Change Physicists Can Believe In

Cosmic Variance (among others) reports that 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics Steve Chu will be the next Secretary of Energy. Sean gives a good run-down of the many reasons why this is a Good Thing.

Like Sean, I’ve met Chu in person. Unlike Sean, my one meeting with him doesn’t shed any light on anything.

I met him at a reception at the National Academy of Sciences in honor of the American science laureates (Chu, Bill Phillips, and… somebody else). I was talking to Paul Lett, one of the permanent members of Bill’s group about something or another when Chu stopped to say hi to Paul.

He was badly jet-lagged from flying in earlier that day, and mentioned that his room at the Watergate hadn’t been available when he got in. Genius that I am, I said “Just tell them you’re a plumber, and go on up.” He looked at me like I had two heads, and I had to explain my unfunny Watergate joke. He wandered off shortly after that.

So, there you go. What that tells you about his likely policy direction as Secretary of Energy, I don’t know.

Congratulations to him, and to the Obama administration for making a good pick.


  1. #1 John Novak
    December 10, 2008

    I was just thinking, “Wait, where do I know that name from?” Wikipedia gave me enough clues to spark my memory of you talking about him.

    What I hope this means is that Obama wants to emphasize the non-nuclear weapon part of the DOE more than it has been in the past. Seriously, I’m the last person to argue against nuclear weapons as a defense pillar, but more than a third of the DOE discretionary fund is for national security– which in that budget means, explicitly, weapons. By contrast, the production, planning, and maintenance of actual energy is only about 15% of the DOE budget.

  2. #2 Andrew Foland
    December 10, 2008

    Though almost nobody will quite get it, I love this pick as a “F*** you” to Sarah Palin. John McCain went around saying, “Nobody in this country knows more about energy than Sarah Palin.”

    I feel quite confident that Steven Chu knows more about energy than Sarah Palin.

  3. #3 Coriolis
    December 11, 2008

    But then again, so do things that crawl under rocks Andrew ;).

    I think this is an awesome pick. I guess he does have a bit of a reputation as an ass, but unless that gets him into too much trouble with the political people, I’d chalk that up as a good thing.

  4. #4 Mike
    December 11, 2008

    Woot! Steve Chu is L33t. Energy is going to be so powned.