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As a physicist, Steven Chu has observed atoms suspended in a powerful laser beam and DNA stretched out in a vacuum chamber. But in his new job as U.S. energy secretary, Dr. Chu is observing phenomena he never saw in the science laboratory.
At a recent Senate hearing, for example, he witnessed a junior cabinet member (himself) being systematically dissected by a senior senator (John McCain).
Mr. McCain, unhappy when Dr. Chu affirmed the Obama administration’s intention to suspend work at a nuclear waste site in Nevada, quickly bore down: ‘‘What’s wrong with Yucca Mountain, Dr. Chu?’’ he demanded.