Monday, July 28, 2008

More restrictions for Iranian-born scientists - The Dutch edition

Once bitten, twice shy. It seems that Holland is still suffering from the A.Q. Khan and Pakistan's nuclear program debacle. From Science (Jul 11, 2008):
Iranian-born scientists and students are upset by new Dutch regulations, announced last week, that ban them from nine fields of study and five research facilities where they might have access to nuclear technology. The Dutch government says the rules are an implementation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1737, which seeks to limit Iran's access to nuclear technology (Science, 1 February, p. 556).

But the new rules are the strictest of any country and are unfairly singling out one group, critics say. "This stigmatizes the next generation of Iranian scientists," says Nasser Kalantar of the Nuclear Physics Accelerator Institute in Groningen, the Netherlands, who says he plans to investigate whether the measure is constitutional. Peyman Jafari of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam hopes the Dutch parliament will intervene. The Netherlands is particularly sensitive to the issue because Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's nuclear program, passed on highly classified material to Pakistan while working at a Dutch uranium-enrichment plant in the 1970s.

Loved the bit about "the so-called father of Pakistan's nuclear program". This is funny because its true. During the 80's and 90's, A.Q. Khan did present himself (yes, he was much fond of self-promotion before his recent house-arrest) as the next Einstein. To his credit, he did copy the right material from the Dutch nuclear facilities - and you do have to have some smarts to copy the right material in the right way. So definitely no Einstein - but may be a James Bond? ;)

Of course, nuclear bombs are no laughing matter (unless you are Dr. Strangelove). So it was great to be reminded of Cosmos at Pharyngula this past weekend. I think this is the episode I have watched the least over the years, as it gets a little too preachy at times. But this bit is great and holds up fantastically well, even after almost 30 years! Enjoy.