National Museums Scotland and Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, the University of Edinburgh:


Public lecture

Thursday 21 January 2010, 3:00 pm

Dr Graham Spinardi (University of Edinburgh):

The Real ‘Star Wars’: the Technology and Politics of the US Ballistic Missile Defence

The popular perception of Ballistic Missile Defence technology goes back to US President Reagan’s call in 1983 for a defence that would make nuclear weapons ‘impotent and obsolete’ – an impervious shield against Soviet nuclear missiles. The rhetoric of Star Wars was misleading, however, creating an impression that space-based lasers and particle beams were practical prospects, and setting the impossible standard of a perfect defensive system. The history of BMD technology actually predates Reagan’s Star Wars by over two decades. And both of the systems that have been deployed – the Safeguard system that operated briefly in 1975 and the current Ground-based Midcourse Defence – have used ground-based missile interceptors. Knowledgeable insiders consider perfect performance of the technology neither likely nor necessary. This talk puts Star Wars into context by describing the full history of BMD, and asks particularly why technical feasibility has remained unresolved despite fifty years of intensive effort.

Dunfermline Room, National Museums Scotland

Admission free

Please register with Maureen Kerr on 0131 247 4274 or [email protected]