Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Steve Chu, Energy Secretary

Steve Chu, currently director of LBNL, is Obama's pick for Energy Secretary. Thank goodness! Finally a big brain will run the agency that funds our national labs and basic energy research.

Chu won the Nobel prize for his work on laser cooling of trapped atoms. This technique is now a fundamental tool in atomic physics. Chu did his PhD at Berkeley under brilliant experimentalist Eugene Commins (who was still around when I was a grad student). When Chu won the Nobel my mother received several phone calls from well wishers -- "I heard your son the Berkeley PhD won the Nobel Prize in physics!" :-/ (Hsu, Chu, what's the difference?) Sorry ma, don't get your hopes up!

Chu: "I told my boss .... `Guess what? I just trapped an atom.' He said, `Great. What are you going to do with it?' I said, `I don't know, but it's great!'"


Anonymous said...

Having an Energy Secretary who knows something energy seems like a good idea. Also, a dramatic break with the previous approach. A phase change, even

Anonymous said...

Eugene Commins was willing to read my thesis at the last minute when another committee member backed out. I needed it done in two weeks to graduate, and he finished in under a week. He was on a ladder, tightening a bolt on a piece of equipment near the ceiling when I asked him. I'll always have a soft spot for him for the favor.

Anonymous said...

Hsu, Chu, what's the difference?

Boo, hiss. The transliteration is subtle. I would bet that there's a common chinese dialect where your Hsu sounds like his Chu.

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