Everything’s Coming up RSES: Part II

October 25:  Even though I have been traveling around, I have also been getting into the lab and doing some work. No, really, I have!  About 100 lunar glasses are undergoing analyses so that we can see what they are made of and so far, things are going well. I’ve also been giving several talks about my research, including the shock chemistry work on which Vanessa McCaffery and I are collaborating.

At the 2011 Australian Space Science Conference in late September, I gave a talk about the lunar glass work and presented a poster on the shock chemistry work (with co-author McCaffrey and Albion College students Erica Bennett and Casey Waun).  Both projects were well-received, and it was great to get feedback about them.  We are currently writing up the results for publication in the conference proceedings.  At the conference, it was fascinating to learn about an Australian company that has made the first space beer!  The engineers have developed a low-carbonation stout that tests well in the micro-g experiments done so far (lucky astronaut!), with plans to sell it to the first space tourists, who are paying about $200,00o for a flight in low-Earth orbit.  In a timely coincidence (with my blog), Richard Branson opened his spaceport today (10/18/11).  More than 450 people have already purchased tickets, and the first flights could take off sometime in 2012.

In other exciting astro-related news, ANU is home to the newest Nobel Prize winner in Physics, as announced in early October.  Brian Schmidt, an astronomer at Mt. Stromlo, received the Nobel along with two others, for measuring that the Universe is expanding in its acceleration and suggesting that a “dark energy” is responsible for this acceleration.  I won’t go into the details about dark energy, since no one really knows what it is, but you can learn about what we think it is here.  The day after the announcement, I learned that Schmidt was still going to teach his cosmology class, so a grad student and I crashed it. I thought it would be a fun and exciting way to be a part of ANU history.  And it was.

Brian Schmidt teaches class the day after winning the Nobel Prize in Physics.

While I was up in Sydney, I gave talks at Macquarie University and at the University of New South Wales. Both visits were fabulous and I had a really good time talking to the scientists and students.  At UNSW, I was able to see one of the stromatolites that is thought to host the oldest physical evidence for life on Earth (3.5 Ga).  This week, I also gave a talk at the University of Tasmania in Hobart; read more about that trip here.  Presentations at the ANU Research School of Earth Science and the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mt. Stromlo are upcoming.
In news totally unrelated to research but nonetheless just as exciting, I saw the Queen!  Queen Elizabeth II is in Australia for 11 days, spending the bulk of her time in Canberra. Last week, she and Prince Philip had a private tour of Floriade and were driven there by boat, cruising along Lake Burley Griffin, with about 1000 onlookers (including me!).

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip cruise on Lake Burley Griffin.

I was told there would be thousands of people who would come out to watch, so I got there nice and early – 8 am for an 11:30 am appearance.  I had lots of time to kill and few people to watch. By contrast, almost 45,000 people came out to see the Queen in Brisbane.

More links:
See video from ABC TV highlighting the work of Brian Schmidt.
My video of his entrance into class can be found here.
My video of Queen Elizabeth’s boat ride can be found here.