Planning a trip is exciting. I can’t tell you how long my family planned our trip out west. For so many years we wanted to do this. When we finally hit the road our adventure was more than we could have possibly imagined.
The landscape was always changing, always beautiful. Cattle ranches stretched out to infinity. Mountain peaks formed by ancient volcanos lined up in rows, one after another. Rivers of black jagged lava flowed over the landscape. We came across rainbow colors of the painted desert, a petrified forest of long ago, and the jaw-dropping expanse of the Grand Canyon. A winding road down from Flagstaff led us into the red cliffs of Sedona and on the cacti-spotted landscape of the Sonoran desert. The further we went, the more we appreciated vast mother earth.
When we think of scientists, most of us picture professionals working in labs or in university settings. But how did these people get to become scientists? They were born into the world like everyone else and could have selected from a myriad different career paths. The evidence does not suggest that scientists necessarily have children who become scientists. Thus the reality is that “new” scientists come from the general public fortuitously, and this reality is often unappreciated.
Many researchers and institutions devoted to motivating the next generation, including for example, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a national non-profit concerned with supporting “profoundly gifted students”, stress the importance of exposing youngsters to the latest scientific thoughts and discoveries through the internet and other sources. The public availability of current, up-to-date scientific and technical information is essential in this regard and the benefits of its availability are tremendous.
The year was 1945, the year I was born. That in itself is of great significance to me. However, it was a momentous year in history. World War II came to its merciful end and the development of the first electronic computer – the ENIAC—was nearing completion. At a post-war Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), mathematician Stanislaw Ulam envisioned the possibilities of reviving statistical techniques that would have a huge impact on science and technology research today. (Read the history of Stanislaw Ulam in the special edition of Los Alamos Science No. 15, 1987.)
More than 2,600 videos showcasing DOE’s most exciting research are available on ScienceCinema. Grab the popcorn and see science in “ACTION!”
Curious about DOE’s work in robotics, antimatter, or outer space? How about microbes, bugs, or mutants?
When I became Director of the DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information in 1997, we had a grand vision for a new era of global discovery. The way we provided access to scientific and technical information could be revolutionized. The internet showed promise, unbelievable promise. How exciting it was to become OSTI’s leader at that point in time.
Although the development of the Department of Energy’s web-searchable databases greatly enabled our scientific community to access R&D collections, the search technology was inefficient. How could we make the information more easily accessible to the public? Somehow we had to wrap our arms around and embrace new technologies. We had the talent, we had the motivation, and we definitely had the energy. We knew there was a better way to improve the Government’s service to its people.