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Quick! Who is the only physicist currently serving in the U.S. House of Representatives?
If you answered “Rush Holt” from New Jersey, you’re ready for the daily double. Got your breath back? Then here’s the clue:
This one factor is believed to be responsible for more than half of U.S. economic growth over the past century.
Answer: Investments in science and technology.
Rep. Holt would have probably gotten that one. After all, he’s a five-time Jeopardy champion. He also beat Watson the other night during a demonstration round in D.C.
Congressman Holt also served as Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest center for research in alternative energy in New Jersey. It’s one of many Department of Energy Labs doing fundamental research that is critical for our future prosperity.
Another is the Chicago area’s Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nation’s oldest and largest national labs, where more than 3,000 employees do basic and applied research in virtually every scientific disciple. Argonne --which, like Princeton, is under the auspices of the Department’s Office of Science -- also provides the nation’s brightest X-ray beams to an array of more than 5,000 researchers via its Advanced Photon Source.
Argonne will also be featured as a question category on Jeopardy! tonight (check your local listings), as its contributions have been noteworthy.
For instance, materials scientists at Argonne developed an ultrahard coating which is slicker than Teflon. Other Argonne scientists have developed a new technique for processing spent nuclear fuel, and are working on advanced energy storage systems and new energy sources. D.C. Metro riders might not realize it, but they’re direct beneficiaries of Argonne research thanks to the PROTECT early-warning system for biological and chemical attacks which operates in the city’s subway system.
Argonne researchers have even figured out ways to find flaws in engines and other energy systems in non-destructive ways. For example, it’s essential to find potential weaknesses in nuclear power plants before a real problem occurs. Thanks to Argonne’s non-destructive evaluation tools, energy plant operators can do so.
Perhaps most importantly, researchers at Argonne, and Princeton, and other Energy Department labs are keeping us sharp in global competition. Even cooperative countries are constantly contending, striving for new discoveries and new innovations, for new ways to strengthen their economies and their nations. Science and innovation play an essential part in winning that great game.
For more information on the DOE Office of Science, please go to: http://www.science.energy.gov/
And in the meantime, check out some of these photos from Argonne's Flickr page.
"The Art of Science" | Courtesy of the Argonne National Lab Flickr page
"Alternative Energy and Efficiency" | Courtesy of the Argonne National Lab Flickr page
"Transportation" | Courtesy of the Argonne National Lab Flickr page
Charles Rousseaux is a Senior Writer in the Office of Science.