Ponzi schemes have been a hot topic in the news ever since Bernie Madoff was charged with being the center of such an operation late last year. These are fraudulent financial investment schemes in which investors lose their money to the perpetrator at the center.
Last week, an Albemarle County man was charged with running his own Ponzi scheme. I had skimmed by the headline last week, but today I noticed a copy of the Daily Progress article in the astronomy department’s main office with a certain section highlighted:
“Using his background in astrophysics,” the court filing quotes, “Donnelly developed a proprietary model of financial markets using algorithms derived from the quantification of a fractal wave frequency model which he named Blue Logic.”
In truth, he had never made any trades, but was clearly using his BA in astrophysics from UVa (1982) to fool investors into thinking he had an edge in the market!
Granted, this is not on the level of the stereotypical mad-scientist-evil-genius using science to enslave humanity… but to use science, or even to pretend to use it, for anything other than the search for objective truth and empowering the human species to better itself and its environment is just reprehensible. I never thought I would worry much about the morality or immorality of astronomy, since we don’t use embryos or deal with food production or build cars or anything like that. Astronomy is incredibly important to how we view ourselves, our species, and our place in the universe. And surely, many of the techniques used in astronomy are also useful in photography, communications, defense, and even economics. Just be skeptical anytime someone offers to use their knowledge of astrophysics to make you a quick buck.
Really. What a jerk.