Volume 29, Number 3
October 3, 1998
Welcome to the interactive version of THE DOINGS, the
departmental newsletter of Astronomy at the University of Toronto. Published
for many years as a bi-monthly bulletin of events, news and information,
THE DOINGS was reborn as an electronic newsletter in January, 1997.
THE DOINGS serves a large community of students, staff, faculty and alumni,
all of whom are encouraged to read and enjoy the publication.
I grew up in upper middle-class suburbia (North Vancouver, to be specific), and was a spotty, dissillusioned, and deeply introspective adolescent who listened to the Smiths, the Cure, and Joy Division and generally felt sorry for himself.
Following my graduation from high school, I hopped over the Georgia Strait to attend the University of Victoria. There, I intended to pursue my lifelong dream that I've had since Grade 10 to become an astronomer.
Luckily, I became involved in the Physics Co-op program at UVic, and so I had work terms at DRAO in Penticton, UKIRT in Hawaii, and I had two work terms at CITA (one with Peter Martin and the other with Scott Tremaine (actually, I worked mostly with John Magorrian, but Scott Tremaine sounds better). It was these work terms at CITA that convinced me to return to Toronto for grad studies.
Outside of astronomy my interests are: trying to keep spots away,
listening to deeply depressing music, and generally feeling quite glad
about what I'm doing.
The only way to illustrate various aspects of music history is through listening to examples. The question becomes, then, which examples to choose? Perhaps the best method is to restrict the examples to one particular type of music, like opera, or the concerto.
The problem with this method is that the listener must be aware of what characteristics differentiate these musical forms, which can be difficult when the forms differ subtly. However, since music is an essentially emotional experience, one can appeal to musical illustrations of a particular quality, where the intent of the composer is clear to the layman as well as the scholar.
My personal favourite series of illustrations is "storm music" - where the composer wishes to convey a sense of frenzy, thunder and lightning, and nature in its most violent mood.
The earliest examples of storm music come from the rain dances of natives from all over the world, and particularly from North and South America. Tiny seeds coursing through a hollowed piece of wood sounds remarkably like rain falling, and it is this sense of imitation that can be found to greater or lesser extent in the later, written-down forms of the Europeans.
We can use storms from each major musical era to illustrate the characterizing elements from that era. For example, Baroque storms are generally not imitative of rain and wind, but rather use speed to convey unrest. In Purcell's opera "Dido and Aeneas" (1689) the storm scene has "horrid music", although to modern ears it is difficult to imagine that the quick tempo would have sounded "horrid" to the ears of the time. The same can be said about Vivaldi's concerto "Tempesta di Mare" or Handel's 4th Chandos Anthem, both of which date from the early 18th century.
The model storm, which has been imitated for centuries since its composition, belongs to Herold's music for the ballet "La Fille Mal Gardee", which premiered in 1789. Here we can easily pick out the violins and woodwinds imitating gale-force winds, and thunder rumbling away in the percussion. This style was seized upon and made famous by Rossini in his opera "William Tell" (1829), but there are a few earlier storms that also show some development of the idea of imitation: Gluck has a frenzied dance in "Don Juan", and Beethoven wrote two storms, one in his ballet "Creatures of Prometheus" (1800), and a much better storm in the 6th symphony (1808). These "Classical" storms demonstrate the onset of an imitative style, but do not go so far as to lose sight of the rigid musical structures that were in common practice. We have to wait for the Romantics, before musical form was sacrificed for the sake of complete emotional freedom in music.
A common idea in literature is to have the weather reflect the events in the piece - a standard device used by Shakespeare. It is not surprising that opera picked up this idea, to evoke a storm at the height of the characters' woes. To choose just two examples, Donizetti depicts Edgardo's anguish in the opera "Lucia di Lammermoor" (1835) - here we see the introduction of a large piece of metal that, when shaken, sounds like thunder. And lastly, Verdi's celebrated opera "Rigoletto" has a noisy storm at the climax of the action, during the only sequence in the opera where four characters express their feelings simultaneously.
The 20th century has no single underlying musical principle, unlike the eras before. We see a fracturing of format - new ideas, such as nationalism, and impressionism, have made their way into music. There are only a few storms to choose from. Britten's opera "Peter Grimes" (1945) features little orchestral intermezzos between each scene, called "seascapes" - the opera features the ocean as nearly a separate character. The music is quite harsh - the violins depict the unstoppable motion of the sea, punctuated rudely by the brass section. It is a frightening depiction, tending to draw the listener into the action with great intensity.
I have saved my favourite storm for last. The imitative aspect in Richard Strauss' "Alpine Symphony" (1915) is fully realized. It is the noisiest storm that I know of - a full modern orchestra, reinforced with a wind machine and a pipe organ. The storm is described fully - a slight calm is followed by plucked strings and a flute, illustrating the first rain drops. The wind picks up. Then, through excellent use of the orchestra, each flash of lightning and roll of thunder is depicted vividly. Once the violence subsides, you can hear water dripping off of leaves, and the sun gradually re-emerges from behind the clouds.
The music listed here is not an exhaustive list, however, it represents
some of the best examples not only of musical storms, but storms that
represent fully the characteristics of musical composition at the time
of their writing.
The McLaughlin Planetarium building is ready for occupancy, and workmen are now beginning to install carpeting and furniture. Dr King says that as a result of some recent delays the best opening date he can hope for is late October.
Dr Hogg had the Newtonian on the 74-inch from June 19 to 21, and from two good nights she and Linda Poole got 43 plates of globular clusters.
Dr Robert Garrison (newly appointed as Assistant Professor) and family are expected to arrive in Toronto on June 28.
The Rose Committee [seeking views on the proposed Queen Elizabeth II Observatory in BC] held hearings in Toronto July 4-5. Briefs were presented by [13 local astronomers].
Dr Fernie has been promoted to Professor and Dr Roeder to Associate Professor.
The Observatory was broken into on the the night of July 21. Entry was apparently effected through an opening cut in the screen of an unlocked window on the ground floor. Fortunately little was disturbed and nothing stolen.
A working group of the IAU has been assigned the task of naming features on the far side of the moon for famous (deceased) astronomers. Being a member of a small committee charged with submitting Canadian names, I [Jack Heard] have been thinking of some of our late colleagues who made notable contributions....
The Observatory water supply is being maintained with difficulty, the pump back at Bayview Avenue having all but given up after 35 years service.
Dr.s Hogg and Fernie were preparing to attend an IAU Conference in Budapest, [but] there are conflicting reports as to whether or not, in the present Czecho-Slovakian crisis, the Hungarian border is even open....
There are to be 28 graduate students for the forthcoming session. Continuing students include Tom Barnes, Ted Bednarek, Carl Bignell, Tom Clarke, Bill Dodd, David DuPuy, Nancy Evans, Greg Fahlman, David Goodenough, Chalmers Hardenbergh, Fred Hickok, Peter Jackson, Mark Naylor, Linda Poole, Hugh Ross, Raymonde Verreault. Newly enrolled are Iain Baines, Dieter Bruckner, Check-Sen Chai, James Clarke, Jeffrey Crelinsten, Walter Gorza, Robert Hawkins, Alan Irwin, David Lindop, Peter Martin, Louis-Pierre Sauve, Jack Winzer.
Doug Hube sucessfully defended his thesis. Inge Sackmann's defence is [Sep 26].
Dr Philipp Kronberg has joined the staff as Assistant Professor. A native of Toronto, Dr Kronberg did his bachelor's and
master's degrees at Queen's, and his doctor's at Manchester. His speciality is radio astronomy.
After visiting some friends in Germany this summer, I went to Prague. Prague is a city for prowling in. The streets in Old Town are so narrow and winding that even cars can't be bothered to try to navigate them. And it's old, even by European standards. New Town, right next to Old Town, was built 500 years ago. So, no matter which street you turn down you're bound to turn up something interesting, whether it be a medieval architectural wonder, a bar with cold Pilsener beer, a string quartet playing Czech favourites or a relic of astronomical history.
Prague proudly displays its astronomical history -- they have an enormous astronomical clock right in front of the Old Town Hall, next to the Old Town Square. Built by a master clockmaker in 1410 and later improved in 1490 by Master Hanus, the clock is an impressive collection of spiralling circles and pointers useful for telling solar time, sidereal time, lunar phases, times of sunrise and sunset and the positions of the sun and moon in the zodiac. It's like a visual almanac. Large crowds gather to watch it on the hour: two windows above the face open and figures of the twelve Apostles parade by. Appropriately, Death (in the form of a skeleton) rings the bell. The crowd claps when it's over. (However, there's a dark side to the clock. The story goes that when it was built, the city fathers were suitably pleased and decided to protect their investment by blinding Master Hanus so that he couldn't duplicate his work elsewhere. In revenge, he disabled the clock and it was 80 years before anyone could figure out how to fix it.)
After arriving, I spent my first couple of days traipsing back and forth on Karlova Street, which connects the Old Town Square with the Charles Bridge and the district of the famous Prague Castle, mouth agape at all the old but exceptionally well-preserved buildings. Then I saw a small note in my guidebook which said, ``The famous astronomer Johannes Kepler lived at No. 4 Karlova''. Omigosh. I had completely forgotten that Kepler never made it up to Tycho's Observatory at Hven in Denmark but came to meet him in Prague instead. Then he succeeded Tycho as Imperial Mathematicus under Emporer Rudolf II after Tycho's death in 1601. A further note said that he lived there from 1607-1612. The book, Astronomia Nova, which contained his first two laws of planetary motion, banishing 2000 years of Plato's uniform circular motion and 1500 years of Ptolemy's epicycles, came out in 1609 so this must be where he was sweating over the draft. I had already walked by the house at least half a dozen times without knowing it; now I had to seek it out. It was time to start prowling.
Karlova Street brims with music shops, souvenir shops, cafes and holes-in-the-wall that lead to splendid courtyards, restaurants or churches. As I neared No. 4 I kept thinking of Kepler's work, how he begged Tycho to give him something worthwhile to work on, how he threw out 700 pages of calculations when a fifth data point didn't fit the calculated orbit of Mars, how disappointed he was to find that the true orbit was the lowly ellipse and how he was constantly in search of a decent, full-time appointment.
Suddenly, there it was, No. 4 Karlova. A doorway like any other, with a man selling jewelry and postcards in front. There was a flowerbox under one of the 2nd-floor windows and the facade of the building was worn and in need of some paint. A plaque above the doorway read, ``This was the house of Johannes Kepler from 1607--1612 where he discovered the laws of the planetary orbits''. So succinct. So elegant. As I took the picture, hordes of tourists walked by without even looking to see what could be so interesting about No. 4.
I was anxious to find out anything more about the house so I asked the merchant in the doorway. He told me the building was now private but directed me inside to another plaque with a bust of Kepler and the remains of a display case. I walked through the doorway thinking, Kepler used this doorway, this passageway, here is where he picked up his mail. Then I went into the courtyard and I tried to guess which apartment might have been his. I thought about buzzing the various doorbells. I would simply ask, ``Is this where Kepler lived?'' or perhaps, ``Is this where modern cosmology was founded?'' But I restrained myself; I was close enough.
A couple doors down was an antiquarian bookshop. I browsed the shelves for awhile then asked the attendant if he had any old astronomy books, not expecting much -- perhaps a popular text written a hundred years ago. He showed me their catalogue and my eyes popped out of my head. They had first editions of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus and Kepler's Cosmographicum Mysterium (with price tags of $9000 and $50000, respectively, the former must have been in bad shape to be so ``cheap'').
I cleared my throat and asked, ``Do you suppose I could have a look at these?'' It couldn't hurt to ask, I thought. Besides, he didn't know if I'd just won the lottery.
``Certainly, sir, I'll get them from the back,'' he said.
Really? I thought. They were actually going to let me look at them? Just like that? I couldn't believe it. Maybe not quite like looking at the original notebooks, but still a chance to fondle pieces of history.
But the attendant returned empty-handed. ``I'm sorry, sir,'' he said, ``they are being prepared for being sold.'' Alas, it looked like some other lottery winner beat me to it.
Now I was curious. I had found two first editions without
even trying. How many more were there in this city?
I decided to try the Klementinum. The Jesuits built a
college there soon after they arrived in 1556 (having been
invited by Ferdinand I to bolster the Catholic cause in Bohemia).
Now one of the buildings was the
State Library, housing some three million volumes as well
as a host of ancient astrological globes.
There was some confusion at the front desk but before I could
say anything, the old woman said, ``The library is closed.''
``But...'' I said. Didn't she know the quest I was on?
``The library is closed,'' she repeated.
``I just want...''
``The library is closed.'' She never tired of saying it. I decided to try elsewhere.
I went up the hill past the Prague Castle to the Strahov Monastery, which was founded in the middle of the 12th century and certain to have old books. In fact, the collection dates from the 9th century but when I got there I found out that one must write ahead for special permission to get inside. So I had to be content with looking in from the roped-off doorways. There were two halls: the Theological Hall and the Philosophical Hall and both featured colourful frescoes on their curved ceilings and ornate wall-to-wall bookcases. It was an astonishing display of aesthetics and learning. On the way out through the gift shop I came across a gem in one of the display cases: a 13th century Latin translation of a book by the Islamic astronomer al-Biruni, who determined the size of the Earth by noting the dip of the horizon from a high mountain. The book was sufficiently old and impressive to satisfy my book quest for the day.
However, there was still Tycho's tomb to find. Tycho got a mention in the guidebook more for his unfortunate inebriate demise than for his twenty years of precision observing. Despite the less-than-noble death he got a noble burial (thanks to his association with the Emporer Rudolf II) and was entombed in the Tyn Church, just off the Old Town Square. But, try as I might, I could not find out when the church was open and never got to see his marble tomb.
I had to settle for prowling out a beer in his honour.
(Note: this is text is based on the point form notes I made for my Eulogy at Karl's memorial service. It is not a verbatim record, since I have written several months after the event. More formal obituaries will appear in the Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society and Cassiopeia)
I'm very grateful to the Kamper family for giving me this opportunity to talk about Karl. It is a bit scary to give such a talk about someone who was so good at bringing other people alive in his stories and anecdotes. But since Karl is the guest of honour, I'm elected. I hope that I can do him justice.
Karl was born and raised in Pittsburgh and remained strongly rooted there throughout his life even as his career took him across the continent. He was educated at Georgetown University (BS, 1963), and the University of Pittsburgh (PhD, 1973). During his career he was a research astronomer at the Lick Observatory in California, Instructor and Lecturer at the Van Vleck Observatory of Wesleyan University and Western Connecticut State College, and a Postdoctoral Fellow and Professional Engineering Officer at the David Dunlap Observatory. He also taught several courses at the University of Toronto and York University.
Karl established strong personal and professional ties to the students, staff and equipment wherever he worked. These ties remained strong after he had moved onto another job. In that way he resembled a plant that sends out tendrils that root some distance away, provide additional nourishment for the plant, and then send out tendrils of their own. To me, Karl's most outstanding characteristic was his love of family. Casual conversations at the Observatory range over many topics, computers (most often), gossip, anecdotes about colleagues, astronomy (sometimes), politics, religion, and on and on. We rarely talk about our families without questioning. Karl was the exception. He frequently talked spontaneously about his family. He loved to talk about Kathy's, Kirsten's and Brendan's activities and accomplishments. He also talked frequently about his parents, brother, and sister-in-law, even his mother-in-law. He was immensely proud of them all, and their activities and antics provided material for many stories.
The last time I saw him, I was grumbling about just becoming a grandfather. Karl didn't want to hear any of this. He stopped me abruptly and told me I should appreciate my grandchildren. He went on to say that he was sorry that he would never have an opportunity to know his grandchildren. This was the only regret that I heard from him during his long illness.
Karl's research specialty was astrometry, the measurement of the positions and motions of stars. This is not glamorous work, but it is fundamental for determining the distance scale of the universe and understanding the properties of stars and other celestial objects. On the other hand, astrometrists' papers have a long shelf-life. Their measurements will be useful centuries later, long after all but a few historians have forgotten papers on even the most glamorous subjects. Karl had the ability to work in any of the glamour fields of astronomy. Many of his contemporaries switched fields to improve their chances of obtaining research funding and jobs, but Karl chose to be true to his interests whatever the cost. He was equally stubborn in other areas of his career. He steadfastly refused to compromise his principles or do whatever others wanted unless he wanted to do it.
Karl published 26 papers in refereed journals, had 13 nonrefereed publications, and presented 16 papers at astronomical symposia. Several of his papers will have long-term impact in their field. These include the study of the expansion of the supernova remnants, the gas clouds ejected when in the explosion of massive stars (with Sidney van den Bergh), a large survey of the motions and binary frequency of low mass stars near the Sun (with Jason Harlow), and a long-term study of the pulsations of Polaris, the pole star (with Don Fernie and others). Polaris is a Cepheid variable, a type of pulsating star used for measuring distances to nearby galaxies. Karl and Don's work has documented a dramatic decline in Polaris' pulsation amplitude over the past few decades, especially the past decade. This provides data that will eventually lead to a better theoretical understanding of these stars, which, in turn, should lead to a better calibration of the distance scale.
Karl's work is highly regarded within the astrometric community. About ten years ago, Prof. Dan Popper of UCLA drew me aside at a conference to praise Karl's work. This was a revelation to me, because Popper is the elder statesman in his field and known for being exceptionally careful and demanding. Praise from Prof. Popper is praise indeed.
The discovery of Asteroid Toronto is an interesting sidelight to Karl's career. The discoverer of an asteroid is entitled to name it once its orbit is calculated. In the 1970's the Observatory decided it would be good publicity to name an asteroid after the City of Toronto to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city. Karl, as our resident astrometrist made the necessary observations and measurements. Although this was not a particularly significant piece of research, it did get some good publicity for the University of Toronto and the David Dunlap Observatory.
Karl was never a part of the regular faculty of the University of Toronto, but he taught a few courses to fill in for faculty members that were ill or away. For several years he taught an introductory astronomy course in the evenings at York University, and he also taught a continuing education course on astronomy at the University of Toronto. I occasionally meet Karl's former students. They all have fond memories of Karl and the course they took with him. They usually comment on the clarity and entertainment value of his lectures. Apparently his teaching style was more like a conversation around a campfire than the traditional university lecture.
I think Karl may have done his best teaching as a supervisor of undergraduate summer assistants at the Observatory and informal mentor to other undergraduate and graduate students working there. Karl was always available to talk with them about instrumentation, observing and measuring techniques. They learned a great deal about professionalism and the unwritten lore of astronomy by talking to him.
After his first postdoctoral fellowship at the Observatory, Karl became the Observatory photographer. He was an excellent photographer, and he did a lot to improve the photographic facilities and techniques during a time when photography was an essential aspect of our work. As time passed, we came to rely on him more for the design and testing of new instruments. Karl had an unusual combination of skills and knowledge. Besides his scientific skills, he was a good programmer, a superb optical engineer, and had a thorough understanding of mechanical design and electronics. This led to his appointment as the Professional Engineering Officer for the Observatory.
Over the past twenty years he has played the central role in the design and testing of new instruments for the David Dunlap Observatory and the University of Toronto Southern Observatory. He also supervised the construction and maintenance of these instruments. During this period the Observatory made the switch from photographic to solid state detectors and automated many instruments. With these new detectors and improved optics and guide cameras it is now possible to observe stars more than 100 times fainter than before, which means there are now one thousand times as many objects that are accessible for study. At the same time, the accuracy of spectroscopic observations improved by more than 20 times. Karl also designed a modern adaptive optics system for the Helen Sawyer Hog telescope at UTSO, but unfortunately this system was not yet fully operational when UTSO was closed due to inadequate funding.
Karl's broad knowledge of astronomy and instrumentation made him the logical choice to supervise the technical staff at the Observatory. In fact he was the only reasonable choice. But he adamantly opposed appointment to a supervisory position. He eventually agreed, but only after the Director redefined the position to relieve Karl of some tasks he found most onerous. This turned out to be another example of the Peter Principle in action, as I'm sure Karl knew it would be. Karl wasn't a bad supervisor, but he was a square peg in a round hole. He had little use for the paper work that was part of the job and no use for bureaucracy. He was also inclined to put off tasks that he didn't want to do almost indefinitely unless subjected to intense pressure.
One of his greatest strengths as a supervisor was his ability to keep track of many projects (the forests) without losing track of the goal in all of the details (the trees). He would always notice when the rest of us had gotten lost in the forest, but he would never tell anyone but me, no matter how hard I tried to get him to speak up. Karl wasn't going to be the one to tell the emperor he had no clothes. No way.
Karl's usual congeniality often disappeared in supervisory situations. He had little patience with anyone with less initiative and creativity than he. The same abilities that allowed him to keep track of all of the projects in the shops also prevented him from forgetting mistakes. He could remember classic mistakes for years, and he never tired of talking about them. Ironically, Karl was responsible for perhaps the biggest single mistake made during his time at the Observatory when he dropped a heavy metal photographic plate holder through an $8000 lens in the main spectrograph. I don't know whether Karl was especially touchy about this, but I do know we lacked the courage to find out.
When Karl got frustrated with someone's behaviour or apparent lack of skills that he thought they should have, he set up little experiments to see how far out of line they would go or how long they would flounder before asking for help. He delighted in telling me about these experiments, but as far as I know, no one else ever knew about them. I tried to convince him that he was behaving like a psychologist testing lab animals, not a supervisor, but he wasn't interested in changing his ways. Did I mention that he was a very stubborn man?
Perhaps Karl's greatest talent was that of the raconteur. Karl saw the world in vivid colour. He seemed to remember even the most insignificant details, and he could weave them into the most entertaining stories. People you had never met came alive in Karl's stories. He could find the humour in even the worst experiences. He was joy to be around. Karl was always at the centre of a little knot of people at social events. Wherever he was there was laughter.
The lunch and coffee break conversations were always intellectually challenging when Karl was around. He knew so much about so many things that you could easily be overwhelmed if you didn't come well stocked with information (and understanding). A typical conversation might range over several of computers, gossip, engineering of the Citroen, astronomy, family, politics, church politics and theology, German philosophy, linguistics, food, classical music, and on and on - almost any area of science, literature, the arts, and life were fair game. Sometimes these conversations would even break out spontaneously in the hallways at the Observatory. It's a wonder that any of us got anything done, but we did, and usually we had fun along the way, thanks largely to Karl.
Karl distinguished himself in the way he handled his illness. His fortitude, openness, and (mostly) good humour made it much easier for his colleagues to bear the stress and provide support as he fought for life. He could find humour in some medical misadventures that would have driven most of us around the bend. We watched in wonder and were inspired every time he survived a crisis. He dodged the silver bullet at least three times. His openness gave his friends the chance to say goodby when it became clear the end was coming.
I have so many memories, visual images and stories, of Karl that it is hard to know where
to start. There are his April Fool's pranks, especially the one about Physical Plant and aluminium
siding for the Observatory. There is Karl strolling up the Observatory driveway or down the hall.
Did he ever hurry? If so, I never caught him at it. He had a purposeful stroll and a casual stroll
that were distinguished by body position and facial expression, but not speed. There is Karl
peering into some optical apparatus with his glasses pushed up on his forehead, or sitting slumped
before a computer as he wrestles with data reductions problems. And on and on. So many
memories. He was a unique, unforgettable man who will live on forever in the hearts and
memories of those who were lucky enough to know him. His friendship honoured me. I will try
to honour him by using the observing equipment he worked so hard to improve to do the best
science I can and by trying to live by the example he set for us all.
|Coffee Drudge||Mike Gladders|
|Computer Rep.||Allen Attard|
|Desk Person||Chris Burns|
|GSU Representative||Rosemary McNaughton|
|Health & Safety Rep.||Chuck Shepherd|
|Juice Person||Marcelo Ruetalo|
|Sunangles||Gabriela Mallen-Ornelas, Tracy Clarke, & Mike Gladders|
|Tea Superpowers||Mike Allen & Rob Reid|
|Union Stewards||Rosemary McNaughton & Rob Reid|
|Web Propagandists||Rob Reid & Rosemary McNaughton|
Our department was well-represented at this meeting, held just north of Penticton in Naramata, British Columbia. Doctoral candidates David Ballantyne, Tracy Clarke, Charles Kerton and Michael Allen attended; CITA post-doc Shantanu Basu presented some results; incoming CITA post-doc Alex Lazarian asked a whole lot of questions, and CITA/DA faculty member Peter Martin gave an invited lecture.
The venue is maintained by a church group. Peter's lecture focussed on forthcoming satellite instruments. Considering who are hosts were, Peter "thought it was only appropriate to talk about 'missions'."
Our hosts were the staff at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. We had a wonderful tour of the telescopes, and got a chance to speak with everyone there. A subset of the staff are naturalists, and we were able to tour the area, including a look at Indian pictograms from the previous century.
The workshop focussed on results from the many Galactic plane surveys that are currently being assembled, including Canadian, Japanese, Australian, and European efforts. A few extragalactic talks focussed on disk-halo interactions, whose importance is only just being understood.
The workshop nearly degenerated into an extended discussion of turbulence, to the point where some of us were wondering if gravity was still an important force in the universe. Fortunately some strong personalities were able to steer the proceedings back in the right direction. Of particular note was the final session, hosted by the graduate students (!), which was a discussion-oriented question and response session.
The highlight of the conference was, comme il faut, due to a natural event. A rather large solar flare on a previous day gave rise to a fantastic aurora on the evening of August 27th. For those who haven't seen one, an aurora is of such awesome grandeur and beauty that I find it impossible to do it justice. I refer the reader to the lesser-known tone poems of Sibelius. The aurora covered the whole sky. Fast-moving waves moved from the horizon up to the zenith, illuminating cloud-like structures that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Occasionally we would see bright slashes of light that would remain for several minutes. The aurora lasted the whole night. During peak moments, all but the brightest stars were hidden from us.
There was a smallish group of us out watching it, and by the end of
the night we knew each other quite well - better, perhaps, than we
wanted to. There was quite a heavy dew that night, which had
far-reaching consequences for those of us whose immune systems were
not up to snuff: poor Tracy lost her voice. Fortunately, her very
good friends supported her by refusing to speak in an elevated voice
when in her presence. What are friends for, eh?
John Percy, Allen Attard, Charles Kerton, and OISE/UT graduate
student Mindy Kalchman have received a grant from the Academic
Skills Centre at Erindale, to study the conceptual skills deficiencies
of students going into the introductory astronomy courses - with the
eventual hope, of course, of finding ways to help the students learn
John, Mindy, and OISE/UT Professor Earl Woodruff have received a grant
from the Ministry of Education, through OISE/UT, to study science
misconceptions ("alternative conceptions" is the politically-correct
term) among pre-service elementary school teachers. These are the
people who will be teaching science courses such as the newly-approved
grade 6 unit in astronomy. Many of them have had little or no science
background, and they may hold deep-seated misconceptions about topics
in astronomy and other physical science. [Reminds one of the cruel
old saying: "If you can't do - teach. If you can't teach - teach teachers.
If you can't teach teachers - do educational research." - JRP]
The Department of Astronomy now has a bi-weekly Education Discussion
Group, which alternates with the well-established Stellar Discussion
Group on Wednesdays at noon. All faculty, staff, graduate and
undergraduate students are encouraged to attend and participate.
John Percy and geologist Dan Schulze are team-teaching JAE237H (The Solar
System). This popular course - previously taught in the Department of
Geology - had been abandoned due to lack of resources. John and Dan are
attempting to preserve it.
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Royal Astronomical Society
of Canada, and the American Association of Variable Star Observers, are
meeting jointly in Toronto, Julyy 1-7, 1999. The meeting will include
a wide variety of sessions for professional and amateur astronomers,
teachers at every level, historians of astronomy, students, and the
general public. Everyone in the Department is invited (encouraged!) to
attend and participate.
Jozsef Vinko, JATE University, Szeged, Hungary, made his now-annual
observing trip to DDO, bringing along one of his graduate students.
Jozsef spent a month here, several years ago, finishing up his PhD
project. He has made several visits since, using the 1.88m telescope
for spectroscopic studies of close binaries, and of Cepheids and related
stars. This year, almost all of his nights were clear, so we can
expect him to be back ....
It has been a little more than a year since David and I left Toronto for, to use the old cliché, sunny California. We rented a truck for all our stuff, pulled David's car on a trailer behind it and drove like this across the States, stopping for two days in Indiana, at his mother's. The entire trip took six days and it was a lot of fun. I have seen more of America in the last 12 months than I saw of Canada in the nine years I lived there. But more on that later. The last stop we made before getting to California was Las Vegas. I must say that my first impression of the city was not too great. We got there on a Tuesday afternoon when the thermometer was reading 113 F and I was wearing a long, black cotton dress! I was extremely thirsty - we had run out of water a few hours earlier - and we spent half an hour just walking about trying to find a water fountain. We could not find one, but I thought it a little ironic that most hotels and restaurants we passed by in the Downtown area were spraying a fine mist to cool off everybody around them, yet there were no water fountains for thirsty travelers like myself to be found. Eventually, exhausted from the heat and quite annoyed at the entire city, we walked into a pizza place and ordered a glass of water. The people working there gave us strange looks and probably thought we were some poor tourists who could only afford water, but I finally had water and did not care. After that we got a very nice room at the Golden Nugget - which has become our favorite place to stay when we go to Las Vegas - stayed in the room for a while with the air conditioning at full blast and dared to go out again only when the sun was starting to go down. We walked around, watched a show of lights and drove along the strip. It was quite a shock to me to see all the hotels fully illuminated by their lights and all I could think of was "My God, what a waste of electricity!" But after coming back three more times in the last 5 months I guess I find it rather amusing now.
California is everything people told me about - the sun, the smog and the mad drivers - and more. I love the architecture of Pasadena, especially the old part of town, appropriately called Old Pasadena. Restaurants abound and during the weekends that area transforms itself into a tourist attraction. Apparently, people from Los Angeles drive up to dine at the most popular restaurants. The weather, needless to say, is great the entire year, though I find the sun extremely intense in the summer and can't quite get used to the temperatures going above 35 C and staying like that several weeks in a row. Winter, which to me is more like fall, is very mild. It rains a lot and last year it never went below 10 C. I think that is pretty typical, though last year we got a lot of rain because of El Niño. The streets are not built to drain very well and I was quite amused to see them become more like rivers everytime it rained. And most of the time it did, it poured for a couple of hours. As for the drivers, we had our first encounter with a maniac just a few days after we had got our house. We wanted to go check out the beaches and were almost run over by some guy. I almost fell to pieces, but David, who was driving at the time, handled it very well. It is amazing to watch the change in people once they get behind the wheel. It's like a demon takes over them and calm and reason go out the window.
David and I rented a little old house a couple of days after we got to Pasadena. It's within 10 minutes walk from both our offices and I am really happy that we can come home for lunch everyday. After years of spending three hours a day on the bus between my house and the university, this is a really nice change. The only good thing about ``busing'' was my lunches my mother used to make for me. As everybody warned me, I do miss them now, but I am learning to duplicate some of them. Slowly.
David started work at the beginning of September as a postdoc at Caltech, working with Nick Scoville. I stayed home and unpacked all our stuff and, since I did not get a job until a couple of months later, I got really bored of watching tv most of the day and sweated a few pounds off. I put them back on as soon as fall arrived. In November I was hired as a research assistant at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (or IPAC) working with Dr. Barry Madore. We are building an on-line database of Annual Reviews articles, as well as articles published in other astronomical magazines. I enjoy the work tremendously and Barry is a very nice boss. We recently went on line. Please check our web site at http://crystal.ipac.caltech.edu:8001/applications/level5.
All has not been work, though. We have traveled a lot in the past year. As I mentioned earlier, we went to Las Vegas three more times - once when friends of mine from North Carolina visited, then when David's stepbrother got married (no, not in one of those drive-by chapels, which I was shocked to find are quite common there, but at a nice hotel) and last, on our way to Aspen, where we stayed two weeks. David attended a conference there. We also spent a night camping at the top of the Grand Canyon last March. With snow on the ground, temperatures around 0 C at night, coyotes howling in the distance and sleeping bags not quite warm enough, it was really an adventure. But the reward we had after a sleepless night was that we got up early the next day and watched the sunrise as we were hiking down in the Canyon. At the end of the day we decided it was best to sleep in a hotel. During the same trip we went to the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forrest, the Meteor Crater and Zion National Park. Beautiful places, all of them. In June we had our wedding ceremony in Indiana and I had a chance to spend some time with my parents and my brother, none of whom I had seen since last year. That was a lot of fun. Then David and I went on our honeymoon in Hawaii and it was wonderful. I wish we could have stayed there longer than a week. Recently, for Labor Day weekend, we went hiking in the Sequoia National Park.
It has been a very busy but also fun year and I have done more traveling than at any other time in my life. We will be celebrating our first aniversary in less than three weeks and I know it has been said the first year of marriage is the hardest and it's only downhill from there, but for us it hardly seems like we are married. So we are looking forward to the rest of our lives together.
All the best from Pasadena,