Skip to main content

Dave Latham's need for speed


I'm in Cambridge, MA for the celebration of Dave Latham's 50 years in astronomy. Dave is an astronomer at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics (my soon-to-be home) and one of the pioneers in the field of precision radial velocity measurements. In fact, in 1989 he found the first planet, HD114762b, which is now known as Latham's Planet (read here or see Latham et al. 1989).

At the celebratory dinner I learned that, among many other interesting things, Dave was once a world-class endurance motorcycle racer. Seriously. He was once the best in the US and ranked #14 worldwide. He was even sponsored by Kawasaki Motorcycles who provided him with a competition bike. Here's an ad I found after a bit of Googling:


The caption reads
Dave Latham is an astronomer for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, a profession which demands technical precision. He is also a motorcycle competitor---a gold medal winner at the Isle of Man I.S.D.T. Dave chose the Ossa bike for his competition bike. His Ossa bike has successfully completed the following events: 
1970 International Six Day Trials El Escorial, Spain  
350 Mile Lonesome Pine 
National Enduro, Virginia 
500 Mile Greenhorn National Enduro, California 
Trask Mountain Two-Day International Trials, Oregon 
The Corduroy 500 Mile Canadian National 
…plus hundreds of miles of riding, and winning local events. 1972 Dave Latham Ossa competition bike – Reliability above all
How appropriate it is that the add highlighted Dave's precise velocity!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from NBA.com, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw:


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

\begin{equation}
x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)
\end{equation}

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…