Saturday, November 13, 2010

Physics Opportunities: Department of Energy

The Department of Energy Scholars program looks pretty interesting:

What is the DOE Scholars Program?

A unique new approach within DOE for introducing students or post-graduates to DOE’s mission and operations.

As a participant in the DOE Scholars Program, you will have a competitive edge for familiarizing yourself with DOE functions while showcasing your education, talent, and skills. Appointments are available in a variety of disciplines at participating facilities nationwide. The DOE Scholars Program presents you with the opportunity to explore a federal career with DOE at various stages in your education.

It seems to be basically a summer program but figure it out for yourself! More programs for undergraduates and everyone else are available.

Physics Careers/Scholarships: Department of Homeland Security

This Department of Homeland Security scholarship looks like a good opportunity for Physics majors if your interests run this way:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) realizes that the country’s strong science and technology community provides a critical advantage in the development and implementation of counter-terrorist measures and other DHS objectives. The DHS Scholarship and Fellowship Program is intended for students interested in pursuing the basic science and technology innovations that can be applied to the DHS mission. This education program is intended to ensure a highly talented science and technology community to achieve the DHS mission and objectives. Eligible students must be studying in a homeland security related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (HS-STEM) field with an interest, major, or concentration directly related to one of the homeland security research areas listed below:

  1. Advanced Data Analysis and Visualization
  2. Biological Threats and Countermeasures
  3. Border Security
  4. Chemical Threats and Countermeasures
  5. Communications and Interoperability
  6. Community, Commerce and Infrastructure Resilience
  7. Emergency Preparedness and Response
  8. Explosives Detection, Mitigation and Response
  9. Food and Agriculture Security
  10. Human Factors
  11. Immigration Studies
  12. Infrastructure Protection
  13. Maritime and Port Security
  14. Natural Disasters and Related Geophysical Studies
  15. Risk, Economics, and Decision Sciences
  16. Social and Behavioral Sciences
  17. Transportation Security
Click through to get the details. You have to be a sophomore when you apply (or a junior in a five-year program), there's a summer program, and you need to do a year of service after graduation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Physics Teaching Jobs

Southern Teachers has a poster up at UD's Department of Physics and Astronomy looking to recruit physics teachers. They recruit teachers at private K-12 schools in the South.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

President Obama Honors Young Scientists

President Obama hosted the new White House Science Fair:

“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you're a young person and you produce the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too,” the President said in November. The White House Science Fair kicks off a week that culminates with the USA Science and Engineering Festival on the National Mall and in 50 satellite locations, poised to engage more than a million people nationwide.
The Obama speech on the Science Fair is on youtube:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

South Jersey: Astronomy Open House

This should be of interest to those in South Jersey (quoted from Rowan news mailer.)
Rowan Observatory Open House: Autumnal Equinox, Harvest Moon, Jupiter, and Uranus
Date: Wednesday, September 22nd
Time: 7:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Location: Science Hall, Rowan University

Fall officially begins Wednesday, September 22nd and the Rowan Astronomical Observatory will host an open house to mark this and several other astronomical events. Come to Science Hall to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, the Harvest Moon, the opposition and closet approach of Jupiter since 1963, and the conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus - all of which occur within a 48-hour period. A brief show in the Edelman Planetarium describing the night time sky will be offered at 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. (weather permitting), the observatory and observing deck will open to the public. A suite of telescopes will be available to view Jupiter, Uranus, the Moon, and many more celestial objects. Brief tours of the observatory dome will be offered and guests will be invited to operate the controls of the 0.4-meter telescope. This free event is open to the public and children are welcome with parent supervision.

In the event of clouds, the open house will be held completely indoors with a short program of planetarium shows, lectures and tours.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Never rely on physics textbooks for history

I've always believed my physics textbooks which have statements like "Einstein did not even mention the famous Michelson-Morley experiment in this classic 1905 paper"

But this year I'm also using Alan Lightman's The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs of Twentieth Century physics, which includes translations of the original papers. Sure enough, here's Einstein in 1905:

Examples of this sort, together with the unsuccessful attempts to discover any motion of the Earth relative to the "light medium," suggest that the phenomena of electrodynamics as well of mechanics possess no properties corresponding to the idea of absolute rest.

If that's not a mention of Michelson-Morley's experiment, I'll eat my hat. What is true is that he did not "cite" it in the regular way, and presumably that's been changed over time to the idea he didn't mention it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Physics Major to Congress

I'm always looking to see what else people do with Physics degrees.

Here's a physics undergraduate major:

According to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, a guidance, navigation and control engineer who works for Raytheon Missile Systems won the GOP primary in Arizona’s 7th congressional district in late August and now hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a four-term Democrat, come November.

Ruth McClung, a self-described “rocket scientist”, earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 2004 from the University of Arizona in Tucson before going to work for Raytheon.

(I can't find the original article at The Arizona Wildcat.) She studied towards, but didn't finish, a master's degree in optical sciences.

So we see two careers here: Becoming a politician, and (more practically) working for the defense industry, missile defense in particular. (Actually, back in the 80s, my best friend's father always claimed SDI was a fake jobs program for physicists.)

The three -- an all-time record -- current PhD physicsts in Congress are Democrats Rush Holt and Bill Foster and retiring RepublicanVern Ehlers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Frames of Reference

I'm teaching PHYS309, Physics of the 20th and 21st Century, at UD this year and I thought I'd go ahead and show the first 9 minutes of this old, but illustrative, NSF film on Frame of Reference:

Is it helpful? We'll see what the students say.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Blog: Astronomy Computing

I see that Bruce Berriman has started a new blog, Astronomy Computing. I know him of course from IPAC, and before that I knew of him for his early work with Neill Reid. I read his papers on M dwarfs very carefully as a graduate student, even if he seems to remember only a failed project!

He has a very good post on Was it hard to return to astronomy and research? and another called How I survived in astronomy.

He also has some important thoughts on computation, as the name of the blog hints. I'm looking forward to learning.

New Paper: M Dwarfs in the Mid-Infrared

I've submitted a paper to the Astronomical Journal called M Dwarfs in the Mid-Infrared AKARI/IRC Sky Survey.

AKARI is a Japanese satellite that took pictures of most of the sky at wavelengths of 9 and 18 microns. For comparison, visible light is around 0.5 micron.

I found that about a thousand nearby -- that means within about 70 lightyears -- late-K and M dwarfs were detected. These are stars that around about half the mass of the Sun. For the most part, the brightnesses at 9 microns, where AKARI detected most of the them, are exactly what astrophysicists predicted backed on the brightnesses measured at 2 microns in the 2MASS Survey.

However, I do find a few of the M dwarfs are about 30% brighter than they should be. This may just be random error -- that is, we expect some measurements to be off just by poor luck. On the other hand, if the excess is real, it's very interesting.

One explanation for such an excess is that the M dwarf is surrounded by dust grains that about 300-500K. How would you get grains -- small particles -- around an M dwarf? The grains could be debris form collisions between asteroids. If this is the case, these M dwarfs have Super-Asteroid Belts much more massive and denser than our Solar System's. Also, the asteroids would be near the "habitable zone" where liquid water can exist on planets. Obviously, it's difficult to imagine life existing on asteroids that are constantly colliding with each other, but it's an exciting possibility.

Unfortunately, we really need independent measurements of the mid-infrared brightnesses before we can believe there really are excesses. The Spitzer Space Telescope no longer can make these measurements, because it ran out of coolant as scheduled last year, but perhaps the SOFIA observatory can. I'm looking forward to it, whether I or someone else make the measurements

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Earth and Moon, from a distance

NASA's MESSENGER mission took this image of the Earth and Moon as seen from 114 million miles away. That's more that the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Notice that they're lit up nicely since they (we!) are being viewed from the inner solar system.The image credit is NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

That reminds me of another nice NASA photo, this one from Cassini. In this one, the Earth and Moon are visible through Saturn's rings. This is the view from the outer solar system. The upper left has a blow-up of our home since it's just a small blip in the full image.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Too true

From xkcd:

Astronomy Decadal Survey out

The Astronomy Decadal Survey press release is out:

The report identifies space- and ground-based research activities in three categories: large, midsize, and small. For large space activities -- those exceeding $1 billion -- an observatory the report calls the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is the top priority because the space telescope would help settle fundamental questions about the nature of dark energy, determine the likelihood of other Earth-like planets over a wide range of orbital parameters, and survey our galaxy and others. For large-scale, ground-based research initiatives that exceed $135 million, the first priority is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), a wide-field optical survey telescope that would observe more than half the sky every four nights, and address diverse areas of study such as dark energy, supernovae, and time-variable phenomena...

Along with WFIRST, other priorities in the large-scale space category recommended in the report are an augmentation to the Explorer program, which supports small- and medium-sized missions that provide high scientific returns; the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), which could enable detection of long gravitational waves or "ripples in space-time"; and the International X-Ray Observatory, a large-area X-ray telescope that could transform understanding of hot gas associated with stars, galaxies, and black holes in all evolutionary stages.

Other recommended ground-based research projects include the formation of a Midscale Innovations Program within the National Science Foundation (NSF), which would fill a funding gap for compelling research activities that cost between $4 million and $135 million. In addition, the report recommends participation in the U.S.-led international Giant Segmented Mirror Telescope, a next generation large optical telescope that is vital for continuing the long record of U.S. leadership in ground-based optical astronomy. The next priority is participation in an international ground-based high-energy gamma-ray telescope array.

For midsize space-based activities, the first priority is the New Worlds Technology Development Program, which lays the scientific groundwork for a future mission to study nearby Earth-like planets. Top priority for ground-based midsize research is the Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope (CCAT), which would provide short wavelength radio surveys of the sky to study dusty material associated with galaxies and stars.

You can read it online for free:

Majoring in "Astronomy" at the University of Delaware

Potential students often find the information on astronomy for undergraduates at the University of Delaware confusing so I am writing this post.

Astronomy can be viewed as a branch of physics, and in order to go graduate school in astronomy you certainly need an understanding of physics similar to a physics major. Therefore, you will find that at U.S. colleges various Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees with names like "Astronomy" or "Astronomy and Physics." Our program is called "Physics with a concentration in Astronomy/Astrophysics." Regardless of the name, you'll notice they have more physics classes than astronomy classes and are almost identical to a physics major. There will also be lots of math. This major will prepare you for graduate school in astronomy -- or physics or another science for that matter. The course catalog for our major is here.

We also now have a minor in "Astronomy", just as you can minor in physics. Students majoring in engineering, math, and similar programs may find the astronomy minor suits their needs.

The fact that U.D. information guides list "Astronomy" as a minor but not a "major" is misleading because what could be called an astronomy major is instead called Physics with a concentration in Astronomy/Astrophysics.

If you are interested in this topic please contact me via the information at John Gizis's work webpage.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Here's the new ad for Connectify: I wish I had this capability on my Mac. Disclosure: My brother is associated with the company.

The invention of brown dwarfs

While going though my e-mails, I came across one from Dr. Shiv Kumar, pointing me to his website on the discovery of brown dwarfs. He was the first to realize -- or calculate -- that electron degeneracy would impose a minimum mass to stellar fusion. Very-low-mass objects, now called brown dwarfs, would become very cool and dim. (If you look at the papers, you'll see the term "brown dwarf" is absent since the phrase was coined many years later.) The papers are quite good, I was reading them again a few weeks ago as I have been building up my library of PDFs.

Years ago I also got an e-mail promoting the early contributions of a Japanese astronomer, but that will be another post.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Physics Major to Electrician

I've been meaning to keep track of the stories of physics graduates. Here's one physics major who became an electrician:

"It woke me up," [the professor] said. "There is a strong anti-manual-work bias in this country. I fell prey to it, too."

Brian Jones, 30, sometimes feels it. Originally from southern Virginia, he studied physics on an academic scholarship to McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., hoping to get a job as an engineer with NASA or an aviation company after he graduated in 2002. He watched friends with lower grades land jobs through family contacts, but he couldn't find one. Then a friend suggested that he could make as much money as an electrician. He just finished his third year as an apprentice.

"It's not the same as a job with, say, Lockheed, with a lot of office politics," he said. "In the electrical trade, your knowledge and actions speak for themselves. The only downside is the prestige. If you say you work for a multinational, half-trillion-dollar company, versus, 'I'm an electrician,' it doesn't have the same ring."

If the pay is good and the work is satisfying, I say don't worry about "prestige." I think Jones has done well. The Post says:

Licensed journeymen can expect to be paid $65,000 to $85,000 a year, depending on overtime...

These will not be the people you call to fix a clogged toilet or plaster a hole in the drywall. Most gravitate to commercial construction, where digital equipment has made the ability to decipher technical manuals and complicated building codes crucial. Many aspire to be foremen or own their own business.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bill Nye on the "top kill" method

Aside from the fact it's a terrible tragedy and a total disaster, the undersea oil spill is a fascinating problem. Here's a video from CNN with Bill Nye "The Science Guy" on how "top kill" works. It's more than just sticking mud in a hole! Incidentally, he was the speaker at my PhD graduation and I was proud to shake his hand. I mean Bill Nye, not John King.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Copernicus honored

This is an encouraging story:
Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th-century astronomer whose findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, was reburied by Polish priests as a hero on Saturday, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in an unmarked grave. His burial in a tomb in the cathedral where he once served as a church canon and doctor indicates how far the church has come in making peace with the scientist whose revolutionary theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun helped usher in the modern scientific age.
Or as Sky and Telescope puts it:
So, for those keeping score, the Catholic church has sought rapprochement with the three astronomers it once considered most heretical: Galileo, Copernicus, and the outspoken Giordano Bruno, who espoused an infinite universe filled with planetary systems like our own.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Astronomer is one of the least popular professions(?)

The Wall Street Journal's Real Time Economics Blog has a post on the most and least "popular" jobs in the United States. Most popular is led by Retail Salespersons (4,209,500 making a median annual salary $20,260), Cashiers (3,439,380 at $17,820), and General Office Clerks (2,815,240 at $17,220.) My profession, Astronomers, makes the "least popular" list at 1,240 (median salary $104,720.) That puts it just below the 1,520 Models and above the 1,170 Geographers.

In a briefing a few weeks ago I was told there are more like seven thousand astronomers, so a lot of people are missing from the list, starting with graduate students who make a lot less than $100K/yr! Astro Better posted this link, and Kelle noted that "Physics and Astronomy" is counted separately. That's me, so I don't count as an astronomer in this calculation. I'd drag down the median salary anyway :)

One thing students do need to keep in mind is that this list does suggest that your chance of becoming an astronomer is comparable to the most chance of becoming a model. There are lots of beautiful, talented people just like there are lots of smart, talented people, and it's hard to make it. However, people with advanced technical degrees do well in general.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On college education

There are many good graduation speeches. I was impressed today by President Obama's speech at Hampton University:

The part on the use of a college education is important:

So, allowing you to compete in the global economy is the first way your education can prepare you. But it can also prepare you as citizens. With so many voices clamoring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio, it can be difficult, at times, to sift through it all; to know what to believe; to figure out who's telling the truth and who's not. Let's face it, even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction. I've had some experience with that myself.

Fortunately, you will be well positioned to navigate this terrain. Your education has honed your research abilities, sharpened your analytical powers, and given you a context for understanding the world. Those skills will come in handy.

But the goal was always to teach you something more. Over the past four years, you've argued both sides of a debate. You've read novels and histories that take different cuts at life. You've discovered interests you didn't know you had, and made friends who didn't grow up the same way you did. And you've tried things you'd never done before, including some things we won't talk about in front of your parents.

All of it, I hope, has had the effect of opening your minds; of helping you understand what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes. But now that your minds have been opened, it's up to you to keep them that way. And it will be up to you to open minds that remain closed that you meet along the way. That, after all, is the elemental test of any democracy: whether people with differing points of view can learn from each other, work with each other, and find a way forward together.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

NASA Senior Review Results

NASA's 2010 Senior Review is out:
The assessment gave the three missions with the biggest budgets the highest ratings, and deemed them most deserving of continued funding. Planck, which maps radiation left over from the Big Bang, the Chandra X-ray observatory and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope were judged to be the best of the 11 missions considered
I certainly intend to apply to use both Chandra and Spitzer in the coming years so I'm happy to see this. The committee recommended ending RXTE, INTEGRAL and WISE. I'm sad about WISE's extended mission but it's not unreasonable to argue that scanning the sky a second time is not as valuable as the first one. The mission goals should be met. Still, it's a bit tough to estimate the productivity of WISE in terms of papers when the astronomical community has not yet seen any data.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Photos from Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visit Day

I'll post later about my thoughts on Congressional Visits Day. Here are some photos.

Professor Craig Wheeler (Texas-Austin), Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), and Anita Krishnamurthi (AAS Policy Fellow).

The AAS group also met with OMB program examiners.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

President Obama welcomes the New York Yankees

President Obama welcomed the New York Yankees to the White House to honor their 27th World Series title:

[F]or the millions of Yankees fans in New York and around the world who bleed blue, nothing beats that Yankee tradition: 27 World Series titles; 48 Hall of Famers -- a couple, I expect, standing behind me right now. From Ruth to Gehrig, Mantle to DiMaggio, it’s hard to imagine baseball without the long line of legends who’ve worn the pinstripes. Last season, this team continued that legacy, winning 103 games and leaving no doubt who was the best team in baseball.

But what people tend to forget -– especially after watching their teams lose -– is that being a Yankee is as much about character as it is about performance; as much about who you are as what you do. Being successful in New York doesn’t come easy, and it’s not for everybody. It takes a certain kind of player to thrive in the pressure cooker of Yankee Stadium -– somebody who is poised and professional, and knows what it takes to wear the pinstripes. It takes somebody who appreciates how lucky he is, and who feels a responsibility for those who are less fortunate.

As for me, I have now seen seven World Series victories under Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama and four losses under Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush. It's very fortunate and I thank all the Yankees and George Steinbrenner for valuing victories over profits.

Imagine seeing the Jets visit the White House. I hope to someday.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Counting M dwarfs in the Digital Sky Survey Era

When I started in astronomy, we were publishing luminosity functions for M dwarfs based on a few photographic sky survey plates. That is, we would count hundreds or perhaps a few thousand stars in a few hundred square degrees. This was just the 1990's, not that long ago. I was reflecting on how quickly things have changed. Here's John Bochanski et al.'s new paper on Sloan Digital Sky Survey K and M dwarfs:

The analysis incorporates ~15 million low-mass stars

I was really taken by their Figure 13 where you see how beautifully they can measure how the density of stars drops above the Galactic Plane (that distance is called Z here) and radial distance from the Galactic Center (R).

It's just a wonderful analysis, one of many coming out of the digital sky surveys. Of course, the luminosity and mass functions -- that is the number of stars that have a given luminosity or mass -- is not that very different from the old analyses.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hubble's Twentieth Anniversary

This fabulous picture released to celebrate Hubble Space Telescope's 20th anniversary just blows me away. It looks like a painting. They call it "Mystic Mountain:"

This turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth.

Scorching radiation and fast winds (streams of charged particles) from super-hot newborn stars in the nebula are shaping and compressing the pillar, causing new stars to form within it. Streamers of hot ionized gas can be seen flowing off the ridges of the structure, and wispy veils of gas and dust, illuminated by starlight, float around its towering peaks. The denser parts of the pillar are resisting being eroded by radiation much like a towering butte in Utah's Monument Valley withstands erosion by water and wind.

Nestled inside this dense mountain are fledgling stars. Long streamers of gas can be seen shooting in opposite directions off the pedestal at the top of the image. Another pair of jets is visible at another peak near the center of the image. These jets (known as HH 901 and HH 902, respectively) are the signpost for new star birth. The jets are launched by swirling disks around the young stars, which allow material to slowly accrete onto the stars' surfaces.

It's been my privilege to use HST from time to time to study binary star systems.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Solar Dynamics Observatory

NASA has put out "first light movies" from the new Solar Dynamics Observatory. Here's a youtube that puts them all together (along with some music I don't like.)

Skip ahead to 2:40 to see the most spectacular bit (in my humble opinion.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yankees win first four series for first time since Coolidge

I've been really happy the Yankees took two out of three from three very strong teams (Red Sox, Ray, Angels) to start the season and now the first two fro the Rangers. What I didn't know was this amazing Yankees statistic yesterday:
When the Yankees last won their first four series, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth anchored the middle of the batting order, Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri provided the power and Bob Shawkey was on the mound. That was in 1926 and even without extraordinarily fast starts since then in many years, New York dominated baseball.
I remember that even in the wonderful 1998 season they had a bad start against the Angels, but this is incredible. You have to figure the chance of winning a series for the Yankees is 50% (if not better.) Winning the first four should then happen on average once every eight seasons. It should have happened about ten times since 1926. Of course with enough statistics -- and baseball has enough statistics -- something improbable will come up, but I'm really surprised.

An exciting new brown dwarf planetary system

The discovery of a planetary-mass system to a brown dwarf in Taurus has just been announced complete with a explanatory press release for the public. The new system reminds me of my favorite 2M1207AB system in TW Hya except this one is much younger -- just a million years old -- and somewhat closer (15AU) together. Like 1207A, the primary (2MASS J04414489+2301513) has a circumstellar disk and secondary is 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. However, since this system is less than a million years old, it's clear that the "planet" must have formed from a collapse like a "star" or "brown dwarfs" rather than being slowly accumulated in a disk. Above is an artist's conception of the system. Here's the actual Hubble Space Telescope discovery image:

I talked to Kevin Luhman about the system and he was excited the possibility that this is actually a quadruple system. Not too far away (12.4 arcseconds) there's a pair of stars. Many brown dwarfs that are distant (>1000AU) companions to stars are doubles so perhaps this fits in. Here's a 2MASS survey image (in J band) of the field -- the brown dwarf is inside the magenta circle and the possibly related star is the brighter object to the upper left. They both look single because you need Hubble-quality resolution to tell they are binaries. The other star to the lower right is not related.

Friday, April 16, 2010

President Obama on NASA's future

President Obama's April 15th, 2010 speech on NASA's future:

More here. I think an asteroid mission makes a lot more sense than returning to the Moon. The space station will be continued which also makes a lot of sense. More thoughts later.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Delaware: the MUSICAL

Oh my:

My Governor, Chris Christie, is an alumnus of the University of Delaware, but I guess he's not famous enough yet to attract students.

Update: One of my college friends points out our college did it first: That's Why I Chose Yale:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Best Jazz of 2009

Now that we're three months into 2010, I can say what I found to be the best new jazz of 2009. No, I'm not a critic, as will be obvious, and of course it's just what I happened to find. Some I heard on WRTI and bought on iTunes. Sometimes I was already a fan of the artist. One is from a blog. Anyway, here's my best seven albums:

1. Charlie Sepulvelda & the turnaround: Sepulveda Boulevard. I had the good luck to hear them perform this live at the 2009 L.A. Latin Jazz Festival. The whole album is great but the title track and Amigos del Pincel really stand out to me. It's the best jazz album of the year. Speaking of that, I saw Charlie Sepulveda, who is a very nice man, in Puerto Rico, and he told my wife Jazz Times didn't even review the copy he sent them. Imagine life as a jazz artist nowadays.

2. Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit. I didn't realize Gerald Wilson played in Jimmie Lunceford's big band. I think I've spotted in him in the 1941 movie Blues in the Night, even if Jack Carson absurdly steals the trumpet solo. In any case, this is a wonderful big band, and the song Everywhere gets constant play on my iPod.

3. Manuel Valera: Currents. Just a beautiful album, with my favorite tracks being Dienda and Ode to Kenny (Dedicated to Kenny Kirkland). But I loved Kenny Kirkland's playing, so perhaps this is no surprise. To tell you how highly I value it, I gave a copy to my brother along with a Coltrane album.

4. Roy Hargrove Big Band: Emergence. I understand a lot of critics have this on their lists and they're right. I love the songs Requiem and Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey. (Though my wife loves the former and dislikes the latter, so your mileage may vary.) I could definitely do without the singing, but the instrumental parts of the album are wonderful.

5. The Chris Kelsey 4: Not Cool (...As In, "The Opposite of Paul Desmond"). I decided to buy his album when I found myself reading three months of archival posts on his blog after following a link from Nate Chinen. Spending a little money on his music just seemed like the right thing to do. Fortunately, I loved it. While some free jazz just sounds unpleasant to me, Kelsey's music sounds exciting, strong and alive, like Ornette Coleman's. I'm not a critic, and so I don't have the right words to describe it, I just liked it.

6. Eric Alexander: Survival of the Fittest. A very good album that I have listened to a lot.

7. Barbra Streisand: Love Is the Answer (Deluxe Edition. The deluxe edition has "Quartet Versions" of the songs and they're much better, to my ears, than the standard "Orchestra Versions." But then again, I don't know why Charlie Parker wanted to play with strings. In any case, the quartet version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most is worth the entire album price. Barbra can sing.

I also liked to Vijay Iyer Trio (Historicity, Somewhere was an WRTI hit) and Robby Ameen Days in the Life, but I'm not prepared to rank them. The free Ropeadope Label Sampler had some good songs, like the Dred Scott Trio's song This Ain't No Russian Novel, Baby.

The only other 2009 album I bought was Jeff "Tain" Watt's Watts album. It pains me to say this since Superwatts (with Kenny Kirkland) is one of my favorites, but this did nothing for me and was a big disappointment. I guess I'm saying I hated it. The dialogue in Devil's Ring Tone: The Movie is funny though.

I understand jazz albums don't sell much, so it seemed to me I should "speak up" and say that I loved these ones, even if I don't have the skills to say why I liked them so much.

Late update: I should include Peppe Merolla's album Stick With Me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Greek Independence Day

President Barack Obama, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, and His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America speak at a reception celebrating Greek Independence Day at the White House.

Unemployment by Education

I tell parents and students that their physics degree will have value to them. The statistics for how the more educated have fared in this recession have been striking. A good visualization is this chart made by the blog Calculated Risk of the data for the last two decades. Actually, it goes back to my college class graduation year, which was a tough one for everyone trying t get jobs.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

42-meter optical telescope site recommendation

It's not the actual decision, but here's the ESO press release declaring that the "E-ELT Site Selection Advisory Committee Recommends Cerro Armazones in Chile." Imagine a 42-meter telescope at this site: Wow!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

President Obama speaks to Space Station Astronauts

The President welcomed a group of school children to the White House and held a conversation with the astronauts on board the Space Station. The astronauts explained the importance of the Space Station as a scientific research laboratory, the President discussed NASA's goals, and the students asked great questions.

Nice to see that the White House blog on this conversation also mentions WISE. 's first images. We "professionals" may sometime feel manned vs unmanned space programs are rivals, but to the public it is one joint enterprise, and we must stand or fall together.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First images from WISE

If I had stayed at IPAC I would have loved to work on the new WISE mid-infrared sky survey. So I'm excited to see this new WISE image of Andromeda just released by NASA:

And here are stars in Carina:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day

I'll be participating in the Fifteenth Annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day through the American Astronomical Society this spring.
The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. Uniquely multi-sector and multi-disciplinary, the CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies and educational institutions and it is open to all people who believe that science and technology comprise the cornerstone of our Nation's future.

.. . to underscore the long-term importance of science, engineering, and technology to the Nation through meetings with congressional decisionmakers.

.. . . members of the Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group and other colleagues in the science and technology enterprise.

Should be interesting!