The man behind the standoff

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Former colleagues describe arrested physicist Richard Morse as brilliant

By Carol A. Clark

Richard Morse sits in a Los Alamos jail cell awaiting transfer to a hospital in Las Vegas, N.M., for psychiatric evaluation following Thursday’s 19-hour standoff with police.
Morse, 75, is a retired physicist. He began his career at Los Alamos National Laboratory as head of the advanced concepts group at TD-8 and simultaneously the laser fusion group at T-6 in 1965.
“I was aware of Richard Morse’s work and while it was controversial, it was considered brilliant,” LANL physicist Morrie Pongratz said. “He certainly was a pioneer in plasma physics.”
Morse said that T-6 started developing the mathematical basis for understanding the thin case problems of the W-76 thermonuclear warhead, an issue that seems to have eaten away at him for the last three decades.
Work continued on the W-76 while Morse and others traveled between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, LANL and the universities of Arizona, Rochester and MIT in the late ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, he said.
“Our work was still being used in one of the endless sequence of studies of the thin case problems when I came back to Los Alamos in 1996,” Morse has said in previous interviews.

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