Monday, June 26, 2006

Monte-Carlo Madness

I gave a quick "sell-yourself" intro-to-spectropolarimetry talk friday morning to the IfA. There's a bunch of undergrads here for the summer doing research projects and "they" wanted grads to give intros. The REU's were mostly awake, but most of the faculty/grads glazed over in the first few minutes. I got some really funny, contorted, twisted and dazed looks from some of the people in the back. Hard to not laugh sometimes..... This is the 4th time I've given talks up there on this subject and they've all turned out the same. I asked a lot of people for comments. Everybody was generally positive about the talk itself and didn't see too much wrong (talked fast someplaces, some slides to crowded, etc), but nothing too bad. I was still confused about the response until Sean connected a lot of things by saying that

1) most astronomers don't really care how an experiment is done, they just want to be able to argue about results (which is why they hire cheap data monkeys and force them to do all the dirty work)

2) i didn't actually present any results in my talk - it's my fault for keeping it intro but ended up losing most people by not presenting anything concrete or conclusive.

3) polarization is hard and most haven't thought of light as an electromagnetic wave in a while - we just count photons here.

This was inspiration to actually deal with the pain and suffering of hacking a bunch of Monte-Carlo models and learning a new programming language - Fortran. (I know, Fortran old as all hell, but for numerical work it's orders of magnitude faster and still the code of choice for most) I need to be able to show pretty pictures and videos to explain what I'm talking about, and I also need to get on finding concrete answers. Only models do that with what I'm doing, and there's only a few people doing it. I think only one guy actually has running detailed models. My "thesis committee" said models should be part of my work, and now I actually agree. I still hate computers and I'm NOT looking forward to gaining 10 lbs and losing my tan again.

I've been running simulations for about 12 hours now, and I wrote some processing and plotting programs in IDL. Here's my first 3-D simulation - polarized intensity and vectors. I took a bunch of photons from a star, randomly threw them outward towards the circumstellar disk and let them scatter. The lines show the direction of polarization of the light.

Here's a disk seen edge-on - bright means lots of photons.

Same disk but face-on.


Blogger Lynn said...

OK, so this comment has nothing to do with this post, but I think the thieves in Hawaii have moved to my town. Someone broke into my storage unit and stole my hockey bag, X-C skis, and tv. What is that all about?!??!

4:21 AM  
Blogger geekedout said...

that's what happens in a world with haves and have-nots i guess. you only own what you can carry at a full sprint.

9:36 AM  

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