Outside magazine, June 1996


Kudos to Outside and Alex Shoumatoff for taking on the Los Alamos National Laboratory (“Bomb City, USA,” April). The nuclear weapons money machine keeps rolling along while cleanup programs are being cut. One LANL document states that the lab’s continuing nuclear weapons mission is already programmed for the next 20 to 30 years. The lab has
proposed $4.85 billion in future facilities through the year 2015, and another $540 million in facility upgrades. There are more nuclear weapons now than when the Nonproliferation Treaty, in which the United States pledged insubstantive steps toward disarmament, was signed in 1970. Contrary to the treaty and the end of the Cold War, LANL seeks the indefinite preservation of
nuclear weapons and the accompanying flow of tax dollars attached to that mission. Don’t expect “peace dividends” from Los Alamos anytime soon. Do expect further nuclear waste generation.

Jay Coghlan
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety
Santa Fe, New Mexico

As a longtime resident of Los Alamos, I salute (ahem) your wonderfully imaginative article on our fair town. How charitable of Shoumatoff to base much of his tale on someone widely known as Crazy Ed! It is true that Los Alamos is stuck in the 1950s–low crime, no gangs, good schools, friendly residents–but we are trying to catch up to our New Age neighbors in Santa Fe. The
laboratory now has a center for nonlinear studies to help us get out of our linear-thinking rut. Some scientists are even playing with crystals these days.

Mario Schillaci
Los Alamos, New Mexico

I can attest that Los Alamosans think of the bomb a little differently than the rest of us. Recently, while driving between Taos and Santa Fe, I tuned into a radio station licensed in Los Alamos playing “Yesterday,” by The Beatles. When the song ended, the disc jockey said, “Now there’s a blast from the past!” I didn’t realize the sad irony until he added, “This is K Bomb,
KBOM, Los Alamos.”

Garrett Tomczak
Golden Valley, Minnesota

Rebel Rousing
I think Jack Barth did a grave injustice to the Civil War reenacting community by presenting reenactors as fat, beer-drinking rednecks (“The Red Badge of Make-Believe Courage,” March). We are not. By the way, Barth’s uniform was incorrect.

Lee White
Summerville, Georgia

Barth’s article kept me laughing and was by itself worth the year’s subscription. My wife may start reading your magazine just so I quit nudging her and saying, “You gotta hear this…” The writing is so good I even enjoy reading about things I never thought I had any interest in. Keep it up.

Reed Hoffmann
Rochester, New York

God, Boston, Cosmas
Great job on the article about marathon runner Cosmas Ndeti (“God, Boston, Country,” April). It was a pleasure to see Ndeti’s spiritual life emphasized along with his training. Like many other great athletes, he seems to be guided toward success by strong beliefs. Joshua Hammer covered Ndeti eloquently.

Robert Manna
Washington, D.C.

Vicious Vespids
I thoroughly enjoyed Richard Conniff’s article about entomologist Justin O. Schmidt and his pain scale for stings and bites (“King of Sting,” April). Might I suggest he develop a companion scale that rates the ferociousness of attack? It would be hard to beat the massed assault capabilities of enraged yellow jackets. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like those angry,
Gatling-gun-stinging vespids.

LeRoy Dieffenbach
Wilmington, North Carolina

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