Baker recalls: ‘Take my word for it’
The title of former Senator Howard Baker’s Weinberg lecture On June 13 was “At the Nexus of Science and Public Policy.” What he really talked about was his relationship with ORNL and science issues during a career that has earned him renown as a senior statesman.
Baker said that over the years he has received so much guidance and criticism from the lecturer’s namesake, ORNL Director Emeritus AlvinWeinberg, that he wouldn’t be surprised if Weinberg handed him a grade on his talk. Weinberg indeed was in the audience.
Baker recalled getting a call from Eugene Wigner, ORNL’s first research director. He knew Wigner was one of the scientists who persuaded Albert Einstein to convince President Roosevelt to build the atom bomb. “My god, what now?” he recalled thinking.
What Wigner wanted to talk about was the disparity in civil defense preparedness that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union. Baker said Nobel laureate Wigner arrived at the senator’s Huntsville, Tenn., home perched on the sissy bar of the late ORNL researcher Conrad Chester’s motorcycle.
Director Emeritus Alvin Weinberg (center) confers with former Sen. Howard Baker (left) and Lab Director Bill Madia.
Baker once asked Wigner what Einstein was really like. Wigner replied, “He was a great idea man but a terrible mathematician.”
Baker also recalled that the fledgling Human Genome Project came within a “hair’s breadth” of being discontinued. “President Reagan couldn’t figure out why it was important,” Baker recalled “Just take my word for it,” he assured the President.
The former Senate majority leader and White House chief of staff says the success of Silicon Valley underscores the role science plays in the creation of wealth. “If economic growth depends on information, we must be on the threshold of a new era—if we don’t drown in all the information.”
Baker’s day in Oak Ridge wasn’t purely a pleasure trip. He was accompanied by veteran political advisor Lloyd Cutler for meetings on nuclear nonproliferation in preparation for a trip to Russia, and later that day he was named to a special task force to investigate the ongoing security misfortunes at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Supercomputing: ‘Push harder’
ORNL’s two new supercomputers, one made by IBM and the other by Compaq, were dedicated June 21 by Under Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, who recalled that he has seen a lot of good things happen in Wigner Auditorium, including the dedication of the Lab’s first supercomputer, the Intel Paragon, five years ago.
With the recent expansion of the IBM RS/6000 SP and the recently acquired Compaq AlphaServer SC (Reporter, May 2000), ORNL now has 1.5 teraflops computing speed, making it the most powerful unclassified computing facility in the nation.
The two new compters have more than 10 times the computing power than the once and briefly state-of-the-art Paragon offered.
Moniz said that ORNL’s new computers represent “a genuine tool of discovery, not just the extension of a few more cycles on a machine.” As computational modeling problems evolve, scientists, he said, must “push harder—even harder—on new computational tools.”
The ceremony also included the announcement of an IMB postdoc fellowship in terascale computing. ORNL is back on the supercomputing map.
Self-appointed curator of ORNL antiquery Bill Alexander surfaced another relic from the Manhattan Project years recently. It’s a 1940s-era wall clock that has a tell-tale “Clinton Laboratory” nameplate, meaning, as Alexander says, “it’s seen a lot of history happen.”
P&E's Tommy Ray and the vintage clock he reworked.
When he plugged it in it wouldn’t run, so he took it to the Plant and Equipment Division’s electric motor shop. P&E’s Tommy Ray performed a little resuscitative magic on it. According to Alexander, it now keeps perfect time.
P&E’s motor shop keeps a multitude of electric motors from all around ORNL going. Many of these are motors that can’t be purchased any more, and their ongoing refurbishment saves the Lab a lot of money and a lot of headaches.
The clock, or one like it that was restored and mounted on a plaque a couple of years ago, may end up providing the time of day for patrons of the new Visitors Center.
Bill Manly gets his Ph.D.
Bill Manly, former ORNL metallurgist, National Medal of Technology winner and industry leader, got his doctorate recently. More specifically, it was an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.
“The whole family went,” Bill says. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school at South Bend, Ind., in the 1940s, including a free year for being in the service during the war.
He went on to work at the Lab on such storied projects as the nuclear airplane, then left the company for private industries, including Union Carbide and Cabot Corp. He received the technology medal in 1993.
ORNL Reporter featured Bill in the November 1999 issue, in which he recounted his schooling, ORNL experiences and career at the “forefront of technology tranfser and cross-fertilization in American industries.” Bill now has a nice office in Building 4500-South in which he consults on tech transfer matters. As with senior statesmen, senior industry legends never really get to retire.
Manly was among a group of 10 distinguished individuals honored by Notre Dame, including United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Nicaragua President Violeta de Barrios Chamorro.
Reported by Bill Cabage