## Friday, May 17, 2013

### This is water

Here's an incredibly inspirational speech and video (via Trevor's Google status). From the Youtube video description:
In 2005, author David Foster Wallace was asked to give the commencement address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. However, the resulting speech didn't become widely known until 3 years later, after his tragic death. It is, without a doubt, some of the best life advice we've ever come across, and perhaps the most simple and elegant explanation of the real value of education.
We made this video, built around an abridged version of the original audio recording, with the hopes that the core message of the speech could reach a wider audience who might not have otherwise been interested. However, we encourage everyone to seek out the full speech (because, in this case, the book is definitely better than the movie).

### The Kepler Mission ain't over till it's over

From Joseph, who works at JPL:
Don't be so quick to bury Kepler. There is a famous quote from Mark Twain: "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." Kepler is now in Point Rest Mode, with very low fuel consumption, giving the reaction wheel jockeys a chance to revive reaction wheels #2 and #4. It ain't over 'till it's over.
C'mon Kepler, you can do it!

## Thursday, May 16, 2013

### Kepler: RIP

Kepler's reaction wheel #4 has failed, leaving the telescope unable to point precisely. It has been an amazing ride. We now know of 2740 transiting exoplanet candidates, many which are still awaiting confirmation and characterization. We know of circumbinary, Tatooine-like planets. We've found eclipsing degenerate objects tidally deforming their companion stars. We've found compact systems of tiny planets parked right next to their stars. We now know that small planets abound throughout the Galaxy. The field of exoplanetary science, as well as astrophysics in general has been forever revolutionized by NASA's highly successful Kepler Mission.

But now it's time to say goodbye.

I did a phone interview yesterday with a reporter from the LA Times. She asked if I was mourning. I hadn't thought about it until then. But yes. Yes, I was mourning. My group about to have 5000 hand-picked red dwarf targets added to the Kepler observing list. Those stars and their myriad small, potentially habitable planets will go unobserved. So personally, yes, I'm extremely sad.

I'm also sad for all of the hard-working scientists and engineers at NASA Ames. They have gone above and beyond on a shoe-string budget to generate the exquisite Kepler data sets that my group has made a living on for the past three years. Thank you Kepler science team! We mourn with you the loss of this amazing scientific instrument, this previously unblinking eye into the Cosmos.

Geoff Marcy sums it up well on Facebook:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the internet,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let jet airplanes circle at night overhead
Sky-writing over Cygnus: Kepler is dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of doves,
Let the traffic officers wear black cotton gloves.

Kepler was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week, no weekend rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talks, my song;
I thought Kepler would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are still wanted now; let's honor every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing will ever be this good.

With thanks to W.H.Auden.

## Tuesday, May 14, 2013

### Exoplanets Explained

Here's a continuation of my group's conversation with Jorge Cham about stars, planets and everything.

## Monday, April 29, 2013

### Today in History: First Player Out

Jason Collins, an 11-year veteran of the NBA, just became the first openly gay athlete in any of the major US sports. In his self-penned Sports Illustrated article, he writes:

I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay.
I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand.

## Sunday, April 28, 2013

### MC Monte Carlo - Gridding It Up In the Likeli-Hood

At the end of the term in my Ay117 Astrostats course, the students gave 15-minute oral presentations or poster presentations describing their final projects. The morning of presentations was organized like a Keck Science Meeting, so that students not only learned the primary course material, but also gained valuable practice in giving scientific presentations.

Of the many highlights from this year's session was Scott Barenfeld's performance of his latest single from his upcoming Astrostats hip hop album. It was most certainly the best rap performance of the day.

Griddin' it up in the Likeli-hood
From the upcoming debut album
Straight Outta Inverse Compton

Scott Barenfeld (CIT 1st year)
March 19, 2013

They call me MC Monte Carlo
Be runnin' my code 'till tomorrow
I take the random walk
So don't sit there and squawk
If you need my routines, you can borrow.
I doin' my Bayesian stat stu ff
Comin' up with posteriors off the cu ff
It's Bayes' Theorem yo
You frequentists can go
No root n error bars, son, I had enough.
Findin' your $\mu$ and $\sigma$
Don't have to be such an enigma
Just get the likelihood
You really really should
Then Aaron and John will dig ya!