Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Music Break

Via Bri: The Joy Formidable with their song Buoy

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mmmmmm, delicious planets

Via Quinn, planetary chocolates!

From the comments area at Reddit:

"When I was a kid, they gave you 9 planetary chocolates"

"If they were to scale, the Jupiter chocolate would have to be as big as your head. Or, most of the planets would have to be microscopic."

"Eating Jupiter or Saturn would be a bitch."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Marism over dinner

Over dinner:

Me: Guys, I have to go to a meeting in 15 minutes
Owen: WHAT?!?!? Again!??!?
Me: Yup
Marcus: Are you coming home when we wake up?
Me: I'll be back before then
Owen: Long before then
Me: And I'll get home around 8:30 tonight.  I'll kiss you, and you and Daddy
Marcus: On the butt?
All: LOL

Berkeley Enough

Berkeley Enough From the Whole Foods boys:

Needing a dose of granola.....

Yoga Girl will get you too--- best use of "Namaste", evah!

Office Furtniture

When I first arrived in my new office in the Cahill Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics at Caltech I received a nice little pot of money to furnish and decorate. Among other things, I got some Humanscale office chairs and a Biomorph sit/stand desk, which are great.

This all comes to mind because I recently gave some ergonomics advice to a friend of mine. I also get a lot of comments about my stand-up desk. Admittedly I only stand about 20% of the time, but the kids, they love the stand-up configuration and motorized action. However, looking back, perhaps I should have instead opted for one of these:

Then again, it probably wouldn't be optimal for working after a big lunch at the Ath.

For maximum comfort/excitement while writing code or working on proposals, this option is the only way to go:

Then again, this setup might not work after a heavy lunch either, but for different reasons...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

AAS Press Conference

Here's a recording of the AAS/NASA press event.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Smallest Exoplanets Found—Each Tinier Than Earth

Find out about the smallest alien planets yet discovered, in this infographic.
Source: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Smallest Exoplanets Found—Each Tinier Than Earth

I got to participate in a press conference today to announce three record-setting exoplanets that my group at Caltech discovered around a little red dwarf star named KOI-961. The paper, led by my postdoc Phil Muirhead, is on astro-ph tonight:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Finding the Next Earth: On TV!

Back in March last year I was contacted by a very interesting person named Dana Berry. The funny thing is that I almost deleted the email before reading it because it was from an AOL email address (AOL?!). Fortunately I got over my email prejudices (have you accepted Gmail into your heart yet?) and opened the message, which read:
Hello Dr. Johnson,

I am producing a show for the National Geographic Channel about the hunt for the next planet Earth as it involves the Kepler and Corot missions, and the plans to characterize these new found worlds with missions like JWST, the upcoming TMT telescope, etc.  We are already in post production, but had sought to get a "pick up" interview with Geoff Marcy.  Alas, he is unavailable.  This was a disappointment since Marcy is so extraordinarily good on camera.

But, Marcy highly recommends you as a potential replacement.  Would you be interested in doing an interview about the follow up to Kepler, and to JWST?  If so, are you available some time in the next day or two to chat on the phone?  

So I wrote back, set up a phone meeting, and we agreed to shoot a piece on or near the Caltech campus a month later in April.

The shoot was supposed to last from 2pm-4pm, maybe as late as 5pm, Dana assured me. Well, we ended up having a grand time moving the camera around Cahill from one interesting shot to the next. By the time we wrapped up it was 10:30pm!

Fortunately, we had my industrious and faithful undergrad researcher, Kirit Karkare, on hand to help out. While they filmed the pieces with me talking while sitting in the Galex control room across the hall from my office (complete with a full space mission control center as a backdrop), Kirit set up the undergrad (Ay105) lab downstairs in the basement. The idea was to show me working in "my lab," but my lab was still in its infancy at the time, with optical components still in their original packaging.

Kirit set up a simple  spectrometer with a light source and a few optics components. While we were showing Dana how the spectrometer works, we accidentally shone the refracted light onto the wall behind us. Dana jumped up and said something like, "Yes, go with that. That's what we need!"

Dana also got excited when I showed him a few Powerpoint slides illustrating how a spectrometer works and showing a false-color echellogram with a spectrum of the Sun (Vesta, actually). He instantly gained my respect when he told the cameraman, "That, that right there is all of astronomy. We like looking at the pictures, but all of the hard science is in spectra! We gotta shoot John pointing at spectral features!" Let me tell you: Dana Berry is a director who really get's it!

Well, I had no idea what would come of our 9-hour day. Would all of that footage end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak? Then, we got word that the show would be on NatGeo (formally the National Geographic Channel) in December. Erin, the boys and I got the popcorn ready and held our own little screening party. "THAT'S DADDY!" yelled Owen. "That's daddy?" asked Marcus. Liz and Lindsay called and exclaimed, "OMG, I can't believe you are in my living room on my TV right now. You sound SO smart!"

If you get to see a rerun, my first appearance is pretty early in, and I get the second segment when they're talking about "super Earths" with molten lava surfaces. From there, they feature my friends and colleagues, including Natalie Batalha, Sara Seager, Oded Aharonson, Francois Fressin and others. There's also an entire segment on my academic grandfather Steve Vogt. It was a HUGE honor to appear on screen with these much more established and accomplished astronomers!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A family that shoots together...

In an early morning raid, Pasadena police found a large weapons stash at the so-called "Johnson Compound." The confiscated collection of firearms included 2 semiautomatic dart guns equipped with "whistler darts," a Berzerker pump-action dart gun with a center-launched rocket, a pump-action assault rifle with multiple ammo clips, and a compact yet high-power "Mar Gun" with a laser sight.

"We're glad we found these guns," said the police chief. "It's possible that these darts would have hit innocent bystanders visiting the compound for dinner or something."

The purpose of the guns is not immediately clear to investigators. However, experts close to the case speculated that the Johnsons may have planned to use the guns to shoot each other in crazy "dart wars," with Mommy and Owen on one team, and Daddy and Mar on the other.

Investigators painted a chilling scene of family members sprinting down hallways shooting at each other "Matrix style," with foam darts occasionally bouncing off of limbs and heads.

Said a detective close to the case, "It's a scary picture really. We're glad we were able to nip the situation in the bud early before things got out of hand."

My Sis

My lovely and talented sister, Erin Johnson (not to be confused with my wife, Erin Johnson or my nephew Aaron Johnson) with her cover of Adele's "Someone Like You."

If you enjoyed this, please click through to YouTube and click "Like" and leave a comment. When she's famous you can say you were into her music before it was cool :)