Military applications of scientific work

Frederico Carvalho

Technological developments are taking place at an accelerated pace. We are all aware of such developments, their potential as well as their likely consequences in the short- and medium-term. However, people's awareness of the current situation varies, depending on the information they possess and their ability to interpret it critically, in the specific context of the society or social group they belong to, live and work in.
Technological evolution in inevitable, as is the quest for new knowledge about the natural world. This is the task of scientific research which is the source of the advancement of science.
Societies are shaped by forces whose nature and correlation is constantly evolving. Those forces determine the use that is made of scientific and technological knowledge as well as the objectives and course of scientific work itself.
War as a social phenomenon has existed for as long as mankind itself. But the forms that war has taken and the means that it has used have changed significantly over time. As have the social and environmental impacts of wars. Scientific knowledge and the technological developments it has generated have always been associated to the evolution of military means, weapons and systems.

This mosaic of images illustrates conflicts, the clash between warring groups and combat hardware in different epochs. Top right, a cave painting depicts the fight between two human groups brandishing spears (Mesolithic 10-20 thousand years BC). Top left, a two-horse chariot (biga). The Hiksos that dominated Egypt between approximately 1600 and 1500 BC, introduced the war chariot and the horse in war actions. Top middle, a robotic mule developed for the USA DoD capable of carrying about 150 kg through uneven terrain. Below left, a remotely controllable device known as a four rotor drone or quadcopter. Below center, drawing of a machine gun designed by Leonardo da Vinci for Cesario Borgia (1482). Below right, a bas-relief from Asurbanipal palace (Mesopotamia, today’s Irak): Assyrian officer presents a new king to the vanquished Elamites at Madaktu after the battle of Til Tuba (VII century BC).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
Credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
(GUERRA E PAZ -Versão em português)
 
“It is still three minutes to midnight Date: January 26, 2016”
2016 Doomsday Clock Statement Science and Security Board Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

“(…)world leaders continue to fail to focus their efforts and the world’s attention on reducing the extreme danger posed by nuclear weapons and climate change. When we call these dangers existential, that is exactly what we mean: They threaten the very existence of civilization (…)”

 

On High Alert: The Threat of World War

Frederico Carvalho

In his farewell address to the American people, in the year 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower, remarked that the existence of “an immense military establishment and a large arms industry (was) new in the American experience”.He added that the US “(spent) on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations”. He stressed the need to “comprehend (,,,) the grave implications” of that reality in the very structure of American society, adding that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist”. An overwhelming control of the media by the dominant interest circles that is particularly effective in the majority of the more powerful states, prevents the common citizen from correctly acknowledging the magnitude of the dangers that hover over mankind’s future as the world experiences a new arms race.The military-industrial complex itself is a powerful driving force as it thrives naturally on an environment of permanent conflict by selling its products to friends and foes with a clear conscience. The most profitable investments require however the identification of a powerful enemy. In today’s multipolar world the old unipower ― the USA, the self-proclaimed indispensable, exceptional nation ― cannot prosper without a convenient enemy.

The world's top 5 military spenders in 2015 are the USA, China, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and Russia, The military expenditure of the USA in 2015 was four fold that of China. The ratio of per capita expenditures exceeded 17 to 1.

 

“Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies”

Frederico Carvalho

The issue of the peaceful utilization of outer space, as a general principle, and in particular, that of a possible colonization of the Earth's natural satellite with the exploitation of its mineral and energy resources by private interests, is presently on the table and deserve particular attention. Besides, the use of outer space for military aggressive purposes has been, for almost half a century, a subject of concern of international bodies that have a say on the future of human communities, the co-operation between states and the defense of peace. A key role was played by the United Nations, through its “Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” (COPUOS) established in 1959 (shortly after the launch of Sputnik) whose work led to the resolution adopted by the General Assembly, in the plenary session of December 19, 1966. The Resolution recommends the formalization of a treaty on “Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” the text of which is annexed to the Resolution [1]  .

The Treaty was negotiated by the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Negotiations took place during the so-called "cold war" a period of recent History when East-West relations were severely constrained. In those years the parties involved in the negotiation recognized that the respective states had, in essence, a monopoly of nuclear weaponry of equivalent offensive power and equivalent technical capabilities in what concerned outer space activities. An agreement was thus reached, particularly on the impediment of in-orbit deployment of nuclear weapons that the Treaty establishes.

The Treaty entered into force on October 10, 1967. Today, 104 States are parties to the Treaty, that is, states that declare themselves obliged to abide by the rules set in the Treaty. Another 24 states are signatories of the Treaty but have not completed ratification. Among the latter, only one has acknowledged technical capabilities in space [2]  .

The Treaty, referred to in abbreviated form as "Outer Space Treaty", constitutes the fundamental pillar of international law governing the conduct of States in space.

The terms of the Treaty clearly indicate the purpose of ensuring the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, in a framework of international cooperation.

Article I of the Treaty explicitly states that "the exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind " The Article further establishes that "there shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the Moon", as well as freedom of access "to all areas of celestial bodies”, and that all States shall facilitate and encourage international cooperation in the development of this research.

Article II states that outer space, the Moon and other celestial bodies, cannot be “subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.

The Treaty provides in its Article IV, probably the most important, the prohibition of placing in orbit around the Earth any devices carrying nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction, and, also, the ban on placing such weapons on celestial bodies, or otherwise positioning them in outer space. It states, furthermore, that "the Moon and other celestial bodies cannot be used for purposes other than exclusively peaceful"."(...) Establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden".

As a relevant note about these matters, it should be noted that an internationally accepted definition of the limits of "outer space" apparently does not exist.

Even more strangely, is the fact that there is no international agreement on the vertical extent of "airspace", a three-dimensional portion of the atmosphere, a space that contrary to what happens with "outer space", is subject to national jurisdiction. The International Aeronautical Federation established the so-called "Karman Line" at an altitude of 100 km, as the boundary between Earth's atmosphere and the "outer space."

The Outer Space Treaty skips the thorny issue of ownership and exploitation of mineral or other resources to which states with activities in space may have access. Neither does it consider the question of property rights, including intellectual property rights arising from the exploration of the Moon or of other celestial bodies. In December 1996, the General Assembly approved a "Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for the Benefit and in the Interest of All States, Taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries"[3]  . This "Declaration" that does not naturally have the force of a treaty, contains a reference to the contractual terms of cooperative ventures and also intellectual property rights. It is, however, a vague not limiting reference.

Meanwhile it had been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, the so-called "Moon Treaty". The Moon Treaty was signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1984, once the required number of ratifications, of only five, was reached. At present 16 States are party to the Treaty; 4 others have signed the Treaty but did not complete the ratification process. The Moon Treaty is an international treaty, not a recommendation. Certain provisions of the Treaty are not favored by the main States capable of pursuing significant ventures in outer space which is the reason why neither the United States nor the USSR (subsequently, the Russian Federation) nor China have signed and are therefore not bound by the Treaty.

The key issue is the fact that the Treaty provides that jurisdiction over all celestial bodies (including the orbits around these celestial bodies) is a matter for the international community and that, consequently, all activities in outer space are obliged to respect international law, including the UN Charter. States active in outer space reject the provision that mined or in other fashion acquired resources as well as the technological processes used for that purpose shall be shared with other nations.

Such a requirement and regime are similar to that adopted in the "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea" applicable to the extraction and use of resources of the ocean floor outside the "exclusive economic zones" (EEZ) including in particular the wealth of polymetallic nodules rich in iron and manganese. The United States have not ratified to date the Convention of the Sea, by opposing the provision contained therein on the mineral resource regime in the ocean floor, outside those areas. Under the Convention, an International Authority was established for the Oceanic Funds, the "International Seabed Authority" (ISA), which is responsible for organizing and controlling all activities concerning the mineral resources of the seabed and related activities (exploration, transportation) in international zones of the seabed outside national jurisdictional limits (SEZs) whose total area by far exceeds that of the waters under national jurisdiction. The competence of the Convention thus covers the deep funds, establishing that seabed exploration and mining require the authorization of the International Seabed Authority which is also in charge of the collection and distribution of the seabed mining royalty. Ocean and seabed resources lying outside national jurisdiction zones are declared "common heritage of mankind”[4]  .

Outer space should as well be considered common heritage of humanity.

It is reasonable to assume that the reasons behind the non-adherence to the Moon Treaty are of the same nature of those behind non-adherence to the Convention of the Sea.

We face today the threat of the militarization of space. This threat arises from the possibility of use for aggressive purposes of elaborated technological devices, including in-orbit deployment of electromagnetic weapons, nuclear weapons or other weaponised contrivances. On the other hand, the continuation at an increasing pace of outer space pollution caused by a variety of solid objects, debris or wreckage of varied sources and nature ("space junk"), raises legitimate concerns about the safety of satellites in Earth orbit and spacecraft, both at launch and during the re-entry path towards the Earth. These are questions that clearly require co-ordination and convergence of efforts by all intervening States to successfully progress towards a reduction of latent threats in the context of a peaceful relationship between nations. The necessary equilibrium can only be ensured by an international organization, namely the United Nations, either directly or through specialized Agencies of the UN System.

The World Federation of Scientific Workers correctly understood the importance of drawing attention to the implementation of the Outer Space Treaty but also to its limitations. Accordingly, the President of the World Federation of Scientific Workers, Jean-Paul Lainé, on behalf of the Federation’s International Secretariat has addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon a letter emphasizing the need for the effective respect of international treaties and agreements relating to outer space and in particular of what they stipulate concerning the exploration and utilization of resources that can be found in the Earth's natural satellite or in other celestial bodies.

Scientific workers can and should be willing to take advantage of their knowledge and of all means within their reach to alert their fellow citizens to the importance of ensuring that "outer space" is not used for aggressive purposes and is legally and effectively considered as a common heritage of humanity. There are in this context important issues that even the best informed often ignore, such as the important research activity and ongoing technological developments in the field of the generation of highly energetic electromagnetic pulses, by nuclear or conventional means. Such pulses can be used in outer space to disable communication satellites and can under certain conditions inhibit the operation of information and control systems associated with power grids, transportation networks of people and goods, and social media infrastructures, among others.

As a final comment, it is reasonable to consider that beyond the effective compliance with the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty by the signatory states, the signature of the Moon Treaty by the major technological powers would be a significant positive step in the path towards a stable and peaceful relationship between nations.

February 12, 2016

Frederico Carvalho is chair of the Board of Directors of OTC, the Portuguese Organization of Scientific Workers, and Vice-President of the Executive Council of the World Federation of Scientific Workers



[2]  The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, generally referred to as North Korea, signed the Treaty in 2009. The Islamic Republic of Iran has not signed the Treaty until the present.

 

On the proposal to “Freeze fossil fuel extraction to stop climate crimes”

Frederico Carvalho

Will the conclusions of the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP 21, shortly to meet in Paris [1]   , be able to significantly respond to and alleviate the pressing legitimate concerns of a large number of our fellow citizens preoccupied with the sustainability of life in our common home ― a planet facing the growing threats posed by an accelerated depletion of natural resources?

Climate change and global warming lay on the forefront of such concerns. It is currently accepted that the emission of the so-called greenhouse gases of anthropogenic origin is a determinant factor in the changes in the statistical properties of the Earth’s climate system that have been experienced in the relatively short period of time of one and a half centuries.

ZILDA CARVALHO (1938-1995)

In memoriam

 

 

 

Zilda Carvalho passed away on October 13, 1995. A virologist, she was co-founder and one of the most active members of OTC, the Portuguese Organization of Scientific Workers, for two decades. She made a manifold contribution to the animation of the activities of OTC on several important fronts of work. Her contribution to the establishment and consolidation of work partnerships in the international arena was particularly remarkable. She was elected as Chairperson of the Women’s Committee of the World Federation of Scientific Workers, the praised international non-governmental organization to which OTC became affiliated in 1979. At home, in his native country, she was particularly interested in assessing working conditions and hurdles standing in the way of women scientists’ professional careers. She was particularly gifted to mediate differences of posture and opinions among peers and she will as well be remembered for that. She graduated cum laude in Biomedicine, in the University of Oporto, in 1988. Zilda Carvalho was a member of the research staff of the Gulbenkian Institute of Science from 1969 until her death.

We reproduce below the paper Zilda Carvalho presented at the World Federation of Scientific Workers International Symposium on “A New World Scientific and Technological Order” held in Dakar, Senegal, in November 1992.

 

Women's involvement in the new world scientific and technological order

Paper presented at the international symposium on'A New World Scientific and Technological Order' held in Dakar, Senegal, from 9 to 11 November 1992. Dr Carvalho works at the Institute Gulbenkian de Ciencia in Portugal and belongs to the Organizagao dos Trabalhadores Cientificos. She chairs the WFSW's women's committee.

Zilda G Carvalho

 

Can we envisage a new world order for science and technology without involving women, and women scientists especially? Looking at this gathering, and excluding the colleagues from our Madagascar affili­ate, whom I'm pleased to greet, one is inclined to say yes, as it would appear that their points of view and concerns are compatible with those of the scientific community as a whole, meaning that their contribu­tion is not indispensable.

 

The Social Cost of GMOs

Paul Craig Roberts

Ecological economists such as Herman Daly write that the more full the world becomes, the higher are the social or external costs of production.

Social or external costs are costs of production that are not captured in the price of the products. For example, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico that result from chemicals used in agriculture are not included as costs in agricultural production. The price of food does not include the damage to the Gulf.

Food production is a source of large social costs. Indeed, it seems that the more food producers are able to lower the measured cost of food production, the higher the social costs imposed on society.