Well, it’s my turn to pick my favourite science news this week on Australian Science. And I must apologise for being slightly late with this. The reason is that I’ve only just got home to Tokyo after spending all week in Taipei for a conference on interstellar dust! As with any good conference, it’s been fun and fascinating but also rather tiring. If anyone’s curious to know more about what went on, the twitter hashtag #lcod2013 is where myself and others were giving internet commentary over the past week.
Also, between talks, twitter is where I heard most of this week’s worldwide science happenings. So here are a few of the things which caught my eye…
Firstly, Katie Mack (a long term inspiration to me) wrote an article for The Research Whisperer on the perils of the academic lifestyle and being a science nomad – and how that affects your personal life. Being still very recently relocated to Japan myself, this strikes something of a chord with me. It’s worth reading for anyone considering a science career themselves. while I personally rather enjoy the nomadic nature of this job, it’s certainly not for everyone. And I have yet to see how I feel about it a couple more years down the line…
As for me, I confess I haven’t figured it out. I have two years left on my contract in Australia and no idea whatsoever which country I’ll end up in next. I’m applying broadly, and there’s no guarantee I’ll have a choice about location if I want to stay on the path toward becoming tenure-track faculty at a major research institution. When it’s not unusual for a single postdoc job to have 300 applicants, and faculty jobs are even more selective, getting even one offer is considered a huge win.
Moving on to life of a different kind, a brand new species has been discovered in the waters off the coast of California. And anyone who’s been reading my articles awhile will know how exciting I find the discovery of new species! This time around, it’s a somewhat scary looking new species of crustacean. Don’t worry though. It only eats copepods.
The frail crustacean, which is only a few millimeters in length, was discovered by scientists from the University of Seville in Spain and the Museum of Natural History in Canada, who had published a taxonomic description of the new species in the journal Zootaxa.
Meanwhile in space… When people talk of space stations and lasers, a lot of us will immediately think of Star Wars. Or whatever other sci fi we might prefer. However, up in orbit around Earth, our own space station is preparing to use lasers for a rather less destructive purpose – to transmit video back to use down here on the ground.
“Optical communications (also referred to as ‘lasercomm’) is an emerging technology wherein data is modulated onto laser beams, which offers the promise of much higher data rates than what is achievable with radio-frequency (RF) transmissions.”
Slightly further afield, one thing I love about astronomy is that we’re constantly discovering new things. Even in our own astronomical back yard. Relevant to my interests this week, a previously unnoticed ring of space dust has been found right here in our solar system!
“The lifetime of dust trapped in the ring is only about 100,000 years, so it does not provide much of a clue to the formation of the solar system,” Jones said. “However, the ring is very important in understanding what happens to interplanetary dust, which we know from other studies is formed from asteroid collisions and cometary dust.”
And finally, Comet ISON! Have you managed to see it yet? Astrophotographer Mike Hankey has, and he’s managed to capture some stunning photographs of it! See for yourself!
Anyway, with that I’m afraid I’m quite exhausted, so it is now my intention to eat sushi, drink tea, and get an early night for a change. Shine on, you crazy diamonds!