Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Atomic City

Well here we are in Los Alamos, NM!

I recently visited a delightful free museum in town that focuses on this area and especially the place that put it on the map, Los Alamos National Lab. I could write forever about the extremely interesting things we learned but let me just give you the bare minimum...if I'm capable...probably not....sorry!

The area was settled in 1917 by a gentleman who wanted to run a school for boys with an emphasis on outdoor pursuits and responsibilities. It was called the Los Alamos Ranch School and operated for 25 years.

In the early 1940's, after the Manhattan Project had been in full force, the government needed an isolated place for the people working on the project to come together and really get some secret stuff done (until this point, they had operated from many universities throughout the country but had no one meeting place). The property was quickly appropriated by the government and in just 27 months, the Los Alamos National Lab was constructed and the bomb had been designed, built, and tested. I wish the government moved that quickly these days. I guess it makes a difference when there is the pressure of a huge war. Oh wait......nevermind.

The lab still is in full force operation today yet with a different focus. As far as
weapons defense goes, the name of the game is stockpile stewardship. Basically,
the United States stopped making, as well as testing, nuclear weapons
back in 1992 (thank you, President George Bush...never thought I'd say that!). Even though they don't get detonated, they still need to be checked to be sure that they still work properly in the event that they are ever again called upon as a last resort (let's hope not!). Seeing how they can test the small parts to be sure that the larger whole is still in working order was pretty cool.

There is, of course, a lot of controversy surrounding all things nuclear. My favorite part of the museum was a public forum book where people are free to write down their opinions, thoughts, and apparently their political rants. I probably read this book for 25-30 minutes while commenting on other people's writings as I went along, and adding my own characteristic and expected sarcasm when needed. Because let's face's always needed.

All that weaponry stuff is pretty classified and Leni is happy that his job at the lab will have nothing to do with classified information. He'll be working in the solid waste facility dealing with how to properly dispose of the solid nuclear waste that is produced at the lab. When I understand more about what that means, I'll let you know.

The lab employs a few more than 8,000 people. The town of Los Alamos has about 12,000. Let me share with you some interesting comparisons between Los Alamos and our previous place of residence, Big Sandy, TX.

In Big Sandy, 76% of residents over the age of 25 (the age of all the other following statistics as well) were high school graduates. Sadly, only 11% held Bachelor's degrees (or higher). Here in Los Alamos, 96% have high school diplomas and 61% hold Bachelor's degrees if not graduate and doctorate degrees. This 61% is three times that the New Mexico statewide average. They've got some smarties up here. In fact, while I was among the most educated in Big Sandy, I'm willing to bet that I am among the least educated up here. I wish those statistics were broken down more to include the higher degrees but I know that there are tons of people with PhDs around here....many with two!

Geographically, the city of Los Alamos is built on a series of mesas divided by canyons. As a result, there will be several neighborhoods separated by canyons of National Forest land. You can loosely see the basic layout in this city map:

Our property, as a matter of fact, backs right up to one of these canyons! One moment you are in our backyard and the next, you're in a canyon filled with all sorts of hiking trails. I'm excited to explore the area soon!

If you're still reading, I extend many congratulations to you. I know this has been long. Now that you've got the city under your belt, you'll probably be ready to see house pictures which I plan to post tomorrow.

Keep It Real!

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