Saturday, March 23, 2013

Planetary Outreach Part 1: Terrestrials

It’s important that we unpaid, unregulated, and non-reviewed bloggers step in to help fill the gap create by NASA’s suspending its education and outreach program*. So, as a service, I attach some personal stories concerning planets, intended for science outreach and public edutainment.

How to remember the planets**:
My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nothing! No Peanuts, No Potatoes, No Pasta, Nothing!

A true story about Love and Mercury: The last time someone came into my office with questions about Mercury’s interior was this past Thursday. The student was interested in detailed information about elastic properties of a supposed iron-sulfide constituent of the interior and had worked out detailed models about how pressure affects shear elastic properties, and how temperature affects shear elastic properties, and models were piled on models and the goal was to have The Right Number. I strongly believe we don’t know The Right Number for an assumption piled onto an assumption piled onto assumption…all the way down… but that the student could make a pretty good guess. We know the shear modulus for iron sulfide at room pressure and temperature. Pressure increases the value, but not too steeply. Temperature decreases the value, and perhaps by a lot—especially because rigidity falls quickly as a material approaches its melting temperature. Therefore, I suggested that the student choose the ambient value of rigidity, and claim it as an upper bound. The student asked me could this  reasoning be found in a paper so there is something to cite?  As it turns out, it is hard to find common science sense documented explicitly in the scientific literature. I’m thinking of adding a section on horse-sense to my next papers to address this deficiency. Back to the favorite part of this week's Mercury story: The student is doing this project to calculate Love Numbers for Mercury. Please submit suggestions for student's Dissertation title in the comments section below, and I will forward.

My thoughts on Venus Part 1: I can plz haz Venus NASA mission?!?
My thoughts on Venus Part 2: Venus is my Earth Global Warming Endpoint Nightmare.

My Biggest–Earth Question: What makes a planet interesting? Interesting is defined as “Ability to support life”. My hypothesized answer: Large scale electrochemical disequilibrium.

Comments on My Paper About Mars That Did Not Make It Into the Actual Paper: I wrote a paper about the martian core based on high P,T equation of state measurements I had made at the synchrotron while 7 months pregnant. I think I might have been the first pregnant user at the Advanced Photon Source. They sent people in suits to come talk with me. I signed a lot of paperwork. I did the experiments, came home and had the baby, and then analyzed the data and wrote the whole paper while nursing the baby. This paper is among my top five cited papers. The baby is now 14. It is still not known whether Mars has its own Martian D-double-prime-layer of perovskite at the base of its mantle.

**with acknowledgement to SML
*It's not clear the NASA is actually cutting EPO. Here are are the results of a quick fact-check expedition to NASA's website


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