Gravity Probe B
considers it a prudent political exercise. "I would say
it is like jogging - something you do to keep the body healthy," he
says. In Everitt's view, such political common sense is in painfully
short supply in the scientific community. If scientists today studied
the men and women who oversee their federal funding with the same care
given to analysis of technical data, Everitt says, researchers would not
have so much trouble maintaining public support for their projects.
"Put yourself in the shoes of one of these congressional staff people,"
Everitt says. "They are desperately overworked. They are going to be
seeing maybe 10 people in a day. There must be a reason they will decide
you are one of the people they want to help. What constitutes that is a
very subtle question, I would say. I think one of the factors is to
actually realize the people you are talking to are real human beings."
says, The whole foundation of physics would
be shaken. We would have to look for a new way to describe the
Certainly, Everitt has done his best to make any encounter with him
memorable. His curling mane of long hair evokes comparisons with
Einstein's famous frizz. His cultured British accent lends a persuasive
melody to his explanations of relativity's place in the federal budget.
His air of aristocratic geniality invites confidence. "Knowing how well
he had done in terms of working with Congress, you think of a guy in a
sharp suit or the guys in Gucci loafers you see lobbying Congress," says
Giovane at NASA. "That is not Francis. He looks like Einstein, maybe
The project has been threatened with cancellation seven times -
more times than almost any other project in the agency's history, NASA
officials acknowledge. Yet it has survived where many other more widely
supported projects have been scratched, due in no small measure to
Everitt's political acumen.