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The Political Assault On Los Alamos National Laboratory

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the toe-the-line dept.

Government 215

Harperdog writes "Hugh Gusterson has a great article on the troubles at Los Alamos over the last decade. Since the late 1990s, nuclear weapons scientists at the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory have faced an unanticipated threat to their work, from politicians and administrators whose reforms and management policies—enacted in the name of national security and efficiency—have substantially undermined the lab's ability to function as an institution and to superintend the nuclear stockpile."

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Not needed any more (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010534)

Are atomic weapons still needed ? i think they aren'T.

Re:Not needed any more (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010550)

Can't get rid of them, Canada is just waiting to invade.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011592)

We dont need to invade, we can just cut off your oil. We supply far more than any other country, and about 25% of the total US imports.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012144)

And we could just come in a take if things got really bad. The middle eastern oil producers could threaten embargo's like they did back in the 70's but doing something like today is just like sending out engraved invitations for a visit from the US military. Canada is not overwhelmingly dependent on their oil exports. They did just fine before the oil sands were tapped but the middle east and countries like Venezuela are almost 100% dependent on their oil revenues. They couldn't afford the lose of the US market. If they cut off the US sales the price per barrel would go down to $20 a barrel. Mean while the US would expand drilling operations. The US knows where the oil depostis are located but the political pressure from environmentalists would disappear if the US found themselves with no imports. The US ceased aggressive domestic oil drilling operations because it was cheaper to import it.

Re:Not needed any more (3, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010554)

Are atomic weapons still needed ? i think they aren'T.

Perhaps we should ask Pakistan, China, and North Korea. And Iran. And India. Who else? Rogue Soviet sympathisers?

Re:Not needed any more (1)

stooo (2202012) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010588)

and ?

Re:Not needed any more (4, Insightful)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010882)

Israel, UK, France.

face it, this stone's been turned, and it can't be turned back. even if we abandon nuclear weapons today, the knowledge exists to make them again (as it should - to ignore all of nuclear physics would be a bad idea).

in this game, anyone who can wipe out millions of people at the touch of a button is going to hold some sway. so these weapons are desirable, and always will be, even if the rest of the world is playing along.

and not to sound far-right, but i think a nominal deterrent is needed as well. the USA's policy of consolidating, simplifying and idiot-proofing it's arsenal is not a bad one. not so much having the stockpile, but having the ability to churn out cheap, simple, reliable nukes at a moment's notice is useful, as well as a small number of "active" nukes just in case anyone gets any ideas.

of course, if everyone had nukes, the world would be less safe. but they say that about handguns, too.
*trollface.png*

Re:Not needed any more (5, Insightful)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011028)

> face it, this stone's been turned, and it can't be turned back. even if we abandon nuclear weapons today,
> the knowledge exists to make them again (as it should - to ignore all of nuclear physics would be a bad idea).

The same is true for crossbows, but I don't see anyone rushing to equip armies with them. And before you say it's not the same thing, you need to go and examine the history of the crossbow, because it absolutely was the atomic bomb of its era. So basically I think this is a terrible argument.

The Bomb is an outdated weapon. The same is true of MBT's, heavy SP artillery and many other weapon systems. We're already at the point where a weapon that can't be carried on a Twin Huey is a useless weapon - so the M777 and Hummer-based drones are much, much more valuable than the Crusader and Abrams. And as that evolution continues, I suspect the war of the future is going to look more like stuxnet and less like The Bulge, and that evolution will continue. It will continue to be bloody, ever more so, but the way that damage will be delivered with be with precision, not area effects. The Bomb is the ultimate area effect weapon.

And that's assuming the war that the US next fights won't be on the balance sheet rather than in the skies. I believe all evidence suggests this is the real threat and that spending time and effort worrying about the atomic maginot line weakens the US's attempts to move into the future.

> nominal deterrent is needed as well. the USA's policy of consolidating, simplifying and idiot-proofing it's arsenal

It's not a bad idea, by any means. Cheap too.

There is the question of how many weapons are needed, and also the conversation about demasting them. It seems entirely reasonable to me that 50 strategic warheads kept in secure off-site storage (as opposed to mounted in missiles) is just as much a deterrent as 10000 warheads ready for 10 minute launch. And not just today, in the 1960s as well.

Removing them from the missile would be a clear message to the world that the US does not consider other people a threat to their existence (which is the case) as well as provide another level of escalation (or sabre rattling if you prefer) that doesn't exist now.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011114)

Your an idiot. Hummers arent more useful than MBT's as hummers are getting wiped out by IED's

artillery, MBT's etc are what is used to wipe out critical infrastructure. Piloted planes some and drones even lesscan only target some things and those not very reliably. A simple look at the numbers of civilians killed by drone strikes should tell you that planes arent always the best idea.

Intelligent people want their armed forces mobile, with numbers of and various sizes ofweapons. An m-16 cant knock down a building. A sniper rifle cant be replaced with a laser guided bomb. Etc.

Nuclear weapons are a part of Total War. A concept that you have no knowledge of. World war II was the last total war. Basically because no one wanted another. Unfortunately those survivors have grown old and their childern dont know the lessons about total war and the devestation it brings.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011632)

"You're an idiot".

Re:Not needed any more (1)

cusco (717999) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011770)

Their children have also forgotten the value of an international war crimes court and the Geneva Conventions. I hope it doesn't take another total war to remind this generation, but it probably will.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011190)

I would also point out that the British had a lot of success against the French sticking to the longbow which they had been using for years before the crossbow came along. Yes the cross bow had more range and did more damage per a shot, but in the time it takes to reload the long bow men could have run the distance and the next reload they would have got several shots off. Also the shortbow (basically shortened version of the longbow could be used from horseback).

Re:Not needed any more (3, Interesting)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012078)

I would also point out that the British had a lot of success against the French sticking to the longbow which they had been using for years before the crossbow came along. Yes the cross bow had more range and did more damage per a shot, but in the time it takes to reload the long bow men could have run the distance and the next reload they would have got several shots off. Also the shortbow (basically shortened version of the longbow could be used from horseback).

The longbow is also much harder to learn. The reason us english used them well was something to do with the amount of legal encouragement we were given to use them. This apparently included crazy laws preventing us from doing anything else at certain times (on sundays or holidays) and making sure all practice ranges were over 220 yards long.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_longbow [wikipedia.org]

Also, your impression that longbow men moved is not accurate. The best plan was for the longbowman to sharpen a very big stick and plunge it into the ground next to him at 45 degrees. He then sharpened the other end too then stood just behind it. The stick had to be sturdy enough such that a horse charging it could not break it and close enough to the stick next to it that a horse could not get through the gap. He then just sat there and made arrows until the battle commenced and some fool walked in range.

Also, longbowman were not exactly useless when it came to close combat as the hammer they used for driving stakes into the ground was nasty if you clobbered someone with it. They also had a useful little short handled axe for making arrows. They were also unarmoured since they had no need for it so much more manoeuvrable than anyone who had survived walking through their hail of arrows.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011728)

The Bomb is an outdated weapon.

I didn't realize there was a more powerful replacement. Do tell us of your knowledge so that we may all bask in your glory!

Re:Not needed any more (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012304)

"The same is true for crossbows" Did you really just say that? Really? Intentionally? Actually thinking you had an argument or a point? Crossbows at the time were the same thing and they were used until such a time as they were replaced by a more powerful, more deadly deterrent force. Guns are the replacement to the cross bow and they are the standard arms of every army in the world now. Your argument proves the point you are arguing against.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010594)

Look at it from everyone else's PoV: we need them as long as the US has them. Because the only experience we have of nuclear warfare is from when the US decided to use them.

Re:Not needed any more (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010598)

Or the other point of view, we should have nukes, because the Americans proved they work. Your happy-happy-nice-nice world view is not supported by history.

Re:Not needed any more (0)

fred911 (83970) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010956)

The US used them to save thousands of lives (of an original euro problem). Had not the US used them, surely the Germans would have.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

gmueckl (950314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011266)

Now that's a bad case of misrepresenting history: the Germans capitulated before any nuclear bomb was ready for use. They were defeated by conventional means. The bombs, although intended for Germany, were therefore ultimately used in Japan. The war in Europe was not in any way influenced by the development of the bomb.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

gtall (79522) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011630)

And let's recall just exactly why they were used in the Japan. During WWII, the Japanese rarely surrendered. During one of the last islands to be taken, Saipan, the Japanese had about 31,000 troops on the island. Of that, 24,000 were killed, 5000 committed suicide, and 921 surrendered. There were 22,000 civilians killed and most of those were suicides. That's just one island when it was already clear Japan had lost the war. On the home islands, the Japanese were training school children to attack Americans with pitchforks and sticks. Japan had organized the home islands to fight to the death rather than surrender. And after the n-bombs had fallen, it was mere luck that a palace coup was thwarted; had it succeeded, Japan would never have surrendered. The U.S. estimated it would take well over a million men (I've read 5 million but that seems unbelievable) to invade Japan and would have resulted in between 250,000 and 500,000 American casualties.

By the end of WWII, given the horror the Japanese had inflicted on China and the Philippines, the U.S. was in no mood to spend that many lives to invade Japan. On the other hand, an undefeated and unbowed Japan would have been a constant threat. They had their own nascent nuclear program. They also had biological and chemical weapons programs, all of which did not go unnoticed by the U.S.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

gmueckl (950314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011902)

I will not comment on the war in Japan. I know too little of it. I just wanted to reply to the notion that the Germans would have used the bomb if the US had not. This is wrong.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

cavreader (1903280) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012324)

So you think a country led by a total psychopath that used it's very formidable scientific, engineering, and manufacturing capabilities to build the most efficient killing factories in history would not have dropped a nuke if they had one?

Re:Not needed any more (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012380)

Germany was working on creating nuclear weapons, though between sabotage by the British SOE and the Norwegian resistance and their own stupid decisions, they were nowhere near producing one when Berlin was captured.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

gmueckl (950314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012494)

Thanks! That's what I meant to say. My previous post came out wrong and I didn't notice :(. Sorry.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

DarenN (411219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012074)

The best-case estimate was 1.4 million American casualties, worst-case was about 4 million, in an operation that they expected would take until 1948-1949. These estimates were given by a command that did not know the bomb existed, so they were calling it how they saw it in an operation that they were gearing up to. This did not mention the undoubtedly horrific Japanese casualties that would have resulted, and the moralizing over the bomb ignores the fact that the USAF would have *levelled* all the Japanese cities (which were mostly made of very flammable material) in the planned bombing campaigns. Bear in mind that the total US casualties from the war to that point was 250,000.

As an interesting aside, the Japanese high command had correctly guessed exactly where the American landings would have taken place (on the southern island, Kyushu) and had deployed their assets based around these assumptions which would have greatly increased the casualties from the projected minimum. Hard as it is to understand looking back, these were very desperate times and the US Government at the time made the call based on these figures. In hindsight (from behind my comfortable desk) it seems that they made the right one for everyone. The Japanese benefited hugely from the surrender and America gained what turned out to be a valuable ally. The post-war prosperity that both enjoyed would probably not have happened if casualties on that scale were inflicted on the generation who produced the baby boomers, and Japan certainly wouldn't have been in any position for their industrial revival if most of them had been killed and all their infrastructure had been razed.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011734)

Still arguably saved thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives to use them. The Japanese Government was quite clear that if they had to they to defend the homeland with old people and children wielding sticks on the beaches they would. The Army and Marines believed them. The solution was to use the atomic weapons and hopefully trick the Japanese into thinking we could utterly annihilate the Island without risking our troops. We in fact couldn't, we used our only two bombs on the demonstration and couldn't make more in any reasonable time frame, but the ruse worked.

It's impossible to say what would have happened, history doesn't work that way, but based on the stated policy of the Japanese Government and the what the US military believed they would do, using the Atomic weapons saved lives: Japanese as well as American. Was it the right thing to do? Very hard to say. It's possible that Japanese resistance wouldn't have amounted to what was feared, it's possible that what was unleashed was worse them what was prevented, it's certainly very possible that they should have at least waited a few more days before they dropped the second one (a lot of historians think that the Japanese government would have surrendered without the extra motivation if we'd just given them a little while longer to realize what was going on), but based on the information available it was probably the best of bad options.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010960)

Everybody's right. The realist hawks say the only way to be safe is to maintain the balance of terror, and it's possibly true (we can't be sure a country would be nuked if they scrapped their arsenal, but the US or North Korea aren't going to risk it).

But it is also true that to really be safe in the long run we need to get rid of the nukes. It's the nucular mother of Catch-22:s.

   

Re:Not needed any more (5, Insightful)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010602)

Are atomic weapons still needed ? i think they aren'T.

Perhaps we should ask Pakistan, China, and North Korea. And Iran. And India. Who else? Rogue Soviet sympathisers?

You could argue that maybe those nations wouldn't be so trigger-happy to get a nuke if they weren't constantly being threatened by the other guys who already have nukes. But yeah, genie, bottle, cat, bag, all that stuff. It would be nice if we could get a global agreement to settle all conflicts by a good Unreal Tournament Deathmatch, but it's not going to happen.

Re:Not needed any more (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010686)

The US currently has enough warheads to destroy the world several hundred times over. It could easily be argued that this is a little excessive unless aliens invade that can survive 100 nuclear obliterations of the earth and still pose a threat to what's left of the US by then (hint: which would be ash and dust and a few scraps of metal).

There may be a need to hold some weapons as deterrent - nobody really argues that once they have the capability - but do you *really* need the ability to kill everyone on the planet, yourself included, several hundred times over? Hell, even just knocking it down to "twice over" is more than enough security and needs a nuclear budget only 1/50th of what it is now.

Even the UK has the power to obliterate the planet if it really came to it, and we only have something like 5% of the US arsenal still active.

Plus, a single nuclear detonation as an act of war will pretty much end the planet. That's *why* the US/UK still have nuclear weapons - to say "Try it, even against only one country in a small way, and we'll just take everyone out." - which puts the fear of Armageddon into any idiot that things their Northern/Southern neighbours don't respect them enough. There's only been two quite small nuclear bombs dropped as an act of aggression in the entire history of the planet - both on Japan - which ended WW2 almost instantaneously. The next one pretty much *starts* and
*ends* WW3.

Nobody with a brain is saying "get rid of all nuclear weapons". They're saying "Why the hell do you need *THAT* many when just one might end the world and just 2% of your stockpile will guarantee the end of the world on its own?", especially when your taxes are PAYING for those things to be guarded in case someone rogue *does* steal them. The more of them that exist, the more chances of accidents, terrorism, thefts, rogue agents, etc. being successful. Scrap most of them safely and get on with life with the same assurance that you can eliminate all life that you had before.

Re:Not needed any more (1, Insightful)

ustolemyname (1301665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010936)

The US currently has enough warheads to destroy the world several hundred times over.

[citation needed]. Seriously, I've never seen a quote as high as 10 for US and former Soviet Russia. Your "several hundred times over" number for the US alone smells like ass (which implies you pulled it from yours).

Re:Not needed any more (5, Informative)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010984)

The US currently has enough warheads to destroy the world several hundred times over.

Quit with the massively overblown hyperbole. If what you were saying was true, and about 2000 warheads was enough to "destroy the world several hundred times over", the would would have been dead and gone a long time ago. Hiroshima would have taken out China and Siberia, too, and Trinity would have wiped out the US. Obviously, that didn't happen.

Nuclear weapons aren't magic "drop one and you wipe out and sterilize everything within a thousand miles" bombs. Yes, they're powerful--more so than people realize, in some ways--but in other ways, they aren't nearly as powerful as common "wisdom" would suggest.

Honestly, 2000 warheads is barely enough for a credible deterrent at all. Yes, the goal of a deterrent is to convince the other guy that you can bomb him back to the middle ages if he does something you don't like, but that takes a lot more than sprinkling five or six devices across the country and calling it done. A credible deterrent plan targets not population, but industrialization, transportation, and military facilities; you want to take out everything that makes it possible for him to fight a war or live in anything close to modern comfort. That takes a lot more than a handful of devices. Something like a railyard or airfield is probably going to take a few successful hits to truly render it unusable.

And then, of course, you can't just sit with the number you came up with there. Next, you have to consider redundancy; a good number of your warheads will fail to initiate, get shot down, or have a delivery failure (the rocket blows up, bomber aborts or is shot down, submarine doesn't get the message or is sunk, etc). And after that, you have to plan for maintenance; a very rough estimate is that a third of your stockpile will be out of service at any given time for maintenance (subs have to go into port for refits; bombers, missiles, and warheads themselves need maintenance and overhauls, etc.).

Remember, the goal isn't to try to be scary. Rather, the goal is to have enough to convince the other guy that he absolutely cannot win under any circumstance, so he shouldn't even think about it. We had that in the past. We might still have it. But we might not. And as long as politicians keep making cuts not based on what makes strategic sense, or with a coherent goal and policy in mind, but rather just trying to score political points by cutting back to some arbitrary number they pulled out of their ass, we make the risk of that happening greater.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012098)

Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are tiny compared to the sort of nuclear weapons in US/UK arsenals. Variable yeild thermonuclear weapons have a standard Uranium/Plutonium core around which they have tanks to pump deutrium and tritrium in to the required yeild just before launch, depending how much tthey pump in we are talking hundreds of times the yeilds of the core alone, which itself is bigger than the the ones used against Japan in WWII.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012182)

Yes, the goal of a deterrent is to convince the other guy that you can bomb him back to the middle ages

Which is why they would be useless in Afganistan. Another reason is with the size of some of the mountains there you would need one nuke per valley and without very good up to the minute intelligence it's a very expensive way to BBQ goats. There's many other reasons.

Re:Not needed any more (2)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011006)

Actually, by my rough napkin math that 'destroy the world several hundred times over' thing is just a popular myth/urban legend.

I suspect that even if ALL of the nuclear weapons in existence were detonated we wouldn't destroy the planet (or even all life on the planet).
MAYBE we could wipe out humanity. Certainly we could take out most major cities (and we probably don't need this capability to still ensure MAD protection).
But I suspect people think your average nuclear bomb does far more damage and is far more lethal (at least immediately) than people think.

Calculate the area of destruction based on the blast radius of your average nuke and then multiply that out by the number of warheads and compare to the surface area of the earth (even just land surface area).
See what you come up with (instead of just repeating what you've seen in movies).

I mean. They're bad. Very bad. And nuclear war would be very bad.
But a lot of that rhetoric is inane drivel (and nuclear winter is probably an unrealistic scenario as well).

Re:Not needed any more (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012164)

Yeah, it's not the nuke itself, that'll take out a small city and spread radiation a little beyond that, it's that if we detonate that many at once we'll spit out enough dust and ash to blot out the sun for several months, tree's start to die and the land turns to desert, then livestock and vegetarians have no food, after they starve the rest of us go the same way.

Re:Not needed any more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011042)

You are assuming 2 things with that post - that whatever enemy which may attack us in the future will not preemptively attack and succeed in destroying many of those weapons before they can be launched, and that the future enemy doesn't have an incoming missile defense system.

If we had reduced our nuclear weapons stockpile to the level of one armageddon and a country develops a missile shield that can stop 99% of incoming missiles, deterrence is no longer effective. However, with our current arsenal, "one might get through the shield" becomes "enough will get through to obliterate us." Some countries' leaders would think a small chance of losing one city as an acceptable risk, but none would think 99% protection would be good enough against the current arsenal.

Re:Not needed any more (3, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011080)

> The US currently has enough warheads to destroy the world several hundred times over
> which would be ash and dust and a few scraps of metal

Hmmm, let's use math instead of guesses.

The area of "complete distraction" effect of a modern warhead is about 3 miles radius. The area of the Great Britain is about 90,000 square miles, so that means we would need 30,000 nuclear warheads to destroy the UK to the level you're talking about. For the US you would need over 1 million warheads.

So, you're wrong.

Exaggerated by about five orders of magnitude (3, Informative)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011094)

The US currently has enough warheads to destroy the world several hundred times over.

About 20 seconds of effort yields the following: The total number of warheads of all levels of readiness stands at 9,962 warheads [nuclearweaponarchive.org] (with another 589 in "inactive stockpile" waiting to be dismantled). That is plenty to lay waste to any major country but hardly enough to destroy the world's military forces, let alone the world itself.

The 2% of the stockpile you recommend would be about 200 warheads, which might be enough to deter Iran, but not (in my opinion) China -- and certainly not both at once.

Re:Exaggerated by about five orders of magnitude (3, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011126)

Oh, and I would add, from the same source,

The total megatonnage of the deployed nuclear arsenal is about 1,430 Mt (but this is influenced by the choice of deployed weapons for bombers); for the entire active arsenal it is 2,330 Mt. The all-time high point in explosive yield was in 1960 when the U.S. held 20,491 Mt in its stockpile.

So the U.S. arsenal has already been slashed by about 89%, in terms of megatons, from its Cold War peak.

Re:Exaggerated by about five orders of magnitude (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011636)

That is because they are replacing single huge bombs by composite smaller ones, that are able to destroy the same area, but cost way less to build and maintain. Ok, there is also some dismantling, but total power is not a usefull metric at all.

Composite bombs avoid problems with the destruction radius being just proportional to the square root of the power.

Re:Exaggerated by about five orders of magnitude (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012224)

WTF? No, it's not "composite bombs". We're simply able to drop them more accurately. Get the bombs close enough to the target, and they don't need to be as powerful. There was just an article the other day where the last B53 (a 9MT freefall device designed to hit deeply-buried targets) was being dismantled because we can now put much smaller devices into the ground directly over the target, rather than landing them close by on the surface and relying on very high power.

Yes, the devices are simpler and easier to maintain, but that's just evolving technology.

Incidentally, that's the same thing we're seeing with conventional weapons. The standard fighter load used to be a couple of 2000lb unguided bombs (or 3-6 500lb bombs for each 2000lb one). A given target would usually take several aircraft, each carrying multiple bombs.

Then, along came developed laser-guided weapons, and that number dropped to a couple of 2000lb bombs.

Now, we're seeing lots of guided 500lb and even 250lb bombs. They aren't as powerful, but they land them closer to the target and get the same effect with less collateral damage, less performance impact on the aircraft, less cost and risk per target. We've even seen some inert bombs being used in combat--basically, the shell of a bomb with concrete filler instead of explosive, and a laser-guidance kit.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010762)

... constantly threatened by the other guys who already have nukes and were crazy enough to use them.

Fixed it for you :-)

Re:Not needed any more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010880)

Israel

Re:Not needed any more (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011332)

Are atomic weapons still needed ? i think they aren'T.

Perhaps we should ask Pakistan, China, and North Korea. And Iran. And India. Who else? Rogue Soviet sympathisers?

You're missing someone, Israel.
Funny how this country can slip through the cracks eh ?

Re:Not needed any more (1)

rioki (1328185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011394)

Ok I am not really a proponent of nuclear weapons technology and we probably don't need much research in the field, the current weapons are awesome enough. But I still think that having a nuclear stockpile and being ready to use it is important for stability. The basic idea is to leverage any rogue government that might think they own a weapon that can outperform the US military. Sure you could have terrorists with nukes, but that changes nothing, you can't undo the technology.

Re:Not needed any more (1)

buglista (1967502) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011708)

China doesn't have nukes - Herman Cain said so. Sheesh.

Incredibly slanted article (2, Insightful)

bytesex (112972) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010606)

"Hoping Nanos would take the hint, employees planted âoefor saleâ signs on his lawn in the middle of the night. He once came out of church to find an obscene bumper sticker had been affixed to his car while he was praying. Things eventually got so bad that Nanos had a safe room installed in his home. In May 2005, faced with an unmanageable situation, Nanos abruptly resigned. âoeThe corks they are a-poppinâ(TM) tonight,â reacted one poster on the blog."

The guy may not have been a pleasure to work with, but if this is not a sign of sloppiness and arrogance (and severe lack of human compassion and discipline), then I don't know what is.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (4, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010770)

Being "a pleasure to work with" isn't a requisite for being a good administrator, it's true, but taking such an adversarial attitude to personnel that a mass staff revolt is launched is a sign that one is clearly not appropriate for the job.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (0)

bytesex (112972) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010918)

Yeah, and girls that wear short skirts are clearly asking for it. What you're proposing is the wrong way around: the rule is the rule; these labs don't exist for the pleasure of working there. And nerds clearly still don't have a clue of how they are perceived by the rest of society. Here's a hint: you don't improve your own image by resorting to dangerous and childish behavior. It will only make the ones in charge come down on you harder.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010948)

There's only one word for that attitude: servile and cowardly.

Err... there's only two words, two words for that attitude: servile and ...

Re:Incredibly slanted article (3)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011240)

If one employee acts like a child and hates a manager, even two or three.... sure.

However, most people don't just act like that. I have known and seen places erun by good but tough managers, they are respected as good, even if tough. They don't inspire this sort of response in most people.

A couple of bad apples is on the bad apples. Larger numbers? Thats the manager. Just because you are a hardass doesn't mean you are good at it.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011672)

And nerds clearly still don't have a clue of how they are perceived by the rest of society. Here's a hint: you don't improve your own image by resorting to dangerous and childish behavior. It will only make the ones in charge come down on you harder.

We should probably try to avoid noticing that it actually worked out pretty well for them, then. Besides, unless you or somebody else here has worked there, there's no telling whether people actually tried it your way first, and ended up getting demoted or fired.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011780)

When a group of people are working for the benefit of the rest of the society. Then it's up to the society to make sure they have the correct perceptions about that group. While the wrong perception will surely hurt these people in the short term. Their lack of productivity will have much more disastrous effects for the society on the long term.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011868)

So you're comparing being mocked with being raped, and wearing a short skirt with taking a hostile and adversarial attitude with everyone who works for you. That's some impressive level of equivalency you have there. He wasn't hurt or physically assaulted no one from his family was hurt or physically assaulted. They were kinda mean to him, like he was very mean to them.

That's not to say that the way the staff had been acting was acceptable. There were clearly compliance issues at the lab. Acting like a tin pot dictator towards a bunch of people with PhDs who could pretty much go anywhere and name their salaries is probably not the best way to handle it though.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38012026)

And nerds clearly still don't have a clue of how they are perceived by the rest of society. Here's a hint: you don't improve your own image by resorting to dangerous and childish behavior. It will only make the ones in charge come down on you harder.

Here's a hint. At the start of the Manhattan Project, General Groves was pissed off at the fact that he had to let Oppenheimer and his scientists have free reign over the place. Richard Feynmann's way to deal with security issues was to crack the combination of the filing cabinet and leave a note suggesting that the owner improve his game, as documented in (page 149) http://www.cs.virginia.edu/cs588/safecracker.pdf [slashdot.org] ">Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (12-page PDF).

Gen. Groves had the sense to compromise, and the rest is history. Let scientists act like scientists, and you get amazing results. Try to force scientists to act like soldiers or bureaucrats, and you get nothing.

Thanks from a random civilian to those who've worked on the Hill. (Nice to see scientists still acting like scientists :)

Re:Incredibly slanted article (5, Insightful)

drerwk (695572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012290)

...these labs don't exist for the pleasure of working there. And nerds clearly still don't have a clue of how they are perceived by the rest of society.

In a real sense they do exist for the pleasure of working there; because the primary societal goals for which the labs were created can only be accomplished by people who are motivated by the pleasure of their work. The motivations of people like Oppenheimer, Feynman, Hasslacher, et al. are not generally money, they are motivated to understand nature, to work with similarly talented people, and to be recognized within that peer group for their work. Acknowledgment outside the peer group is largely unimportant, which means even if they spent the time to consider how they are perceived by the rest of society, they would not especially care. These are not easy people to manage towards goals other than their own, and it takes someone like Oppenheimer who was both in the peer group and an excellent manager to do so. It may also take an existential situation like was faced in WWII.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012454)

What you're proposing is the wrong way around: the rule is the rule; these labs don't exist for the pleasure of working there.

Los Alamos needs intelligent scientists - i.e. people with very, very high IQs. Virtually anyone working as a scientist at Los Alamos is smart enough to make millions as a quant on Wall Street, if they wanted to.

Is Los Alamos paying them millions? No. Therefore, they must be compensated in a non-financial manner - for example, by giving them a wide degree of workplace autonomy. If you insist on paying government-level wages *and* miring everyone in layers of meaningless, soul-killing bureaucracy, you can't expect your employees to be any better than mediocre.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011602)

Being "a pleasure to work with" isn't a requisite for being a good administrator, it's true, but taking such an adversarial attitude to personnel that a mass staff revolt is launched is a sign that one is clearly not appropriate for the job.

Doesn't matter who you are, if you take top-secret information home you deserve to be shot. The first point of the article is entirely flawed in understating the criminally negligent behavior it seeks to brush aside, as to the other 2 - people don't just get shot in the eye with lasers without idiots in positions beyond them, and while the media does over-hype things, it can only be considered gross incompetence that lead to the media receiving any sort of information about missing discs, whether it turned up fake or not, the ONLY things coming out of LANL should be declassified technology, press releases and functional nuclear weapons.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010832)

The article is spot-on. I was there for Act 1 and Act 2, and left when Act 3 was imminent. Those few left at LANL who I know have confirmed the accuracy of the paper about Act 3.

Re:Incredibly slanted article (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011232)

"Hoping Nanos would take the hint, employees planted âoefor saleâ signs on his lawn in the middle of the night. He once came out of church to find an obscene bumper sticker had been affixed to his car while he was praying. Things eventually got so bad that Nanos had a safe room installed in his home. In May 2005, faced with an unmanageable situation, Nanos abruptly resigned. âoeThe corks they are a-poppinâ(TM) tonight,â reacted one poster on the blog."

The guy may not have been a pleasure to work with, but if this is not a sign of sloppiness and arrogance (and severe lack of human compassion and discipline), then I don't know what is.

This is not just a lab it's a city. Kids live here as do many kinds people. Why do you assume that this is slopiness or arrogance. Can you name any institution of great grandeur that does not have graffiti or disobedience? Is there no black humor on a navy nuclear sub or the cockpit of an airplane? Considering this did not happen in the 50 years prior to that, perhaps that says something the situation being abnormal to begin with. Your trollish post fully deserves an ad hominem attack. You sir are an arrogant moron to swiftly condemn an entire institution you know nothing about.

Frankly... (4, Interesting)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010610)

...the idea of disappearing into a cloud of vapour at any time doesn't scare me anymore. I grew up with dive-under-the-desk drills, "Protect And Survive" [atomica.co.uk] , "Threads" [imdb.com] (which terrified me the first time I watched it) and "When The Wind Blows" [imdb.com] (which made me cry). I'm so used to Government using scare tactics to get its own way I'm slap happy to them.

What does frighten me is the fact that people are still scared of what TPTB to put it bluntly, won't ever do because they have too much to lose; TPTB know people are scared because people are dumb, panicky animals and that is ripe material to rob, rape and pillage.

You can't rob, rape and pillage radioactive ash.

Those who have everything they want at a whim are more afraid of losing it than those who have to scrimp, save, recycle, reuse and fight for it. I don't know why, it's just the way I see it. Probably some primal thing which says "You can't take it with you - you leave this world as you entered it, cold and naked." Or maybe I've just accepted the inevitability of corporeal mortality.

Re:Frankly... (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010726)

Those who have everything they want at a whim are more afraid of losing it than those who have to scrimp, save, recycle, reuse and fight for it. I don't know why, it's just the way I see it. Probably some primal thing which says "You can't take it with you - you leave this world as you entered it, cold and naked." Or maybe I've just accepted the inevitability of corporeal mortality.

Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose...

Re:Frankly... (3, Insightful)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010820)

You're absolutely right!

To borrow from Yoda: "Learn to free yourself of those things you are most afraid to lose."

He was talking about exactly this. Material possessions are a crutch. You can't have exclusivity on ideas (no matter what patent laws are passed), which are infinitely more valuable to the whole of Humankind than a barrel of crude or a hole in the ground. If something helps you to live life more comfortably or is useful as a tool for doing something else, that's all it is - a tool. It's not worth dying for, or killing for, you can always get another. Or make another. To completely rely on something for what you consider survival (aside from bread and water), is to become a slave to it.

Me? I'm a slave to my pocketknife. Easily the most useful and beloved of any item in my possession. Everything else is just gravy. But you know what? If I lose it, I can get another. It's still just a tool, if I lose it I can get another.

I get the feeling this thread is turning into one of metaphysics...

Re:Frankly... (3, Informative)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011690)

Yet, from what I remember from the movie, Yoda was talking about family and loved ones, not material possessions.

Excuse me, but I refuse to learn to free myself from them. All you saying you have nothing to lose aren't looking very hard.

Re:Frankly... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011960)

Yoda was a muppet.

Inner peace comes from... aw, who am I kidding, have you seen my posting history?

I didn't say I have nothing left to lose, I said that's what true freedom is. And people who feel like they have nothing left to lose are effectively free. They can make decisions without the impediment of obligations to be met or possessions to be protected.

I prefer at least a modicum of comfort.

Re:Frankly... (3, Insightful)

overlordofmu (1422163) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012430)

And you will suffer for your attempts to hold on to your friends and family.

This is Buddhism 101.

Life is transitory. Time ends everything and everyone. Everyone you love will die. It is inevitable. There is nothing you can do to stop it.

Your emotional attachment to the transitory things of this world are the source of your suffering. The only way to escape suffering is to cease to have attachments.

Re:Frankly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010734)

You obviously haven't played Fallout 3... You sure can rob, rape and pillage radioactive ash.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw558ZYgi4E

Re:Frankly... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010774)

Those who have everything they want at a whim are more afraid of losing it than those who have to scrimp, save, recycle, reuse and fight for it. I don't know why, it's just the way I see it

I know two people: one who made his own wealth (multimillionaire) and the other who inherited a nice little fortune from her grandma. One is a die-hard Tea Partier and the other is a Liberal Democrat - *insert ironic guess here*

The self-made guy is confident that no matter how high taxes are or how restrictive government gets, he can still make it - it'll just be a bit harder - he knows, he's into bio-fuels now and has to deal with California regulations; which he deals. He grew up poor as dirt and he's been up and he's been down and back up again. He's the first one to admit that he's had some lucky breaks - one of the few rich guys I've met who isn't stuck in the self-attribution fallacy.

The Tea Partier who inherited her wealth, has no wealth building confidence. As far as she's concerned, if her money is taken away, it's gone forever. YOu got it, the statement "I work hard! And so did my grandma!" comes out of her mouth. She doesn't seem to get that, aside from trust fund babies, everyone works hard.

Folks who are afraid of losing their money are just insecure about their ability to create it again.

Re:Frankly... (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011504)

...the idea of disappearing into a cloud of vapour at any time doesn't scare me anymore. I grew up with dive-under-the-desk drills, "Protect And Survive" [atomica.co.uk] , "Threads" [imdb.com] (which terrified me the first time I watched it) and "When The Wind Blows" [imdb.com] (which made me cry).

You also need to watch On the beach [imdb.com] (the original) to round out your nuclear holocaust movies. It took me 30 years to actually sit down and watch it - partly because it was filmed where I grew up.

Minus 5, T[roll) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010616)

3 simple stePs! our ability to

Critical To Security (3, Insightful)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010780)

Given the nature of the work and it's importance to National Security (I won't argue that point) the work of the individuals at LANL should be supervised and standards maintained; no question about it. I do agree that congress and previous administrations have over-reacted to situations but then again, we're talking about the stewardship of the nuclear arsenal here. Also, when have we never seen congress over-react to an even perceived problem where national security is concerned. The people who work at LANL have to be creative in what they do because since the Test Ban treaties they're work focuses on more theoretical simulations than actually getting to set off a nuke, and creativity and discipline don't necessarily go hand in hand, that also has to be realized. Leslie Groves had the same problems when they were building LANL and the first atomic weapons and he constantly was frustrated with the scientists because of the cultural differences between the military and academia. Despite all of this and under the tightest security all it took was a few sympathetic individuals to let the secrets out that gave the Soviets a huge leap in their project.

I think what has to happen with places like Livermore and LANL is that congress and the administration have to work to maintain the secrecy necessary to protect the stockpile but also let the people flourish within the confines of the work being done. Those individuals realize the importance of the work and do their best day in and day out to do that job well, so it's not wholly necessary to put clamps on them that create barriers to their well being and satisfaction with their work.

Re:Critical To Security (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011050)

Is it just me who finds one of the problems is the fact that it's increasingly difficult to maintain secrets, no matter how important they are deemed?

Organizations value secrets, as secrets can mean power, and Governments are organizations. But in an era when college grads supposedly will take less pay if they can use social media networks at work, and when some of the most successful corporations are ones which mine data, it seems the future will increasingly have secrets exposed.

Eccentrics at the labs? (4, Insightful)

identity0 (77976) | more than 2 years ago | (#38010788)

One wonders if Richard Feynman could work there now if he were still alive, given his hobby of safecracking and lockpicking to leave prank notes. But hey, it's not like they were doing anything important, right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman#The_Manhattan_Project [wikipedia.org]

Anyone know if there are any eccentrics left at the labs, or has it really been purged of 'weird people' like Feynman?

Re:Eccentrics at the labs? (3, Funny)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011052)

>Anyone know if there are any eccentrics left at the labs

report names, dates and locations of accidents to smith@lanl.gov

Re:Eccentrics at the labs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38012270)

ring ring..."Hi you have reached Wen Ho Lee, I'm either away from my desk at the copying machine or on a long distance phone call to a good friend back home." To repeat this message press 1, to hear this message in chinese press 2.

Don't forget Clinton, who controlled the Justice Department allowed him to get off due to the fact he was also giving them missile guidance and satellite technology for campaign contributions.

Re:Eccentrics at the labs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38012350)

One wonders if Richard Feynman could work there now if he were still alive, given his hobby of safecracking and lockpicking to leave prank notes. But hey, it's not like they were doing anything important, right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman#The_Manhattan_Project [wikipedia.org]

Anyone know if there are any eccentrics left at the labs, or has it really been purged of 'weird people' like Feynman?

Tons. The eccentric ones are the only ones who accomplish anything. Everyone else is busy running the bureaucracy.

On the plus side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38010904)

The Department of Energy has been saved from elimination because Rick Perry forgot about it.

I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction... (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011070)

While Lee was clearly a victim of racial profiling and media-enabled hysteria about Chinese espionage, this is not to say that he had done nothing wrong. He had, in fact, removed from the lab computer copies of top-secret nuclear weapons simulation codes, a serious offense for which he surely deserved to lose his clearance and his job. There is no evidence, however, that he ever gave the codes to a foreign country or that others at the lab had engaged in similar misdeeds. Indeed, many of Lee’s colleagues were horrified to hear of what he had done. When asked whether other scientists illicitly copied or took home secret documents, one Los Alamos weapons designer told me, “What Wen Ho did was like driving 80 miles per hour in a school zone.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory is far more likely to actually be working with classified documents that if released or stolen would prove to be terribly harmful to the US than, say, what happened to the State Department recently. What Wen Ho did was not like "driving 80 miles per hour in a school zone," rather it was like driving 100mph through a residential neighborhood while dozens of kids were walking across the street as their bus was unloading. It's so reckless and irresponsible that "even if he didn't kill someone," it shows an unacceptable lack of concern for the safety of others and his community.

I know many slashdotters like to chuckle about overclassification, but consider where he was working. Is it really wrong for the federal government to put its boot firmly up the ass of a scientist who works at one of our two nuclear weapons laboratories when he thinks basic procedures are beneath him?

Re:I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011148)

There's a difference between "punishing a guy for mishandling classified documents" and "having a fucking Cabinet member give his name to the press as a spy and traitor when there was no evidence of that fact at all".

Re:I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011424)

He was guilty of taking weapons simulation codes.
Not being able to prove that he gave the codes to the Chinese is different from him being innocent.

The big question then becomes, if you really think he wasn't giving them to the Chinese what exactly do you think he was going to do with them outside the lab?

Re:I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011194)

What happened to Wen Ho Lee was the DOE director Richardson, a cabinet level Hispanic, former UN ambassador, former congressman, was widely expected to the the vice presidential running mate. This happened on his watch and the republicans were determined to destroy him for something that was not even his fault (the infractions occured before his time in office). He in turn massively over reacted. The FBI went nuts. Wen Ho Lee was put in solitary confinement and only allowed to have one book at a time. I've no doubt Wen Ho deserved jail time, but even the judge who let him out said he had be abused by the process. But the over reaction continued to play out politically and the lab was the loser.

Re:I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction. (1)

dietdew7 (1171613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012370)

Why is Richardson's ethnicity relevant?

Re:I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011202)

So strip him of his job, his home and his security clearance. But don't leak his name to the press and make him hounded for months, followed by keeping him in an isolation cell on suicide watch for nearly a year by misleading a judge about the possibility that he might flee to China. For Chrissake, the man was from Taiwan, not China, and had a natural born American wife and children. Red hysteria at its worst, and this under a supposedly freedom-loving and rights-respecting Clinton administration.

Re:I'm not sure if this is really an overreaction. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38012196)

After reading the article, I don't disagree that Wen Ho should have been fired and declassified. However, the government not only "put its boot firmly up the ass of [Wen Ho]", but firmly up the ass of two (formerly) world-class research institutions (and yes, they do other research besides nuclear weapons research there - papers on nuclear weapons don't get published in peer-reviewed journals.)

This is a classic example of "big government." They should have slapped the original LANL admins on the wrist after Wen Ho, but instead they cleaned house and wasted a lot of money on Bechtel.

outsource it (1)

human spam filter (994463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011134)

They should just outsource the handling of nuclear weapons to a contractor. It's much cheaper and safer that way.

Croc tears are shed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011144)

Bomb makers don't get to make bombs? My heart is broken. Boo-hoo for them; happiness for the rest of us.

Classic (0)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011208)

For those that love W don't read this post. It isn't for you.

Put Pete in charge of the nuke_you_lerz people. He's gota son named George. Oh and the guy that runs the horsey show, put him in charge of that, whatcha call it, rescueing department.
-- W

momd 0p (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011278)

THEHY ARE COME ON First organization Join in. It ca8 be ofone single puny

totally misrepresents the Wen Ho Lee case (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011282)

On December 10, 1999, Lee was arrested. Described as an extreme danger to US national security, he was held in solitary confinement for 278 days awaiting his day in court. When he was finally brought to trial, the case against him rapidly fell apart; 58 of the 59 counts against him were dropped, and he was released with time served for one count of mishandling classified information.

The case did not "fall apart" when it went to trial, because it never went to trial. I'm also struggling to comprehend how the case could have "fallen apart", because they found classified information in his house and his unclassified computer, and what other evidence do you need for charges of mishandling classified information? (note: the case did "fall apart", in that he should have been charged with much more but wasn't, but the 59 charges were legit)

Here's how espionage cases against people with clearances are always handled : you are charged with whatever crime you are guilty of, then are offered a plea deal for a lesser offense in exchange for two things. First, you must honestly relate everything you leaked, so the damage to national security can be assessed, and then you must promise a newly discovered silence about matters classified. For obvious reasons the vast majority (I can't think of any who haven't in recent history) of the accused take the plea deal and never go to court.

Except for Wen Ho Lee. He refused to plea down to a lesser charge (in this case a single charge), as most of these people do. So they stuck him in solitary, because without agreeing to #2 he was still a threat to national security. Finally, after 278 days he relented and accepted the plea deal. He got off lucky, because the FBI botched the investigation and he could have been prosecuted for a good bit more -- export violations for one, for discussing nuclear information with Chinese scientists.

The arrogance charge is right on the money. The relaxed attitude toward the law from people at the lab is astounding. The mere fact that Wen Ho Lee has become something of a martyr is proof.

Re:totally misrepresents the Wen Ho Lee case (1)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012054)

"I'm also struggling to comprehend how the case could have "fallen apart", because they found classified information in his house and his unclassified computer" - (A) The material they found was classified as 'restricted', not 'secret'. Having worked in multiple government laborities, I can tell you that restricted in this sense means confidential but not classified (in the same sense that social security numbers and other personal information are not to be made public) (B) Another LANL physicist, John Ricther, testified [pbs.org] that "99 percent" of what they found in Lee's house was already in the public domain.

It's ironic I have to say this about LosAlamos (1)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011296)

...but this doesn't happen in a vacuum.

To suggest that the 'poor scientists at Los Alamos' have a difficult time being messed-with by the politicians is a touch disingenuous unless one mentions that the facilities have had a spate of data losses, espionage, and a number of other problems that have given the political class a REASON to stick their noses in.

And while we're at it, I'm going to guess that this exact same cri di couer could have been issued by scientists in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s. IANANS, but I'm going to guess that the level of government crap Los Alamos' scientists have had to put up with is extremely high pretty much ALL the time.

In other words - (1)

james_van (2241758) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011368)

people motivated only by personal gain, with little to no working knowledge of the operation, have put in place measures that prevent workers from doing their jobs effectively, without bothering to consult with those workers about how to do things properly. So Los Alamos is being run like pretty much every branch of government and every business in America.

Hack Job (3, Interesting)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011544)

I just read the entire paper. Before reading it I was neutral and largely ignorant of Los Alamos' problems and culture. After reading it I tend to believe that the culture there is indeed one of arrogance and privilege and that the author, Gusterson, is their mouthpiece.

The paper is not even close to a scientific treatment. It is a series of conclusions, allegations, and characterizations more suited to a letter to the editor (or a Slashdot rant like this one) than a NSF funded study report. He never once describes the scientific culture that is the subject, nor does he analyze it. Nor does he analyze the management. He simply hurls characterizations and insults at it. The paper reads like a list of grievances brought forward by a shop steward.

To use Gusterson's words against him. He says, "Recent condenmations of Los Alamos have been based on remarkably thin cartoonish descriptions of its culture." But his paper does exactly that, it seems to be based on remarkably thin cartoonish descriptions of the management.

I'm still ignorant of the actual culture at Los Alamos. However, if there was a calcified culture of arrogance and privilege, and that culture sent forth someone to present their views, I would expect it to sound exactly like Gustafson's paper. If that paper were the only evidence, I would say "Fire them all."

Re:Hack Job (1)

Frangible (881728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011908)

Then try reading some of the papers he cites instead of concluding "HERP DERP ARROGANT SCIENTISTS". Because that's a little... arrogant.

Re:Hack Job (2)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011972)

"He never once describes the scientific culture that is the subject" - actually, he does, by saying several times that such a separate culture does not exist: "Pete Nanos ran his lab into the ground by insisting on the existence of a distinctive culture that was largely an artifact of his own imagination... Second, the organizational dysfunction at Los Alamos has been misdiagnosed as a problem of culture; it is more likely a problem of structure."

More anti-science from the right wing (2)

Frangible (881728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011782)

Ironic, isn't it? It wasn't too long ago that it was the left that was the greatest political threat to Los Alamos and LLNL.

But today, as the article points out, it is the right, mostly starting with the Bush Administration. I'm no fan of people scapegoating George W. Bush for all of the ills of the nation, but here is a case where his administration had a profoundly negative effect upon national security. The same kind of paranoid mismanagement on a gross scale that gives you TSA cavity searches every time you get on a plane is gutting the intellectual and scientific capabilities of these institutions.

It is a further irony that we criticize fundamentalist Muslim nations for impeding the progress of science and technology, but we are allowing this to happen in our own backyard. We owe much of our technology today-- the internet, integrated circuits, a national highway system, GPS, etc to nuclear defense research and spending.

We are told we cannot compete with developing nations for manufacturing, and must do so through science and innovation. But when scientific research and scientists are undermined, then what future do we have?

The failed policies of the Bush administration and Bechtel's seizure of power must be reversed. Nuclear science should be returned to the capable hands of nuclear scientists, not a for-profit corporation that has proven hostile to science and scientists all in the name of short-term profit. Bechtel has acted against the national security interests of the US and is not fit to hold a government contract. The truth is that government-funded science does produce tremendously useful results, and nowhere has that been more apparent than in nuclear defense research. We cannot afford to lose that.

go47 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38011794)

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Why the frog jumps (1)

CrepitousCurmudgeon (1572327) | more than 2 years ago | (#38011812)

Nano obviously misunderstood why the people were working there. It was fun. Big ass machines making big bangs and sparks, working with the raw elements of nature, doing things no one else was doing. But a dweeb like him telling so many boffins to march to his tune? He was taking the fun out of it. There are other jobs out there, or there's retirement. He couldn't force them to work at Los Alamos and so they left. Why should any citizen be forced to work someplace that makes him miserable? People vote with their feet all the time. Only pocket dictators think this is wrong.

fully agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38012018)

as a non-scientist working at LANL, I would say that this article is spot on.

Most important product - Safety ... (1)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | more than 2 years ago | (#38012516)

When your most important product is not what one values then there tends to be resistance. When an organization's most important product (aside from paperwork) is safety rather than science (where I would argue the product is science done safely); then you will have problems with the people who in their heart want to do science. One of DOE's major organizational goals seems to be not show up in the news or be called to testify to Congress. How can this do anything but twist your culture.

I don't know anything about LANL, I have never been their, so I am (maybe) just guessing.

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