Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Onwards and Outwards

Above: Steven Oleson's concept of a Titan submersible combines two of my favorite ideas for future space exploration in our solar system. Below, the polar layered terrain of Mars as revealed by HiRise is a record of past climate just waiting to be read. The story it tells has significance not just for Mars, but perhaps for the Earth as well.

Spurred on by reporter Matthew Francis, I have recently got to thinking about where in the solar system I would most like to send a space mission if budget were no object. My comments with Matthew made it into an article in Slate which was also picked up by the National Post here in Canada. But there's only so much you can say in a newspaper or magazine article. 

Instead, exploring this topic this seems like excellent material for this space, and you can find my own personal top four below the cut. By the way, I can't forget adding a thank-you to JPL Engineer Keri Bean, currently working with the Dawn mission (though she has shown an affinity for Mars in the past), who recommended me to Matthew in the first place!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A New Term with New Tools

 A new textbook of my own design awaits my Planetary Science students this fall!

I've got to say, as much as I've enjoyed the last 8 months of research, I am looking forward to the coming semester of teaching. Once again, I'll be the course director for PHYS 3070: Planets and Planetary Systems and also for PHYS 4120: Gas and Fluid Dynamics.

This will be my first time teaching a class for the second time, and that means that I have the opportunity to fine tune my course organization and lectures. While both courses went well last year, there is room for improvement which will hopefully be appreciated by the dozen or so Planetary Science and 20ish Fluids students.

Friday, August 15, 2014

State of the Blog (2013-2014)

 A cropped version of Jerusha Lederman's artwork that appeared in ScienceNOW. This artwork was originally commissioned by CRESS for the cover of GRL which accompanied my article on Comet Siding spring. This is the first time my work has ever been given the cover of a publication!

Those of you out there (if indeed anyone is left!) may have noticed the substantial downtick in blogging over the last year or so. Instead of the more typical every other week activity, this space has essentially gone dark with two exceptions. While one of those exceptions, describing how to make a petrographic microscope from easily obtained materials, has proven to be rather popular there is no arguing for a relative lack of published activity in this space.

Largely this is the result of two factors. The first, discussed when I got this job back in 2012 and finished up my first term, is that in some ways I feel a bit more constrained than I once did.

The second and more important is that the fraction of my brain available for dreaming up posting topics has decreased. The most surprising thing to me about being a professor is in how many directions you are simultaneously being pulled. Between applications, collaborations, committee work, teaching, administration and keeping on top of the projects and division of labor between students my thoughts tend more towards the temporal these days. That means that my prime creative hours - on the bus into York and in that time before my colleagues and students arrive at work - are now largely spent putting out fires via email or trying to get ahead of the deluge.