Physicists at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, known as Fermilab, look at the smallest scales and greatest expanses of the universe. Known for its powerful particle accelerator, Fermilab epitomizes American physics research. But after accusations of racism, a group of woke physicists now controls the lab. Last summer, Change–Now presented a 17-page list of demands to the Fermilab Directorate. It claimed that “anti-Black racism and other elements of white supremacy … are embedded within structures at Fermilab.” They envision a new Fermilab “that prioritizes humanity over productivity.”
Herman White, a tenured black physicist who worked at Fermilab from 1971 to 2019, questions this perception: “If they’re saying African Americans aren’t welcome [at Fermilab], then I disagree. I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in Tuskegee, Alabama, and people shot at our houses to stop us from integrating.” White’s account of his experience at Fermilab bears no resemblance to the white supremacist dystopia Change–Now describes.
Among their demands, they ask that black scientists be paid for voluntary social justice work. They want the activism of Fermilab employees to be funded by the government.Christopher Sanfilippo, “Fermilab concedes to woke ignorance” at Washington Examiner (August 16, 2021)
Let’s keep an eye on Fermilab and see if Wokeness beating out work results in more genuine physics discoveries or fewer.
Note: Fermilab was named after Italian physicist and Nobelist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954), known for these thoughts:
“Experimental confirmation of a prediction is merely a measurement. An experiment disproving a prediction is a discovery.”
“Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused. But on a higher level.”
“There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery.”
So it’s a fair test. Will today’s Fermilab match the eponymous founder in productivity — or merely change the rules so it doesn’t matter?