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elizabeth has too much free time

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The Problem of Exascale Computing

Computational physicists are already looking to the next milestone on the horizon: exascale computing, or supercomputers whose performance peaks in the exaflop range. But we need to get a lot better at parallelization before we can successfully compute at the exascale level.

The Sequester and the Research Scientist

The federal budget sequester is symptomatic of a larger dysfunction.

2012: My Favorite Doomsday Scenarios

Let’s be serious for a moment: nothing dire is going to happen on December 21st. Rest easy. But in celebration I’ve decided to count down my top five favorite astronomical doomsday scenarios, ordered from most to least plausible.

Punch-Clock Astronomy

The astronomical community is all a-flutter over a letter scolding the grad population of a major research university’s astronomy department for not being quite up to scratch, guilty of sins as grave as leaving the office on weekends.

Stuff Hitting Jupiter: A Retrospective

Fact: Jupiter is the best planet. What’s not to like? Big, beautifully stripey, four exciting moons, hurricane three times the size of the Earth, lots of fascinating hydrodynamics…I could go on. But Jupiter isn’t just awesome on its own. It was also the site of the first observed extraterrestrial impact event, and is routinely struck […]

In Search of the Ring of Fire: A Modern-Day Eclipse Expedition

It would require my weekend. It would require seven hours of driving each way and at least two tanks of gas. It would probably require – ugh – camping. But I could finally see a solar eclipse.

6 Real Planets That Put Science Fiction (And Cracked) To Shame

I like Cracked. You probably do too. But like that old adage that every newspaper story is true except for the ones for which you happen to have firsthand knowledge, I found their recent article on 6 Real Planets That Put Science Fiction To Shame to be . . . lacking. Not lacking in funny, or facts, but lacking in my favorite planets, and some of the weirdest specimens the universe has yet to offer up. So, without further ado, here are 6 more real planets (plus a bonus) that any sci-fi editor would have rejected as “too out there” just a few decades ago.

Top 5 Last-Minute Astronomy-Themed Halloween Costumes

Oh crap! It’s Halloween night and you don’t have a costume, because you’ve been inside doing astronomy all week! What should you do!? Never fear: Astrobites has got your back.

Zeno’s Paper, Or, The Paralysis of Analysis

You have likely experienced analysis paralysis, though just as likely you have not heard it called by that name. It can be as simple as trying to buy laundry detergent at the supermarket or as complex as trying to publish a key piece of research. And it all stems from the basic fact that the human brain is bad at graph traversal.

There's another cover that has this cool eye-like design and looks like a dossier of some kind, but I figured that might be overdoing it.

Target-Centric Astronomy

Astronomy has a kindred cousin, a cool one who wears his sunglasses at night: intelligence analysis. I don’t just mean reconnaissance satellites, either; the process of astronomy, that of observing and drawing conclusions, is possibly the most similar of all the sciences to the process of intelligence gathering. Both fields deal with low signal-to-noise regimes that are based primarily on observation rather than experimentation. Both fields must continually account for errors and biases that could easily lead to false or falsely credited conclusions. And thus it behooves us as astronomers to learn from our cousins on the other side of the fence, who may not have been in the business quite as long or have quite as much ground to cover, but who certainly have a lot more pressure to produce results. That’s why today I’m going to be talking about Robert M. Clark’s key textbook Intelligence Analysis: A Target-Centric Approach, and what lessons it holds for you as a professional scientist.

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