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Re: For Richard (yanniry? We Have Several Richards Here)

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Posted by Richard Ruquist on February 23, 2001 14:42:28 UTC

Actually I was fired. And I went into space-based kill vehicle research in my next job. I could no longer get work in lasers.

(The reason it would not work is because of diffractive effects that adaptive optics cannot correct.)

Just why I got fired has always been a puzzle to me. It could simply be eliminating the competition by some physicists who were more established than I. I had just embarrassed one of them by proving that an existing satellite was adequate for a particular experiment, whereas he had claimed that there were none and more funding was required.

But in hindsight, perhaps it was because I broke the code of the bluff. The whole point of Star Wars (this is before it got this nickname) research in the 1970s was to get our opponent to spend ten times as much as us on the project. We already knew that it could not work, primarily because satellites are inherently vulnerable.

In 1975 I was famous for a day or two by publishing that an unlimited amout of laser power could be transmitted to space, given adequate aperture and pulse shaping. But that paper ignored turbulence. It was a snooker. So saying in 1980 that atmospheric turbulence defeats the concept breaks the code.

But rather than blunting my inherent honesty, the sequence of job losses just set me up to protest Star Wars with Henry Kendall in 1987. By then I knew that I could always get another job. That time I angered the SDI missile people, but delighted the laser people, who stood to get more money if the missile system was not funded; and I got a job back in the laser/optics field working on the same concept that I had already said would not work. But by then I did not care.

Finally, in 1990, after the Berlin Wall came down, the bluff was no longer necessary, and the whole project was cut. That was my last job as a scientist. Now I work as a software test engineer.

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