Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Conference Calls and a Poster

Conference Calls

When you work with scientists from around the world, you end up on a lot of phone meetings.  Today (and every Wednesday) I had two. 

The first one was the "Burst" data analysis call and I drew the short straw and got to take the minutes of the meeting.  I am not someone who is good with names (I once had a class of 4 students and I messed their names up all that time - I knew each person well, I just forgot their label); now imagine that you only have a voice to go on.  This is not my strong point but it wasn't too bad today.  We discussed what needs to be done now that our latest science data run is over to complete our analysis looking for gravitational waves.

The second call was with people I collaborate with at Penn State to keep the MATLAB library of software that has been written for various LIGO purposes available and up to date.  That doesn't mean that we write it all (I have only written some of it), but we work with the program authors to make sure that their work makes gets into the hands of the other scientists to use.  Right now we are working on taking some of the programs that have been written to perform utility functions (like checking to see if a time is in daylight savings or doing calculations on where a star was at any given time) and pulling them together into a general toolbox.  Creating a toolbox like this will help keep duplication of effort to a minimum (that is, to keep people from repeatedly reinventing the wheel) and help insure that users are getting the correct values from these basic utilities.  We are right in the middle of going through this pool of computer programs to make sure that they are documented well and up to date.


Last year, I had the honor and privilege of working with the APS to create a poster on gravitational waves.  It was a wonderful experience getting to be someone who communicated the science of LIGO to the public and I learned much from the APS editors on how to express concepts in more understandable ways.  I wrote way too much content for the poster with the idea that it is better to have too much and cut it down, than to not have enough and have to create more content later.  The side benefit to this is the full version of the text that I wrote was then adapted for the science pages on the site!

The poster as premiered by the APS at the joint APS/AAPT Meeting in Washington, DC this past February.  LIGO also arranged to have the posters included with the November issue of the AAPT magazine "The Physics Teacher" and to have the posters mailed to every physics department in the US.  I was thrilled!  So, now I am starting to spot the poster in the wild.

A few days ago, a friends of mine who is now at the Coastal Carolina University sent me a picture of it hanging outside his office:

I also just got my November issue of "The Physics Teacher" and it was so cool to get a copy of the poster in my mail box!

If you would like to get a FREE copy, you can request it (or another great poster on the top 10 reasons to study physics) from the APS here.

Sorry for getting so giddy about this!  This is just one of those things that make your day and remind you why you get out of bed in the morning.  :)