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Government Science

The Hobby of Energy Secretary Steven Chu 177

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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  • Not too surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @08:06PM (#32863196)

    There are people around with amazing personalities, definitely not all top level academics are this dedicated, but they exist. Anyone who's done a PhD and postdoc(s) at top tier research universities will have spent time schmoozing with several.

    Obama got this guy largely because he asked. If a president doesn't get high level people, he's very likely got a reason he doesn't want them. Bush (cough)

  • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:31PM (#32863638)

    I work with people who have titles like "Chief Scientist". Some of them, sure, I'd vote for them for some office or another because I've seen them handle things like management and budget (this is the private sector after all) and how it pertains to pushing the edges of R&D. Concepts like "We can afford *this* cool breakthrough this year. Put *that* even cooler idea in your top drawer, and we'll explore it next year when we'll have more budget, but put hooks into your current design here and here for it so we can leverage the hardware we build this year."

    Others, if they were in charge, well, let's just say I'm not a violent person, but I'd personally lead the rebel army that took them down.

    Scientists are just people. The geekverse needs to let go of this scientist worship. Yes, this country needs to appreciate math and science more and yada yada and all that. I grok that and support it wholeheartedly. I'm ever considering writing a book to reach segments of our society previously written off for such things. But this idea that some here and elsewhere have that scientists are automatically these cool people dedicated to truth, justice and unbiased world views is pure fantasy. I can't even figure out where it came from other than as a reaction to all the religious loonery,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @09:52PM (#32863724)

    He seems correct, and I would say that it's a welcome change from PR spinning and political doublespeak.

    I'm just amazed that someone as smart as Chu would think that you can effectively slow down the locust-like consumption of resources that humans are so good at. I won't begrudge people for TRYING to stop global warming, but really we should be trying to plan for the consequences... this thing is going to happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:18PM (#32863872)

    What about it?

    Can you name anything that Obama's cabinet, personally or collectively, can do that will in any way get the relief wells drilled sooner?

  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday July 10, 2010 @10:32PM (#32863938) Homepage

    .. make fun of Chu, but I am such a Chu groupie. A surefire way to draw me to a conference is to announce that he'll be speaking there. ;) I just loved him during his confirmation hearing, how he perked up when finally asked a question that was even remotely technical. "Now we're getting to Science! I love this!" I had read some of his papers before he was even tapped for the position; I was so thrilled to hear he was picked. He really knows his stuff.

    His big weakness is that he's no politician, and he sometimes has trouble keeping is mouth shut from speaking politically inconvenient things. For example, dealing with the hydrogen people... ;)

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @01:41AM (#32864648) Homepage Journal
    Someone can tell me if life has changed, but this is the way I recall authorship. The first author is ideally the person who did at least the broad development work(came up with the idea, worked out the general design, got funding) and hopefully wrote a rough draft of the paper. The second to n-1 author probably worked on the details and did the nitty gritty lab work, or equivalent. They probably expanded on the draft and created graphs to make almost a complete paper. The last author is often a high ranking administrator, often with great skill, that probably helped flesh out the original idea, helped overcome some problems, provided invaluable feedback on the paper, but is given authorship mostly because he or she runs the lab or is just nice to have on the paper.

    I don't want to minimize the contributions of Dr. Chu, he probably provided highly valuable technical assistance that allowed the success of the project. At that level, though, the value is the insight, not necessarily the day to day work. If I can cal someone like Dr. Chu to help me overcome a experimental issue, and he can help me out, that is value beyond a price tag.

  • by ygslash ( 893445 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @04:50AM (#32865172) Journal

    TFA states:

    Instead of objects measuring 10 nanometers — thought to be the about the smallest scientists could see using such microscopes — Chu came up with a system using existing technology to see objects... as small as half a nanometer.

    Near-field Scanning Optical Microscopy (NSOM) [] has been an active area of research for over 25 years, and sub-nanometer aperture instruments have been on the market [] for over 20 years.

    Unfortunately, neither the poster nor TFA linked Chu's paper, or any other source of real information about Chu's claims. It could very well be that he has done something new and useful, but it sure doesn't sound like it from this article.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @11:00AM (#32866588) Journal
    It has to be a special kind of laziness, though, or laziness combined with severe environmental limitations.

    The wheel wasn't invented by the guy willing to carry loads the hard way; but while he was busy sweating over wheel prototypes, his even lazier counterpart was fanning himself in the shade while his slaves carried the heavy loads....

    In this case, Chu is the US Secretary of Energy. That almost certainly means a base salary in the 100k+ range. Not "rich beyond the dreams of avarice"; but not a position where need makes innovation the lazier approach than work.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.