In Print: Imaginary Weapons

05.19.06 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The military subculture that pursues the development of fabulous, physically impossible weapons concepts at taxpayer expense is the subject of a new book by defense reporter Sharon Weinberger called “Imaginary Weapons.”

Weinberger introduces the hafnium bomb, a hypothetical weapon that would supposedly harness the energy released from a nuclear transition within a hafnium isomer. It is a purely speculative notion that has been largely discredited, but one that attracted nearly cultish attention — and millions of dollars — within the defense establishment.

It is akin in its eccentricity, and lack of reproducibility, to “zero point energy,” “psychic teleportation” (pdf), and other notions that Weinberger terms “fringe science.”

Fringe science, she contends, “has reached new heights under the Bush Administration. We have fewer and fewer scientific experts in the government, and an increasing unwillingness by the government to turn to outside scientific advisers.”

“The real danger in this story is not the existence of fringe science, but of fringe science in government, particularly when it receives substantial funding or guides decision-making.”

“I see this problem getting worse, not better. If the government doesn’t take steps to shore up its scientific expertise, I think we are facing a future filled with imaginary weapons.”

Her highly readable new book, filled with entertaining or disgusting anecdotes, has just been published.

See “Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon’s Scientific Underworld” by Sharon Weinberger, Nation Books, June 2006.

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