In one episode of my alternative-energy R&D career at Los Alamos National Lab, I was flying around seeking millions of dollars to develop new technology to capture flared associated gas from remote oil fields. One day I was in Houston at a corporation whose name everyone recognizes. For after-lunch entertainment, they proudly showed me an arbitrage operation, where a hundred young people, with pc’s and headsets, in one big room, were buying and selling cargoes at sea, making their decisions based on having the best weather-predicting computer in the world.
Huh? Cargo arbitrage can more than pay for a hundred salaries and a dedicated supercomputer?
The oil world looks logical to the oil people inside their world, but looks completely crazy from the outside.
I’m now officially retired, and active in local community service associated with climate change (already apparent here in New Mexico), but still active in science, too. Research-related travel down tenfold. Internet conferencing tools very helpful. Distant vacations in past 10 years only when same place as a science trip. But still stuck with too much air travel to visit family: one or two short domestic round trips per year.
(Worse: Ten short domestic round trips per year in the last years before my mom died. My apologies to future people for that. I’ll try to make it up to you.)
The main focus of my work has been the invention, understanding, and development of new energy-conversion technologies. I enjoy the thermodynamics of heat engines and refrigerators, the thermodynamics of non-ideal-gas fluids, physical acoustics, hydrodynamics, and low-temperature physics.