19
Aug 2011

Belated Countdown…

POSTED BY: S. DOMAGAL-GOLDMAN
 

I didn’t get to the countdown yesterday, as I fell asleep reading grant proposals. Something tells me that might happen again in the near future. So if I miss a night, that’s why. Anyways, on to yesterday’s countdown…

3… I don’t think many people in the public sphere are aware of the personal sacrifices made by those pursuing an academic career. And I don’t think scientists talk about these things enough amongst ourselves. Well, there was an interesting article published in PLOS One, with the provocative title “Scientists Want More Children.” Lots of fantastic data contained therein, all leading to the following punchline:

Female scientists at top universities not only have fewer children than their male colleagues but also are more likely to say that, due to the science career, they have fewer children than they want. Yet having fewer children than desired has a greater impact on men’s life satisfaction—an important finding given that the relationship between pursuing a science career and men’s family life is discussed little in the literature on gender and science. We also find that one in four graduate students and one in five postdoctoral fellows is considering a career outside science altogether. And those who say that the science career means they have fewer children than they want are more likely to desire a career outside science.

What a wonderful study, looking at an important problem and uncovering what I would consider to be both expected and unanticipated trends. Kudos to the authors…

2… Ruh roh. It looks like the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule are running significantly over budget. I certainly hope that if this is true, the program survives. Beyond being the muscle for NASA’s plans for human spaceflight beyond lower Earth orbit, SLS would be able to deliver much larger, more massive science payloads to space than we currently can. For example, if Wikipedia’s SLS page is accurate, the rocket will have an 8.4m faring. This means that, amongst other things, this rocket could lift a single-segment 8m diameter mirror, compared to the current max of ~4m. In other words, if would have the capability to lift an incredibly more capable TPF-type telescope into orbit… in yet other words, scientists should be pulling for SLS. Hopefully it survives the budget crunch in DC and any cost overruns it encounters…

1… I think I missed this when it originally came out, but Science recently published a paper by Shirley and Richardson that provides evidence for the onset of the Wilson cycle and plate tectonics 3 billion years ago. Beyond being fascinating in its own right, this has implications for nutrient cycling, the temperature history of the Earth, and the environment on Earth as life arose from non-life and evolved new metabolisms, including the ability to produce the oxygen you are breathing as you read this (unless you’re a spambot)…

LAUNCH!!!! (Godspeed, Juno.)

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