The Department gathered at DDO on December 13, 1996 for the annual Christmas Countdown. Organized by GASA, the event was well-attended by students, staff, faculty and friends. Following the pizza and salads everyone gathered outside the building for the group photograph, this year made tremendously humorous by Karl's putative photographic assistant. A simple overturned beer bottle in the pants pocket of our assistant photographer was enough to turn a normally smiling group into a laughing-to-tears mob. For THAT photograph, link to http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/group.1996.html
The planned entertainment then began in the lecture room and judging by the loud laughter echoing the halls of the observatory, the offerings were all well received. Our Santa should be congratulated on his performance, and GASA for its beneficience.
During tea and coffee, the mysterious Droppings (the anti-Doings) appeared. Desserts were temporarily ignored as everyone became absorbed by the Droppings. Some seconds later the room returned to its normal state with conversations and fun ending the silence.
Thanks are due GASA for arranging the 1996 Countdown, and to Florence
Unwin for organizing the food and decorations.
To reflect this new beginning, the Doings official name has been changed slightly to The Doings of the Department of Astronomy and the David Dunlap Observatory.
The Doings belong to everyone (to paraphrase Helen Hogg), not to a particular constituency. Everyone reading these words is invited to participate in the revitalization. Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student, staff, faculty or alumni, our hope is that you will want to share your experiences through the medium of the Doings.
For most of you, the medium to access the Doings will be the WWW. You can read the Doings when it is convenient for you to do so. If you have a Java-enabled browser you can specify which sections of the Doings to read and have the WWW server assemble only those sections and display them for you. With dynamic content, you decide what you want to read. Point your web browser to http://ddo.astro.utoronto.ca/doings.
The on-line version also provides a tool for submitting short contributions to the Doings and a "Chat Room": a facility where up to 100 people can join in real-time discussions while sitting in front of their computers.
This issue contains a number of contributions made to the previous editor, Tom Bolton. Many old submissions were not used, however, because they had lost their relevance with the passage of time. We hope that this does not deter previous contributors from submitting to the new Doings. We thank Tom for allowing us to review the unpublished contributions submitted to him. Old submissions to the Doings are indicated in this issue by a datestamp.
We will try to make the Doings a success and encourage you
to join us. Enjoy the new Doings!
Brian Beattie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bob Garrison (email@example.com)
Recent staff changes:
Don Fernie retired in July, 1996, but you would never know it! Don continued to teach through the fall term, and continues as a permanent fixture at the Observatory. The Chair hosted a party in Don's honour in October.
Albert Hartviksen retired in July, 1996. Albert was the caretaker at DDO.
Steve Smith, a DDO telescope operator, also left in July. A good-bye luncheon was held in honour of Albert and Steve at DDO in June.
Wen Lu began work for Tom Bolton and Slavek Rucinski as a Research Assistant at the Observatory in August.
Stephen Steele became the Chile Resident Astronomer in November, 1996. Stephen comes to us from Hawaii where he had been a student of Rick Crowe (former UTSO resident and Toronto Ph.D.) and a night assistant on Muana Kea.
Dave Earlam retired in December, 1996. Dave worked at the Observatory as a craftsman since 1965. There will be a retirement tea for Dave in February at the Observatory.
Many people in the fields of science and engineering have an interest in science fiction - to the point that a significant number of American engineers claim that their choice of career was influenced by the US TV series Star Trek. Arthur C. Clarke, the author of such prophetic sci-fi novels as "The Space Elevator"; and "2001: A Space Odyssey", was an INSPEC (then known as Science Abstracts) indexer in the years immediately after the second world war. Thus, it can be of interest to the sci-fi fanatic to see what is contained within the INSPEC database.
Aliens are an excellent place to start. Papers on the possibility of Martian microbes in a meteorite found in Antarctica are recent additions to the INSPEC database, joining existing research on SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) projects. Having found our aliens, we need a mechanism to reach them. Nuclear rockets are adequate for local trips around our own solar system, but to meet intelligent life we would need to travel interstellar distances, where the problem exists of journeys taking several lifetimes to complete under normal methods of propulsion.
To overcome this, the science fiction writer has the luxury of using exotic methods, such as distorting space-time locally, via the "warp drive" in Star Trek or by taking "short-cuts" in space through hyperspace, as seen in another popular US sci-fi show, Babylon 5. Although these methods do seem far-fetched, papers by theorists, covered in the INSPEC database have proved the mathematical possibility, but not yet the mechanisms by which these can be achieved.
A similar story applies to the theory of time travel, but as Professor
Stephen Hawking postulates, if it were to be discovered, then we would all be
aware of it by now! One short story has crowds of visitors from the future,
crowding out the crucifixion until the future authorities can take
action...there is also the famous paradox of what would happen if you killed one
of your parents and thus prevented your own birth. Quantum theory allows all
possible outcomes to exist at the same time, but returning to your own time-line
may prove difficult with so many possible futures. Again, these theories are
contained within the INSPEC
At the recent AAS meeting in Toronto, the Department's display included an automated HTML slide show, showcasing recent work by members of the Astronomy Department and CITA. This slide show is now available at http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/~aas/slideshow
We hope to be able to add new features to this show and
ultimately to make it available to students and visitors
through a public display.
[Some time ago] Don Fernie posted an announcement about the Fieldus Memorial Award. This is not meant as criticism against Don but in posting some important technical details about the award, no mention was made of the purpose and the spirit of the award. In particular, no reference was made of the man it honours. Now, I don't pretend to be the best person to talk about this but I would like to say something, lest this award become like so many others listed in course calendars: anonymous names with dollar amounts listed next to them.
The Fieldus Memorial Award honours Mike Fieldus. Mike was a student here at the U of T for many years when he passed away suddenly. He was a gifted student, teaching assistant and leader here in the department. The fact that he was very near the completion of his thesis made the loss that much more tragic. This memorial hopes to acknowledge those skills and qualities. However, Mike Fieldus wasn't just about those things, he had in him a spirit which set him apart from most people. I don't pretend that I knew him well enough to even begin to tell you what set him aside from most people. I can however, articulate the reasons that I felt he was different.
When I first came to this institution, it seemed like an institution in the strictest sense of the word. I remember the first few grad students I met. Most seemed cold, distant and intimidating. One student was different however. As I was walking down a hallway, a man walked up to me, grabbed my hand, shook it vigorously, and proclaimed that his name was Mike Fieldus. He added that he was pleased to meet me. I was stunned. Here was someone who was going out of his way to meet me. Wow! You don't often see that.
My second realization that Mike was different came as I was doing my Master's project. I was sitting in the lounge when Mike sat down and inquired about what I was working on. I explained my project studying the surface density of objects around quasars not expecting Mike, who was working on stellar atmospheres, to give a damn about what I was doing. But, he did care, he did ask me questions, he did want to know more. I couldn't simply rattle off some abstract of my work, I actually had to explain it to him. Now, many people, including myself, upon asking that question would politely listen and then immmediately do a core dump of what we just learned.
Mike Fieldus wasn't perfect, or immune to human frailties. He did however, seem to be able to build bridges in a department which often didn't make that task an easy thing to do. There are others here in the department who may remember Mike in a different way and for different reasons but I don't think we should reduce the man's achievements to some dollar value printed on a cheque. This award should celebrate the man we remembered while he was alive.
These are my impressions from an observing stay at the La Palma Observatory. I was there 2 weeks in the middle of July, 1995, observing with the Jacobus Kapteyn 1-metre telescope (JKT). This telescope is used for long projects and this was indeed a long run of 14 consecutive nights. Amazingly, all these nights were clear and the first seven were actually photometric!
The project was a joint one, with Ron Hilditch from St. Andrews University, Janusz Kaluzny from Warsaw University and me, with Ron being the PI on the British PATT application. Since we have several projects in various stages of planning, with Ron always representing us all, I undertook responsibility for this run. The target was the oldest open cluster in the Milky Way, NGC 6791. It is a large and massive cluster with a total mass of some 100,000 solar masses. It is conveniently located for summer observing in Lyra. Janusz and I have done some work on this cluster which was for some 20 years suspected to be very old. We showed that it must be by some 1 Gyr older than NGC 188. In addition, its colour - magnitude diagram indicates a very high metallicity. And this is "high" not in the sense of globular clusters; we really mean "high", say 3-5 times solar. This conclusion is difficult to reject and it agrees with some fragmentary spectroscopic data for giants by Friel et al. and Garnavich et al. (many new spectroscopic projects are now starting). Also recently, Janusz and I discovered several variable stars in this cluster in only 16 hours of CCD photometry at Kitt Peak. Among those variables, we found eight contact binaries. Contrary to NGC 188, where there are relatively many more contact binaries, this frequency is NOT very high, and might indicate that the large mass of NGC 6791 prevented single stars to evaporate leading to retention of the normal, old-disk population frequency (i.e. as in the Milky Way field) of one contact binary per some 150 dwarfs.
The project for La Palma was a logical continuation of our previous work on the variables: we wanted to discover detached eclipsing binaries and in this way learn something about durations of the pre-contact and contact stages. Only a long run could give us such information.
There were great things about this run and some disappointments, as always... The CCD was only 1k x 1k in size, which coupled with the somewhat unusual scale in the focus of only 0.33"/pixel gave a small field of view. Thus, only some 5' x 5' could be monitored, about 1/4 of the area surveyed by us previously. Obviously, I selected the cluster centre where we previously saw 3 contact binaries and a few candidates for detached binaries. The seeing was superb, as small as 0.6" on some nights. Perhaps it was even better than that as telescope aberrations were already showing up at this level. The JKT was probably built with the standard specifications of the olden days of "somewhat better than one second of arc" so this was the best I could measure on the CCD frames. The small pixels resulted in perfect sampling of the PSF and excellent photometry down to V = 20.7 - 21.9 (random errors 0.1 and 0.2 mag respectively) which is really impressive for such a small telescope.
A less pleasant aspect of the observations with the JKT was that this telescope was used as a testbed for the "real" telescopes, the 4.2 metre William Herschel Telescope (WHT) and the 2.5 metre Isaac Newton Telescope (INT). My CCD was dismounted and then mounted back onto the telescope on almost a daily basis. The dome was full of technicians during the day and each evening I had to make rounds and spot problems left by them in the "unimportant" telescope (disconnected cables, lights left on in some unexpected places, etc.). The aura of the class society seemed to me quite distinct at the La Palma Observatory which is dominated by the Royal Greenwich Observatory operations (Janusz jokingly says that without a British nobility title you are not welcome at the WHT) and that the JKT was definitely at the bottom of this class structure. There is also a 2.5 metre Nordic Optical telescope (NOT, also know as "NOT a telescope"), some Swedish solar operations, a Kiel gamma-ray system (Cerenkov detectors over some kilometers of the mountain slope), but these "continentals" keep a rather low profile so one tends to see and hear mostly the Brits.
The JKT is located right at the Roque de Los Muchachos, some 50 metres from an incredible exposure into a 1800 metre deep hole in the 2400 metre high mountain, a deep and ragged interior of the caldera. La Palma, the size of Metro Toronto (some 20 by 40 km), has the largest ratio of height to size of all earthly places. To some extent it is similar to Mauna Kea with clouds forming very low, where the trade winds blow, with severe icing during winters, but this time of year seemed to be nice and peaceful, with temperatures in the region of 10C-15C, moderate winds and excellent seeing. The property not shared by Hawaii is the dust. It is blown from Africa when the easterly winds acquire a more southernly tendency. I had this experience during the second half of my run. Extinction went up by some 0.5 mag and the dust was everywhere, high up, low down, inside the caldera and in the beam of my flashlight. But then the seeing was excellent so that with the very small PSF we could actually gain in the quality of our photometry.
Thanks to the efficient streamlining of processing by the OGLE group
at Warsaw, a few SPARC-10's and -20's that they have, and much work by
Janusz Kaluzny, the data - some 750 images - have already been
reduced. I am currently (1995)
trying to write a paper about the results. The images are
interesting but perhaps
slightly less impressive than we had expected. We re-discovered our
three WUMa's (a new light curve for our old friend V1 in shown in
and discovered four detached eclipsing
NGC 6791 will remain in the centre of our interests for some time. I am sure that this is a cluster that we will hear more and more about, as its unusual age/metallicity combination (and a strange bulk velocity in the Galaxy) might give us a real clue how the Milky Way formed and, perhaps, how it cannibalized smaller stellar systems. The old idea about stellar populations in the Galaxy is evolving under our very eyes.
At a latitude of -29 degrees, the center of the Milky Way Galaxy passes directly overhead at the end of twilight in August/September. On a moonless night, it is one of the most impressive sights imaginable. The maw at the center is unbelievably huge. It pulls the mind into it, away from the cares of the world, and makes a person feel like an integral part of the Galaxy and the Universe. It is a unique meditative feeling, especially if Beethoven's 9th Symphony (courtesy of Ian Shelton) is playing gloriously on the CD in the dome. I've been at times moved to tears by the sight, sometimes even by just thinking of it. Add the Zodaical light, Jupiter near Antares, with Saturn rising in the east, and the bliss is nearly complete.
One doesn't even need a telescope to enjoy the sky. Using a pair of binoculars, or just looking up while walking from the house to the dome can be a peak lifetime experience. As Helen Hogg, for whom the UTSO telescope is named, stated in the title of one of her books, "The Stars are for Everyone." I wish it were easier for others, especially undergraduates and beginning graduate students, to experience the glory of the southern skies. Perhaps we would have more students opting for observational work instead of consigning themselves to a lifetime of staring at numerical experiments on a computer screen, with false-color images. Ah, well, we all make choices; I'm certainly happy with mine when they include the skies of Chile, with real stars and real dust clouds.
The telescope was 60 percent oversubscribed this term, mainly because of the application from the MACHO group, headed in Canada by Doug Welch. The mountain now has the Swope 1m working on the OGLE project and the HSHT 60cm working on the MACHO project. If either are successful, it is likely that there will be a major impact on our views of the Galaxy, with wider implications as well.
Another reason for the popularity of the HSHT is that ESO has closed some of its small telescopes, yet there still are Europeans with good, interesting projects who need time on a small telescope with good equipment at a good site, but don't need (or want) a large telescope with very small time allocation units. Both kinds of research are important and some sense of balance needs to be maintained. The small telescopes are relatively inexpensive to operate, do make a number of important discoveries on their own, and actually complement the large ones, but some narrowly educated physicists and astronomers don't seem to realize that.
In any case, the HSHT is alive and well, producing good science at relatively low cost. We are having to work hard to keep up with the creditors in these tough times; the current grant is less than the minimum we need to operate at all, but we're hoping that the new NSERC granting structure will favor very successful, international, multi-user operations like UTSO.
A celebration of the 25th anniversary is being planned for September, 1996. It will be a good opportunity to get an overview of the productivity of the "little telescope that could - and did and can do and will do." [Ed.note: A celebration was held, and is reported in SkyNews for Jan-Feb 1997.]
I just read the brief account of Berdnikov's visa problems in the July Doings, and was surprised that you managed to keep it so short! You left out all of the juicier tidbits.
Berdnikov's troubles started before he arrived in Canada, since he was unable to get a Chilean visa from Moscow for the apparent reason that he lacked "an invitation from Chile." In Canada his troubles persisted. Although he was issued a double-entry Canadian visa, the agent in Halifax persisted in claiming that he would not be able to re-enter the country after his observing run because it was only a single-entry visa. After some useless discussion on the point, the agent finally took a second look at the visa and admitted that the number written there "might be a TWO rather than a ONE." First crisis solved.
The lack of a Chilean visa only became apparent following contact with Urrutia, and this is where the "zillion" phone calls began. I explored all manner of blind alleys before calling Urrutia, and discovered that he was "invigorated" by the challenge and was sure that he could help me. One problem was that I had to fax him a copy of Berdnikov's passport. Have you ever tried to fax anyone's passport? It took over an hour to send the copy, and the telephone bill for it was enormous! Following this I received several return phone calls from Urrutia, usually at home during supper hour with his words occasionally breaking up because he was calling from the cellular phone in his car. I must admit that Urrutia appeared to be delighted to have something interesting to tackle for a change, and was a TREMENDOUS help during this period. For me the stress continued non-stop because the Foreign Affairs Ministry sent instructions to issue a visa to Berdnikov to their embassy in Montreal rather than the one in Toronto where he had gone the day prior to his flight to Chile. I was talking on the phone to the nice woman at the Toronto embassy for the umpteenth time that day at the very instant that the visa was being stamped into his passport.
Even in Chile his troubles continued. First, the visa issued to him was for too short a period to cover his stay in Chile, and a second one had to be issued. I understand that Urrutia handled this problem as well. Second, the Chilean officials mistakenly put the wrong stamp in his passport when he left the country, leading to further difficulties for him. Leonid reported that he had problems with EVERY immigration official that he encountered during the trip, but managed to survive all of them with his sense of humour intact. In fact, we were joking about it at the KLM check-in desk when I took him to the airport for his flight back to Moscow, and, sure enough, there was a computer snafu even at this stage which delayed his check-in. I have never seen anyone quite so happy to finally get on a plane home!
Despite all of my worries, Berdnikov was resourceful enough to get by on his own. He loved Chile and its people, and was delighted to be able to see the Southern Cross for himself. The weather was horrible during his stay there, and he had enough equipment problems to break into the top ten "My Worst Chilean Observing Run" stories. However, he did manage to get 999 photoelectric observations of Cepheids and other stars during this period, and is already making plans for future trips to observe the southern sky. Me? Well I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief the moment I heard that he had arrived safely back in Moscow.
Interestingly enough, Leonid did manage a few success stories with the good folks at immigration. Somehow he managed to bring some Chilean fruit back into Canada with him, as well as presents for Pat, Jennifer, and I that included an item which I believe is illegal to possess in this country! I'll leave you to ponder that one. Meantime, I intend to take a few days vacation!
All the best,
St. Mary's University
Feb 5 G2000 Feb 12 G2000 Feb 19 (reading week) Feb 26 Gary Berstein, U. Michigan TBA
My records show me that the last gossip column I wrote was way back in September of 1995. Well, as far as I can recall, nothing important happened in the meantime so we'll just move the clock ahead to September 1996 and move on from there.
September 1996 began like any other new school year. Summer was ending, graduate students complained about delayed scholarship cheques and some new students joined our ranks. Will things ever change. Why can't summer last longer in this city?
On the subject of the new students. Ordinarily, I would welcome them to the department and at least print their names, but you should all know them all by now. After all, they've been here 4 months already, how could you not know them? We have three new PhD candidates: Wayne, Mike and Charles. Six new MSc candidates joined the ranks. There's Mike, Jennifer, Allen (note the spelling!), Patrick, Brian and Haryadi. Of course, you probably don't know the last three. Apparently, along with the vow of poverty all grad students take, they have all taken a vow of silence, and cannot speak to any of us. Noteworthy exceptions include Brian and Patrick. Brian is permitted to send us humourous e-mail and Patrick can talk to us as long as he's not actually in Burton Tower.
Mike Gladders though, he's a character. As soon as he arrives here in the department from his summer position in CITA, he decides he wants to compete with Omar for the "desk from hell" award. Way to go Mike. Sometime around Christmas he admits defeat, and crams everything on his desk into the drawers. Omar rules! Hail Omar mighty desk champion! Mike has gone out of his way to kick start the new students however. He encourages the consumption of mass quantities of beer and has the audacity to encourage them to work together! Of course that working together thing is going to kill those students when they go looking for work. Companies don't like "team players". They reward rugged individualism and frown upon efforts to make people work cooperatively. Everyone for themselves, that's the ticket. Mike also organised a Thanksgiving repast for the grad students. Something like this merits a Gossip Congratulations. Hail Mike! Way to go!
In the new but old student catagory, we welcome home Charles Kerton. A former MSc. who left, but missed us so much he came back to begin his PhD. I imagine the endless boredom of the seasons in Hawaii grew to be so bothersome that he felt compelled to leave the land of eternal sun and slum with us in the bleak winter of Toronto. How does it feel Charles? Are you getting enough snow and freezing wind? When you see him be sure and tell him what the weather is like in Hawaii right now.
Not only did new students arrive, but a couple of old ones left us that month. Doctors Paul Wiegert and Ian Shelton joined the ranks of the anointed, to become newly minted PhDs. We hope they will remember us when they leave. More importantly, we hope they find jobs someplace and hire us when we graduate.
Some time over the fall, thesis Shelton materialised on the shelves of our library. So sacred and holy, it looked as though the ancient scribes hand wrote it on sheets of vellum. Absolutely breathtaking. Definitely. I am serious folks. If you want to see an eye popping thesis, check out Ian Shelton's. I have no idea if its any good because my eyes are continually drawn away from the stark blackness of the printed words to the technicolour splendour of his graphs and images. WOW! A feast for the eyes. No doubt his committee, unable to turn away from the most stunning collection of images outside of the Louvre, were unable to decide if he should be awarded a degree in astronomy or the fine arts.
Oh yah. Paul's thesis is in the library too.
Shortly after completion of his corrections, Paul decided that a vacation in Greece and the Middle East was in order. He packed up his gear, got his shots, collected some cash and left us for six weeks. Ten days later he returned with a seriously sprained ankle and a very unhappy look on his face. I can only assume he had the look upon his return, because he only dared show his face at the DA a week after his arrival in TO. How did this happen? A pothole. Yes! A pothole in Greece managed to cut our friend's vacation in its prime. A senseless waste. However, Paul did say that the travel insurance works. Let this be a lesson to all of you who would scoff at insurance. The embarrassment of the ordeal proved to much for Paul however, and he was forced to flee to York University where hopefully no one reads the Doings. An alleged post-doctoral position was his story, but down here at the DA we know it was the hushed whispers and giggles that drove him away.
Returning from a more successful journey to faraway places, is Dan Hudon. His trip to the Far East and India for six months was apparently a lot of fun. Of course I have only Dan's word on this because he hasn't shown me a single picture of his trip yet! He does have some interesting tales to tell though. Perhaps if we're nice to him, he may share them with us at the next Vernal Equinox party (nudge nudge Dan). So accustomed to sleeping in less than ideal circumstances, Dan has elected to forego the traditional home and is now sleeping in someone's living room. I guess he just got so used to crashing out at any old place that he can't bear the thought of actually renting a place for more than three days.
More on Ian Shelton. Besides writing the modern day equivalent of the Almagest, he also had time to get married. Yep, married. He and Tuba Koktay were pronounced husband and wife last December. I haven't seen any pictures of the event, but people tell me it really did happen. Kidding aside, I would extend on behalf of all of GASA our best wishes.
In January of 1997, a whopping 3 students defended their theses: Paul Hendry, Omar Lopez-Cruz and Siqin Huang. We here at GASA wish them all the best. For those of you that missed Omar's awesome graduation party, you missed one massive blowout. For those of you that always believed that the completion of Omar's thesis was a sign of the Apocalypse, don't fret. He doesn't officially graduate until his degree is conferred in June. You still have 4 months to prepare for the Rapture. Remember: there is still time to save your immortal soul from eternal damnation as long as you act now.
Also in January, the AAS came to town. I didn't actually go to the AAS, but I did see reports of it on the news. The little note Ernie sent around seems to indicate that it was a success. Of course, I have no idea what a successful AAS is. Given the shear number of desperate grad students looking for work, I would have thought it should be measured by the number of people who find jobs. I suspect the AAS measures success by the number of nights of news coverage they get. For those of you down at the DA check out the article posted on the bulletin board on the 13th floor entitled "Pack Journalism". A fine read in this reporter's eyes.
In the rumour mongering portion of this article we turn our attention to James Wadsley who was seen being extra attentive to his wife Tara Roseberry by this reporter. Moreover, a conversation in the lounge between two unnamed grad students mentioned "I found out she is." No word was made of Tara specifically, but we can all assume that she was the topic of conversation. Following this, at Omar's post-defense bash, I discovered that Tara was very curious about the ingredients of various food stuffs at the party. Mayonnaise, was of particular concern. With that kind of evidence I think it is safe to announce that Tara has developed a serious food allergy and we should all offer her our support the next time we see her.
This will be the last Gossip column from yours truly. My own thesis,
near completion (hah!), beckons. The editors are actively searching
for a replacement but I thought I would make a pitch for someone to
step forward and seize the reins. I won't remind you all of the
importance of the Doings. It is a vital means of communicating what's
going on in the department, both to those who are here and those who
are abroad. One of the things that makes it live and breathe are the
stories provided. One of the most important components is the
submissions from the student body. The Gossip column is a good
jumping off point for providing a regular student contribution. There
is no set format for the Gossip. It is, whatever the writer chooses
it to be. It is your chance to express yourself and to let others
know what students may be thinking. I would urge any of you to tell
Brian or Bob if you are interested, it is worth the effort. As well,
I would encourage any student with a good story idea to submit to the
The library is grateful to have received donations of several books and journal
issues from the estate of the late Dr. Helen Sawyer Hogg. During her lifetime
Dr. Hogg also donated many things to the library. Such donations add immensely
to the value of the library, not only augmenting our scholarly assets but also
enriching our sense of history.
[In 1994] I attended two interesting conferences and thought I would share some of the highlights with you. Although the topics of the two were quite different, (electronic preprints in astronomy and quality control in electronic journals) they dovetailed rather nicely. They were similar in that both had a good mix of types of participants- publishers, editors, computer types, astronomers, as well as librarians. The conferences were: NRC's "Accuracy and accountability in scholarly information- a symposium", held at McGill, August 12-13, 1994 and Workshop on electronic preprint distribution (held in conjunction with the Fourth Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems [ADASS] conference) Baltimore, September 29, 1994.
One point that came out strong and clear at both meetings is that preprints are not a universally prevalent phenomenon. Physicists and astronomers use them to the extent of creating formal databases and organized distribution systems, but other sciences do not. They are even less well known in the humanities and social sciences. In some fields, e.g. medicine where results must be well proven/reviewed before used and where an economic interest is involved, preprint distribution is actively forbidden. At the preprint meeting, there was an informal consensus that once electronic journals are well established, preprint distribution will fade in importance. Unfortunately, that day seems to be several years away.
Much discussion at both meetings centered around the added value that journals give to articles. The selection and reviewing process is familiar to you. In astronomy the latter is most important, but in other disciplines where the acceptance rate is not so high, selection plays a more important role. This is critical to the issue of preprints because the review and editing process often results in an article radically different from the one submitted. Copy-editing is very important, of course, especially for non-native English speakers/writers. Marketing and distribution are also valuable functions carried out by publishers. Ask anyone who has published his/her own book about that one! Electronic journals add even more by their provision of non-linear browsing (i.e. hypertext), instant and complete access to annotations and errata, speed of communication, and flexibility of presentation. Current drawbacks of electronic journals are their lack of certainty/stability, lack of a pricing model, ease of copyright violations, lack of peer review in some cases, lack of readers' access to hardware and networking (especially in developing countries but also in some small, underfunded, first world institutions), issues of archiving and integrity of the original article/data. In addition, the acceptance by deans, directors, and even authors, of electronic media is far from complete. Expectations of cost savings by going electronic are too high- "first copy" costs are higher relative to distribution costs, than many people think. This is especially true for serials with a large circulation. (Astronomy journals do have a smaller market base and therefore higher savings are possible.) Unfortunately, some of those first copy functions, such as copy-editing, will be sacrificed in order to realize significant cost savings. Others, such as marketing, will remain because just being on the 'net, doesn't give a journal a wide readership.
Ethics of publishing was a primary focus at one of the conferences. It was pointed out that ethical standards vary among disciplines and cultures. For example, although the interdict against publishing the same article in more than one journal is generally accepted, attitudes about special cases such as different languages etc. vary. Some of the main problems are fragmentation of research in order to generate more publications, multiplication of reporting results (i.e. various versions of essentially the same paper) for the same purpose, duplicate publication. Integrity of authorship is an increasing problem and some criteria for claiming authorship were outlined. I notice that one example of such a problem recently made it into Statistical Lore... in the Globe and Mail's Report on Business. There is cited the case of a 10 page study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that had 976 co-authors! In the 1950's the average number of authors per article was 1.8. By the 1980's that number had grown to 3. Apparently it is not uncommon for an article to list hundreds of authors. Other, more dramatic but less common, problems that editors have relate to ownership of data, data falsification, conflict of interest of authors, and theft of ideas prior to publication. Note that some of these ethical questions directly affect serials pricing.
Citation of articles was another topic of discussion- there are many drawbacks to relying on citations as a measure of quality of research. Bad papers are cited often- as an example of how not to do it! Leading edge research of high quality is often not readily acccepted and citations may not appear until long after publication. Citation rates vary among disciplines. As much as 50f research is never cited, and of that which is, much is not read by the citers. The implication, as with some of the ethical problems, is that too much is being published. Among other things, this contributes to soaring serials prices.
Technical problems associated with electronic publishing appear to be quickly diminishing. There was resignation to the fact that authors, for several reasons, will continue to use a variety of word processing packages to submit articles. Therefore the goal seemed to be to be able to convert all of these to SGML (standard generalized markup language). SGML is a typesetting language that labels parts of an article, such as title or abstract, and allows manipulation of those parts according to the publishers' needs. AASTEX was panned/praised. HTML (hypertext markup language) was mentioned as NOT being a suitable standard. Search and retrieval expectations and standards were also discussed as being critical to acceptance and widespread use of electronic media. Good news- the ApJ is "almost ready" to receive electronic submissions. Both at the preprint meeting and in a lively email discussion beforehand, there was debate about what a preprint is (a submitted article, an accepted one?), what publication is, how much control should be exercised over preprint distribution by the publisher, by the authors' institutions and by the database, who should maintain the databases, and how long preprints should remain accessible. There was general agreement that preprints should not live very long, reinforcing the concept that the journal article is the "real" version. A proposal emerged that each institution should be responsible for the mounting of their own preprints using whatever criteria they chose, that there should be a central site pointing to all these databases, and that authors from small institutions without their own databases should nevertheless have an opportunity to make their preprints available, perhaps via some central agency.
Finally, there was an optimistic notion that electronic publishers (not preprint databases) can recapture the function of communicating science and that their role as selectors and validators will continue to be critical in the age of information overload.
Barrientos, L.F.; Schade, D.; Lopez-Cruz, O. Luminosity evolution in cluster galaxies from Z=0.41 to Z=0.02. 5-Feb-1996. Preprint No. 96-0147
Carlberg, R.G.; et al. Faint K selected galaxy correlations and clustering evolution. 10-May-1996. Preprint No. 96-0693
Clement, C.M.; Shelton, I. The structure of the light curves of the RR Lyrae variables in the Oosterhoff type II cluster M9. 4-Jun-1996. Preprint No. 96-0780
Garrison, R.F. Solar-type stars: age, temperature, luminosity and the inclination of the equatorial (=planetary) plane. 16-Sep-1996. Preprint No. 96-1363
Golla, G.; Allen, M.L.; Kronberg, P.P. The starburst nuclear Region in M82 compared in several wavebands. 7-Aug-1996. Preprint No. 96-1153
Kamper, K.W. Polaris today. 4-Jul-1996. Preprint No. 96-1004
Kamper, K.W.; Kim, K.-M.; Thomson, J.R. An H-alpha survey of neglected Vyssotsky catalog stars. 4-Jul-1996. Preprint No. 96-1005
Kamper, K.W. Astrometric evidence that the mass of the companion to 16 Cyg B is substellar. 11-Nov-1996. Preprint No. 96-1615
Kronberg, P.P.; Dyer, C.C.; Roser, H.-J. Estimates of the global masses of two distant galaxies using a new type of astrophysical mass 'laboratory' 28-May-1996. Preprint No. 96-0741, 96-1152
Kronberg, P.P. What we know, and what we don't know about intergalactic magnetic fields. 16-Dec-1996. Preprint No. 96-1760
Kronberg, P.P.; Lesch, H. Magnetization of the intergalactic medium by primeval galaxies. 19-Aug-1996. Preprint No. 96-1197
Papadopoulos, P.P.; Seaquist, E.R.; Scoville, N.Z. High resolution 13CO, C18O J=1-0 observations of NGC 1068, molecular gas properties and a high C18O/13CO intensity ratio. 30-Jan-1996. Preprint No. 96-0127
Rucinski, S.M.; Kaluzny, J.; Hilditch, R.W. Search for detached eclipsing binary systems in the oldest known open cluster NGC 6791. 16-Apr-1996. Preprint No. 96-0598
Rucinski, S.M. Eclipsing binaries in the OGLE variable star catalog. I. W UMa-type systems as distance and population tracers in Baade's window. 22-Aug-1996. Preprint No. 96-1222
Rucinski, S.M. Eclipsing binaries in the OGLE variable star catlaog. II. Light curves of the W UMa-type systems in Baade's Window. 5-Dec-1996. Preprint No. 96-1719
Sawicki, M.J.; Lin, H.; Yee, H.K.C. Evolution of the galaxy population based on photometric redshifts in the Hubble Deep Field. 29-Oct-1996. Preprint No. 96-1544
Shepherd, C.W.; et al. The two-point correlation function at redshift 1/3. 8-Jan-1996. Preprint No. 96-0048
Short, C.I.; Lester, J.B. Modeling the violet spectral region of cool stars: line and continuous opacity. 26-Jun-1996. Preprint No. 96-0987
Wiegert, P.A.; Holman, M. The stability of planets in the Alpha
Centauri system. 17-Sep-1996. Preprint No. 96-1366