Monday, March 24, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Yesterday's gamma ray burst GRB 080319B was the brightest yet -- peak optical magnitude of ~5.6. That's visible to the naked eye. (Light curve here). Spectra have been obtained from multiple telescopes; the highest redshift feature is the Mg II doublet at z=0.937.
For other bursts, spectra taken a few hours apart show evolving metastable emission lines, caused by the blast wave cooking the gas in the galaxy. An inside-out probe of the gas. Presumably we'll see papers like that for this burst, too.
Props to Trogon and Bad Astronomy for the news flash.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Cool news story: on Friday Feb 22, the on-duty tactical operations team for the Mars Rovers was an all-women group. It's almost happened accidentally before, as people rotated on and off duty. So with a bit of planning, they decided to swap a few people's schedules to make a 100% women team for a day.
Article courtesy the Planetary Society.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Check out the entry "Graduate School", on the pseudo-anthropological
blog "Stuff White People Like". Something of a Hitchhiker's Guide style, it seems.
Excerpt: "It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated.... The best thing you can do is to act impressed when a white person talks about critical theorists. This helps them reaffirm that what they learned in graduate school was important and that they are smarter than you. This makes white people easier to deal with when you get promoted ahead of them."
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
by Robert Hayden from Collected Poems (Liveright).
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,
this man, superb in love and logic, this man
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues' rhetoric,
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Go read SharkFu's post, "Pondering a post-bullshit America". Excerpts:
"What we are living in…and some of us are suffering through…is the mess that results from decades of avoiding the issues of race, class and gender by embracing the school of tolerance rather than engaging in the hard work of social justice.
"...Enlightenment isn’t something we can speak into reality anymore than bigotry is something we can simply declare to be history."
Three quick things:
1) The California Supreme Court just heard oral arguments about same-sex marriage. At issue: Is our separate-but-equal Domestic Partner registration a sufficient consolation prize, or do the wif & me deserve equal rights? (BTW, if I had a dollar for every time a straight person asked me, "What's a DP?", then I'd have about $25. Equal my ass.)
You can watch the video of oral arguments, or try this alternate video source. That's my plan for the evening, while running S/N calculations, b/c, after all, #2...
2) Hubble Space Telescope proposals are due Friday at 8pm EST. Ack. It never ends.
3) This is my 100th post. Lately I've been reluctant to post new content, out of a fear that blogging might hurt my job prospects. Few things are confidential in academia; academics generally view blogging with suspicion (I remember a young prof in my dept arguing that they shouldn't hire anyone who finds time to blog); and blogging with a minority viewpoint makes the enterprise still more suspicious. Please feel free to talk me out of this mindset.
Now, back to Hubble proposals.