Category Archives: LANL

Los Alamos National Laboratory, UC-LANL,

Anthropology in a climate of change, war, and internecine environments 1

[In process]

Part 1**
Part 2*** [separate post]

* Background

I think there is a need for anthropological perspective in any issue of human existence.

It is a sad irony that the discipline (science) which is most comprehensive and fundamental (science is a human activity and the basic science of human activity is anthropology) has often seemed through its profession association to be narrowly focussed and consequently irrelevant.

Last month, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) accompanied the chairwoman of the Disaster Recovery subcommittee, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to another hearing, in Anchorage, about the few places in Alaska designated for US Army Corps of Engineers environmental management [sic].

The anthropologists are about to have their annual conference in Washington DC and will be exercised about the U.S. Army recruiting anthropologists (Human Terrain Systems). On the other hand, Barack Obama is hip to Margaret Mead “Obama demonstrated that he understood the reasons why America for decades (think of the Bay of Pigs invasion) has made gravely serious national security decisions based on laughably inaccurate intelligence.”

Meanwhile, none of our western Alaska or Mississippi deltas is taken seriously. “Rush Limbaugh adds Alaskan to polarizing efforts.”

The best the state of Alaska has done so far is issue an official pass to a non-existent mass disease shelter in the region’s pandemic preparedness exercise this year (flu shot clinic).

I think if Governor Palin actually had a scientific advisor to her environmental sub-cabinet especially from rural Alaska or if Landrieu and Stevens could earmark enough funding out of the millions for the Corps mission in Alaska to pay for scientific support for the Unorganized Borough [over half of Alaska’s area, 970,500 km² (374,712 square miles), an area larger than France and Germany combined], this actually would be more effective than the endless photo-op and news stories about polar bears without ice.

How do we bring attention to the need for comprehensive analysis, assessment, and action on environmental change? No one would think of building a levee without an engineer, why are we doing relocation and reconstruction of communities — in Alaska and Louisiana / Mississippi — without a human scientist / human ecologist (anthropologist)?

[This analogy would work better if I didn’t already know that someone in DC thought of managing emergencies with a horse show announcer.] At the very least we need to aggregate the existing knowledge that we know full well must be included, whether for a northern or a southern delta.

It may not be a direct plus for NOLA– my records precede Katrina and I read Voices of New Orleans. If all the people and power and money there can’t get trailers that the Feds are allowed to inspect — but I think the imaginative scale in Alaska would be easier to actually test many of these concepts and approaches.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Continue reading


Costs higher than thought

Hospital costs for children with flu may be higher than thought

Pay for performance

What is supposed to work in schools, similarly with alcohol control and Wall Street, seems to operate on belief rather than an examination of what is and then formulating testable ideas on what, if anything, needs doing. Belief is an important factor in “what works”. However, critical thinking and careful use of statistics, among other attributes of sciencing such as multiple working hypotheses, are important to keep us all honest. In the situation of pandemic fatal or crippling disease, wishful thinking or “denial” won’t keep us, at all.


Advocates of using pay to improve teacher performance grow excited over the addition of federal money to supplement local district pay incentives. But maybe they shouldn’t. Contrary to other provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), there is little research to demonstrate that paying a few teachers more will improve student performance. […]

Alaska perspective

Understanding what is right and wrong with the current institutional environment would seem, therefore, to be the key to understanding why spending and performance are not positively correlated.

Binge drinking, not alcoholism

* Many people assume that most people who drink to excess are probably alcoholics.
* A recent survey of 4,761 New Mexico adults found that while 16.5 percent drank alcohol in excess of national guidelines, only 1.8 percent met criteria for alcohol dependence.
* This suggests that a majority of persons at risk for alcohol-related problems are not alcohol dependent.

Most people realize that too much alcohol can lead to multiple health problems, injuries and violence. Numerous statistics support the accuracy of this perception. Many people also assume that a substantial proportion of people who drink to excess are probably alcoholics. This may not be accurate. A recent study of the general population in New Mexico reveals that, in fact, most alcohol-related problems may be due to excessive drinking – especially binge drinking – among persons who are not alcoholics.

The irresistible power of magical thinking

New research demonstrates that habits of so-called magical thinking — the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick — are far more common than people acknowledge.

even at Los Alamos National Laboratory (UC-LANS UC-LANL) and Congress

The representatives love to lash out at Los Alamos without ever addressing the really important problems facing the lab.

They call for more security, more bureaucracy, more procedures, more manuals and more oversight. This was a tradition started by former director Pete Nanos who shutdown the lab for six months to “fix it”. Somehow this culture of “more” is meant to lead an efficient, lean lab.

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Nuclear Winter transmittal letter

This really belongs with the post but I only just located it.


DATE: May 8, 1986

Chemistry Division


The enclosed document, NUCLEAR WINTER: THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF HUMAN SURVIVAL, may be of interest to you as a professional in [public communication] [or public policy] . These proceedings result from an invited session of the American Anthropological Association annual meetings held in Washington, DC, December 6, 1985. The scientific session was an interdisciplinary discussion among senior anthropologists, a physical scientist involved in global climate modelling, and myself of the contributions anthropology can make to the scientific discussion of the long-term consequences of nuclear war.

Current scientific discussions of the long-term environmental consequences of nuclear war only partially evaluate the impact on human existence and continuity. Anthropologists are generally not participants in the institutional communities or other sciences which provide the scientific and technical advice on issues of national defense. Anthropology can contribute its expertise concerning the cultural and biological adaptability of humans and the comprehensive nature and evolution of human existence.

An audience of approximately 100 anthropologists and others participated in the discussions. This session is the first and remains the only discussion of Nuclear Winter to focus explicitly on impacts to humans. Other discussions have focused on the non-human environment or on limited aspects of human society which can result in misleading or inaccurate conclusions about effects on human biological and cultural systems.

Discussion also ranged over whether such matters should be discussed at all, the roles of science and policy in contemporary US society, the nature of uncertainty, the need for anthropological models of nuclear winter comparable to the physical models, and the value of anthropological assessment and input to discussions of nuclear war.

We consider our discussions beginnings, not conclusions, to an anthropological assessment of Nuclear Winter. There are as yet no formal, integrative studies of the long-term consequences of Nuclear Winter for humans by public or private agencies.

If you wish further information on this topic, please contact the authors.


M. Pamela Bumsted

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Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist

By Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, July 13, 2006 or 2006/07/12/AR2006071201883.html

I hope this article gets widely noticed (I also need to find the original). Two primary points–

Barres said he has realized from personal experience that many men are unconscious of the privileges that come with being male, which leaves them unable to countenance talk of glass ceilings and discrimination.

This is a very difficult concept to express to others (especially to men who honestly believe they don’t discriminate against women). I have tried to use the example of colleagues, or mentors and proteges, who discuss their project animatedly and enthusiastically, while on the way to the restroom….

Barres said the switch had given him access to conversations that would have excluded him previously.

If one wants to know what majority institutions and governments think of ethnic minorities (i.e., Native and non-Native or Hispano and non-Hispano) ask an Anglo / Gussack / Pakeha trained in participant / observation who’s been in “both worlds”.

“Science is a human activity”

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