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Diary Of An Exhausted Scientist

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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I swore I’d never do this, indeed, I’m on record in these very pages as having disparaged the kind of thing I’m about to do.

Oh well. All I can say is that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. Which will be a good thing, because a huge number of interesting and intriguing discoveries and stories have emerged over the past couple weeks. From stronger support for the observation of ancient stream beds on Mars, to a remarkable opportunity for planets around Proxima Centauri, to 3 billion year old plankton, to evidence that hot Jupiters may not get consumed by their parent stars as often as we thought.

My excuse for not doing better (‘sorry, but a giraffe ate my homework, again’) is that I’ve had a rather packed schedule. It started about ten days ago when John Matson of Scientific American and I had a lot of fun talking to the Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public radio about cosmic origins and the meaning of it all. You can listen to this lengthy interview here. You can even see us doing it panorama-style in Washington Square Park, New York.

Then this happened while I was helping coach my daughter’s soccer team on a Sunday afternoon:

These amazing kids knew what they were talking about, informed, insightful. Perhaps there is hope for the species after all?

Somewhere along the line I also popped into Scientific American to record some answers to viewers questions for the Sci Am SpaceLab channel on YouTube . The topics ranged from gamma rays and black holes to cosmic expansion and gravitational collapse of rotating structures…you can judge for yourselves:

The MPA in Germany

I then had to stagger (nursing a head cold from one of those evolutionary marvels we call a virus) onto a plane to fly eastwards to the lovely city of Munich and the out-burb of Garching, home to many scientific and technological wonders, including the Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik (“MPA”), where I gave a joint colloquium with the European Southern Observatories on “Epic Astrobiology”.

It was fun, except I had to fly back less than 48 hours later. Still, wandering around the Bavarian countryside was exceedingly nice, where one bumps into some intriguing things among the wheat fields:

As if from the future, a quantum optics center rises from the leafy surroundings in Garching...(C. Scharf)

The home of the European Southern Observatories - the UN of astronomy? (C. Scharf)













If you want to actually watch my talk, it was recorded by the good people at ESO and you can find it on their June talk web-page – down at the bottom here.

Epic Astrobiology, a talk at MPA/ESO June 6th 2013

A sum total of two days on the ground in Germany and it was back on a plane to land in NYC just as tropical Storm Andrea was in full swing.

My crowning achievement of it all? I’d like to say it was scientific exchange – which was indeed most excellent – but the best thing of all was discovering a new potential cure for jetlag.

Captured June 5th, what the doctor ordered for cosmic angst and fatigue (C. Scharf)

And that was my week.

Caleb A. Scharf About the Author: Caleb Scharf is the director of Columbia University's multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science. His books include Gravity's Engines (2012) and The Copernicus Complex (2014) (both from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) Follow on Twitter @caleb_scharf.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Sherry Reson 5:58 pm 06/12/2013

    Making me all the more grateful that you accepted Jennifer Ouellette’s invitation to talk with her for an hour today on Virtually Speaking Science at 8pm ET. The link is persistent so the podcast will be available afterwards, too.

    Link to this

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