Spotlight on Los Alamos: A pretty good mind

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By Roger Snodgrass

He has a Ph.D. from Cal Tech in astronomy, mathematics and physics, and is a Laboratory Fellow, but Dimitri Mihalas has another remarkable distinction. And no, it’s not just the fact that he is the only full-time staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who is currently a member of the National Academy of Sciences.Give up?He is – along with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, poet John Berryman, actor Robin Williams, composer Ludwig van Beethoven and golfer John Daly – among those frequently included on a list of famous people with bipolar disorder.Bipolar disorder is a potentially debilitating mental illness, marked by depression and characterized by extreme, sometimes destructive or suicidal mood swings.But it is treatable, as Mihalas, now approaching 70, would testify, and it is far from uncommon.On the contrary; according to a recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in September 2007, the number of visits by adults resulting in bipolar disease has almost doubled over the last decade. And according to the same citation by the Centers for Disease control, the number of children and adolescents diagnosed with bipolar disorder has increased by 40 times during the same interval. “This is not the thing I think most about in my life, but it is one of my most valuable contributions,” he said during a recent interview.

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