9 responses to “Weekend Journal — The Doodle and the Truth”

  1. Jacob

    This is extremely relevant to me right now, as I’m contemplating the opportunities that I’ve been offered in grad school, and a very large portion of the exciting engineering projects available are funded by military grants. Even though I know that the main purpose of school is my education, and that the projects might not even work out, it makes me uncomfortable. And I think I couldn’t remain happy and motivated if I were working on such a project, even if it was challenging and fascinating. For me, the same also applies for the oil and gas industry (the second largest source of projects, it seems), although I understand that this is also a touchy subject and others may have different views.

    1. Sebastian Abbott

      Jacob – thanks so much for your comment. In one sense the decision is harder for you than it was for me; I hardly had any time to think, yet you have the time to agonize about it. It’s a really difficult one, and the same goes for energy supply (I know – I work in one of the biggest ends of the oil chain, autos!). Do you take the Big Oil dollar, or do you try to find something in alternative energy without the guarantee that that company will be around in five years’ time…?

      In the end, you have to make a decision based largely on emotion. I’d suggest the best thing you can do is keep talking about it with friends, family and tutors until a view hardens out. But then I’m in the comfortable situation of not having to decide; it’s up to you and I think I can safely say; we wish you all the best!

  2. Dave Jones

    I’ve worked on many military projects, but none directly involved in actual weapons – more of the defensive side with sonar receivers etc.
    I guess it’s a fine line there between actual deadly hardware itself and that which can be simply used to perpetuate war. And as someone who is pretty much anti-war (as much as I like military hardware too), I guess I should have had a broader line in this respect.
    And I’ve also worked many years on seismic oil exploration, even though I’m very much a renewable energy greenie.
    But once again, it was the fine line. The stuff I worked on was the worlds leading “eco friendly” oil survey system (that at least doesn’t pump oil back *into* the ocean).

    It’s almost certain that I wouldn’t do it again, being older, wiser, and more opinionated…


  3. D

    I was very interested in autonomous underwater vehicles until I figured out the majority of the usage is either navies or oil exploration. And the companies often make torpedoes, too.
    I think the bigger question posed in this post is extremely specific to the person. Different personal ethics and morals will alter someone’s suitable work environment, right?
    Some further questions — what if you independently created a new efficient power supply or rugged engine modification that a large military adopted to increase their efficiency? Versus working directly for a defense group and having peaceful spillover from research into some crazy material science or fabrication process.

  4. z


    I’ve worked at a company that made equipment that was sufficiently useful to the product of weapons that we had some annoying export and employment restrictions. Being once removed from the production seemed to make all the difference for most of my coworkers, especially since the military was a relatively minor customer.

    It didn’t bother me, either, but then my view has always been that I personally share some responsibility as a citizen for any large scale stupidity committed by the government, even if I voted against the idiots that decided it.

  5. Ben

    In the interview for my previous job, they asked if I had a problem working on missiles. I said yes. So, they gave me a very rewarding job designing attitude control systems for a weather satellite. I was very fortunate to have that choice. One, to have a job. Two, to have a job with interesting engineering challenges. Three, to have an interesting job that aligned with my values.

  6. K

    I really believe you’re thinking about this way way too simply. It’s damn near impossible to separate out what is military and what is non-military. Ever looked at the dual-use item list? You think automotive technology doesn’t come from and isn’t going to the military?

    A comment above mentioned green energy projects as being better when compared to big oil. Know who really wants green energy and solar power to work? The military. It would make it lot easier to have forward bases if you didn’t need to bring power.

    I sure think that much of the military research is trying to find a way to quell conflict WITHOUT killing people. Yes, there is weapons work, but much of this work is about doing direct targeting to reduce unnecessary kills.

    The nuke, pretty much the worst weapon ever, right? Many historians believe that ending the war with Japan would have been a bloody and horribly deadly disaster, to both sides if we hadn’t dropped the nuke. The cold war with Russia, wonder how ‘hot’ that war would have been if it hadn’t been for the threat of the nuke?

    No, I don’t work for the military, just on a few isolated military projects. Most recently, an improved mine detector. I think that’s a valid military project, don’t you?

    I am very anti-war and really do question what the US is doing and has done in the past, but I know things aren’t simple, good, bad, yes, no. It’s all a bit more mixed.

    1. Bill

      I generally agree. It’s one thing to promote war, another to make sure that when we go to war, our troops are safe and are effectively able to kill the bad guys without causing innocent life to be lost. I think too many people confuse the policy decisions with the engineering, but having family in the military certainly makes the choice easier. As you point out, the engineering also plays a large role in preventing ‘bad’ policy decisions -e.g. the Cold War.

  7. merzak

    just to add something about project .what do you think which kind of project is more really valuable? .between James Cameron and his navette or jarno smeets and his fly dreaming :))