Tag Archive for 'school'

Grant wins!

Very fun event where UK school kids get to quiz scientists in real time. Crazy two weeks of intense chats!

Thesis submission

Though I printed it a while ago, my PhD thesis was submitted yesterday. Thanks for three years of tax-free employment Australia!


Hot Super-Earths: accepted!

We have received the excellent news that my third paper has been accepted to ApJ. The paper is about possible mechanisms by which Earth-Neptune (low-)mass planets can reach very close orbits. Using standard models we find trends that might be found by future discoveries, and think about what we can learn from them.

Discovery of low-mass planets (which don’t have large Juipter-like atmospheres) will be particularly interesting, because they may be habitable due to (maybe) having solid surfaces. Unfortunately planets are much easier to find when they’re orbiting very close to their parent stars, and too hot to be habitable. Therefore, if they exist, the first decent sample of low mass planets will be discovered in short-period, close-in orbits.

It’s unlikely that planets in these orbits would form there, because it’s hard to form anything at all close to the star. Therefore, from a formation point of view, there are two main ways these planets
could get to close-in orbits after forming further out: by scattering off other planets, or by migrating through the disk out of which they form. In our paper, we show that planets that scatter will be hard to detect, and that migration is a better mechanism.

At present, very little is known about migration of planets in the “super-Earth” mass range, so discovery of these planets should tell us something about how migration works. Alternatively, we might not find any low-mass planets in short-period orbits, which would tell us that migration doesn’t work how current wisdom says. So either way we learn something!

The paper is posted on astro-ph for now, until the journal publishes it.

Third paper resubmitted

Thanks to a nice referees report, and some simulations finally finishing, I submitted a revised version of our “Hot super-Earths” paper this morning. Hopefully all will be well and that will be number three!


A typical day at the CfA…

So I imagine people wondering, what is a typical day at Harvard-CfA like for Grant? Here is my ‘typical’ day…

So after wandering down to school through a crisp morning with patches of snow, I find there are some people I know passing through. I go and meet Anna who lives in Texas, and also see Martin and Ken from Australia. I then go to a talk by a guy from Caltech who does cool theoretical planet work, and later to a talk by another guy who does cool observational planet work. Finally I go out to dinner with more people who do things I’m interested in. And the best thing: dinner was free, thanks ITC!

Meeting three or four people in a day who do research directly related to what I do is very cool, and hasn’t even come close to happening in two years in Australia.

Of course some days I just sit at my desk at play with my computer…

Snow and cricket

Today it snowed. A lot. In fact it’s still snowing outside right now. There is a nice little snow bank building up next to the fence and there’s a weird light outside as if the sun didn’t quite go all the way down.

I left school a bit after 2pm and watched the second innings of NZ vs. England live from the Caribbean in a reasonably warm bar with cold beer. I can now say I’ve trekked through snow to watch cricket…

halv + snow

This is Halvar outside after the game. He’s doing thumbs up because we beat the poms.


It was really cold today, like -10degC. How does it get that cold? I survived the 25 minute walk to school ok, though I was glad to be in the warm when I arrived…

I’m getting settled in somewhat, at school anyway now that I’ve almost run out of procrastination type things to stop me from doing some science for a change.

back to the drawing board

This is the coolest whiteboard ever! The guy doesn’t seem all that excited about it unfortunately.

If you remember spending hours playing that old school game The Incredible Machine then you’ll love this…

and Trevor Mallard

Is doing a PhD really that bad?

I can’t help but wonder whether all the worry about doing a PhD (like this, and this for example) is self perpetuating. Everyone thinks it’s going to be a killer from day one, and reads comics that promote this, rather than ones that are just naturally awesome

I don’t have to sit at my computer all the time (though I do sometimes).
I get paid plenty.
My supervisor is really nice.
I like what I’m doing.
Everyone at my school is nice too.
I have time to go to the beach in summer.
I also have time to do silly things.

What is everyone so worried about? So far it’s been a fun time where I get paid to learn stuff, I even have a few bucks left over to buy iPod, digital SLR, cellphone, car, holidays, bling etc…

dodgeball champions!

Having played a paltry 5 or so games of dodgeball to date, someone appears to have felt sorry for us and gave us a ‘consolation grand final’ to play yesterday.

We certainly rose to the occasion, though got off to a bit of a slow start. By the final quarter we had the game wrapped up with three consecutive ‘sixes’ and a finale score of 25-9.

Our prize was a jug of ‘something’, though we presumed this excluded the top shelf. In light of the night before this was probably a good thing anyway. We got it filled with coke…

We also got real prizes. We are now the proud owners of a Hahn beer glass (which came with a free refill…) and a school bag.