Friday, August 2, 2013

From Great Expanses of Grass to Great Expanses of Marine Phyto-plankton (or “OK, Now What Do I Do”)

In this Maniac Talk, Dr. Charles McClain discusses growing up in a rural Missouri agricultural community, (i.e., wheat, soybeans, corn, alfalfa), and how his becoming a scientist and an employee at NASA Goddard for 35 years with a focus on remote sensing of marine ecosystems was essentially by happenstance.  He focuses on some of the scientists and educators with whom he has worked, and the early years at Goddard, leading up to the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWIFS) project.   
Dr. Charles McClain, Ocean Ecology Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Exoplanets are being discovered at an accelerating rate since the first one around a Sun-like star was confirmed in 1995. Beginning with Jupiter-sized and larger planets, the exoplanet zoo has enlarged to include super-Earths (1.2 to 2x the radius of Earth) and bodies smaller than Earth as well. There are no less than five different methods used to detect exoplanets. The transit method, exemplified by the Kepler space telescope, gets the most press and has bagged by far the largest number of ex-oplanet candidates (4300+), but the Doppler or radial-velocity method still has the most confirmed detections. The evolving theme in exoplanet research has become "we can predict nothing" since many of the discoveries like hot Jupiters have defied traditional theories and given us new insights into our own solar system, in particular about migrating planets. Categories of exoplanets have been discovered that "should not" exist, for example planets around binary stars. This talk shall attempt to overview the methods used to detect exoplanets, a few of the important and most fun discoveries, and what lies ahead.   

Dr. Warren Wiscombe, Climate and Radiation Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

From a Love of Nature to a World of Earth Observations

NASA climate scientist (emeritus) Dr. Michael D. King, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado Boulder, discussed his early unsuccessful pursuits in atmospheric electricity to more rewarding research in radiative transfer and remote sensing of aerosols and clouds. In his Maniac Talk titled "From a Love of Nature to a World of Earth Observations", he described this evolution, addressed key aspects of success as a well-rounded scientist, and briefly addressed his crystal ball view of the future of Earth science.