In the 1950s, amid a booming economy and rapid scientific progress, a charismatic salesman sought to make his fortune with a chemical additive that he claimed would extend the life of car batteries. But tests at a federal government agency called the National Bureau of Standards, now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), showed that the additive didn’t work as advertised. Its director then had to battle public opinion and political pressure to defend the importance of scientific integrity. “The AD-X2 Controversy” tells the story of scientific tests, government hearings, a media firestorm, firings, re-hirings, the pivotal support of APS, and much more. The NIST-produced film contains a reenactment of part of an invited speech at a 1953 APS meeting by agency head Allen Astin, grandfather of actor Sean Astin, who also appears in the documentary.
Come to watch the 23-minute film, then hear from a panel of present-day NIST employees, science historians, and APS staff. They will discuss the documentary, the role of scientific integrity in society, and how to effectively communicate scientific information to the public. The audience will then be invited to participate in a Q&A with the panel. This event is co-sponsored by the APS Forum on the History and Philosophy of Physics (FHPP) and NIST.
- Alberto Martinez, University of Texas at Austin, Professor, APS FHPP Chair
- Joe Martin, Durham University, Professor, History of Science and Technology
- Angie Hight Walker, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Senior Scientist
- Leon Geršković, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Film Producer and Director of Video and Digital Media Production
- Allie Lau, American Physical Society, Public Engagement Programs Manager