Thursday, October 13, 2005

A day in the life of...

JoAnne over on CosmicVariance has a nifty lite blogging entry on what it is scientists DO anyway

So, since I'm a wee bit too busy to think, even about a lazy adopt-a-blog entry or equivalent, here is my contribution:

Wednesday got off to a somewhat early start, early enough that everyone was through breakfast etc more or less on time and the big kid was actually at school on time, unusually enough this month.
Got into the office and checked e-mail; dealt with time critical ones I spotted and deleted obvious junk (a side effect of e-mail saturation is that merely important e-mails get pushed to the side and dealt with in blocks, sporadically; personal e-mails can take months to be dealt with as they fall off the screen; and this is with three levels of spam filters, and multiple Rules for automatically diverting periodical and low priority administrative e-mail into separate mailboxes...).

Speaker arrived on time, Prof Alice Quillen from University of Rochester. An old friend.
We chatted for about half an hour, then I took her up to get her paperwork done, while I set up paperwork that I needed to get done.
Met Alice for coffee and introduced her to people, chatted for about 15 minutes. Started her on her formal "meetings" with people in the department.
Went to finish up some time critical recommendation letters and associated paperwork. Took files to the university fellowships office for collating and mailing, discovered the fellowships office had some additional paperwork which meant I could clear my desk if I hustled. Back to office, hustle, back to fellowships office. One thing completely done and well on time.
Meet Alice for lunch, buffet at the India Pavilion (good, fast and standard fallback to avoid the "I don't know, what do you want" cycle). Another faculty member joins us late out of class, productive discussion, I have to leave early to go to class, I pay and other prof makes sure Alice finds her way back in time for her other meetings.
Class, senior level "stars and galaxies". New sub-topic started, mostly "pretty pictures" and overview stuff, set them up for next week's major topic on evidence for Dark Matter in the Milky Way. Class web page still incomplete, managed to rescue old lecture notes from the disk that crashed tuesday so at least I had some material to work with. No class on friday because of "fall break" (one day, just enough to trash class schedules, not enough for an actual break).
Back to office, I have 45 minutes to do time critical paperwork. Some refereeing related materials dealt with, details are confidential. Two sets of paperwork confirming that funding for grants actually arrived at PSU (this is non-trivial, the mere fact that a grant has been approved does not mean the money arrives by the start date of the grant, it has to clear fed gov budget review which may take months, causing much hijinks when money has been promised, is being spent but has not actually arrived (yes there is a process to solve this, it just requires some paperwork...)).

E-mails arrive, due to a schedule mixup Alice didn't meet with some people (she ended up with an old schedule as her new schedule and the new schedule was thrown out by mistake). Get Alice to see one of the people, set up the laptop and projector and go to pre-colloquium coffee.

Colloquium: interesting, I'd seen her papers but not taken in all the analytic work she had done (topic is circumstellar disks, more specifically modeling of planet perturbations of young disks and associated issues). Her scale free solution of second order perturbed Hamiltonian formalism matches our numerical results and provides an elegant explanation of something we had noticed and explained in what is essentially a Lagrangian formalism. But, more importantly it suggests a solution approach to a very annoying puzzle about onset of chaos in weakly perturbed Hamiltonian systems, may now have an analytic handle for explaining those results from 4 years ago (yes, those results, you are reading, get cracking! Quillen and Holman 2003!).
Also she did some modeling we planned to do a few years ago put had to put aside to deal with HST data. About what we thought. Needed to be done, we knew someone else would get to it before we got back to it, but there is too much to do and not enough people.
Questions run late, good talk.

Alice comes back to the house for dinner; leisurely dinner with family, takeout, in the interest of actually having time to talk and catchup, everybody loves pizza... and salad.

Kids up past bedtime, totally whizzed. I take the big kid and get her bathed, jammied, read and settled. Only 30 mins late, but that will cascade for thursday morning (it did) and probably through to saturday. Munchkin also asleep. Time to do minimal cleanup, get lunches ready for tomorrow. Check e-mail for critical new stuff. No crisis. Glance quickly at web, catch late news on cable and, finally, sleep.

So: no actual time spent doing science, but wednesdays are always a total loss with class and colloquium. Got time critical paperwork done, caught up partially on stuff that had slid earlier in the weeks crisis du jour. Didn't catch up on grading or get ahead on class prep. Learned something, and got ideas for what may turn into 0-3 future papers. Did some important networking and set ground for future activitiy.

Now it is thursday morning, still playing catchup, but did some actual science this morning, looks like we have new Hubble results, need to meet to discuss theoretical implications and what to do with it.


Blogger Adam Solomon said...

The day in the life of an astrophysicist, eh? Very nice ;) A question about that dark matter lecture you've got planned...Are you planning on mentioning this study at all? Noticed it and was just wondering how significant the results might be considered to someone in the field...

3:25 PM  
Blogger Steinn said...

No, I won't mention Cooperstock's stuff at all, I've looked over some previous papers and my conclusion is that it is flat out wrong.
I will discuss alternatives to Dark Matter, specifically in the context of MOND, not as a fundamental theory, because it is not, but as a phenomenologically driven alternative perspective.
I don't think MOND is right either, but it is testable, worth keeping in mind, and conceptually appropriate. I will discuss to what extent it is possible to "fake" dark matter using highly anisotropic or non-thermal mass distributions (answer is not very much, but some).
Dark Matter will come back for other galaxies and clusters, and as a "wtf is it", but I'll stop short of the cosmological issues, topic for another class entirely.

4:08 PM  

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