After BP’s many failures, Obama and his Energy Secretary Steven Chu have assembled a team of five “extraordinarily intelligent” scientists, whose specialties range from bomb design to Martian mining, to clean up the Gulf spill. Here’s the all star team:
Jonathan I. Katz, physics professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Katz, a member of the prestigious JASON think tank, did his early work in astrophysics, though he now tackles a wide variety of physics problems. He’s definitely the wild card of the group, having published provocative essays entitled “Don’t Become a Scientist,” “In Defense of Homophobia” and “Why Terrorism is Important” on his personal website.
Richard L. Garwin is also a physicist and consults the U.S. government on military technologies. He, too, is a JASON member and assisted in developing the first Hydrogen bomb in 1951. In 1991, Garwin organized a conference of various experts to discuss solutions for containing Kuwaiti oil leaks during the Gulf War. Garwin brings experience to the team.
George Cooper, former professor of civil engineering at Berkeley. Cooper, the team’s most mysterious member, helped NASA refine techniques for mining Mars’ surface, and lists his specialties as “Novel drilling methods, Drill bit design, Borehole stability.”
Alexander Slocum, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT. Slocum holds patents in robotics and computer science, and claims to be interested in “staying down longer while SCUBA diving.” Bloomberg quotes a colleague of his as saying “He has a lot of creative ideas. One in 10 are really brilliant ideas, but nine are dumb…You can’t miss that one that is brilliant.” Slocum’s the wacky one.
Tom Hunter, former director of the DOE’s Sandia Laboratory. Sandia’s x-ray technology is already being used by BP to evaluate the spill, and the lab has also done research on anti-terrorism technology in the past. Hunter recently retired from his position at Sandia, but is coming back for one last job in the Gulf.
These are the five men being charged with cleaning up the terrible mess in the Gulf, and to be sure they’ve got a massive task ahead of them. But from the sound of things, they possess an insanely wide range of expertise, and perhaps more importantly, they have all demonstrated the ability to come up with creative solutions to tough problems.