstein’s War: How World War I Made Relativity

McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB Santa Barbara, CA, United States

Einstein’s ascent to worldwide celebrity was, in large part, not his own doing. The 1919 confirmation of the German Einstein’s theory of general relativity by British astronomers soon after the end of the First World War made him an emblem of how science could rise above nationalism and petty patriotism.  But in fact international science – and relativity with it – was nearly shattered by the war. It was only the dedicated efforts of pacifist ...

Research Focus Group Talk: US Policymaking and the Promises of Technology in the 1990s’ “New Economy”

4041 HSSB

On April 5th, 2000, President William Clinton stepped to the microphone at the White House Conference on the New Economy and told those gathered that the United States was experiencing “an economic transformation as profound as that that led us into the industrial revolution.” The 1990s was a heady moment for chatter about technological change, especially around personal computers and the Internet. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates predicted Business @ the Speed of Thought, as one ...

Research Focus Group Talk: Secret Clocks: The U.S. Military, Einstein’s Relativity, and the Global Positioning System

4080 HSSB UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States

For nearly a decade, beginning in the mid-1970s, a debate unfolded among physicists and engineers over how best to include effects from Einstein's general theory of relativity in the new military technology now known as the Global Positioning System (GPS). Although some exchanges were published in the open scientific literature, much of the debate played out behind the scenes, in memos, reports, and special review sessions arranged by the U.S. military. Theoretical physicists who had ...