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Histories: Military secrets and hidden patents

作者:王孙住    发布时间:2019-03-02 07:18:10    

By Barry Fox When I was in the Royal Air Force in the 1950s, learning about electronics as part of my military service, my fellow airmen and I were ushered into a hut, told to sign the Official Secrets Act and shown how to repair an Enigma-like cipher machine that sent coded messages. We were told to take notes for an end-of-course exam. As we left the hut, the armed guard on the door collected our notes and destroyed them. I passed the exam, but always worried about going to jail if I told anyone what I had learned. Now, if I wanted to, I could. Patents filed on the electro-mechanical coding drums have finally been published. Whether anyone gets to read them is quite another matter… ON CHRISTMAS DAY 1973, the US Patent Office published details of a tongue-twisting group of chemicals called O-alkyl S-dialkyl-phosphonothiolates. Why then? Here’s a clue. The patent had been filed by the British minister of supply a full 18 years earlier. To a suspicious journalist who knows a thing or two about patents, the odd timing and the long delay can only point to one thing: whatever this stuff was, someone somewhere didn’t want anyone else to know about it. After a quick scan, it was obvious why. Those chemicals are nerve gases. Because patents contain a wealth of technical detail,

 

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