Category Archives: Reflections

The Meteorite Crater that Wasn’t: Reflections on SPECTRE

The James Bond franchise — with all of its womanizing and improbable escapes — has never held much appeal for me.  So when my dad asked me if had seen the latest movie last week, it should surprise no one that I responded with the text equivalent of a blank stare.  It turns out he had […]

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They have this thing called “autumn” here…

It’s been a little more than a month since we arrived in Somerville, and it still hasn’t quite sunk in.  After living in Pasadena for eight years, it still feels like we might be heading back any day now, as if the last few weeks have just been an extended vacation, and it’s ending now.  But we’re […]

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Pluto, Mars, Moon, Earth

At the 2013 annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Michael Carr give the Shoemaker Lecture on “Geologic Exploration Of The Planets: A Personal Retrospective Of The First 50 Years.”  I was lucky to hear it, because he included this anecdote about Mariner 9’s arrival at Mars in 1971: The planet was engulfed in a dust […]

Posted in Extra Credit, Reflections

Exploring “Genius Day” with Annie Jump Cannon

This past Saturday, I co-ran a”Genius Day” workshop for a dozen or so middle school-age kids for a local non-profit organization, the Institute for Educational Advancement.  Previous “Genius Days” have focused on Darwin, Shakespeare, and William Strata Smith, and I helped out a friend last summer with some Galileo-themed activities.  At first, I was little skeptical of […]

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“So You Want to Do Research”

I recently came across a brief article entitled “So You Want to Do Research” in the December 1943 issue of Pro Tem, a Radcliffe College campus publication.  Written by Dr. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, the column offers some advice to students considering a career in research and describes some of the astronomer’s views on the process of science.  Payne-Gaposchkin describes […]

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Annie Jump Cannon in Her Own Words

I’ve been poking around the Harvard Library’s digital archives quite a bit this week, preparing for a “Genius Day” workshop I’m leading next month with the Institute for Educational Advancement.  The focus of the workshop is Annie Jump Cannon, an astronomer famous for developing the stellar classification scheme still used today and for personally classifying […]

Posted in Extra Credit, Reflections

#NerdsOnWheels: Road Trip to Meteor Crater!

A little more than 48 hours ago, I piled into an RV with a few friends and fellow members of the Nerd Brigade, and we headed out to find an extraterrestrial…or at least, the remnant of one.  Meteor Crater, the result of a 50,000-year-old impact, lies in the northern Arizona desert about 500 miles from […]

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MAVEN and the mystery of the Martian atmosphere

Just  a few hours ago, a visitor from Earth reached the Red Planet and traded her terra-bound orbit for a Mars-centric one.  The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, or MAVEN, has a specific assignment:  to characterize the upper atmosphere of our neighboring world and the processes that shape its evolution over time.  MAVEN is an […]

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A slice of Caltech history

For the past several months, I’ve been working with the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) to gather historical materials for the Tolman/Bacher House, one of the oldest buildings on campus, and with the Keck Center dedication yesterday, all of our hard work has paid off! In addition to the physical exhibits, which are tucked away in the […]

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Exciting times!

Last Friday, I successfully defended my planetary science thesis in front of my thesis committee, friends, and family – I am a doctor at last! I say “at last” because it’s been quite a long time coming, really.  I arrived in Pasadena in August of 2007, having just graduated the previous June.  If I were […]

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