My Lineage

Today I was rewriting a talk I've been giving lately about a peculiar class of planets known as "hot Jupiters": gas giant planets with period of only a few days. In past talks I would say that based on the example of our Solar System---with its giant planets in very wide, long-period orbits---"no one could have expected these hot, close-in Jupiters!"

Well, this isn't entirely true. There was a person who predicted the existence of hot Jupiters well before the first exoplanet was found around a normal star in 1995. I wanted to change my introduction to give proper credit where it is due, but I couldn't remember the intrepid astronomer who made this bold prediction. So I sent an email to Geoff Marcy:

On Apr 28, 2010, at 2:34 PM, John Johnson wrote:

Hi Geoff,

I recall you mentioning an old paper from the 60's in which the author noted that there was no reason not to expect Jupiters in few-day orbits. Can you point me to that paper or remind me of the author?

Thanks

John

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Geoff wrote back right away with the name, reference, and one other really cool bit of trivia:

Hi John,

In October 1952, the famous Berkeley professor, Otto Struve, published a paper, published in "The Observatory" about "high-precision stellar radial velocity work". At the top of the second page he wrote,

"But there seems to be no compelling reason why the hypothetical stellar planets should not, in some instances, be much closer to their parent star than is the case in the solar system. It would be of interest to test whether there are any such objects." In the next paragraph he explicitly computes the RV signal of a planet with a period of 1.0 day, predicting a reflex velocity of 0.2 km/s!

I've attached a scan of the article below. Note the quote at the top of the second page. Also note that at the end it is signed, "Berkeley Astronomical Department, University of California, 1952 July 24." Otto Struve was the mentor of George Herbig, who in turn was my mentor at UC Santa Cruz.

Thus, you are Otto Struve's great grandchild.

Geoff

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How cool is that?!

[Click images to enlarge to more readable versions:]

While I was at Hawaii, I got to "talk shop" with George Herbig frequently, and he gave me a lot of good advice while I was a postdoc there. He is 90 years old, works every single day, and always has data on his computer screen. One of my favorite moments was sitting in the audience with George when a 19-year-old undergraduate student gave a talk about Herbig AeBe stars. He sat there with the slightest of grins on his face while the student talked on with apparently no idea that Dr. Herbig himself was right there in the room!

blissful_e said…
Amazing!! :)

On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…