For now, oil continues a-gush into the Gulf of Mexico. BP is attempting to stem the flow of oil using a "mile-long tube" to siphon the crude onto awaiting tanker ships, but even as that attempt gets underway, there's word of "giant oil plumes" forming under the water, which sounds -- let's say... menacing.
Against this backdrop, the Obama administration has escalated its efforts to resolve this crisis by assembling a "rag-tag band of big-think scientific renegades." It's a five-man group (no ladies, not in Larry Summers's America!) said by TPM's Zachary Roth to include Los Alamos veteran Richard Garvin, nuclear scientist Tom Hunter, MIT mechanical engineering professor Alexander Slocum, Lawrence Berkeley Labs engineer George Cooper, and Washington University physics professor Jonathan Katz. While so many aspects of these various "plug-the-leak" operations have come to resemble episodes of "Futurama" (Friendly robots! Shooting trash at the problem!), there's no indication that former Vice President Al Gore or chess-playing supercomputer Deep Blue have been asked to participate.
Go check out Roth's mini-profiles of Garvin, Hunter, Slocum, Cooper, and Katz, whom he terms "The Old Hand," "The Establishment Man," "The Maverick Genius," "The No-Nonsense Engineer," and the "What-Am-I-Doing-Here Guy," respectively. It's kind of an interesting reminder that this is something that presidents can do: summon people to perform acts of super-science!
Now, I am no scientist, so I have no idea what this team might come up with in terms of a solution. However, I have seen a lot of terrible movies, and based upon Roth's descriptions, this is probably how it will work:
Katz will feel really alienated and out of place in the group, and those tensions will be exacerbated by conflicts between Hunter and Slocum. "Your maverick science will get us all killed!" Hunter will shout. "You're such an establishment asshole," Slocum will retort. Cooper will quietly drink and game out worst-case scenarios. Katz will question his place, but Garvin will soothe his uncertainty with avuncular wisdom, "Just be patient. The president wanted you on this team!" Katz will probably blog about his feelings.
Eventually, there will be some team-building exercise (karaoke?), and out of it will come an amazing idea from Slocum and Hunter, who settle their differences over shots of something. They'll implement their plan, but it won't work! Something goes wrong! And all seems lost until Katz reads some comment on his blog -- it'll be left by the female colleague with whom he could never make it work -- and he'll have an epiphany, and come up with a solution to the problem that sounds insane but that Garvin immediately recognizes as genius.
I still don't quite have a fix on which one of these guys will develop "oil fever" and go crazy and try to sabotage the project -- I'm guessing Cooper, but I'm open to a new character being developed and inserted. But eventually, someone will have to nobly sacrifice their life to make it work. Katz will volunteer, but it'll be Garvin that locks him in a closet and gives up his life to plug the leak. Smash cut to presidential medals being handed out, flourish and fade to black. After the credits, everyone joins the Avengers.
Or something like that, if life goes according to hack screenplays. If not, probably the shoot-trash-at-the-hole thing again. Good luck, scientists!
Mission Impossible: Obama Taps Crack Team Of Scientists To Do The Job BP Can't [TPM Muckraker]
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