Three short quotes that speak volumes – from a great piece in the New York Times on Dr Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize winning physicist and new Energy Secretary in the USA.

The quotes give an insight into the world of a scientist coming up against the (un)reality of bureaucracy, politics and the media.


Dr. Chu said he had been frustrated by the job vacancies and the glacial pace of his department.  Borrowing an analogy from the world of physics, he said that in Washington, Newton’s first law — a body in motion tends to stay in motion — does not apply. “In a bureaucracy, if you start something in motion, it either stops or gets derailed,” he said. “You have to keep applying force.”


Asked later what part of his job he liked the least, Dr. Chu said: “The fact that I’m constantly being told that I have to be careful what I say to the press and in public. I can’t speculate out loud anymore.


Dan Leistikow, the Energy Department’s director of public affairs, said “A Nobel scientist is more likely to figure out Washington than a career politician is to figure out how to deal with carbon sequestration”.


For those of us who believe the assessments of the vast majority of the world climate scientists, the time for meaningful action to avoid major climate change has just about run out.  Probably the last real hope for the world to make the sort of rapid reductions in greenhouse emissions needed lies with President Obama and Dr Chu.

As the article notes, “President Obama has assigned Dr. Chu to carry out some of his central priorities: wean America from dependence on fossil fuels, rebuild the nation’s electrical grid and address the challenges of climate change.”

Let’s hope the laws of physics start operating inside the Washington bubble very soon.

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