[Marxism] Bush, Giordano Bruno, and burning stakes

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Aug 22 00:29:36 MDT 2005

Nestor Gorojovsky wrote:

>This reminds me of Adolf Hitler, who lavishly financed "scientists" 
>who believed that the Universe was a hollow black sphere, and the 
>stars pieces of frozen ice in that sphere.

couldn't help but think of this short article on Iranian astronomy (a 
year old, but still relevant) and related items, found while browsing 
some physics web sites tonite when nestor's message came in:

Iran Invests in Astronomy

(Physics Today, July 2004)

 The Iranian government has committed 150 billion rials (roughly $17.5 
million) for a telescope, an observatory, and a training program, all 
part of a plan to build up the country's astronomy base. Iran wants to 
collaborate internationally and to become internationally competitive in 
astronomy, says the University of Michigan's Carl Akerlof, an adviser to 
the Iranian project. "For a government that is usually characterized as 
wary of foreigners, that's an important development."

A 2−meter−class telescope will be the Iranian National Observatory's 
first facility. "As far as I know, there has never been such a large 
purely scientific project in Iran," says Sepehr Arbabi Bidgoli, the 
project's assistant manager and an astrophysicist at the Institute for 
Studies in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics in Tehran. "The biggest 
telescope we have now is a 60−centimeter refractor. We can't compete 
with the Hubble or Keck or the VLT [Very Large Telescope], but we can do 
real science with [a 2−meter] telescope." Running a facility as a 
multi−university collaboration is also new for Iranians, Arbabi adds.

"Iran will have the only major telescope at that longitude," says 
project adviser Edward Guinan, an astronomer at Villanova University in 
Pennsylvania. "With a first−class modern telescope at a great site, it 
will be possible to swap time with other telescopes internationally."

Measurements of light pollution, seismicity, wind, dust, and cloud cover 
have narrowed the site possibilities to four candidates. Testing for 
atmospheric turbulence, or seeing, at those sites begins this summer. A 
site is scheduled to be chosen within about four years, and the 
ready−made, robotically operable telescope could be installed and 
running in 2009.

Meanwhile, Iran's astronomy community, which consists of about 30 
professionals and as many students, wants to train about 50 people in 
observational astronomy over the next five or so years. Last fall, the 
first class in a new master's program got under way. Students will learn 
theory and "get their first acquaintance with astronomical gadgetry on 
one of the few small observatories" in Iran, and then go abroad to gain 
experience on larger and newer instruments, says Yousef Sobouti of the 
Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences in Zanjan. "We do have 
enough friends and contacts in India, Europe, and elsewhere to give us a 
helping hand."

"Fortunately, Iran has an immense pool of youth very much interested to 
make careers in all branches of science," adds Sobouti, who spearheaded 
the telescope project. "This includes astronomy, though it may not seem 
to provide a lavish life for the individual."

Toni Feder



Society Bars Papers From Iranian Authors

Science, Vol 308, Issue 5729, 1722-1723 , 17 June 2005

 Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

 Six months after scientific societies and publishers won a hard-fought 
battle with the U.S. government to edit and publish manuscripts from 
countries under a U.S. trade embargo, the American Institute of 
Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has decided to bar such submissions 
from its journals and conferences. The institute says the ban, which 
falls hardest on scientists from Iran, is necessary to protect national 


One of the first victims of that policy was Masoud Darbandi, an 
aerospace engineer at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, who 
received a note from Dickman on 26 May that AIAA had withdrawn his paper 
on high-temperature irradiance from a forthcoming issue of the Journal 
of Thermophysics and Heat Transfer. "It was a basic science paper, and I 
am not involved with any military projects," he says. "If the paper had 
been about a military application, the U.S. would actually benefit from 
its publication; what better way to get inside information about Iran's 



Nature 429, 229 (2004)

Iranian physicist locked out of laboratory by energy department

Geoff Brumfiel

No entry: Shahram Rahatlou (below) has been unable to work at this 
Stanford lab for more than a year.

His supervisor believes he will be one of the achievers of tomorrow, he 
has just won an award from the American Physical Society - and he has 
been banned from his lab for more than a year by the US Department of 
Energy (DOE).

Shahram Rahatlou is an Iranian high-energy physicist based at the 
University of California, San Diego (UCSD), whose research involves 
using the BaBar particle detector at the Stanford Linear Accelerator 
Center (SLAC). But since February last year, he has been prohibited from 
entering the grounds of SLAC, where he has worked for the past six years.

Rahatlou declined to comment for this article, but colleagues and 
laboratory sources told Nature that security officials from the DOE, 
which oversees SLAC, have offered no explanation for his expulsion and 
have stated that there will be no appeal.

SLAC is considered to be a civilian facility and does not conduct 
classified or sensitive research. But security rules have been tightened 
at such facilities, in part because the DOE is also responsible for 
research into sensitive topics such as nuclear weapons.

Vivek Sharma, a UCSD physicist and Rahatlou's thesis adviser, says that 
the 30-year-old has not violated any immigration laws, and that his work 
on BaBar has no bearing on either national security or weapons of mass 

Rahatlou, who is working in the United States on the type of visa - an 
H-1B - used by many visiting scientists, has continued to work remotely 
on the BaBar experiment from his office at UCSD. But the ruling 
effectively puts his career on hold, says Sharma. "If the current 
isolation remains, then I think he has to leave the field," he says.

Rahatlou's family moved from Iran to Rome in 1987, where he attended the 
city's 'La Sapienza' university. It was there that he caught the eye of 
physicist Fernando Ferroni, who believed that Rahatlou showed great 
promise. "He was very bright," Ferroni recalls. On Ferroni's 
recommendation, Rahatlou joined Sharma's group in the autumn of 1998. 
"He's probably the best graduate student I have had," Sharma says.

In four years, much of it spent in an office at SLAC, Rahatlou completed 
his PhD thesis on how measurements made with BaBar might help to explain 
why there is vastly more matter than antimatter in the Universe. His 
work won him the 2004 Mitsuyoshi Tanaka Dissertation Award, an annual 
prize for an exceptional thesis in experimental particle physics. The 
award was presented at this month's American Physical Society meeting in 

His troubles began after he completed his PhD in the autumn of 2002. 
Rahatlou secured a postdoctoral fellowship at Fermilab near Chicago, 
Illinois. But to take the position, he had to undergo a background check 
as part of security procedures introduced after the terrorist attacks of 
11 September 2001. Sharma suspects that it was this that led two DOE 
officials to his UCSD lab in February last year. Sharma says that the 
officials told him that Rahatlou was no longer welcome at DOE 
facilities, but that they did not explain why. They also said that the 
case could not be appealed. Sharma's version of events has been 
confirmed by several sources in the physics community, who declined to 
be identified.

A laboratory spokesman says that officials at SLAC, which is run by 
Stanford University for the DOE, have also not received an explanation 
for the ruling. "It was a DOE decision," he says.

Other Iranians say that the new security clearances have made it harder 
for them to work at, or even visit, government facilities. "We were 
discriminated against even before 11 September," says Niayesh Afshordi, 
an Iranian graduate student at Princeton University in New Jersey. "But 
now it has become worse." Afshordi, who expects to complete his PhD in 
theoretical astrophysics later this year, says that he had applied for a 
postdoctoral position at Fermilab, but a fellow researcher there told 
him that the on-site security clearance would take too long to make it 

DOE officials who oversee SLAC failed to return calls enquiring about 
the decision. Jeanne Lopatto, a spokeswoman at the department's 
Washington headquarters, said in an e-mail: "DOE will decline to comment 
on this."

Sharma says he hopes that the DOE will review the ruling. "Rahatlou is 
the kind of guy who was going on to be the next brilliant faculty at one 
of the top US universities," he says. "The chances of that happening are 
dimming day-by-day."

les schaffer

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