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A Short Summary of My work at Los Alamos

My experiences while at LASL (later changed to LANL, for Los Alamos National Laboratory), covered twenty-two years from October, 1967 until October, 1989 when I retired. My initial position was that of a visiting staff member, but I had to obtain a so-called 'Q-Clearance' badge before being allowed to work on classified material. Clearances at Los Alamos are based on the "need to know," and the process of getting such a badge required a few months. One of my neighbors admitted that he had been interviewed about me (by the FBI no less), and that he answered, "Oh, yes, I'm acquainted with Henry; he has a Czech name that I can't pronounce, plays chess and also plays Russian music on his accordion!" Of course he was teasing me, and I reminded him that my accordion was made in Italy, not Russia where it is called a bayan. Actually there was a time in the mid-seventies when I played some of the musical accompaniment for our International Folk Dancers.

Dr.Herman Hoerlin, the Group Leader of J-10, was a man about 15 years older than I, and I learned to admire him very much. He suggested that while waiting for my clearance I should study atmospheric aerosols. The laboratory possessed a very excellent technical library, and I spent most of my early weeks working there, reviewing the literature and copying pertinent articles using the library's Xerox machines. I even wrote a summary paper titled: Aerosol Concentration and Extinction in the Earth's Atmosphere (Los Alamos Report LA-4032, 1969). When my clearance arrived, I was assigned a room close to the Group Office; sometimes I would feel like I was on the "firing line," because Hoerlin found it so convenient to drop into my room and bring up problems or questions for me to investigate. He was a man somewhat like Struve, and wanted straight, practical answers. I found out that solutions were more important than methods, and adjusted my thinking accordingly. We got along very well, and I found him to be very dedicated and competent. There were some extremely talented individuals in this group, for example Dr.Martin Tierney, a theoretical physicist who always had a systematic and logical approach to solving any problem; this kind of person is a veritable jewel, and I often took advantage of his advice and help; I now count him as a very good friend. In passing I should mention that there were some six-thousand Ph.D.'s at Los Alamos, and I don't recall anyone ever being addressed as "doctor."

I became a 'permanent' staff-member in 1968, although tenure at Los Alamos was only for 30 days! During the next several years four former K.U. astronomy students joined the laboratory: Brook Sandford, Wayne Fullerton, Larry Cloutman and Jack Hills. Brook became a member of Group J-10 in which I was a member, Wayne a member of C-division (computation), Larry a member of the hydrodynamics group, and Jack, a member of the astrophysics group. So, if we include Bob Brownlee of the J-division Office, and myself, the K.U. Astronomy 'Mafia' had infiltrated into Los Alamos having contributed six astronomers! Bob Brownlee used to say that one reason for this was that astronomers are, financially speaking, 'cheap'!

I worked on many projects while at Los Alamos, such as: Monte Carlo studies of the twilight sky, atmospheric scattering from point sources over-the-horizon, theory of resonance-fluorescence by sunlit barium and strontium clouds, interaction of nuclear explosions with the atmosphere, construction of a lidar (laser radar) system, lidar observations of the Mt. St. Helens plume, lidar measurements of the effluent from coal-burning power plants, interception problems associated with SDI (strategic-defence initiative), rocket-based observations of the inner zodiacal light during a total eclipse, orientation of a satellite that has nadir and solar sensors, geometric coverage by the sensors of a multi-satellite system, PCFLS (probability of cloud-free lines of sight) from a satellite to points on the earth.

This completes my mini-history, and I must confess that writing it has been an interesting and nostalgic adventure for me. But the best part of the adventure was actually living it. You were the best possible students, and Dr. Storer the best possible colleague!

Henry G.Horak, Christmas, 1998