|"Forget the Rest" blog|
A dirty job? - 10 worst careers in science
Which would you rather be - an orangutan-urine
collector, semen washer
or Los Alamos nuclear weapons scientist?
10. Collector of orangutan urine
Popular Science's November issue says those first
two are better than
being a scientist at Los Alamos National
It cited as proof a series of FBI investigations at the lab, classified materials accounting problems, and former Director Pete Nanos calling scientists "buttheads" and "cowboys" before shutting the lab down for months starting in December 2004.
The lab's operating contract - held by the University of California - has gone up for bid this year for the first time since Los Alamos was founded in the 1940s.
On the plus side, the job of lab scientist did
rank better than the
magazine's top pick - human lab rat in medical
"There you are, a sacrificial sandwich, stuck between management and the press," Boston said.
Boston's job, extremophile excavator, came in
fourth on the Popular
Science list, worse than her Los Alamos
Kevin Roark, the main spokesman for the lab during the scandals, said he doesn't find that, or anything else about the Popular Science article, particularly amusing.
"Popular Science should just talk about science and not try to be funny - it's not funny," Roark said. "Everything about it is just insulting. That's not funny. We're talking nuclear weapons."
Los Alamos weapons scientists were not willing to
comment on their
dubious ranking, but Tom Sanford, a nuclear
"I'm real happy with my job," Sanford said. "I
used to work at Los
Alamos and I'd work there again. It's a good
Sanford runs the Z Machine at Sandia. For a fraction of a second, the machine can create the fusion power of the sun.
"The deeper we look at those processes, the more
intricate and beautiful
we find nature to be," Sanford said. "It's a
For Sanford, the worst job in science would be something like fossil hunting in hot, dry weather.
"That's got to be tough out in the heat and dirt,"
he said. "That or
some sort of forensic job would be unpleasant.
Boston said Sanford's job doesn't sound so bad, but when asked if she would work at Los Alamos?
"Not on a bet," she said. "I wouldn't want to work in any environment that's continually contentious. That just wouldn't be any fun."
Boston, who says she likes the rotten-egg smell of sulphur and slogging through bat guano, said there are a few other science jobs in the Southwest that she would probably hate.
"Anything with vomit sounds like the worst possible job," Boston said."Higher mammal vomit - especially human vomit - just bothers me."
Geologist Maya Elrick agreed with Popular Science's take on Los Alamos. Elrick is a paleo-oceanographer at the University of New Mexico and spends time in Sanford's nightmare world, hunting for ocean fossils in the hot New Mexico sun.
"Yeah, Los Alamos would be bad, for all the reasons Popular Science says you wouldn't want to work there," Elrick said. "Although another bad New Mexico science job would be a high school biology teacher in Rio Rancho, where they're having the intelligent-design debate."
In the magazine article, Kansas biology teacher came in third for the same reason.
"Another bad one would be a wildlife biologist in
Catron County, where
they're trying to relocate endangered wolves,"
Elrick thought of another job she probably wouldn't want any more than she'd want to work at the beleaguered lab.
"Governor Richardson's physical fitness adviser," she said with a laugh. "That would be a tough one."
Copyright 2005, The Albuquerque Tribune. All