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Government Science

The Hobby of Energy Secretary Steven Chu 177

Posted by kdawson
from the needs-to-get-out-more dept.
quanminoan writes "Nobel Laureate and US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has continued to publish even while in federal office. While previous research topics include gravitational redshift, Chu has coauthored a paper entitled 'Subnanometre single-molecule localization registration and distance measurements' which discusses a way to optically image objects as small as 0.5 nm — a major step down from the previous limit of 10 nm. Chu does this in his free time, claiming 'I just consider it my equivalent of ... vegging out in front of the TV.'"
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The Hobby of Energy Secretary Steven Chu

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @07:54PM (#32863118)

    Ouch, the feeling of terrible inadequacy, laziness and lack of accomplishment. :P

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki&gmail,com> on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:10PM (#32863210) Homepage

    Bingo, as a "rightwing nut" I couldn't care as long as he does his job when he's supposed to.

  • Re:which way is it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by BKX (5066) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:20PM (#32863258) Journal

    An object's mass warps space-time. Gravity is the after-effect. (Of course there are issues with that theory but it's a good start.)

  • by Myji Humoz (1535565) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:32PM (#32863338)
    Americans aren't spoiled compared to most other Westerners? If you actually read the article, he said "The American public ... just like your teenage kids, aren't acting in a way that they should act" with respect to climate change. He seems correct, and I would say that it's a welcome change from PR spinning and political doublespeak.
  • by Jhon (241832) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:35PM (#32863354) Homepage Journal

    Question: Why was the department of energy created?

    Answer: Out of the oil crisis of the 1970's, it was formed to attempt to free us from dependence on foreign oil.

    Percentage of imported oil in 1977 (when the department was formed): ~35%
    Percentage of imported oil in 2010: ~64%

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:21PM (#32863600)

    The article was submitted last December 26, months before the oil spill began, and he had two coauthors who could have kept working on it in recent weeks if necessary.

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:48PM (#32863700)
    I used to have a boss- every time I saw him, the thought went through my head, "you must have been washing your hair while this guy was reading papers." His hair was never combed straight and he wiped everyone's ass across the floor in every scientific staff meeting.
  • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @11:37PM (#32864228)

    Except the Dept was really created to control nuclear applications, both for reactors and bombmaking. It wouldn't have become a Cabinet level post with armed agent personnel without the Nuclear side.

    Here's their mission statement. I've highlighted the Nukestuff:

    The Department of Energy's overarching mission is to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States; to promote scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission; and to ensure the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex. The Department's strategic goals to achieve the mission are designed to deliver results along five strategic themes:
    Energy Security: Promoting America's energy security through reliable, clean, and affordable energy
    Nuclear Security: Ensuring America's nuclear security
            Scientific Discovery and Innovation: Strengthening U.S. scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and improving quality of life through innovations in science and technology
    Environmental Responsibility: Protecting the environment by providing a responsible resolution to the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production
            Management Excellence: Enabling the mission through sound management

    You'll notice that Nuclear related technologies are explicitly mentioned three times, and that, while energy security is about 'reliable, clean and affordable energy', and presumably economic security is referenced again by that 'affordable' bit, there's also the phrase national security as a separable clause.

  • by oiron (697563) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @12:20AM (#32864400) Homepage

    Yeah, this is slashdot and all, but it wouldn't kill you to RTFA

    Both were published while he has been energy secretary, but started long before he took the job in January 2009.

  • by quanticle (843097) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @12:43AM (#32864476) Homepage

    Yeah, that all makes sense, but lets remember that Steven Chu has very little to do with any of the stuff that's going wrong. The DoE is essentially a laboratory, pushing research into new forms of energy generation and transport. Steven Chu knows the limits of his power and expertise and stays well away from fields where he doesn't have the necessary expertise and could do more harm than good. Heck, if more politicians followed his lead and STFU about things they know nothing about, the world would be a lot less fucked up at the moment.

  • by ygslash (893445) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @05:30AM (#32865300) Journal

    Ah, here is Chu's paper: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature09163.html [nature.com]

    So this is conventional far-field microscopy. There is a hard physical limit to the resolution in far-field microscopes, about 250nm. Chu is demonstrating a way to leverage existing knowledge about the sample to coax out more information, e.g., the distance between what is already known to be two distinct fluorescent dots.

    A far cry from "seeing objects" at that scale using far-field microscopy, as claimed by MSNBC. For that, you need near-field.

    I wonder what the advantage could be to using clumsy far-field techniques like that instead of an existing NSOM instrument that is far more sensitive. In fact, the application mentioned in the paper, deciphering "the structure of large, multisubunit biological complexes in biologically relevant environments," is exactly the application that originally sparked the development of NSOM in the 1980's. Though of course NSOM is used for many other applications today.

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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