Less than a minute into President Obama’s Oval Office address, my heart sank. For the umpteenth time since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began, an anxious nation was informed that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has a Nobel Prize. Obama’s speech pretty much went down hill from there.
For weeks, administration officials have been trumpeting Chu’s distinction at every opportunity. Earlier in the day, White House environmental guru Carol Browner cited the Nobel in a television interview. Presidential adviser David Axelrod talks about the Nobel all the time, as does Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. If there’s an official list of administration talking points about the response to the oil spill, “Chu’s Nobel” has to be at the top.
Richard Feynman didn't know anything about Space Shuttles either. Or about nuclear bombs, including the purification of uranium ore. Yet he solved both of those difficult technical problems with amazing accuracy and foresight. In science and engineering, 'smart' trumps area of expertise, especially in areas which don't have a huge amount of background study preceding it.
I dont remember the President touting Feynmans nobel prize as creditation for being in charge (which he wasnt, and his nobel prize was after the manhanttan project). Apples and Oranges. This is just politics as usual.
Physics has pretty tight links to engineering... You can reasonably claim that engineering is applied physics. But more importantly, the core of any physics experiment is building hardware. Successfully designing and building hardware is what 'engineers' do. Steve Chu got the Nobel prize for experimental work with lasers, not something like string theory.
As for how relevant it is to BP... well more so than the Congressional committees but something of a distraction.