Meet the Team of All Star Scientists Obama Assembled To Fix the Oil Spill

Illustration for article titled Meet the Team of All Star Scientists Obama Assembled To Fix the Oil Spill

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:

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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.

Illustration for article titled Meet the Team of All Star Scientists Obama Assembled To Fix the Oil Spill

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.

Illustration for article titled Meet the Team of All Star Scientists Obama Assembled To Fix the Oil Spill

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."

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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.

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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. Godspeed, gentlemen. [Bloomberg and Yahoo]

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Image credits: Katz via; Garwin via; Cooper via; Slocum via; Hunter via

DISCUSSION

ezrashapiro
ezrashapiro

Here are 10 ideas of mine - an unknown non-physicist. My naivete will show, but if everyone here thinks of 10 items, perhaps Gizmodo can pass it all along to Obama's team:

Many of these ideas would require making a neater cut in the line.

1. Turn off the pumps temporarily no matter the financial implications or inconveniences.

2. Drag another pipe (with a valve somewhere along) with a larger diameter around the spill line to contain the spill (more or less). Then drop concrete around the two lines to fill in the gaps. I realize this is on the ocean floor, but this seems like the best idea in the list.

3. splice the spill line and have a second branch to the line (if that will somehow help

4. Stuff the line full of something - cement, sand, epoxy, plastic, feathers, tar - drop a customized cement truck to the ocean floor. Remote control the spout to pump highly pressured (at a high speed) substance into the spill hole.

5. Place an unbreakable elastic balloon around the hole that can fill up, seal itself off, and float to the surface. Place a mechanism in place that replaces the balloon when the previous one is sealed off.

6. Place a high pressure pump on the line to reverse the flow of the oil.

7. Use a robot to try welding it closed after first placing itself within one of the above mentioned balloons.

8. uproot enough pipe to place the open end at the water surface and collect it there or work more freely in the air before returning it to the floor.

9. Using rubber screws and washers, affix a hinged door with a rubber seal on one side of the pipe and a latch on the other. Using a powerful robot, close the door and latch it.

10. Develop a method to soak up the oil from the water in a way that it can be used afterward.

Ezra