Reply To: James Dyson affair, Dominic Cummings, and leaks from the heart of government


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A note on the photo that Dominic Cummings has on his Twitter account. It shows John von Neumann with Richard Feynman and Stanislaw Ulam. As anybody who has studied Cummings’s blog is aware, he is obsessed with John von Neumann.

Who was John von Neumann?

Answer: he was one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the past 150 years. Even the world’s other leading mathematicians who were his contemporaries tended to see him as belonging to a class above themselves where mathematics was concerned. If you want a shortlist of the top mathematicians in that period then he von Neumann is obviously on it, and possibly the only others who are on it would be Alexander Grothendieck and Grigori Perelman. For the sheer breadth of the application of his brilliance, Von Neumann probably then wins out of those three.

Right, how he did he conduct himself?

And the answer is…he was a WAR CRIMINAL. He was deeply involved in the mass murder of a large number of unarmed Japanese civilians by the US military in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is absolutely NO WAY that someone could seriously argue that this guy had clean hands. Such “scientists” are NOT innocent. This is the man who did the maths for the altitude at which to explode the Nagasaki bomb so that the largest number of people would be murdered. He knew what he was doing.

So it is truly amazingly “rich” for Cummings to put up a quote from von Neumann that says “The combination of physics and politics could render the surface of the earth uninhabitable”. (That comes from his testimony to the US Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, 31 Jan 1946.)

That’s like Adolf Hitler saying the combination of chemistry and politics could do the same.

PS The “soft” science of biology appears to be winning out over both physics and chemistry…