Thursday, July 19, 2007

Work I Did Here

I thought I would take a moment to justify my existence. At least my existence in Puerto Rico. For those who just see the pictures, I'm sure you're convinced that I go around the world to look at mountains and play on beaches. Well, you're somewhat right. But I actually do work things while I go most places. This whole conference is about getting the astro's, bio's, geo's and chemists (NAI), as well as SETI and education people together like this to talk about what we're all finding and how it relates to life on Earth.

The work I did was to present two posters on my work. Posters are usually a quick summary of what you've done over the last year to decade. Since I've been working for 3 years now, I've had time to do two projects. I built an instrument, which is unworthy of a poster to most scientists (not engineers). I have used it on Deep Impact and on young stars, which is worthy of a poster to most scientists. It's more like a networking/newscasting gathering. Nobody has time to read papers. At best they read abstracts. You put an abstract on a website and invite people to come to a hotel in an interesting place in exchange for suffering through hours of talks and abstract reading while everybody shares their last few years compressed in 15 minutes. I got to give a talk (pdf here) at the AbGradCon part too. Aparently it went ok.

Deep Impact poster:

Young stars poster:

Here's some neat things that I learned:

Todd took some bugs in Alaska and tried to freeze them. Normally, at minus 70C or 120 degreez below freezing in Fahrenheit, they would be rock solid. But these bugs have antifreeze blood and did just fine. Neat. Antifreeze blood.

I had no idea that Titan, Saturn's moon, was thought to be mostly ice with just a bit of rock. It makes sense, lots of those outer moons are, I was just a little retarded.

Europe consists of Italy and uninhabited forest land. Period.

Spores of various things can dehydrate and even crystalize, be stored for hours to millenia, and then be thawed/hydrated back to life. They physically turn into dead crystalline junk, only to be revived. Like the people who drown in cold water and are awakened hours later at the hospital, just fine. No joke.

Apparently, the major cost 0ver-runs in the big NASA space missions are caused by the aerospace companies like Ball Aerospace or Boeing or Northrop-Grumman. They are contracted to make parts for these missions, but for one reason or another, take months to years longer than they said they would, sometimes for more money. Take the new James-Web scope that will replace Hubble. Apparently, homeland security has higher priority or more pull with aerospace companies, so they bumped the mirror making by nearly a year to do some military stuff.

There are 20 amino acids that make up our DNA. The A,T,C,G's make an alphabet of 20 molecules (that's highly redundant) with 1 that says start reading, and 1 that says stop.

The older, experienced faculty/scientists can't keep their talks on time any better than grad students. 7/18 grad students went over time and ended up rushing thier conclusions. 13/28 speakers in the main talks went over time, and every session ended 15-30 minutes late. The funny thing was that some of the more aggressive moderators would stand up after the speakers time was up. The would move progressivly closer to the podium, checking their watches and staring at the speaker. The speaker would slowly inch away from the podium and add "quickly", "in conclusion", "moving along" or other suggestive modifiers to their talks to try to gain a few more minutes of airtime. Also - people love to monologue, and also to be heard. Normally, after a talk, people ask questions. Certain others make "comments". Essentially, they take the microphone and start talking for 5 more minutes about how something they know influences things. Some can be quite timely. Others love hearing themselves speak.

Here's some of Avi's pics of the AbGradCon talks:


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