Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PSURF, January 14, 2011

This isn't a review since, well, PSURF #2 of 2011 was actually me! CPSX was kind enough to record the talk for me and you can watch it by downloading the avi from this page:

(direct link to avi here)

The title was "The 2008 Phoenix Lander: A Scientist's Perspective on a Space Mission." My intent in the talk was to shed some light on what goes on inside of a space mission and how they are put together, rather than focusing on the science results or engineering design. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to Bushnell

When I was 8 or 9 years old, I remember having an interest in astronomy and so my parents bought me a department store telescope, one christmas. While it wasn't one of the dreaded Tasco 'scopes, it was only a slight improvement: a Bushnell. It was refractor a couple of feet long with a two-inch plastic lens, two 0.85" eyepieces (15mm and 5mm) with astonishingly small apertures, a couple of plastic barlows and a star diagonal. To its credit, it did have a rudimentary viewfinder and extendable wooden legs for the altitude-azimuth platform. Unfortunately, aside from the Moon, I wasn't really able to see much of anything, despite many nights of attempts. I do remember one very bright star which I used to look at and watch how it would shimmer and change colour while close to the horizon (Based on the year and the view from my window, Stellarium suggests that this was Sirius). Given my inability to get much out of the thing, I pretty much abandoned it and let it sit idle in my room waiting for the night or two a year when my curiosity would grab at me and I would haul it out again.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

A brief note on where and when and on what topics I will be speaking in the next little while:

1) Today, January 14, at 12:30PM in B&GS here at UWO I will be presenting today's PSURF. I'll be talking mainly about how Space Missions get put together and run - nuts and bolts sorts of things.

2) Next Friday, the 21st of January, I will be giving my "Worlds Enough and Time" talk at the University of Toronto at Mississauga for the RASC's Mississauga chapter. It will be at 8PM. The WEaT talk emphasizes all that we have learned in the last 50 years about planetary exploration and the slides from the last time I spoke on this topic are available here.

3) I've just this week been confirmed as one of the three keynote speakers at the Star Symposium which will take place at Vari Hall on March 18 at 7PM. Not sure exactly what I will talk about, but it should be fun. The Planetary Decadal Survey is getting released and discussed at this year's LPSC which runs from the 4th to the 11th of March, so there will be some exciting new stuff to talk about when I get back.

With a little luck, I'll be given talks at some upcoming conferences. If that happens I'll let you know here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 PSURF #1: Dr. Phil Stooke

Giovanni Schiaparelli's map of Mars showing the imaginary canals (image from wikipedia)

Maps, Maps, Everywhere! That was the theme at this year's inaugural PSERF meeting at UWO given by Phil Stooke. By the way, PSERF stands for Planetary Science & Exploration Research Forum, and truth be told, I'm writing that down here not only for your benefit, but also so I can refer back later and remember what it stands for. To say that the discussions are eclectic is a bit of an understatement. This was my third meeting and so far we've had a presentation on Space Weapons, a report by CPSX's own Bhairavi Shankar on an impact cratering short course, and now a discussion of early terrestrial cartography.

Still for those of us interested in space exploration, maps provide a useful example. In its purest sense, exploration is about "filling in the gaps." Maps also give us a good way to examine the state of knowledge at any one time. For instance, if you look between the "Cantino Planisphere" (a world map from around 1500) and compare it to "The New and Correct Map of The World" from 1700 (you can find both in the slides linked to this article) you'll see how the age of maritime exploration managed to give us a better picture of our own planet.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 In Review

Above: a photo of a fossil of the feeding arm of the Cambrian creature anomalocaris taken by the author at the Mt. Stephen Fossil Beds, British Columbia, Canada during the summer of 2010. Below: Nobu Tamura's rendering of the whole of the creature, as shown on wikipedia (email:nobu.tamura@yahoo.com www.palaeocritti.com).
Note: The whole set of images from the Walcott Quarry and Mt. Stephen Trilobite Beds can be seen here.

Since this was nominally started as a blog about career and academic job finding, today is a good day to look back upon 2010 and examine the progress made. I've got to conclude that it has been a very good year. When the year started, I was working at York University, back again doing planetary science with friends from the Phoenix Mission after having spent a year doing terrestrial science with Environment Canada. That was already a good start and things improved from there.