Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Re: "What Would Feynman Do"

From Anonymous:

I have to agree with the commentator in the "What Would Feynman Do" post
who says Feynman would leave through the hole in the security fence and
never come back. Science is dying at this place, and we all know it. You
can smell it in the air.

During the start of the Cerro Grande fire, I remember going down to the
grassy knoll at the Medical Center on the Sunday when the fire was trying
to jump Los Alamos Canyon. It was almost a picnic like atmosphere in many
ways. We watched as the tanker planes made their targets and dropped their
retardants. There was an air of unreality about the whole scene that
day. I remember telling my son, "now, if the fire jumps the Canyon,
the town of Los Alamos is gone". I said it nonchalantly, somehow
knowing that it just couldn't, it wouldn't happen. It was unthinkable!

Well, it did happen, and my neighborhood was burned to ruble. The
fire could not be stopped. Somehow, this seems like a fitting analogy
for what is now happening to the Lab itself. It largely escaped the
burning fires of Cerro Grande. It will now be scorched by DOE. You can
sit around thinking it couldn't, it wouldn't. Well, yes, it will.

The hills above Los Alamos are now full of dead trees, but new life
is starting to emerge from the catastrophe. The natural landscape has
changed dramatically. The forms of the mountains are now plainly
visible. In another decade or two, it won't be so bad. The cycles of
nature are in motion. One can hope that at some future time, the
Lab, likewise, will recover from what is now occurring. The big question
is whether those who are here today will ever see this recovery.

I wish I knew the answer to that question. I truly wish I knew. But
the true answer is no one knows -- not DOE, not the Senator, and not
even the staff of Los Alamos. At this point, we can only hope that
the destruction is minimal enough that it will be possible to rebuild
for the future once the "fire" has passed. And it is now time to gather
your loved ones and prepare to either "hunker-down" or to flee from
the Hill. Let's hope that this fire passes quickly.

Unfortunately, Feynman would never be able to leave Los Alamos through
that hole in the security fence these days. Instead, he would be
thoroughly berated and harangued by our Direcktor, Herr Nanos, and
then handed over to the FBI for harsh interrogations. After all,
Feynman use to crack safes for a hobby while he worked here. Those
transgressions would put him in shackles these days. It all makes
one long for the "real" Los Alamos -- the Los Alamos of the war years.
Back then, times were deadly serious and yet most people still had
their humor and a rational perspective on life.
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