Thursday, March 31, 2005

The "double dipping" opportunity

From Anonymous:

One of the reasons that Nanos, and many other retired military folks, love to come to, and screw up, LANL is the "double dipping" opportunity. Spending 10 years at LANL, from 50 to 60, yields 25% of your base. What a plum. The Sandia plan offers no such bait. It is clear that the re-treads gain a lot from this arrangement; but what do LANL, and the taxpayers, gain? The military is not known for their science, or management. Mostly, these ex officers are hired to lobby with their buddies who are still in the military, who will look for soft billets in their turn. This rather smells of corruption, doesn't it?
Can we imagine UC hiring all these retired officers for the campuses? Hardly! Admiral Foley, of UCOP, doesn't count... he's part of lab "oversight", or should we say lab "cover up".
Interesting that John Birely referred to UC "passivity" toward the Lab management. As four different UC Academic Senate reports , going back to the 1970 Zinner Report, have found; the UC "management" is a fraud, a pretense.
You can find the Zinner Report, and others, in the Study Center. The current Lab Admin Office, at UCOP, of which John is part, is a continuing fraud. They are a lobby, not a management team.
There has been no UC "management" at LANL for 63 years, simply a pretense. Given that management is capable of making a positive contribution to an organization, perhaps its time to try some at LANL. Its unclear that UC even understands the concept.

When will this blog focus on reality? The world is judging a LANL that pre-dated Nanos but the employees seem to enjoy the red herring. They have conveniently forgotten the past record of failures. Face I t- LANL is known as the DeLorean of big science. Take, for example, the giant TVA generator that was dragged up the hill at great cost to be hidden in a defunct laser building. Much was made of the cost to strengthen bridges and roads for the transport of a huge piece of machinery for an important experiment. What happened to that experiment? How about all those idiotic beams and lasers that had no legitimacy? Where are the refereed scientific papers? How about a few lessons-learned? Complaining about a director who has been put in place to correct a habit of bad big science ignores your past. Why doesn’t someone speak out about all the improper programs that led to fine salaries? I know.
Please refain from using swear words in this Blog.
My 8 year old child is compiling infomation contained as a science project for school
Thank you
Unlike the poster at 3:00 pm, the poster at 3:28 makes a good point. I was briefly in charge of that generator (I had nothing to do with bringing it in) and the damn thing scared me. It was too dangerous to operate without a really good idea, and frankly there didn't seem to be any. As has been pointed out before the Lab was adrift in a sea of terrible management long before Nano's came. I don't see any indication Nano's was trying to fix theses problems, however, but rather somehow trying to reign in the staff. The staff who had little if any input into the Delorean type projects to which the Lab repeatedly devoted itself.
Nice to see an honest statement. Were there any big programs that were not Delorean science? Why don’t we forget the present director for a while and focus on the system that gives us these demoralizing programs and nice salaries?
This dolt believes there may be relevent statistical information regardless of the content and would like my son to try to comtinue to extract this information, right,wrong or however meaningless the content. This may maybe a dead end, but why not try?
Doesn't change the fact that swearing adds little to no value.
There’s something to learn from Enron, I believe. A case can be made that the fraud perpetuated itself because nobody dared to speak out. Big Science projects at LANL were almost always obvious frauds from their start. The repeated failures have taken their toll and give us today’s lab. It is vital that we never again choose a director like Browne from these scams. Birely, incidentally, comes from the isotope separation debacle. One of us mice must dare to ask about it.
We may have come to a critical point in this blog. It must be understood that “Big Science” makes the lab. Furthermore LANL “Big Science” at LANl often begins as a failure. Some people, like software writers, secretaries or theoretical scientists may not see or care to see the failure at the origin but it is often obvious to many. Somehow some of us, with the appropriate expertise, must describe what the emperor is really wearing. Only then will our managers realize that top-down idiot programs must not be the rule even though Domenici will always give us another. Working scientists with real expertise must take part in the program creation or we will always find ourselves working on junk with only a faint hope of success. In addition, we should not permit the publication of claims of successful programs when the claims are entirely unwarranted. We are damaged by these lies.
To "The Double Dipping Opportunity Poster"
This original posting represents the sordid and demeaning generalizations that this blog normally attributes to Director Nanos. It is just as detestable. I would suggest that before denigrating military service the poster might wish to visit the Vietnam Memorial. My many comrades memorialized there did not live to retirement. The poster should also visit the Punchbowl Cemetery, Arlington Cemetery, and a hundred other such places spread around the world. Perhaps, a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan also would be in order because some of the brave men and women there will not live to see retirement either. My friend I don't know who you are and , frankly, don't care to. However, I don't recall seeing you at Khe Sanh, Hue or, more recently, at Fallujah.

To 3:43 PM It is unfortunate that a small minority of posters apparently have garnered their etymological vocabulary by memorizing words scratched on outhouse walls. Contrary to Doug admonitions, they somehow think that using those obscenities can add strength to their arguments whereas in reality the opposite is true. I hope your daughter continues to read this work in progress. It is history in the making.
The Poster at 6:55 PM is right on the mark. If we only do science the outcome of which is predictable, we should not be doing it. The advance of the frontiers of science is often littered with equipment that didn't quite work. One only has to read a description of the 1945 Jumbo Containment Device to better understand this reality.
To 3:56PM, I cut my teeth on ultra-large generators in the power industry. I rather believe the TVA unit to be a remarkable piece of equipment. I have been around it and am not afraid of operating it..."Send me in chief!".
Just curious, does anyone have any thoughts on where the whole "Hydrogen Economy" initiative falls in this spectrum of glamorous & trendy projects? Maybe there's something there, but if so I don't get it. It's not like you can go mine hydrogen out of the desert...
A few comments for 3:28 and others...
I worked on the project that was originally supposed to use the generator. It was a good project and had a lot of scientific merit. This has been validated by the success of a similar device at the University of Wisconsin. If you would like to see the scientific papers, I'll be happy to send them to you. I coauthored about 25 of them. The experiment was cacelled by DOE when it was ~ 80% complete. It was a victim of last minute Graham-Rudman cuts in 1990. The demise of that project had nothing to do with it's scientific merit. In fact, the DOE all but admitted this when 5 years after the drastic cuts they restarted the ICC program.
I did not mean to imply the TVA generator project did not have scientific merit. I just meant it was something that required a serious and careful effort. The people working on the project clearly took the responsibility seriously, but I didn't feel upper management took the whole thing seriously. I don't know all the history, but it may well have been a staff originated idea which meant it was doomed at the Lab.
The writer at 8:27 has touched on one of my pet peeves. The whole idea of a "Hydrogen Economy" is a total fraud. People like Paul Harvey and the Governator in Califoria have been duped by this silly idea. Clearly hydrogen along with a real SOURCE of energy, like nuclear could be useful, but as the writer said there are no hydrogen nuggets laying around to be picked up.

The Lab could be useful in this field if it stayed with the TRUTH, but upper management will want to jump on the politically correct bandwagon, facts bedarned. Yet another fraud headed for certain failure.
The hydrogen economy is a national and world wide project. It is not a specifically LANL project. Hydrogen is an energy carrier, like electricity. It is not an energy source. Advantages are that it is portable and can be made from a wide variety of energy sources, thus potentially reducing dependence on oil which is important for national security reasons. It is environmentally benign. Fuel cells using hydrogen are demonstrably more energy efficient than internal combustion engines. There are many independent analyses of the proposed hydrogen economy, pro and con, and the debate continues in the open public literature. The answer to whether it is a good idea compared to other alternatives is very complex: it depends on which scenario for our energy future you believe will happen. In any case, LANL plays a comparatively small role in a national and world-wide effort to establish a hydrogen economy. Billions of dollars are being committed worldwide to make it happen, primarily by industry who are not fools with money to burn. I don't think this topic belongs in a blog focused on LANL's management.
Many of the comments so far are worthy and interesting, but my question is "What do they have to do with the original post?".

What do you think about "double dipping" by military folks?
Right-on 5:55AM. Adequate resources for the energy conversion into hydrogen is one of the hold-ups. Handling hydrogen is another. Metals become brittle from exposure to hydrogen. It almost spontaneously combusts in the presence of the atmosphere. I can see car wrecks of the future...mangled shards of debris lying around craters of melted asphalt with the occupants of the vehicles no where to be seen.

I have a couple of thoughts on military double-dippers.

1. There is a bit of a double standard here, given how difficulet Nanos has made it for retirees to come back to work at LANL.

2. I think retired military officers often do not make good LANL managers. There are exceptions, of course, but Nanos is not the first retired military officer to do poorly as a manager at Los Alamos. The military style of management does not translate well in a scientific operation. Nanos is the worst I've seen, though.
The hydrogen problem is "off topic" for the thread, but is very much on topic for the blog. Hydrogen will only be useful if the problems are addressed honestly. For one thing that means admitting where the energy will come from. Second how the hydrogen handling will be done. Los Alamos has the nuclear expertise to be a major player in a next generation reactor design. And no place else in the world havs as much experience with dealing with hydrogen (Rocky Flats was number one, but...). My objection is to selling Hyrogen as some magic bullet. Clean energy for free out of the ether. It just smacks of the frauds the Lab has championed in the recent past. Say the word... NUCLEAR.
...bbut I thought military double-dipping was a protected entitlement.
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