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  • richardmitnick 1:07 pm on January 14, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A pursuit that stretches from underground particle colliders to orbiting telescopes with all manner of ground-based observatories in between., , , , , , , , , , The astronomer missed her Nobel Prize [in my view a crime of old white men], , Women in STEM   

    From The New York Times: Women in STEM-“Vera Rubin Gets a Telescope of Her Own” 

    From The New York Times

    Jan. 11, 2020
    Dennis Overbye

    The astronomer missed her Nobel Prize [in my view a crime of old white men]. But she now has a whole new observatory to her name.

    The astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1965.Credit: via Carnegie Institution of Science

    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL)

    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970.

    Vera Rubin, a young astronomer at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, was on the run in the 1970s when she overturned the universe.

    Seeking refuge from the controversies and ego-bashing of cosmology, she decided to immerse herself in the pearly swirlings of spiral galaxies, only to find that there was more to them than she and almost everybody else had thought.

    For millenniums, humans had presumed that when we gaze out at the universe, what we see is a fair representation of reality. Dr. Rubin, with her colleague Kent Ford, discovered that was not true. The universe — all those galaxies and the vast spaces between — was awash with dark matter, an invisible something with sufficient gravity to mold the large scale structures of the universe.

    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM denied the Nobel, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble, the original example of Dark Matter discovered during observations by Fritz Zwicky and confirmed by Vera Rubin

    Esteemed astronomers dismissed her findings at first. But half a century later, the still futile quest to identify this “dark matter” is a burning question for both particle physics and astronomy. It’s a pursuit that stretches from underground particle colliders to orbiting telescopes, with all manner of ground-based observatories in between.

    Last week the National Science Foundation announced that the newest observatory joining this cause will be named the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. The name replaces the mouthful by which the project was previously known: the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or L.S.S.T.

    The Vera C. Rubin Observatory, formerly the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, under construction in Cerro Pachon, Chile. Credit: LSST Project/NSF/AURA

    The Rubin Observatory joins a handful of smaller astronomical facilities that have been named for women. The Maria Mitchell Observatories in Nantucket, Mass., is named after the first American woman to discover a comet. The Swope telescope, at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, is named after Henrietta Swope, who worked at the Harvard College Observatory in the early 20th century. She used a relationship between the luminosities and periodicities of variable stars to measure distances to galaxies.

    And finally there is the new Annie Maunder Astrographic Telescope at the venerable Royal Greenwich Observatory, just outside London. It is named after Annie Maunder, who with her husband Walter made pioneering observations of the sun and solar cycle of sunspots in the late 1800s.

    Heros of science, all of them.

    In a field known for grandiloquent statements and frightening intellectual ambitions, Dr. Rubin was known for simple statements about how stupid we are. In an interview in 2000 posted on the American Museum of Natural History website, Dr. Rubin said:

    “In a spiral galaxy, the ratio of dark-to-light matter is about a factor of 10. That’s probably a good number for the ratio of our ignorance to knowledge. We’re out of kindergarten, but only in about third grade.”

    Once upon a time cosmologists thought there might be enough dark matter in the universe for its gravity to stop the expansion of the cosmos and pull everything back together in a Big Crunch. Then astronomers discovered an even more exotic feature of the universe, now called dark energy, which is pushing the galaxies apart and speeding up the cosmic expansion.

    Dark Energy Survey

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL

    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    Timeline of the Inflationary Universe WMAP

    The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is an international, collaborative effort to map hundreds of millions of galaxies, detect thousands of supernovae, and find patterns of cosmic structure that will reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our Universe. DES began searching the Southern skies on August 31, 2013.

    According to Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, gravity should lead to a slowing of the cosmic expansion. Yet, in 1998, two teams of astronomers studying distant supernovae made the remarkable discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. To explain cosmic acceleration, cosmologists are faced with two possibilities: either 70% of the universe exists in an exotic form, now called dark energy, that exhibits a gravitational force opposite to the attractive gravity of ordinary matter, or General Relativity must be replaced by a new theory of gravity on cosmic scales.

    DES is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of dark energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 400 scientists from over 25 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia are working on the project. The collaboration built and is using an extremely sensitive 570-Megapixel digital camera, DECam, mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes, to carry out the project.

    Over six years (2013-2019), the DES collaboration used 758 nights of observation to carry out a deep, wide-area survey to record information from 300 million galaxies that are billions of light-years from Earth. The survey imaged 5000 square degrees of the southern sky in five optical filters to obtain detailed information about each galaxy. A fraction of the survey time is used to observe smaller patches of sky roughly once a week to discover and study thousands of supernovae and other astrophysical transients.

    These discoveries have transformed cosmology still further, into a kind of Marvel Comics super-struggle between invisible, titanic forces. One, dark matter, pulls everything together toward its final doom; the other, dark energy, pushes everything apart toward the ultimate dispersal, some times termed the Big Rip. The rest of us, the terrified populace looking up at this cosmic war, are bystanders, made of atoms, which are definitely a minority population of the universe. Which force will ultimately prevail? Which side should we root for?

    Until recently the money was on dark energy and eventual dissolution of the cosmos. But lately cracks have appeared in the data, suggesting that additional forces may be at work beneath the surface of our present knowledge.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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  • richardmitnick 8:43 am on January 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers find wandering black holes in dwarf galaxies", , Astrophysicist Amy Reines, , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From Montana State University via Earth Sky: Women in STEM-“Astronomers find wandering black holes in dwarf galaxies” Astrophysicist Amy Reines 





    January 10, 2020

    Eleanor Imster

    They found massive black holes in 13 dwarf galaxies, which are now among the smallest galaxies known to host such massive black holes. In roughly half the galaxies, the black hole isn’t at the galactic center, but instead is “wandering.”

    Artist’s concept of a dwarf galaxy, its shape distorted, most likely by a past interaction with another galaxy, and a massive black hole in its outskirts (bright spot, far right). Image via Sophia Dagnello/ NRAO/ AUI/ NSF.


    It’s an amazing aspect of our knowledge of the modern universe that – everywhere we look – large galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers. Now a team of astronomers has spotted 13 massive black holes in dwarf galaxies, located less than a billion light-years from Earth. All 13 galaxies are more than 100 times less massive than our own Milky Way. That makes them among the smallest galaxies known to host massive black holes. The astronomers announced the discovery at the American Astronomical Society’s recent meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii (January 4-8, 2020).

    The astronomers estimate that the black holes in these smaller galaxies average about 400,000 times the mass of our sun. That’s in contrast to the supermassive black hole at our galaxy’s center, which is about 4 million times the sun’s mass.

    Astrophysicist Amy Reines. Image via Montana State University.

    Amy Reines of Montana State University led the new study, which was published January 3 in the peer-reviewed The Astrophysical Journal. She said in a statement:

    ” The new … observations revealed that 13 of these galaxies have strong evidence for a massive black hole that is actively consuming surrounding material.

    We were very surprised to find that, in roughly half of those 13 galaxies, the black hole is not at the center of the galaxy, unlike the case in larger galaxies.”

    Visible-light images of dwarf galaxies now shown to have massive black holes. Center illustration is an artist’s concept of the rotating disk of material falling into such a black hole, and the jets of material propelled outward. Image via Sophia Dagnello/ NRAO/ AUI/ NSF/ DECaLS survey/ CTIO.


    The astronomers used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) – on the Plains of San Agustin in central New Mexico – to make the discovery.

    NRAO/Karl V Jansky Expanded Very Large Array, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

    They said their finding suggests that these dwarf galaxies likely merged with other galaxies earlier in their history. The theory is consistent with computer simulations predicting that roughly half of the massive black holes in dwarf galaxies will be found wandering in the outskirts of their galaxies. Reines said:

    “This work has taught us that we must broaden our searches for massive black holes in dwarf galaxies beyond their centers to get a more complete understanding of the population and learn what mechanisms helped form the first massive black holes in the early universe.

    We hope that studying them and their galaxies will give us insights into how similar black holes in the early universe formed and then grew, through galactic mergers over billions of years, producing the supermassive black holes we see in larger galaxies today, with masses of many millions or billions of times that of the sun.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

    MSU provided

    Montana State University (MSU) is a public land-grant research university in Bozeman, Montana. It is the state’s largest university.[5] MSU offers baccalaureate degrees in 51 fields, master’s degrees in 41 fields, and doctoral degrees in 18 fields through its nine colleges. The university regularly reports annual research expenditures in excess of $100 million, including a record $138.8 million in 2019.

    More than 16,700 students attend MSU,[6] and the university faculty numbers, including department heads, are 602 full-time and 460 part-time.[7] The university’s main campus in Bozeman is home to KUSM television, KGLT radio, and the Museum of the Rockies. MSU provides outreach services to citizens and communities statewide through its agricultural experiment station and 60 county and reservation extension offices.

  • richardmitnick 2:19 pm on January 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Dr Sandra Faber, , Women in STEM   

    From UC Santa Cruz: Women in STEM-“Astronomer Sandra Faber awarded Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal” 

    UC Santa Cruz

    From UC Santa Cruz

    January 10, 2020
    Tim Stephens

    Sandra Faber (photo by Steve Kurtz)

    The Royal Astronomical Society has awarded its Gold Medal in Astronomy to Sandra Faber, professor emerita of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

    The award recognizes Faber “for her outstanding research on the formation, structure and evolution of galaxies, and for her contributions to the optical design of the Keck Telescopes and other novel astronomical instruments.”

    The Gold Medal is the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest award, often given in recognition of a lifetime’s work. Previous recipients include Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, Steven Hawking, Vera Rubin, and Donald Osterbrock, a UCSC astronomer who received the award in 1997.

    Faber is one of the leaders world-wide in the study of galaxies, with an enduring legacy of contributions across a wide range of topics in galaxy structure, galaxy evolution, and cosmology.

    In 1976 she discovered, with Robert Jackson, a relation (known as the Faber-Jackson relation) between the central velocity dispersion of stars in elliptical galaxies and the mass of the galaxy. In 1979 she wrote an influential review article with John S. Gallagher that is widely regarded as a turning point in the debate about the importance of dark matter in the universe.

    Faber was an early pioneer (together with George Blumenthal and Joel Primack at UCSC and Martin Rees at Cambridge) in developing a model of galaxy formation based on cold dark matter, which now underpins our current understanding of galaxy and cluster formation.

    Lambda-Cold Dark Matter, Accelerated Expansion of the Universe, Big Bang-Inflation (timeline of the universe) Date 2010 Credit: Alex Mittelmann Cold creation

    She has played important roles in a remarkable number of collaborative programs that have led to further breakthroughs, including the discovery of a mass concentration responsible for large-scale flows in the nearby universe (the ‘Great Attractor’).

    Great Attractor galaxies

    Laniakea supercluster. From Nature The Laniakea supercluster of galaxies R. Brent Tully, Hélène Courtois, Yehuda Hoffman & Daniel Pomarède at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v513/n7516/full/nature13674.html. Milky Way is the red dot.

    With Douglas Richstone, she led the team that used the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to identify a correlation between black hole mass and the velocity dispersion of stars in the host galaxy bulge.

    Faber contributed to the optical design of the Keck Telescopes and led the construction of the multi-object DEIMOS spectrograph for the Keck. She and Jon Holtzman played a major role in diagnosing Hubble’s optical flaw and executing the subsequent repair. With Henry Ferguson, she led the CANDELS deep imaging survey of distant galaxies with HST, the largest project in the history of the mission.


    NASA COSTAR instalation

    Keck/DEIMOS on Keck 2

    Keck 2 telescope Maunakea Hawaii USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft)

    Faber joined the faculty at UC Santa Cruz in 1972 and in 1995 was made University Professor, the highest honor for faculty in the UC system. She received the National Medal of Science in 2013, the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2017, and the American Philosophical Society’s Magellanic Premium Medal in 2019, among many other awards and honors in recognition of her accomplishments.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

    Most photos by Laurie Hatch

    UCSC Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)


    UC Observatories Lick Autmated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA

    The UCO Lick C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California, Altitude 1,283 m (4,209 ft)

    UC Santa Cruz campus
    The University of California, Santa Cruz opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

    UCO UCSC Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on January 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Julia Ortony, , , Self-assembling nanostructures, Women in STEM   

    From MIT News: Women in STEM- “Julia Ortony: Concocting nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications” 

    MIT News

    From MIT News

    January 9, 2020
    Leda Zimmerman | MIT Energy Initiative

    Julia Ortony is the Finmeccanica Career Development Assistant Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

    Assistant Professor Julia Ortony (right) and graduate student William Lindemann discuss his experiments on self-assembling nanofibers. Work at the Ortony lab focuses on molecular design and synthesis to create new soft nanomaterials for tackling problems related to energy and the environment. Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

    The MIT assistant professor is entranced by the beauty she finds pursuing chemistry.

    A molecular engineer, Julia Ortony performs a contemporary version of alchemy.

    “I take powder made up of disorganized, tiny molecules, and after mixing it up with water, the material in the solution zips itself up into threads 5 nanometers thick — about 100 times smaller than the wavelength of visible light,” says Ortony, the Finmeccanica Career Development Assistant Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE). “Every time we make one of these nanofibers, I am amazed to see it.”

    But for Ortony, the fascination doesn’t simply concern the way these novel structures self-assemble, a product of the interaction between a powder’s molecular geometry and water. She is plumbing the potential of these nanomaterials for use in renewable energy and environmental remediation technologies, including promising new approaches to water purification and the photocatalytic production of fuel.

    Tuning molecular properties

    Ortony’s current research agenda emerged from a decade of work into the behavior of a class of carbon-based molecular materials that can range from liquid to solid.

    During doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara, she used magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy to make spatially precise measurements of atomic movement within molecules, and of the interactions between molecules. At Northwestern University, where she was a postdoc, Ortony focused this tool on self-assembling nanomaterials that were biologically based, in research aimed at potential biomedical applications such as cell scaffolding and regenerative medicine.

    “With MR spectroscopy, I investigated how atoms move and jiggle within an assembled nanostructure,” she says. Her research revealed that the surface of the nanofiber acted like a viscous liquid, but as one probed further inward, it behaved like a solid. Through molecular design, it became possible to tune the speed at which molecules that make up a nanofiber move.

    A door had opened for Ortony. “We can now use state-of-matter as a knob to tune nanofiber properties,” she says. “For the first time, we can design self-assembling nanostructures, using slow or fast internal molecular dynamics to determine their key behaviors.”

    Slowing down the dance

    When she arrived at MIT in 2015, Ortony was determined to tame and train molecules for nonbiological applications of self-assembling “soft” materials.

    “Self-assembling molecules tend to be very dynamic, where they dance around each other, jiggling all the time and coming and going from their assembly,” she explains. “But we noticed that when molecules stick strongly to each other, their dynamics get slow, and their behavior is quite tunable.” The challenge, though, was to synthesize nanostructures in nonbiological molecules that could achieve these strong interactions.

    “My hypothesis coming to MIT was that if we could tune the dynamics of small molecules in water and really slow them down, we should be able to make self-assembled nanofibers that behave like a solid and are viable outside of water,” says Ortony.

    Her efforts to understand and control such materials are now starting to pay off.

    “We’ve developed unique, molecular nanostructures that self-assemble, are stable in both water and air, and — since they’re so tiny — have extremely high surface areas,” she says. Since the nanostructure surface is where chemical interactions with other substances take place, Ortony has leapt to exploit this feature of her creations — focusing in particular on their potential in environmental and energy applications.

    Clean water and fuel from sunlight

    One key venture, supported by Ortony’s Professor Amar G. Bose Fellowship, involves water purification. The problem of toxin-laden drinking water affects tens of millions of people in underdeveloped nations. Ortony’s research group is developing nanofibers that can grab deadly metals such as arsenic out of such water. The chemical groups she attaches to nanofibers are strong, stable in air, and in recent tests “remove all arsenic down to low, nearly undetectable levels,” says Ortony.

    She believes an inexpensive textile made from nanofibers would be a welcome alternative to the large, expensive filtration systems currently deployed in places like Bangladesh, where arsenic-tainted water poses dire threats to large populations.

    “Moving forward, we would like to chelate arsenic, lead, or any environmental contaminant from water using a solid textile fabric made from these fibers,” she says.

    In another research thrust, Ortony says, “My dream is to make chemical fuels from solar energy.” Her lab is designing nanostructures with molecules that act as antennas for sunlight. These structures, exposed to and energized by light, interact with a catalyst in water to reduce carbon dioxide to different gases that could be captured for use as fuel.

    In recent studies, the Ortony lab found that it is possible to design these catalytic nanostructure systems to be stable in water under ultraviolet irradiation for long periods of time. “We tuned our nanomaterial so that it did not break down, which is essential for a photocatalytic system,” says Ortony.

    Students dive in

    While Ortony’s technologies are still in the earliest stages, her approach to problems of energy and the environment are already drawing student enthusiasts.

    Dae-Yoon Kim, a postdoc in the Ortony lab, won the 2018 Glenn H. Brown Prize from the International Liquid Crystal Society for his work on synthesized photo-responsive materials and started a tenure track position at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology this fall. Ortony also mentors Ty Christoff-Tempesta, a DMSE doctoral candidate, who was recently awarded a Martin Fellowship for Sustainability. Christoff-Tempesta hopes to design nanoscale fibers that assemble and disassemble in water to create environmentally sustainable materials. And Cynthia Lo ’18 won a best-senior-thesis award for work with Ortony on nanostructures that interact with light and self-assemble in water, work that will soon be published. She is “my superstar MIT Energy Initiative UROP [undergraduate researcher],” says Ortony.

    Ortony hopes to share her sense of wonder about materials science not just with students in her group, but also with those in her classes. “When I was an undergraduate, I was blown away at the sheer ability to make a molecule and confirm its structure,” she says. With her new lab-based course for grad students — 3.65 (Soft Matter Characterization) — Ortony says she can teach about “all the interests that drive my research.”

    While she is passionate about using her discoveries to solve critical problems, she remains entranced by the beauty she finds pursuing chemistry. Fascinated by science starting in childhood, Ortony says she sought out every available class in chemistry, “learning everything from beginning to end, and discovering that I loved organic and physical chemistry, and molecules in general.”

    Today, she says, she finds joy working with her “creative, resourceful, and motivated” students. She celebrates with them “when experiments confirm hypotheses, and it’s a breakthrough and it’s thrilling,” and reassures them “when they come with a problem, and I can let them know it will be thrilling soon.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    MIT Campus

  • richardmitnick 10:30 am on January 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Electrons and positrons in an optimised stellarator", , At KIT Wendelstein a hydrogen plasma is used to investigate how energy can be generated by nuclear fusion reactions., Confine a matter-antimatter plasma in a magnetic cage of a small optimised stellarator., Eve Stenson, , KIT Wendelstein 7-AS built in built in Greifswald Germany, , New idea: APEX-D electron-positron plasma trap., , The APEX collaboration, The research group “Electrons and Positrons in an Optimised Stellarator”, Women in STEM   

    From Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics: Women in STEM-“Electrons and positrons in an optimised stellarator” Eve Stenson 

    MPIPP bloc

    From Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics

    January 09, 2020

    Dr. Eve Stenson.Photo: IPP, Axel Griesch

    Helmholtz Young Investigators Group headed by Eve Stenson takes up work.

    Dr. Eve Stenson is one of ten young researchers selected by the Helmholtz Association in 2018 to establish their own research group. This was preceded by a multi-stage competition procedure with external peer review.

    From December 2019, Eve Stenson, born in Cleveland, Ohio/USA in 1981, is working with her IPP junior research group “Electrons and Positrons in an Optimised Stellarator” to create a plasma of electrons and their antiparticles, the positrons. The aim of this new branch of the APEX collaboration is to confine a matter-antimatter plasma in a magnetic cage of a small optimised stellarator. It is much simpler but still related to the large stellarator devices of fusion researchers such as Wendelstein 7-X in Greifswald.

    KIT Wendelstein 7-AS built in built in Greifswald, Germany

    There, a hydrogen plasma is used to investigate how energy can be generated by nuclear fusion reactions.

    Magnetically confined matter-antimatter plasmas have been investigated theoretically and computationally for several decades. However, such a plasma has never been produced in the laboratory before. According to theory, it should show special properties, such as being very stably trapped in certain magnetic field configurations, including optimised stellarators. The aim of the new junior research group will be to produce such plasmas and to investigate them experimentally – thus bringing together two frontiers of plasma physics research, i.e. stellarator optimisation and pair plasma experimentation.

    Design of the APEX-D electron-positron plasma trap. A circular superconducting magnet coil (red) is producing the dipole field inside a vacuum vessel. This coil is levitated by a ring-shaped conductor (pink) which is installed above the vessel. It attracts the coil feedback-controlled. Graphic: IPP

    The exotic matter-antimatter plasmas differ from the “normal” plasmas of fusion researchers in one important respect: while the positively and negatively charged particles in an electron-positron plasma have exactly the same mass, the positively charged hydrogen ions in fusion plasmas are much heavier than the negatively charged electrons. This leads to a very different behaviour. The investigation of exotic matter-antimatter plasmas is therefore expected to provide fundamental insights into the physics of plasmas in general and opportunities to test computational simulations of plasma behaviour. It should even be possible to gain new insights about optimisation that can be used for the planning of new stellarators for fusion research. Since it is assumed that matter-antimatter plasmas occur in the vicinity of neutron stars and black holes, it is also astrophysically interesting to investigate these strange plasmas.

    Including last year’s – fifteenth – selection round, the Helmholtz Association has so far made 230 junior research groups possible. The costs – 300,000 euros per year for each group over a period of six years – are shared between the institute where the IPP is based and the Helmholtz Association, to which the IPP is affiliated as an associated institute.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MPIPP campus

    The Max Planck Institute of Plasma Physics (Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik, IPP)is a physics institute for the investigation of plasma physics, with the aim of working towards fusion power. The institute also works on surface physics, also with focus on problems of fusion power.

    The IPP is an institute of the Max Planck Society, part of the European Atomic Energy Community, and an associated member of the Helmholtz Association.

    The IPP has two sites: Garching near Munich (founded 1960) and Greifswald (founded 1994), both in Germany.

    It owns several large devices, namely

    the experimental tokamak ASDEX Upgrade (in operation since 1991)
    the experimental stellarator Wendelstein 7-AS (in operation until 2002)
    the experimental stellarator Wendelstein 7-X (awaiting licensing)
    a tandem accelerator

    It also cooperates with the ITER and JET projects.

  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on January 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Coral reef resilience", , , , , Katie Barott, , , Women in STEM   

    From Penn Today: Women in STEM-“Coral reef resilience” Katie Barott 

    From Penn Today

    January 8, 2020
    Katherine Unger Baillie
    Eric Sucar, Photographer

    With coral reefs under threat from climate change, marine biologist Katie Barott of the School of Arts and Sciences is examining the strategies that may enable corals to bounce back from warming temperatures and acidifying oceans.

    Marine biologist Katie Barott investigates the strategies certain corals may use to tolerate the warmer temperatures and acidic waters that climate change is bringing to the world’s oceans.

    Mass coral-bleaching events, which occur when high ocean temperatures cause coral to expel the algae that dwell inside them, are a relatively recent phenomenon. The first widespread bleaching event occurred in 1983, the year before Penn marine biologist Katie Barott was born.

    The next one happened about 15 years later. And the intervals between them continue to shrink. In 2014, one bleaching event in Hawaii was so extreme that it carried over to affect corals into a second summer.

    “They’re increasing in frequency, getting closer and closer,” says Barott, an assistant professor in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology. “And the ocean temperature is getting warmer and warmer, so the severity is increasing, too.”

    Yet as dramatic as the phenomenon sounds—and appears—coral bleaching does not always equate with coral death. Algae can return to corals once ocean temperatures cool, and scientists have observed formerly white corals regain their color in subsequent seasons.

    In a multifaceted research project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Barott and members of her lab are studying the mechanisms by which corals withstand the effects of climate change, which include not only the warmer temperatures that trigger bleaching but also acidification of ocean waters, a slower-moving creep with subtle yet significant consequences.

    Bleached finger corals reside directly next to other corals that have withstood a bleaching event in Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii. Barrot’s research attempts to untangle some of the factors that cause some corals to be particularly hardy or resilient. (Image: Katie Barott)

    Barott’s work, based in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, Hawaii, focuses on two of the bay’s dominant coral species: rice coral (Montipora capitata) and finger coral (Porites compressa). Barott began working there during a postdoctoral fellowship at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, conducting studies on which the new work is based.

    Climate threats

    Corals are invertebrate animals that live in large colonies, together forming intricate skeletons of varied shapes. To obtain food, they rely heavily on a symbiotic relationship with algae, which establish themselves within the corals’ tissue and produce food and energy for the coral through photosynthesis. A change in temperature or pH can upset this partnership, triggering the algae’s expulsion.

    “That leaves the coral essentially starving,” Barott says.

    Since her postdoctoral days, Barott has been working with colleagues in Hawaii to monitor coral patches. After the 2014-15 bleaching event, researchers were surprised and heartened to find certain patches of corals didn’t succumb to the bleaching, even those located directly adjacent to stark white corals. And many of those that did bleach bounced back within a month or so of the onset of cooling autumn temperatures.

    At the time Barott was writing her NSF grant application, she planned to compare the differences between bleached and unbleached corals. Yet just as the grant kicked off in July, another bleaching event was unfolding in Hawaii.

    “That gave us this unexpected opportunity to go back to those same colonies to see if the ones that bleached last time were the same ones that bleached again this past fall,” she says. “And more or less we saw the same patterns: The ones that bleached last time bleached again this time and vice versa. That gives us compelling evidence that there’s something specific about these resilient individuals that is make them resist bleaching, even in very warm temperatures.”

    Mechanisms of resilience

    While high temperatures triggers bleaching, acidity plays a key role in coral vitality as well. Lower seawater pH impedes corals’ ability to build their calcium carbonite skeletons, resulting in weaker, more fragile structures.
    Barott collects finger corals to take back for further analysis. Her research projects include investigations of the algae that lives symbiotically with the coral, and the bacteria that compose the corals’ microbiome. (Image: Courtesy of Katie Barott)

    In earlier work, Barott had discovered that corals possess a pH “sensor” that can respond to changes in their environment. And, indeed, sea water acidity can vary widely in the course of a day, a season, or a year, swinging as much as 0.75 pH units in a day. Perhaps, Barott hypothesizes, coral have molecular “tools” that they use to withstand these daily fluctuations that they could also employ to contend with the gradual ocean acidification that is occurring as the concentration of CO2 in sea water rises.

    Barott collects finger corals to take back for further analysis. Her research projects include investigations of the algae that lives symbiotically with the coral, and the bacteria that compose the corals’ microbiome. (Image: Courtesy of Katie Barott)

    “Maybe there are some reefs that are going to be more resistant to ocean acidification because they’re used to seeing these really large daily swings and are sort of primed to deal with that challenge,” she says.

    She’s also curious about how bleaching impacts corals’ ability to tolerate pH changes more generally. Using molecular tools, she and her students are investigating the epigenetic changes that affect how genes are “read” and translated into functional proteins in the organisms. Such changes could occur much more rapidly than coral, a long-lived species, could evolve to deal with a changing environment.

    In a variety of projects, the scientists are examining differences between species of coral, between species of the algal symbionts, and between populations located in different places in the Kaneohe lagoon.

    Early results suggest differences between the rice and finger coral in their strategies for managing bleaching.

    “One really resists the bleaching, but if it does succumb then it fares a lot worse than the one that bleaches more readily,” says Barott. “That one seems to be more susceptible to losing its symbionts, but if it does it recovers fast and has lower overall mortality.”

    Planning for the future

    Barott’s group is collaborating with others in Hawaii to see if hardier corals could be propagated to rebuild damaged reef communities.

    “We’re at the proof-of-principle stage,” she says, “where we’re trying to figure out if some of these differences are heritable.”

    Tank experiments in Barott’s lab in Philadelphia complement field work done in Oahu, Hawaii.

    While some of that work is being completed in Hawaii, carefully tended tanks in the basement of the Leidy Laboratories of Biology allow Barott and her students to complete experiments in Philadelphia on corals. Using both corals shipped from the field and sea anemones, a useful stand-in for corals due to their ease of care and rapid reproduction, the lab has been tracking the impacts of temperature and pH stress on energy systems, genetics, and even the microbiome of corals, the bacteria with which the corals and algae cohabitate.

    “The surface of coral is analogous to the lining of your lungs or intestines,” Barott says. “It’s covered in cilia, it’s got a mucus layer over the top of it, and there are tons and tons of bacteria that live in that mucus layer. We think those bacteria are playing a role in the health of the coral, but we don’t know if it’s playing a role in their temperature sensitivity, so that’s something we’ll be looking at.”

    With this “whole organism” approach, Barott’s aims to inject some optimism and scientific rigor into what is a largely dire outlook for corals worldwide. Encouragingly, she notes, this year’s bleaching event in Hawaii was much less severe than predicted, and corals that had bleached in 2014 were less strongly affected by this year’s event.

    “These reefs are facing a lot of impacts, not just from climate but also from local development, sedimentation, nutrient pollution,” she says. “Our hope is to predict how corals will respond to these challenges and maybe one day use our findings to assist them in rebuilding resilient reefs.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Penn’s award-winning educators and scholars encourage students to pursue inquiry and discovery, follow their passions, and address the world’s most challenging problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

  • richardmitnick 9:24 am on January 7, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Women in STEM   

    From Symmetry: Women in STEM -“Vera Rubin, giant of astronomy” 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry<

    Kathryn Jepsen

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be named for an influential astronomer who left the field better than she found it.

    The LSST Vera C. Rubin Observatory

    LSST telescope, Vera C. Rubin Observatory Telescope currently under construction on the El Peñón peak at Cerro Pachón Chile, a 2,682-meter-high mountain in Coquimbo Region, in northern Chile, alongside the existing Gemini South and Southern Astrophysical Research Telescopes.

    LSST Data Journey, Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a flagship astronomy and astrophysics project currently under construction on a mountaintop in Chile, will be named for astronomer Vera Rubin, a key figure in the history of the search for dark matter.

    Fritz Zwicky discovered Dark Matter when observing the movement of the Coma Cluster., Vera Rubin a Woman in STEM denied the Nobel, did most of the work on Dark Matter.

    Fritz Zwicky from http:// palomarskies.blogspot.com

    Coma cluster via NASA/ESA Hubble

    Astronomer Vera Rubin at the Lowell Observatory in 1965, worked on Dark Matter (The Carnegie Institution for Science)

    Vera Rubin measuring spectra, worked on Dark Matter (Emilio Segre Visual Archives AIP SPL)

    Vera Rubin, with Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) image tube spectrograph attached to the Kitt Peak 84-inch telescope, 1970. https://home.dtm.ciw.edu

    The LSST, or Large Synoptic Survey Telescope is to be named the Vera C. Rubin Observatory by an act of the U.S. Congress.

    Dark Matter Research

    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    Scientists studying the cosmic microwave background hope to learn about more than just how the universe grew—it could also offer insight into dark matter, dark energy and the mass of the neutrino.

    Dark matter cosmic web and the large-scale structure it forms The Millenium Simulation, V. Springel et al

    Dark Matter Particle Explorer China

    DEAP Dark Matter detector, The DEAP-3600, suspended in the SNOLAB deep in Sudbury’s Creighton Mine

    LBNL LZ Dark Matter project at SURF, Lead, SD, USA

    Inside the ADMX experiment hall at the University of Washington Credit Mark Stone U. of Washington. Axion Dark Matter Experiment

    The LSST collaboration announced the new name at the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu on Monday evening, in conjunction with US funding agencies the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

    Scheduled to begin operation in late 2022, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will undertake a decade-long survey of the sky using an 8.4-meter telescope and a 3200-megapixel camera to study, among other things, the invisible material Rubin is best known for bringing into the realm of accepted theory.

    Rubin was a role model, a mentor, and a boundary-breaker fueled by a true love of science and the stars. “For me, doing astronomy is incredibly great fun,” she said in a 1989 interview with physicist and writer Alan Lightman. “It’s just an incredible joy to get up every morning and come to work and, in some much larger framework, not even really quite know what it is I’m going to be doing.”

    Between the Lightman interview and An Interesting Voyage, a biography she wrote in 2010 for the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, among other things, she left behind a detailed record of the story of her life.

    A curious child

    Rubin’s father, Pesach Kobchefski (later known as Philip Cooper), was born in Lithuania. Her mother, Rose Applebaum, was a second-generation American born to Bessarabian parents in Philadelphia. Rubin’s parents met at work at the Bell Telephone Company. They married and raised two children, Vera and her older sister, Ruth.

    Rubin was born in 1928. She wrote that she remembered growing up “amid a cheery scatter of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins… largely shielded from the financial difficulties” of the Great Depression. Ruth and Vera shared a room, with Vera’s bed against a window with a clear view of the north sky. “Soon it was more interesting to watch the stars than to sleep,” Rubin wrote.

    Her parents encouraged her curiosity. Her mother gave her written permission at an early age to check out books from the “12 and over” section of the library, and her father helped her build a (rather so-so) homemade telescope. “My parents were very, very supportive,” Rubin said in the interview with Lightman, “except that they didn’t like me to stay up all night.”

    Rubin’s teachers were not universally as encouraging. Her high school physics teacher, she wrote, “did not know how to include the few young girls in the class, so he chose to ignore us.” Still, Rubin knew she wanted to go into astronomy. “I didn’t know a single astronomer,” she said, “but I just knew that was what I wanted to do.”

    She did know about at least one female astronomer: Maria Mitchell, the first female professional astronomer in the United States. From 1865 to 1888, Mitchell taught at Vassar College in New York and served as director of Vassar College Observatory.

    Looking to follow in her footsteps, Rubin applied to Vassar. She was accepted with a necessary scholarship. Rubin said that when she told the high school physics teacher about it, he replied, “‘As long as you stay away from science, you should be okay.’”

    She graduated in three years as the only astronomy major in her class.

    A family effort

    Rubin spent summers in Washington, DC, working at the Naval Research Laboratory. The summer of 1947, her parents introduced her to Robert (Bob) Rubin. He was training to be an officer in the US Navy and studying chemistry at Cornell University.

    The two married in 1948. She was 19 and he was 21. Vera had been accepted to Harvard University, which was well known for its astronomy department, but she decided to join her husband at Cornell instead.

    Rubin completed her master’s thesis just before giving birth to her first child, and she gave a talk on her research at the 1950 meeting of the American Astronomical Society just after. Her adviser had said it made more sense for him to give the talk, as he was already a member of AAS and she would be a new mother, but Rubin insisted she would do it.

    “We had no car,” Rubin wrote. “My parents drove from Washington, DC, to Ithaca, then crossed the snowy New York hills with Bob, me and their first grandchild, ‘thereby aging 20 years,’ my father later insisted.”

    She gave a 10-minute talk on her study of the velocity distribution of the galaxies that at that time had published velocities. It solicited replies from several “angry-sounding men,” along with pioneering astronomer Martin Schwarzschild, who, Rubin wrote, kindly “said what you say to a young student: ‘This is very interesting, and when there are more data, we will know more.’”

    For a few months after the experience, Rubin stayed home with her newborn son. But she couldn’t keep away from the science. “I would push David to the playground, sit him in the sandbox, and read The Astrophysical Journal,” Rubin wrote.

    With her husband’s encouragement, she enrolled in the astronomy PhD program at Georgetown University. Her classes took place at night, twice per week. Those nights, between 1952 and 1954, Rubin’s mother babysat David (and, not long after, also her daughter, Judy) while Bob drove her to the observatory and waited to take her back home, eating his dinner in the car. In astronomy, “women generally required more luck and perseverance than men did,” Rubin wrote. “It helped to have supportive parents and a supportive husband.”

    PhD and beyond

    Theoretical physicist and cosmologist George Gamow—known for his contributions to developing the Big Bang theory, among other foundational work—heard about Rubin’s AAS talk and began asking her questions, Rubin wrote. One question—“Is there a scale length in the distribution of galaxies?”—so intrigued her that she decided to take it on for her thesis. Gamow served as her advisor.

    Rubin wrote that when she sent her research to The Astrophysical Journal in 1954, then-editor and later Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar rejected it, saying he wanted her to wait until his student finished his work on the same subject. She did not wait, publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences instead. (A later editor of Astrophysical Journal asked her to send him Chandrasekhar’s letter as proof, and she wrote, “I refused, telling him to look it up in his files.”)

    In 1955, Georgetown offered Rubin a research position, which soon became a teaching position as well. She stayed there for 10 years.

    In 1962, Rubin taught a graduate course in statistical astronomy with six students, five who worked for the US Naval Observatory and one who worked for NASA. “Due to their jobs, the students were experts in star catalogs,” Rubin wrote, “so I gave the students (plus me as a student) a research problem: Can we use cataloged stars to determine a rotation curve for stars distant from the center of our [g]alaxy?”

    The group completed the paper, “some of it finished by seven of us working around my large kitchen table, long into the night,” Rubin wrote, and they submitted it to The Astrophysical Journal.

    The editor called to say he would accept the paper but that he would not take the then-unusual step of publishing the names of the students, Rubin wrote. When Rubin replied that she would then withdraw the paper, however, he changed his mind.

    Rubin wrote that she received many negative “and some very unpleasant” responses to the paper, but that it continued to be referenced every few years, even as she was writing in 2010. As she pointed out in her article, “[t]his was my first flat rotation curve”—a result she would see repeated in what would become her most famous publication.

    During the 1963-1964 school year, Bob took a sabbatical so Vera could move the family to San Diego and work with married couple Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge. With two other scientists, they had in 1957 published the seminal paper explaining how thermonuclear reactions in stars could transform a universe originally made up only of hydrogen, helium and lithium into one that could support life. With the Burbidges, Rubin traveled to both Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and McDonald Observatory in Texas.

    More than three decades later, in letter to Margaret Burbidge on her 80th birthday, Rubin described what the scientist had meant to her: “Did the words ‘role model’ and ‘mentor’ exist then? I think they did not. But for most of the women that followed you into astronomical careers, these were the roles you filled for us.”

    What Rubin best remembers from when she first arrived in San Diego, she wrote, “was my elation because you took me seriously and were interested in what I had to say…

    “From you we have learned that a woman too can rise to great heights as an astronomer, and that it’s all right to be charming, gracious, brilliant, and to be concerned for others as we make our way in the world of science.”

    The view from Palomar

    Caltech Palomar Hale Telescope, located in San Diego County, California, US, at 1,712 m (5,617 ft)

    In 1964, Rubin and her family (which now included four children, between ages 4 and 13) returned home. Shortly thereafter, Vera and Bob took off again for the meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Hamburg. (“Fortunately, my parents enjoyed being with their grandchildren,” Rubin wrote.)

    On the last evening of the conference, influential astronomer Allan Sandage, who in 1958 had published the first good estimate of the Hubble constant, asked Rubin if she were interested in observing on Palomar Mountain at the Carnegie Institution’s 200-inch telescope. It was a telescope, located on a mountain northeast of San Diego, that women had officially been prohibited from using (though it was a “known secret” that both Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge had observed there together as postgraduate students). “Of course, I said yes,” Rubin wrote.

    Rubin would be observing on the same mountain where, in 1933, astronomer Fritz Zwicky [above] made a startling discovery. He noticed that the galaxies in the Coma Cluster were moving too quickly—so quickly that they should have broken apart. Judging by the mass of their visible matter, they should not have had the gravitational pull to hold together.

    He concluded that the cluster must be more massive than it appeared, and that most of this mass must come from matter that could not be seen. The Swiss astronomer called the source of the missing mass dunkle Materie, or dark matter. He presented this idea to the Swiss Physical Society, but it did not catch on. (He made several other big splashes in astronomy, though.)

    On Rubin’s first night at Palomar in December 1965, clouds prevented anyone from observing, so another observer took her on an unofficial tour of the facilities. The tour included the single available toilet, labeled “MEN.”

    On Rubin’s next visit, “I drew a skirted woman and pasted her up on the door,” she wrote. The third time she came to observe, heating had been added to the observing room, along with a gender-neutral bathroom.

    The world’s best spectrograph

    In 1965, Rubin decided to prioritize observing over teaching. She asked her colleague Bernie Burke—famous for co-discovering the first detection of radio noise from another planet, Jupiter—for a job at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Burke invited her to the DTM’s community lunch. And that’s where she met astronomer Kent Ford.

    Working over the previous decade, Ford had pioneered the use of highly sensitive light detectors called photomultiplier tubes for astronomical observation. “Kent Ford had built a very exceptional spectrograph,” Rubin said. “He probably had the best spectrograph anywhere. He had a spectrograph that could do things that no other spectrographs could do.”

    Rubin got the job at DTM, becoming the first female scientist on its staff. Using Ford’s spectrograph on the telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona [above], Ford and Rubin could observe objects that were not otherwise detectable. Among the astronomers who noticed was Jim Peebles, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics.

    By 1968, Rubin and Ford had published nine papers. “It was an exciting time,” Rubin wrote, “but I was not comfortable with the very rapid pace of the competition. Even very polite phone calls asking me which galaxies I was studying (so as not to overlap) made me uncomfortable.”

    So she decided to go back to a subject she had previously dabbled in: the velocity of stars and regions of ionized hydrogen in Messier 31, the Andromeda galaxy. “I decided to pick a problem that I could go observing and make headway on, hopefully a problem that people would be interested in, but not so interested [in] that anyone would bother me before I was done,” Rubin said.

    Astronomers had been studying the spectra of light from Andromeda since at least January 1899, but no one had taken a look with an instrument as advanced as Ford’s.

    One astronomer had gotten a better look than most, though. In the 1940s, astronomer Walter Baade had taken advantage of wartime blackout rules—meant to make it difficult for enemy planes to hit targets during World War II—to observe Andromeda from Mount Wilson Observatory northeast of Los Angeles.

    Mt Wilson 100 inch Hooker Telescope, perched atop the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles, CA, USA, Mount Wilson, California, US, Altitude 1,742 m (5,715 ft)

    He resolved the stars at the center of the galaxy for the first time and identified 688 emission regions worthy of study.

    Not knowing this, Rubin and Ford set out to do the same for themselves. They spent a frustrating night taking turns at the US Naval Observatory telescope in Arizona, huddled next to a small heater in negative 20 degree cold, before deciding they needed a new tactic.

    US Naval Observatory telescope in Arizona

    On their way out in the morning, they ran into Naval Observatory Director Gerald Kron. “He took us into his warm office, opened a large cabinet and showed us copies of Baade’s many plates of stars in Messier 31!” Rubin wrote. Rubin and Ford obtained copies of the images from the Carnegie Institute and went to work.

    A rotation curveball

    Rubin and Ford made their observations at Lowell Observatory[above] and Kitt Peak.

    Kitt Peak National Observatory of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft)

    “On a typical clear night we would obtain four to five spectra,” Rubin wrote. “The surprises came very quickly.”

    In our solar system, planets closest to the center are the fastest-moving, as they are most affected by the gravitational pull of the sun. Mercury, the closest, moves about 1.6 times as rapidly as Earth, whereas Neptune, the farthest, moves at less than 0.2 times Earth’s speed.

    “The expectation was that galaxies behaved the same way, in that stars farthest from the massive center would be moving most slowly,” Rubin wrote.

    But that’s not what they found. The rotation curves were flat, meaning that objects closer to the center of Andromeda were moving at the same speed as objects closer to the outskirts. “This was discovered over the course of about 4 ice cream cones that first night,” Rubin wrote, “as I alternated between developing the plates and eating (Kent would be starting the next observation).”

    This time, Rubin said, people believed the data. “It just piled up too fast. Soon there were 20, then 40, then 60 rotation curves, and they were all flat… And it was just a joy to have that kind of a program, after a program where you had to go through deep analysis and everybody doubted the answer.”

    But what did the flat rotation curves mean? The popularly accepted answer is that the way the galaxies in Andromeda move is influenced by dark matter.

    If a galaxy is formed in the center of a disk of invisible dark matter, the gravitational pull of the dark matter will affect how quickly each of its parts moves, flattening the rotation curves.

    Theorists Peebles, Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Amos Yahil and others had predicted the existence of dark matter independent of Rubin and Ford’s findings, Rubin said. “The ideas had been around for a while… But the observations fit in so well, [since] there was already a framework, so some people embraced the observations very enthusiastically.”

    Rubin was agnostic about the idea of dark matter and wrote that she would be delighted if the explanation actually came in the form of a new understanding of how gravity works on the cosmic scale. “One needs to keep an open mind in seeking solutions,” she wrote.

    A scientific legacy

    Rubin continued her work, receiving recognition for her contributions in various ways.

    From 1972 to 1977 she served as associate editor of The Astronomical Journal, and from 1977 to 1982 she served as associate editor of Astrophysical Journal Letters. In 1993, she received the National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton. In 1994 she received the Dickson Prize in Science from Carnegie-Mellon University and the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship from the American Astronomical Society. In 1996 she became the second woman to receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in London (168 years after the first, Caroline Herschel in 1828). In 1996 President Clinton nominated her to provide input to Congress as a member of the National Science Board for a term of six years.

    In 1997 she and a few other members of the board were invited to visit the McMurdo research station at the South Pole. Rubin wrote that she was asked if she would spend her time at McMurdo with the astronomers. “With a little embarrassment, I asked if that meant that I would miss everything else, the penguins, the mountains and all the other events,” she wrote. “Without much difficulty, I voted for the penguins.”

    In 2004 the National Academy of Sciences awarded Rubin the James Craig Watson Medal for “her seminal observations of dark matter in galaxies… and for generous mentoring of young astronomers, men and women.”

    Rubin made it a priority to listen to and encourage students and up-and-coming astronomers, and she was especially interested in improving the chances for women in science.

    Asked by Lightman, “Do you think that your experience in science has been different because you are a woman rather than a man?” she replied, “Of course. Yes, of course. But I’m the wrong person to ask that question. The tragedy in that question is all the women who would have liked to have become astronomers and didn’t.”

    Rubin shared her love of astronomy far and wide. “We are fortunate to live in an era when it is possible to learn so much about the [u]niverse,” she wrote. “But I envy our children, our grandchildren, and their children. They will know more than any of us do now, and they may even be able to travel there!”

    All four of the Rubin children have gone into science.

    Her son Allan, quoted in the 2010 article, remembered his parents often spent evenings “with their work spread out along the very long dining room table, which wasn’t used for eating unless a lot of company was expected,” he said. “At some point I grew old enough to realize that if what they really wanted to do after dinner was the same thing they did all day at work, then they must have pretty good jobs.”

    Rubin’s daughter followed Vera into the field of astronomy, initially hooked by a lesson her mother taught on black holes. Over several decades, Judy has collaborated on numerous publications and attended meetings around the world with her mom.

    Rubin died in 2016 at the age of 88. Her name lives on in the AAS Vera Rubin Early Career Prize, Vera Rubin Ridge on the planet Mars, Asteroid 5726 Rubin and, now, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory on Cerro Pachón

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 9:49 am on December 31, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Deana Crouser, , R/V Rachel Carson, , Women in STEM   

    From University of Washington: Women in STEM-“Sea lessons” Deana Crouser 

    U Washington

    From University of Washington

    Originally published March 2019

    Oceanography major Deana Crouser, ’19

    RV Rachel Carson. Bennetblake

    Oceanography major Deana Crouser, ’19, did more than just get her feet wet on the R/V Rachel Carson. She helped peer into the future of our oceans.

    At 5:24 a.m., the R/V Carson’s engine has slowed to an idle. Under the light of a full moon, UW oceanography student Deana Crouser helps researchers lift up a drifter — a floating contraption fitted with a waterproof infrared camera — over the bow and into Hood Canal. Like that of the researchers, the drifter’s work has just begun. As the boat motors on, the drifter’s underwater camera begins capturing videos of tiny animals that play a crucial part in the marine food web: zooplankton.

    No longer adrift

    A year ago, Crouser would never have imagined herself filming marine animals in the dark. At the time, she was a chemical engineering major struggling to figure out how to apply her education to helping the environment, a cause she had always believed in. Then she took an introduction to oceanography course.

    “It felt like I was in a TED Talk every time I went to class,” says Crouser, now a senior. “The lab is very hands-on. You have to do lots of experiments, and then you go on a day trip on the R/V Carson. Once I did that, I was all in.”

    After changing her major to oceanography within the College of the Environment, Crouser landed a summer internship, funded by the National Science Foundation, that culminated in this research cruise. For several weeks beforehand, she spent time in the lab of oceanography professor Julie Keister, helping investigate the relationship between local water conditions and zooplankton populations.

    It’s been a steep learning curve, but Crouser embraces it. “There’s always something to look forward to,” she says. “I feel like this internship gave me life again.”

    Another aspect of her Husky Experience also helps Crouser feel hopeful about the future: her commitment to encouraging other women and people of color to explore STEM careers. She’s the outreach director for WChE (Women in Chemical Engineering) and the webmaster and historian for SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science). Much of her involvement comes from wanting to show people who look like her that they can be scientists, too.

    “Even if I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, I still need to show up and show other people that they can be where I’m standing,” she says.

    Tiny animals, big impact

    Crouser admits that when she started her internship, “I didn’t know the name of one kind of zooplankton. I didn’t even know where they were in the food web.” Now she grasps their immense importance.

    Zooplankton spend their lives evading predators and searching for food — usually phytoplankton, the microscopic algae that are the linchpin of all ocean life. Where phytoplankton bloom, so do zooplankton; and where zooplankton thrive, so do larger marine animals, from salmon to orca whales.

    What will happen to zooplankton as our oceans continue to warm and absorb human-produced carbon dioxide, growing more acidic and hypoxic (low in oxygen)? And if they adjust their behavior because of these factors, what happens to the animals that feed on them?

    These are big questions with big ramifications. To help peer into the future, Keister and fellow UW School of Oceanography Professor Daniel Grünbaum are starting very, very small.

    A backyard laboratory

    Professor Julie Keister stacks samples from different depths to show how zooplankton migrate in the water column.

    For 10 days in September, Keister and Grünbaum cruised around Hood Canal on the R/V Carson, researching how zooplankton change their behavior in response to environmental conditions. Assisting them were Crouser, oceanography graduate students Sasha Seroy and Amy Wyeth, and volunteer Juhi LaFuente.

    Part of Puget Sound, Hood Canal is a nearly 70-mile-long glacial fjord that runs down the east side of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, then crooks back to the northeast. Its waters are naturally more acidic than the open ocean’s, and its oxygen content drops in late summer and fall.

    “Puget Sound is like a mini ocean,” says Keister. “It’s incredibly diverse oceanographically and biologically over small scales, so it’s really easy to study important processes here.”

    Adds Crouser, “If you want to find out how ocean acidification and hypoxia affect everything from the bottom of the food web up, this is the place to do it.”

    Lessons from the microscopic

    Back on the R/V Carson, Crouser and Seroy are labeling containers full of specimens that were just hauled up from different depths.

    One contains a thick soup of tiny krill and zooplankton. Another sample, from shallower water, is sparsely populated. It’s a vertical snapshot of a mass migration: Zooplankton surface at night to eat phytoplankton, then head back to deeper, darker water to avoid being seen by predators in the daylight.

    Professor Daniel Grünbaum assembles infrared cameras to film zooplankton in dark waters.

    Across a narrow passageway, Grünbaum is working at a table covered in wires, housings, infrared cameras and microcontrollers (small computers). He holds a microcontroller that will soon be attached to a drifter. “The technology is making this research easier, and the engineering is getting better and better,” he says.

    That’s good, because in addition to tracking the movements of large zooplankton populations, he and Keister are observing individual zooplankton in their natural habitat with the help of infrared video cameras.

    It’s hard to fathom that the behavior of a single microscopic creature might give us insight into the future of the Puget Sound and our oceans. But Keister and Grünbaum suspect that zooplankton’s behavior in response to changing environmental conditions may be magnified as they ripple up through the ecosystem.

    “The water in Hood Canal is stratified,” explains Keister, meaning that different depths have widely divergent oxygen and pH levels. “Zooplankton are moving through big differences in conditions as they go up and down.”

    Grünbaum gives an example of what these movements can teach us: If significant populations of zooplankton are able to hide in low-oxygen waters to avoid predators, we may see a drop in salmon populations and an uptick in jellyfish — predators that are better suited to those conditions.

    Whatever the findings, says Keister, “It could have significant implications for the food web.” This includes humans: where we harvest animals, and what we are (or are not) able to catch.

    Graduate student Amy Wyeth rinses off equipment before it is reused on a zooplankton-catching device known as a multinet.

    The ocean of tomorrow

    It’s nearly 2 p.m., and Crouser has helped haul up the last of the drifters. Dozens of containers of specimens await transport to UW labs, where they’ll be studied and added to a host of data from the previous year that may help shed light on the future of our oceans.

    For having been awake since 3 a.m., Crouser is remarkably alert — and optimistic about her place in the future of oceanography, whether by measuring environmental impact or by increasing diversity in STEM professions.

    “My role as a minority in science follows me wherever I go,” she says. “Regardless of what I’m doing, it’s my responsibility to let people see me being a scientist.”

    As she continues on her career path, Crouser faces the reality that tomorrow’s ocean may be starkly different from what she’s known her whole life.

    “There’s a lot at stake when it comes to the ocean,” she says. “It can be sad at times. But schools like this are what give me hope. It’s this research. It’s the UW.”

    The R/V Carson passes under the Fremont Bridge on its way back to the UW.

    The R/V Rachel Carson is a 78-foot research vessel purchased in 2017 with the help of a $1 million donation from William and Beatrice Booth. Beatrice, who earned her master’s in biological oceanography from the UW in 1969, was one of the first women scientists in the graduate program. She devoted much of her life to our oceans, working here as a biological oceanography researcher for 24 years.

    Named after celebrated American conservationist Rachel Carson, the R/V Carson unlocks many possibilities for UW researchers. Compared to its predecessor, the much smaller R/V Barnes — a former tug boat — the R/V Carson was designed as a research ship. With larger lab space, better tools for lowering equipment into water and more space for people to sleep, the ship is much better equipped for multiday trips with more researchers. And, unlike the R/V Barnes, the R/V Carson is capable of traveling offshore for coastal ocean research.

    The R/V Carson also helps connect scientists and students to their nearby waters: It’s available for use by oceanographic researchers and instructors from outside the UW, too.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.
    So what defines us —the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 1:27 pm on December 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Giulia Galli, How to harness molecular behavior to improve technology, , , Women in STEM   

    From University of Chicago: Women in STEM -“Physicist taps quantum mechanics to crack molecular secrets” Giulia Galli 

    U Chicago bloc

    From University of Chicago

    Dec 16, 2019
    Louise Lerner

    Prof. Giulia Galli’s work predicts how to harness molecular behavior to improve technology, such as purifying water.
    Photo by Jean Lachat

    There are few scientists who would describe condensed matter physics—a branch that studies the behavior of solid matter—as “simple.” But to Prof. Giulia Galli, it’s less complex than the problems she works on at the University of Chicago.

    “Problems like water and energy are much more complicated than what I was trained for in condensed matter physics,” she said. “All of my work is driven by problems.”

    It’s complex problems like these that the Pritzker School for Molecular Engineering—the first of its kind to focus on this emerging field—was set up to solve. And it’s the kind of innovative research that Galli, a theorist who uses computational models to figure out the behavior of molecules and materials, is helping tackle through her pioneering work.

    The focus of Galli’s studies is to understand and predict how to harness molecular behavior to improve technology, particularly in the areas of purifying water, speeding up computation and sensing with quantum technology, and perfecting renewable energy technology.

    “Essentially, we predict how atoms arrange themselves,” explained Galli, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at UChicago. “We do this by developing theoretical algorithms and powerful codes and simulations in order to understand the quantum mechanics at play in a given material.”

    For example, her group can use theory to predict which material will make a cheaper solar cell, or suggest a new configuration for a quantum bit made from electron spins. “Energy and water are incredibly important problems—even a small improvement from your science can have a huge impact,” she said. “This is really important to me.”

    One of Galli’s favorite parts of her day is working with her group, including postdoctoral researcher Elizabeth Lee (left) and graduate student Hien Vo (right). Photo by Jean Lachat

    Galli, who also heads the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials, has garnered international recognition for her work in helping shape the field. She recently received the Feynman Theory Prize, an annual honor highlighting extraordinary work in harnessing quantum mechanics for the public interest. It was her fourth such major award in her field this year.

    “It is not difficult to understand why Giulia has been recognized as a scientific leader by a diverse set of scientific organizations,” said Matthew Tirrell, the founding Pritzker director and dean of the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering. “She wields powerful and versatile computational tools that she has deployed to learn about many important scientific matters, ranging from how water behaves to materials being explored for quantum device engineering.”

    Deciphering atomic rules

    Quantum mechanics describes the rules of atomic behavior at incredibly tiny scales—a world full of the unexpected, which Galli seeks to explain using computer codes. But the challenge of modeling the interactions between hundreds of thousands of atoms in a material is a Herculean task. Often she uses the Research Computing Center at the University, but for more complex simulations, her team uses the extremely powerful supercomputers at UChicago-affiliated Argonne National Laboratory, where Galli has a joint appointment.

    The simulations may take months, depending on the problem; in fact, that Galli’s group is constantly running simulations on as many machines as they can get ahold of: “We’re running simulations every day, many at the same time. We probably have 15 projects running right now,” she said.

    “The job of a good scientist is to constantly doubt your answers.”
    —Prof. Giulia Galli

    At the same time, she’s usually writing four or five papers at any given time; in between, she’s traveling to conferences, teaching, or working with students and postdoctoral researchers in her group.

    Her field has changed a great deal over the years, as computers and data capacity have improved, but to Galli, it keeps her energized. “The problems are always changing. Nothing is ever boring.”

    Since she moved to the PME from the University of California-Davis, she’s been able to work much more closely with scientists on the experimental side, creating a loop where their experiments validate and explore her theoretical predictions, and her insights suggest new avenues for experiments.

    One such collaborator is David Awschalom, the Liew Family professor in molecular engineering and director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, who has worked with Galli for years at PME.

    “Giulia’s innovative work on exploring materials for quantum information science and technology is guiding research programs at the University of Chicago and around the world,” said Awschalom. “Her innovative research is based on identifying important problems in materials science, developing a unique theoretical approach that is informed by experimental measurement, and ultimately resolving outstanding questions about the dynamics of complex systems with predictive models.”

    Addressing a ‘data crisis’

    More recently, she’s become interested in addressing a problem in the field of science known as the data reproducibility crisis. All good experiments and calculations have to be able to produce the same results, no matter who’s doing the experiment or carrying out the simulations; but as simulations grow more complex and the amount of data skyrockets, it becomes harder for other scientists to be able to check someone’s work.

    A recent Galli study examined inorganic links between nanoparticles for applications in solar panels and optical devices.
    Illustration by Peter Allen.

    Galli began providing links for interested parties to download the data (and codes) from her work, but that was only a local solution. To address the problem on a larger scale, Galli created a publicly available tool called Qresp that provides a framework for researchers to share their data and workflows, so that others can see how the results were reached—and try to poke holes in it.

    She sees this as essential for science—and for scientists.

    “The job of a good scientist is to constantly doubt your answers,” Galli said. “The minute you get results, you have to think about how to validate them. How to find a different way to evaluate them. To push and challenge yourself. To do what you don’t yet know how to do. That’s what I tell my graduate students.

    “The real job of a scientist is to come up with a way to solve a problem that nobody else knows how to solve. And then to challenge yourself, over and over again, to make sure your solution is correct and robust.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Chicago Campus

    An intellectual destination

    One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Hyde Park and international campuses, keeping UChicago at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

    The University of Chicago is an urban research university that has driven new ways of thinking since 1890. Our commitment to free and open inquiry draws inspired scholars to our global campuses, where ideas are born that challenge and change the world.

    We empower individuals to challenge conventional thinking in pursuit of original ideas. Students in the College develop critical, analytic, and writing skills in our rigorous, interdisciplinary core curriculum. Through graduate programs, students test their ideas with UChicago scholars, and become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, nonprofits, and government.

    UChicago research has led to such breakthroughs as discovering the link between cancer and genetics, establishing revolutionary theories of economics, and developing tools to produce reliably excellent urban schooling. We generate new insights for the benefit of present and future generations with our national and affiliated laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

    The University of Chicago is enriched by the city we call home. In partnership with our neighbors, we invest in Chicago’s mid-South Side across such areas as health, education, economic growth, and the arts. Together with our medical center, we are the largest private employer on the South Side.

    In all we do, we are driven to dig deeper, push further, and ask bigger questions—and to leverage our knowledge to enrich all human life. Our diverse and creative students and alumni drive innovation, lead international conversations, and make masterpieces. Alumni and faculty, lecturers and postdocs go on to become Nobel laureates, CEOs, university presidents, attorneys general, literary giants, and astronauts.

  • richardmitnick 11:35 am on December 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Charlotte Sobey, , , Fresh Science competition, , Women in STEM   

    From CSIROscope: Women in STEM- “Communicating science to a fresh audience” Charlotte Sobey 

    CSIRO bloc

    From CSIROscope

    9 December 2019
    Andrew Warren

    When you’re creating a precise catalogue of measurements of our galaxy, you want to make sure people know! Perth-based astronomer Dr Charlotte Sobey is part of a team working on magnetic field mapping. She recently took part in the Fresh Science competition to help communicate her work and amplify her science.

    Postdoctoral researcher and astronomer Charlotte Sobey hanging out in a telescope.

    First, what’s the science?

    Our galaxy’s magnetic field is thousands of times weaker than Earth’s. But it has great significance for tracing the paths of cosmic rays, star formation, and many other astrophysical processes. However, our current knowledge of the Milky Way’s 3-D structure is limited.

    Charlotte and her colleagues used a large radio telescope in Europe called LOFAR (the Low-Frequency Array) to create the most precise measurements to date of our galaxy’s magnetic field in 3-D.

    ASTRON LOFAR Radio Antenna Bank, Netherlands

    We can’t see our whole galaxy from a single place on Earth. So, Charlotte is now completing the map in the Southern Hemisphere. To do this she’s using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope which is led by Curtin University and located at our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia. The MWA combines the power of 2048 small antennas into one instrument.

    SKA Murchison Widefield Array, Boolardy station in outback Western Australia, at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO)

    The team chose pulsars (rapidly rotating neutron stars) as the ideal candidate to map the magnetic field. This is because they’re distributed throughout the Milky Way. And dark matter, which is the most dominant material in the galaxy, affects their radio-wave emissions.

    Dame Susan Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discovered pulsars with radio astronomy. Jocelyn Bell at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, Cambridge University, taken for the Daily Herald newspaper in 1968. Denied the Nobel.

    How do you share your science story?

    It’s important for Charlotte and other young researchers to be able to confidently and clearly communicate their work.

    Charlotte recently participated in Fresh Science WA. It’s a national competition helping early career researchers develop their communication and outreach skills through a series of workshops.

    “I applied to Fresh Science because it’s a great way to gain experience in presenting science stories in accessible ways for a variety of media, and to share my recently published results with the public,” Charlotte said.

    “As a researcher in a publicly-funded organisation, I feel it’s important to communicate about recent science results with the community. I hope that these stories connect with people, perhaps inspiring them to learn more about STEM areas or even pursue a STEM-related career or hobby.”

    Charlotte and her dog Kirby at the LOFAR telescope ‘Superterp’ stations near Exloo, Netherlands.

    Finding her voice

    Across the two-day event, Charlotte attended media workshops, learned to pitch stories to journalists and write professional profiles. This training will help her tell her story to all types of media outlets.

    “Talking with journalists helped demystify the news process, and answering their questions helped me to frame my science story. I also gained invaluable experience and confidence by doing practice interviews in a ‘safe space’ with three local journalists from television, radio and print.” Charlotte said.

    “By talking to advisors from a commercialisation program and a public policy institute, I gained new insights into my work. This compelled me to expand my story to include the bigger-picture implications of my work, as well as talking about the future direction.”

    Passing the pub test

    After the pitching workshop, the ‘freshies’ headed down to the pub to complete the final exercise for Fresh Science 2019. Aptly named the pub test.

    “I had to explain my recent work on stage in the time it took for a birthday sparkler to burn out! I’m usually nervous when I have to speak in front of people about my work – in front of colleagues, let alone the general public. But at the end of the two days I felt more prepared, practised, and confident. But still a little nervous!” Charlotte said.

    “Sharing the experience with the other freshies and having the encouragement of the Science in Public staff also made it more social and enjoyable.”

    Charlotte Sobey at Fresh Science 2019 during the pub test. Credit: Ross Swanborough.

    What’s next for Charlotte?

    “Doing Fresh Science has given me a greater understanding of how the media works, and to focus on being able to target my pitch to a specific audience to achieve a specific purpose. And with all the practicing I’m feeling much more confident and looking forward to sharing my story” Charlotte said.

    LOFAR and MWA are stepping stones towards the low-frequency component of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which will be at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. SKA will be much larger and more sensitive than any radio telescope ever built.

    SKA Square Kilometer Array

    Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is a radio telescope array located at Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in the Australian Mid West. ASKAP consists of 36 identical parabolic antennas, each 12 metres in diameter, working together as a single instrument with a total collecting area of approximately 4,000 square metres.

    “My work in the future will focus on building towards doing science with the SKA telescope, which is currently entering the final stages of the planning phase. One long-term goal for SKA science is to revolutionise our understanding of our galaxy, including producing a detailed map of our galaxy’s structure (which is difficult because we’re located inside it!), particularly its magnetic field.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SKA/ASKAP radio telescope at the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory (MRO) in Mid West region of Western Australia

    So what can we expect these new radio projects to discover? We have no idea, but history tells us that they are almost certain to deliver some major surprises.

    Making these new discoveries may not be so simple. Gone are the days when astronomers could just notice something odd as they browse their tables and graphs.

    Nowadays, astronomers are more likely to be distilling their answers from carefully-posed queries to databases containing petabytes of data. Human brains are just not up to the job of making unexpected discoveries in these circumstances, and instead we will need to develop “learning machines” to help us discover the unexpected.

    With the right tools and careful insight, who knows what we might find.

    CSIRO campus

    CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is Australia’s national science agency and one of the largest and most diverse research agencies in the world.

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