Monday, November 26, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 26 November 2007

Since Thanksgiving was last week, it was a relatively slow week in the AGU publications department. Just two papers of interest this week.

Glassmeier, K.-H., H.-U. Auster, and U. Motschmann (2007), A feedback dynamo generating Mercury's magnetic field, GRL 34, L22201.

Podesta, J. J. (2007), Self-similar scaling of kinetic energy density in the inertial range of solar wind turbulence, JGR 112. A11104.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Congratulations, Dr. Brian May

Brian May, who took 35 years off during grad school as a rock star, has been named chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.

(via Annals of Improbable Research)

First snow

It's snowing this morning. NWS forecasts 1-3 inches accumulation with possible sleet and freezing rain mixed in.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 19 November 2007

Just two papers last week:

Kataoka, R., N. Nishitani, Y. Ebihara, K. Hosokawa, T. Ogawa, T. Kikuchi, and Y. Miyoshi (2007), Dynamic variations of a convection flow reversal in the subauroral postmidnight sector as seen by the SuperDARN Hokkaido HF radar, GRL 34, L21105.

Russell, A. T., J.-P. St.-Maurice, R. J. Sica, and J.-M. Noël (2007), Composition changes during disturbed conditions: Are mass spectrometers overestimating the concentrations of atomic oxygen?, GRL 34, L21106.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 12 November 2007

It's been a while since my last trip, so the pile of papers to be read is growing. Here's the latest batch:

Winglee, R. M., and E. M. Harnett (2007), Radiation mitigation at the Moon by the terrestrial magnetosphere, GRL 34, L21103.

Bertucci, C., F. M. Neubauer, K. Szego, J.-E. Wahlund, A. J. Coates, M. K. Dougherty, D. T. Young, and W. S. Kurth (2007), Structure of Titan's mid-range magnetic tail: Cassini magnetometer observations during the T9 flyby, GRL 34, L24S02.

Szego, K., Z. Bebesi, C. Bertucci, A. J. Coates, F. J. Crary, G. Erdos, R. Hartle, E. C. Sittler, and D. T. Young (2007), Charged particle environment of Titan during the T9 flyby, GRL 34, L24S03.

Fuselier, S. A., S. M. Petrinec, K. J. Trattner, M. Fujimoto, and H. Hasegawa (2007), Simultaneous observations of fluctuating cusp aurora and low-latitude magnetopause reconnection, JGR 112, A11207.


The people who are scanning the skies for asteroids with the potential for colliding with Earth found an object 2007VN84, which they found would approach within 12,000 km of the Earth's center. Naturally, they put out an alert.

The object in question turns out to be man-made. It's the Rosetta spacecraft, swinging by Earth en route to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Belatedly, somebody thought to check the orbital elements against the Satellite Situation Center. The Minor Planet Electronic Circular blames the mixup on the lack of a comprehensive publicly available database of man-made objects in space.

(h/t Steinn Sigurdsson)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Define the Universe. Give 10500 examples

I've just finished Lee Smolin's book The Trouble with Physics. The book covers the recent (1980-2005) history of theoretical physics, with emphasis on string theory, and discusses some of the reasons for the lack of progress in fundamental physics during that period.

The problem is not thatthere have been no advances, per se. The problem is that there has been a disconnect between theory and experiment. String theory has been the dominant approach since the mid 1980s, but during that time it has never made a prediction that was both new and testable. The currently fashionable explanation for why string theory does not make testable predictions is that our universe is just one possible universe in a landscape of 10500 universes. That's a very big number: consider that the observable universe has "only" ~1080 protons. If we were to envision each proton as a mini-universe containing that many mini-protons, and repeat this construction for six iterations, we would still be short by a factor of 100 quintillion of the number of possible universes in the landscape.

This is science?! It sounds at least as much like a sick and twisted version of the infamous apocryphal final exam question, "Define the Universe. Give three examples."

The problems Smolin identifies are not unique to physics. As he correctly notes, the peer review system is well equipped for making incremental advances in science, but it is designed in such a way that its mistakes will be conservative mistakes. The next Einstein is unlikely to hold a tenure track faculty position at the time he makes his key advances in fundamental theory. For that matter, the real Einstein did not, either: he was a patent clerk in Switzerland in 1905, when he published the three papers that shook the foundations of physics.

My own field of space physics has long been suffering from a disconnect between theory and experiment. But at least there are doable experiments that can falsify some of the theories, and one of the leading drivers of mission selection is the need to address the predictions of theorists.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tap tap tap

Is this thing on?

I got two cites from a recent review paper (added to the pile):

Moore, T. E., and J. L. Horwitz (2007), Stellar ablation of planetary atmospheres, Rev. Geophys. 45, 3002.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 17 September 2007

Papers of interest in AGU journals last week:

Chapman, S. C., and B. Hnat (2007), Quantifying scaling in the velocity field of the anisotropic turbulent solar wind, GRL 34, L17103.

Eastwood, J. P., S. D. Bale, F. S. Mozer, and A. J. Hull (2007), Contributions to the cross shock electric field at a quasiperpendicular collisionless shock, GRL 34, L17104.

Zong, Q.-G., X.-Z. Zhou, X. Li, P. Song, S. Y. Fu, D. N. Baker, Z. Y. Pu, T. A. Fritz, P. Daly, A. Balogh, and H. Réme (2007), Correction to "Ultralow frequency modulation of energetic particles in the dayside magnetosphere," GRL 34, L17106. The original reference is GRL 34, L12105, 2007.

Horne, R. B., R. M. Thorne, S. A. Glauert, N. P. Meredith, D. Pokhotelov, and O. Santolík (2007), Electron acceleration in the Van Allen radiation belts by fast magnetosonic waves, GRL 34, L17107.

Mende, S. B., V. Angelopoulos, H. U. Frey, S. Harris, E. Donovan, B. Jackel, M. Syrjaesuo, C. T. Russell, and I. Mann (2007), Determination of substorm onset timing and location using the THEMIS ground based observatories, GRL 34, L17108.

Cully, C. M., R. E. Ergun, and A. I. Eriksson (2007), Electrostatic structure around spacecraft in tenuous plasmas, JGR 112, A09211.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 10 September 2007

Papers of interest in AGU journals last week:

Sandel, B. R. and M. H. Denton (2007), Global view of refilling the plasmasphere, GRL 34, L17102.

Brain, D. A., R. J. Lillis, D. L. Mitchell, J. S. Halekas, and R. P. Lin (2007), Electron pitch angle distriburions as indicators of magnetic field topology near Mars, JGR 112, A09201.

Newell, P. T., S. Wing, and F. J. Rich (2007), Cusp for high and low merging rates, JGR 112, A09205.

Liang, J., and W. W. Liu (2007), A MHD mechanism for the generation of the meridional current system dirung substorm expansion phase, JGR 112, A09208.

Seyler, C. E., and K. Liu (2007), Particle energization by oblique inertial Alfvén waves in the auroral region, JGR 112, A09302.

Lessard, M. R., W. Lotko, J. LaBelle, W. Peria, C. W. Carlson, F. Creutzberg, and D. D. Wallis (2007), Ground and satellite observations of the evolution of growth phase auroral arcs, JGR 112, A09304.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Alfvén waves in the solar corona

The current issue of Science (I read the dead tree version) has an article reporting observations of Alfvén waves in the solar corona. The abstract:
Alfvén waves, transverse incompressible magnetic oscillations, have been proposed as a possible mechanism to heat the Sun's corona to millions of degrees by transporting convective energy from the photosphere into the diffuse corona. We report the detection of Alfvén waves in intensity, line-of-sight velocity, and linear polarization images of the solar corona taken using the FeXIII 1074.7-nanometer coronal emission line with the Coronal Multi-Channel Polarimeter (CoMP) instrument at the National Solar Observatory, New Mexico. Ubiquitous upward propagating waves were seen, with phase speeeds of 1 to 4 megameters per second and trajectories consistent with the direction of the magnetic field inferred from the linear polarization measurements. An estimate of the energy carried by the waves that we spatially resolved indicates that they are too weak to heat the solar corona; however, unresolved Alfvén waves may carry sufficient energy.

The reference is S. Tomczyk et al. (2007), Science 317, 1192.

There is substantial in situ evidence, of which Tomczyk et al. appear to be unaware (their paper does not cite any of the magnetospheric literature), that Alfvén waves contribute to heating of ionospheric plasma in the auroral acceleration region (see, e.g., G. Paschmann et al. (2002), Space Science Reviews 103, 1.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 3 September 2007

Papers of interest in AGU journals in the last week:

Vedin, J., K. Rönnmark, C. Bunescu, and O. Marghitu (2007), Estimating properties of concentrated parallel electric fields from electron velocity distributions, GRL 34, L16107.

Malova, H. V., L. M> Zelenyi, V. Y. Popov, D. C. Delcourt, A. A. Petrukovich, and A. V. Runov (2007), Asymmetric thin current sheets in the Earth's magnetotail, GRL 34, L16108.

Saito, S. and T. Maruyama (2007), Large-scale longitudinal variation in ionospheric height and equatorial spread F occurrences observded by ionosondes, GRL 34, L16109.

Wing, S., J. W. Gjerloev, J. R. Johnson, and R. A. Hoffman (2007), Substorm plasma sheet ion pressure profiles, GRL 34, L16110.

Katoh, Y., and Y. Omura (2007), Correction to "Relativistic particle acceleration in the process of whistler-mode chorus wave generation", GRL 34, L17101. The original reference is GRL 34, L13102.

Heelis, R. A., and W. R. Coley (2007), Variations in the low- and mid-latitude topside ion concentration observed by DMSP during superstorm events, JGR 112, A08310.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 27 August 2007

A slowdown due to summer vacations? Only one GRL in the last week, and three JGRs in the last two weeks.

Kuritsyn, A., H. Ji, S. P. Gerhardt, Y. Ren, and M. Yamada (2007), Effects of global boundary and local collisionality on magnetic reconnection in a laboratory plasma, GRL 34, L16106.

Hollweg, J. V., and P. A. Isenberg (2007), Reflection of Alfvén waves in the corona and solar wind: An impulse function approach, JGR 112, A08102.

Gosling, J. T., S. Eriksson, D. J. McComas, T. D. Phan, and R. M. Skoug (2007), Multiple magnetic reconnection sites associated with a coronal mass ejection in the solar wind, JGR 112, A08106.

Frederick-Frost, K. M., K. A. Lynch, P. M. Kintner, E. Klatt, D. Lorentzen, J. Moen, Y. Ogawa, and M. Widholm (2007), SERSIO: Swalbard EISCAT rocket study of ion outflows, JGR 112, A08307.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Off to Berkeley

I'm headed to a science working team meeting at UC Berkeley for the FAST satellite, and I'll be gone the rest of the week.

Additions to the pile: Week of 20 August 2007

AGU's website was getting hammered yesterday, so I only checked GRL.

Bortnik, J., R. M. Thorne, N. P. Meredith, and O. Santolik (2007), Ray tracing of penetrating chorus and its implications for the radiation belts, GRL 34, L15109.

Gosling, J. T., T. D. Phan, R. P. Lin, and A. Szabo (2007), Prevalence of magnetic reconnection at small field shear angles in the solar wind, GRL 34, L15110.

Vennerstrom, S., F. Christiansen, N. Olsen, and T. Moretto (2007), On the cause of IMF By related mid- and low latitude magnetic disturbances, GRL 34, L16101.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I do not think that word means what you think it means

As reported in the Financial Times:
"We were seeing things that were 25-standard deviation moves, several days in a row,” said David Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer.

By Chebyshev's inequality, no matter what the probability distribution, the fraction of points which lie within k standard deviations of the mean must be at least (1 - 1/k2). For a normal (Gaussian) distribution, the probability of a 25 standard deviation outlier is much less, so much so as to be negligible. But even for the less stringent bound, the probability of being 25 or more standard deviations from the mean is at most 1/625, or 0.0016. To do that for three days in a row is at most (1/625)3 = 1/244140625 = 4.096 * 10-9.

Put another way: There are about 250 trading days in a year (weekdays, excluding holidays). Even at the Chebyshev limit, it would take an expected million years or so to get three straight days of 25 standard deviation outliers. And Viniar's comment does not rule out a longer run of outliers.

Either these guys have botched the calculation, or they do not understand what standard deviation actually means.

(h/t Brad DeLong)

Monday, August 13, 2007

R.I.P. R. A. Alpher

Ralph A. Alpher, the last surviving author of the paper by Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow, has passed away.

(h/t Uncertain Principles)

Additions to the pile: Weeks of 6 August and 13 August 2007

Articles of interest in the last two weeks:

Sitnov, M. I., P. N. Guzdar, and M. Swisdak (2007), Atypical durrent sheets and plasma bubbles: A self-consistent kinetic model, GRL 34, L15101.

Trávníček, P., P. Hellinger, M. G. G. T. Taylor, C. P. Escoubet, I. Dandouras, and E. Lucek (2007), Magnetosheath plasma expansion: Hybrid simulations, GRL 34, L15104.

Hubert, B., K. Kauristie, O. Amm, S. E. Milan, A. Grocott, S. W. H. Cowley, and T. I. Pulkkinen (2007), Auroral streamers and magnetic flux closure, GRL 34, L15105.

Bahcivan, H. (2007), Plasma wave heating during extreme electric fields in the high latitude E region, GRL 34, L15106.

Watanabe, M., A. Kadokura, N. Sato, and T. Saemundsson (2007), Absence of geomagnetic conjugacy in pulsating auroras, GRL 34, L15107. At 7 pages, longer than some JGR papers.

Villante, U., P. Francia, M. Vellante, P. Di Giuseppe, A. Nubile, and M. Piersanti (2007), Correction to "Long-period oscillations at discrete frequencies: A comparative analysis of ground, magnetospheric , and interplanetary observations," JGR 112, A08202. The original paper is JGR 112, A04210.

Fairfield, D. H., M. M. Kuznetsova, T. Mukai, T. Nagai, T. I. Gombosi, and A. J. Ridley (2007), Waves on the dusk flank boundary layer during very northward interplanetary magnetic field conditions: Observations and simulation, JGR 112, A08206.

Trattner, K. J., J. S. Mulcock, S. M. Petrinec, and S. A. Fuselier (2007), Probing the boundary between antiparallel and component reconnection during southward interplanetary magnetic field conditions, JGR 112, A08210.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Additions to the pile: Weeks of 23 and 30 July 2007

Catching up on the literature after a week away.

Lavraud, B., J. E. Borovsky, A. J. Ridley, E. W. Pogue, M. F. Thomsen, H. Rème, A. N. Fazakerley, and E. A. Lucek (2007), Strong bulk plasma acceleration in Earth's magnetosheath: A magnetic slingshot effect?, GRL 34, L14102.

Phan, T. D., G. Paschmann, C. Twitty, F. S. Mozer, J. T. Gosling, J. P. Eastwood, M. Øieroset, H. Rème, and E. A. Lucek (2007), Evidence for magnetic reconnection initiated in the magnetosheath, GRL 34, L14104.

Schwadron, N. A., and D. J. McComas (2007), Modulation of anomalous and galactic cosmic rays beyond the termination shock, GRL 34, L14105.

Tokunaga, T., H. Kohta, A. Yoshikawa, T. Uozumi, and K. Yumoto (2007), Global features of Pi 2 pulsations obtained by independent component analysis, GRL 34, L14106.

Liou, K. (2007), Large, abrupt pressure decreases as a substorm onset trigger, GRL 34, L14107.

André, N., A. M. Persoon, J. Goldstein, J. L. Burch, P. Louarn, G. R. Lewis, A. M. Rymer, A. J. Coates, W. S. Kurth, E. C. Sittler, M. F. Thomsen, F. J. Crary, M. K. Dougherty, D. A. Gurnett, and D. T. Young (2007), Magnetic signatures of plasma-depleted flux tubes in the Saturnian inner magnetosphere, GRL 34, L14108.

Hellinger, P., P. Trávniček, B. Lembège, and P. Savoini (2007), Emission of nonlinear whistler waves at the front of perpendicular supercritical shocks: Hybrid versus full particle simulations, GRL 34, L14109.

Gary, S. P., and S. Saito (2007), Broadening of solar wind strahl pitch-angles by the electron/electron instability: Particle-in-cell simulations, GRL 34, L14111.

Chen, M. W., C.-P. Wang, M. Schultz, and L. R. Lyons (2007), Solar-wind influence on MLT dependence of plasma sheet conditions and their effects on storm time ring current formation, GRL 34, L14112.

Kawano, H., and D.-H. Lee (2007), Gradient methods applied to simulated ULF data: The effects of the ionospheric damping factor, JGR 112, A07212.

Gjerloev, J. W., R. A. Hoffman, J. B. Sigwarth, and L. A. Frank (2007), Statistical description of the bulge-type auroral substorm in the far ultraviolet, JGR 112, A07213.

Hu, Y. Q., X. C. Guo, and C. Wang (2007), On the ionospheric and reconnection potentials of the earth: Results from global MHD simulations, JGR 112, A07215.

Toivanen, P. K., Deformation method for electromagnetic magnetospheric fields: 2. Application to the earth's magnetosphere, JGR 112, A07216. Presumably the companion paper to Toivanen's paper earlier this month.

Liu, Y. C.-M., M. A. Lee, H. Kucharek, and B. Miao (2007), Ion thermalization and wave excitation downstream of Earth's bow shock: A theory for Cluster observations of He2+ acceleration, JGR 112, A07217.

Matsui, H., P. A. Puhl-Quinn, R. B. Torbert, W. Baumjohann, C. J. Farrugia, C. G. Mouikis, E. A. Lucek, P. M. E. Décréau, and G. Paschmann (2007), JGR 112, A07218.

Thesis defense yesterday

Congratulations to Dr. Alexander Vapirev.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday music mix: Summer

I'll be on vacation next week, so (finally) I can do my summer theme list.

Peter Gabriel -- The Rhythm Of The Heat
Kings of Convenience -- Summer On The Westhill
Journey -- Stone In Love
Modest Mussorgsky -- Tuileries (from Pictures at an Exhibition)
ABBA -- Summer Night City
The Beatles -- Sun King
Michelle Shocked -- V.F.D.
Enya -- Caribbean Blue
Don Henley -- The Boys Of Summer
Cat Stevens -- Silent Sunlight

Triple 2007s

If I've timed this right, the timestamp will be (in European format) 20-07-2007 20:07.

We'll get one of these a year until 2012, then not until 2101.

The joy (ha!) of NSPIRES

My Geospace proposal went out the door this morning.

Proposing to NASA is a frustrating process. Requirements and formats change annually, and we have to use the user-hostile (as well as Mac-hostile) NSPIRES system. We can also use (which I have not yet done), but reports are that is even worse than NSPIRES.

An example of the frustrations of NSPIRES: In our budgets, we have to put in "Faciltites and Administrative" (a.k.a. overhead) costs. NSPIRES asks for the cognizant federal official for F&A rates--which must be put in separately in each year of the budget. Never mind that the cognizant official is the same for everybody at a given institution and does not (usually) change during the middle of a proposal preparation round. If the designers had thought for even one minute, they could have put in a lookup function for that, rather than make us supply that information repeatedly in a given proposal. There are also all kinds of hidden buttons and whatnot which make NSPIRES so user hostile.

NSPIRES is a later generation system. It came on line about three years ago to replace an earlier clunky system which had the ironically appropriate name SYS-EYFUS. (If you are unfamiliar with Greek mythology, click the link to find out why the name is appropriate.) But NSF had already developed the much more user-friendly Fastlane system. Fastlane was designed with its end users in mind, and it works much more effectively than NSPIRES.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


The geniuses who "designed" our air conditioning "system" have struck again.

Sunday afternoon there was a series of thunderstorms in the area. Nothing severe hit Durham, although Rochester was hit with a microburst.

Nonetheless, Sunday's storms are being blamed for toasting a relay in the chiller plant. As a result, we have no air conditioning until further notice. They don't know when a full-fledged replacement transformer will come in, so they are promising that they will try to get something rigged up--but that will probably not happen before the middle of next week.

Air conditioning system failures have long been an annual (or more often) occurrence here, but this is absurd. Being honest-to-goodness rocket scientists (yes, we build space flight hardware here), we know better than to design systems with easily avoidable single point failure modes, especially in critical components. This is exactly what our B&G people are claiming we have here: one component failed, supposedly during a non-severe thunderstorm (not exactly a rarity in the summer), and we have to sweat it out for more than a week.

I want to hope that the university didn't pay a lot for this system--after all, air conditioning systems have been around for decades--but I'm sure they paid too much.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 16 July 2007

A busy week on the publication front, including a comment-reply exchange and a preprint on which my name is listed:

Golovchanskaya, I. V. (2007), On the seasonal variation of electric and magnetic turbulence at high latitudes, GRL 34, L13103.

Karimabadi, H., W. Daughton, and J. Scudder (2007), Multi-scale structure of the electron diffusion region, GRL 34, L13104.

Singh, N. (2007), Interpretation of solar wind reconnection exhaust in terms of kinetic Alfvén wave group-velocity cones, GRL 34, L13106.

Lukianova, R. (2007), Comment on "Unified PCN and PCS indices: Method of calculation, physical sense, and dependence on IMF azimuthal and northward components" by O. Troshichev, A. Janzhura, and P. Stauning, JGR 112, A07204. The original paper is JGR 111, A05208 (2006), and these authors reply at JGR 112, A07205 (2007). (Ed. note: It's never a good sign when a comment runs to 8 journal pages.)

Singh, N. (2007), Group velocity cones in diverging magnetic reconnection structures, JGR 112, A07209.

Liu, W. W. (2007), Polar cap potential saturation: An energy conservation perspective, JGR 112, A07210.

Rodger, C. J., M. A. Cliverd, D. Nunn, P. T. Verronen, J. Bortnik, and E. Turunen (2007), Storm time, short-lived bursts of relativistic electron precipitation detected by subionospheric radio wave propagation, JGR 112, A07301.

Yao, Y., K. Seki, Y. Miyoshi, J. P. McFadden, E. J. Lund, and C. W. Carlson (2007), Effect of solar wind variation on low-energy O+ populations in the magnetosphere during geomagnetic storms: FAST observations, JGR, to be submitted.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday music mix: Proposal crunch time

NASA's Geospace proposals are due in a week, and I'm trying to write one. So this week's theme is about money.

Dire Straits -- Money For Nothing
The Beatles -- You Never Give Me Your Money
John Dowland -- Fine Knacks For Ladies
Alan Parsons Project -- May Be A Price To Pay
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young -- Find The Cost Of Freedom
Pink Floyd -- Money
ABBA -- The Winner Takes It All
Paul Simon -- Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
Modest Mussorgsky -- Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle (from Pictures at an Exhibition)
Midnight Oil -- Blue Sky Mine

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You're giving away what?

I got an invitation in the mail, allegedly from The Donald, to a seminar being given by his son Eric in Portland on 27 July. The invitation waives the "suggested tuition fee" of $149 and claims that I would "learn what others have paid over $20,000 to learn."

I smell a scam. People just don't give away $20K of information like that to strangers. Especially when they involve "government approved investments guaranteeing 9.6% to 32% return." I'm no expert on investments, but I didn't just fall off a turnip truck, either.

One other oddity. The return address on the envelope gives an address in DC (zip code 20036), but the postmark gives only the zip code 84199, which is in Salt Lake City.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 9 July 2007

Three papers and a preprint in the last week:

Carlson, H. C. (2007), Role of neutral atmospheric dynamics in cusp density and ionospheric patch formation, GRL 34, L13101.

Katoh, Y., and Y. Omura (2007), Relativistic particle acceleration in the process of whistler-mode chorus, GRL 34, L13102.

Šafránková, J., Z. Němeček, L. Přech, J. Ṧimůnek, D. Sibeck, and J.-A. Sauvaud (2007), Variations of the flank LLBL thickness as response to the solar wind dynamic pressure and IMF orientation, JGR 112, A07201.

Hwang, K.-J., R. E. Ergun, L. Andersson, D. L. Newman, and C. W. Carlson (2007), Test particle simulations of the effect of moving DLs on ion outflow in the auroral downward current region, JGR, to be submitted.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Friday music mix: Happy Birthday, USA

Ten songs about the promise and dream (and reality) of America:

The Star Spangled Banner
Bruce Springsteen -- Born To Run
Aaron Copland -- Lincoln Portrait
Simon and Garfunkel -- America
Harry Chapin -- W.O.L.D.
America -- A Horse With No Name
Supertramp -- Breakfast In America
Sting -- Englishman In New York
Bob Seger -- Hollywood Nights
Paul Simon -- American Tune

Monday, July 2, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 2 july 2007

Three more papers on the pile:

Zong, Q.-G., X.-Z. Zhou, X. Li, P. Song, S. Y. Fu, D. N. Baker, Z. Y. Pu, T. A. Fritz, P. Daly, A. Balogh, and H. Rème (2007), Ultralow forequency modulation of energetic particles in the dayside magnetosphere, GRL 34, L12105.

Morioka, A., Y. Miyoshi, F. Tsuchiya, H. Misawa, T. Sakanoi, K. Yumoto, R. R. Anderson, J. D. Menietti, and E. F. Donovan (2007), Dual structure of auroral acceleration regions at substorm onsets as derived from auroral kilometric radiation spectra, JGR 112, A06245.

Woodfield, E. E., M. W. Dunlop, R. Holme, J. A. Davies, and M. A. Hapgood (2007), A comparison of Cluster magnetic data with the Tsyganenko 2001 model, JGR 112, A06248.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Science and Nature nix Office 2007

Rob Weir reports that Science magazine, one of the leading scientific journals, is not accepting files in Microsoft Office 2007 format due to incompatibility with previous versions of Office:
Because of changes Microsoft has made in its recent Word release that are incompatible with our internal workflow, which was built around previous versions of the software, Science cannot at present accept any files in the new .docx format produced through Microsoft Word 2007, either for initial submission or for revision. Users of this release of Word should convert these files to a format compatible with Word 2003 or Word for Macintosh 2004 (or, for initial submission, to a PDF file) before submitting to Science.

(emphasis in original)

It gets even worse: Microsoft apparently did not make the new Equation Editor backwards compatible:
Users of Word 2007 should also be aware that equations created with the default equation editor included in Microsoft Word 2007 will be unacceptable in revision, even if the file is converted to a format compatible with earlier versions of Word; this is because conversion will render equations as graphics and prevent electronic printing of equations.

Nature, another journal similar in range and prestige to Science, has the same problem:
We currently cannot accept files saved in Microsoft Office 2007 formats. Equations and special characters (for example, Greek letters) cannot be edited and are incompatible with Nature's own editing and typesetting programs.

Never get involved in a land war in Asia, never agree to a battle of wits in which iocane powder is a factor, and never write papers for publication in Microsoft Word.

(h/t commenter james at Brad DeLong's blog)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 25 June 2007

It's a good thing that I made it all the way through the pile for my airplane reading, because a whole bunch of papers came out in the last two weeks. On the list below, the first three are papers/preprints I collected at the GEM workshop, and the rest were published since 11 June in AGU journals.

Omidi, N., and D. G. Sibeck (2007), Flux transfer events in the cusp, GRL 34, L04106.

Nishimura, Y., A. Shinbori, T. Ono, M. Iizima, and A. Kumamoto (2007), Evolution of ring current and radiation belt particles under the influence of storm-time electric fields, JGR, in press.

Anderson, P. C., W. R. Johnston, J. Goldstein, and T. P. O'Brien (2007), Observations of the ionospheric projection of the plasmapause and comparisons with relativistic electron measurements, GRL, submitted.

Parrot, M., J. A. Sauvaud, J. J. Berthelier, and J. P. Lebreton (2007), First in-situ observations of strong ionospheric perturbations generated by a powerful VLF ground-based transmitter, GRL 34, L11111.

Jackman, C. M., C. T. Russell, D. J. Southwood, C. S. Arridge, N. Achilleos, and M. K. Dougherty (2007), Strong rapid dipolarizations in Saturn's magnetotail: In situ evidence of reconnection, GRL 34, L11203.

Fillingim, M. O., L. M. Peticolas, R. J. Lillis, D. A. Brain, J. S. Halekas, D. L. Mitchell, R. P. Lin, D. Lummerzheim, S. W. Bougher, and D. L. Kirchner (2007), Model calculations of electron precipitation induced ionization patches on the nightside of Mars, GRL 34, L12101.

Leisner, J. S., C. T. Russell, K. K. Khurana, and M. K. Dougherty (2007), Measuring the stress state of the Saturnian magnetosphere, GRL 34, L12103.

Pritchett, P. L., and F. V. Coroniti (2007), Plasma sheet response to the ionosphere's demand for field-aligned current, GRL 34, L12104.

Moore, L., and M. Mendillo (2007), Are plasma depletions in Saturn's ionosphere a signature of time-dependent water input?, GRL 34, L12202.

Nakajima, A., K. Shiokawa, K. Seki, R. J. Strangeway, J. P. McFadden, and C. W. Carlson (2007), Particle and field characteristics of broadband electrons observaed by the FAST satellite during a geomagnetic storm, JGR 112. A06220.

Matsumoto, Y., and K. Seki (2007), The secondary instability initiated by the three-dimensional nonlinear evolution of the Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, JGR 112. A06223.

Siscoe, G. L., and K. D. Siebert (2007), Comment on "Polar cap voltage saturation" by J. W. MacDougall and P. T. Jayachandran, JGR 112, A06227. The subject paper of the comment is JGR 111, A12306 (2006), and the authors' reply is JGR 112, A06228 (2007).

García, K. S., and W. J. Hughes (2007), Finding the Lyon-Fedder-Mobarry magnetopause: A statistical perspective, JGR 112, A06229.

Ganguli, G., L. Rudakov, M. Mithaiwala, and K. Papadopoulos (2007), Generation and evolution of intense cyclotron turbulence by artificial plasma cloud in the magnetosphere, JGR 112, A06231.

Toivanen, P. K., Deformation method for electromagnetic magnetospheric fields: 1. Theory, JGR 112, A06239.

Lee, D.-Y., L. R. Lyons, J. M. Weygand, and C.-P. Wang (2007), Reasons why some solar wind changes do not trigger substorms, JGR 112, A06240.

Ueno, G., T. Higuchi, S. Ohtani, and P. T. Newell (2007), Particle precipitation characteristics in the dayside four-sheet field-aligned current structure, JGR 112, A06242.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday music mix: Meeting old friends

Since I have been at a conference for the last week, the theme of the week suggests itself.

Gustav Holst -- Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (from The Planets)
The Beatles -- With A Little Help From My Friends
Peter Gabriel -- Don't Give Up
Billy Joel -- She's Right On Time
Enya -- Anywhere Is
Harry Chapin -- Taxi
Limpopo -- Those Were The Days
Simon and Garfunkel -- Old Friends
Queen -- You're My Best Friend
Alan Parsons Project -- Old And Wise

GEM workshop: Friday plenary session

Today's tutorial speakers were Paul O'Brien of Aerospace on "Space radiation climatology: A new paradigm for inner magnetosphere simulation and data analysis" and Antonius Otto of University of Alaska-Fairbanks on "Plasma transport and entropy considerations at the magnetospheric flanks".

O'Brien discussed several examples of climatology and reanalysis as applied to inner magnetospheric physics. Reanalysis can constitute an extended event study and even become a data set in itself. This allows modelers to ignore most of the subtleties inherent in analyzing space plasma data. Data assimilation can help speed up codes and are useful when the underlying physics is not understood. O'Brien illustrated these points with several examples. Wiki:

Meeting fatigue has caught up with me; I didn't get anything out of Otto's tutorial.

This is the last year that Rice University organizes the conference. The conference arranger, Umbe Cantú, is truly an expert at conference organization, and GEM will miss her talents. Virginia Tech takes over next year, and the rumor is it will take four people to replace Umbe.

GEM workshop, Thursday poster session

The Thursday poster session was less than half the size of the Tuesday poster session. Unfortunately, almost all of the posters of interest to me were in the Tuesday session, and for many of the more interesting posters in this session the presenters were not with the posters when I looked at them. Meeting burnout was also a factor; many people will be leaving in the morning.

GEM workshop, Thursday breakout sessions

In the afternoon I attended two breakout sessions on diffuse aurora, continuing the breakout session from the previous afternoon.

Speakers in the first session were Mike Schultz (Lockheed) on theoretical particle tracing in a Dungey magnetosphere, Margaret Chen (Aerospace) on simulations in the Dungey magnetosphere, Richard Thorne (UCLA, on behalf of Richard Horne and Nigel Meredith of BAS) on diffuse aurora scattering rates by chorus emissions and ECH waves, Jacob Bortnik (UCLA) on modeling the global characteristics of chorus propagation, Wen Li (UCLA) on ray tracing with the HOTRAY code, Jay Albert (AFRL) on approximations of quasilinear diffusion coefficients, and R. P. Sharma (IIT) on nonlinear kinetic Alfvén waves and their role in particle precipitation. The reason Schultz and Chen use the Dungey magnetosphere is because it is analytically tractable, and an explicit Hamiltonian can be derived from a suitable electric field model (Brice-Nishida, Volland-Stern, or AMIE). Thorne pointed out the difficulty of scattering particles with 90 degree pitch angles at the equator. Bortnik showed that the lowest frequency chorus waves can propagate to the highest latitudes. Albert showed a method for calculating approximate diffusion coefficients which is significantly more accurate than the Summers method yet still represents a substantial speedup (factor of ~200) from the full calculation, which requires an infinite sum of triple integrals.

After the break, the topic was future plans for this focus group. It was decided that at this stage it is important to gather a list of relevant available data sets, and modeling efforts will proceed later. The most relevant data set for waves is THEMIS (it is necessary for the satellite to be in an equatorial orbit). For particles there are various geosynchronous satellites as well as low altitude satellites (DMSP and FAST) to look at precipitating particles. Ground-based measurements, especially all-sky cameras and meridian scanning photometers, are also of great importance for the study.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

GEM workshop, Thursday plenary session

Today's plenary session speakers were Vassilis Angelopoulos of UC Berkeley (soon to join the UCLA faculty) on "Maximizing substorm science on THEMIS: Probe alignments and ground conjunctions" and Eric Donovan of Calgary on "Diffuse Aurora".

Angelopoulos is PI of the THEMIS mission. He reviewed the status of the THEMIS mission and some of the scientific topics to which THEMIS can contribute. At present THEMIS is in a string-of-pearls configuration with a separation of ~10000 km between the leading and trailing satellites and ~200 km between the middle three. Electric field antennas have been successfully deployed on three of the five spacecraft, and all other instruments are working on all five spacecraft. When the spacecraft are boosted to their final orbits sometime this fall, the orbits will be phased so that there will be a five-spacecraft conjunction every four days and four-spacecraft conjunctions every two days. Apogee will be in the tail from January through March with the conjunctions over the North America sector, where ground magnetometers and all sky cameras are deployed from Alaska to Labrador. Nominal science operations will begin 1 July, and science software will be rolled out to the community 31 July. There is an open data policy (consult with PI or co-Is, and credit NASA grant NAS5-02099). Already THEMIS is obtaining useful science data, including an observation of substorm onset with westward traveling surge, a measurement of a flux transfer event, and an observation of magnetopause reconnection. THEMIS will be able to track radial motion of electrons inward from the tail and measure electric and magnetic fields and waves locally. There are also potential contributions to dayside magnetospheric physics (this summer) and tracking of solar wind interaction with the magnetopause (summer 2008). Nominal mission lasts until about March 2009, with extensions possible given consumables budget and radiation margin. There are at least two web sites of interest: data from and orbit visualization from SSCWeb at There is a removable attenuator (x50) which ensures that the particle instruments do not saturate in the radiation belt.

Donovan's talk was an overview of the breakout sessions on diffuse aurora which started yesterday and continue this afternoon. Although diffuse aurora is operationally defined as structureless precipitation, the precipitation actually reflects significant turbulence in the central plasma sheet. There are separate electron and ion aurora. On the duskside, the proton aurora is equatorward of the ion aurora, while postmidnight the proton aurora can be poleward of the electron diffuse aurora. The poleward boundary of the 630 nm oxygen line is a proxy for the open-closed field line boundary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

GEM workshop, Wednesday breakout sessions

This afternoon I went to the breakout sessions on the proposed solar wind structure from L1 to Earth focus group and the diffuse auroral precipitation focus group.

Speakers in the solar wind structure focus group were Joe Borovsky (Los Alamos) introducing the topic, Nicholeen Viall (Boston University) on periodic structures in the solar wind and magnetosphere, Dan Weimer (Solana Scientific) on tilted phase surfaces in the interplanetary magnetic field, Benoit Lavraud (Los Alamos) on the response of the magnetosphere to solar wind variations, Bob McPherron (UCLA) on why it is important to know the structure of the solar wind at 1 AU, and Dan Baker (Colorado) on the effect of quiet space weather conditions on the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere satellite's transmitter. This is a proposed focus group, so science definition is in progress. The most interesting talk was McPherron's; he noted that the magnetosphere's response to the solar wind is nonlinear and has histeresis; he also listed the different possible magnetospheric response modes including substorms, steady magnetospheric convection, magnetic storms, pseudobreakups, poleward boundary intensifications, and sawtooth events.

Speakers in the first session of the diffuse auroral precipitation focus group (there will be two more sessions on Thursday) were Harald Frey (UC Berkeley) on ground signatures of localized wave-particle interaction in diffuse aurora, Jay Johnson (PPPL, on behalf of Simon Wing of APL) on a magnetotail assimilation model, Michelle Thomsen (Los Alamos) on observations of plasma sheet electrons at geosynchronous orbit, Sarah Jones (UNH, on behalf of Marc Lessard) on the evolution of diffuse particle precipitation to inverted V precipitation, Emma Spanswick (Calgary) on optical and riometer signatures of diffuse aurora, Tom Sotirelis (APL) on the global character of diffuse electron aurora, and Jacob Bortnik (UCLA) on scattering of electrons by chorus waves. Highlights were Frey, who asked the key question, "What is diffuse aurora, anyway?"; Thomsen's demonstration of strong pitch angle diffusion in the geosynchronous particle data, Lessard's speculation that the latitudinal width of the substorm onset arc is determined by the overlap of precipitating plasma sheet ions and electrons, and Sotirelis's demonstration that characteristic precipitating electron energy is highest near noon--the same region where Bortnik showed the strongest off-equatorial chorus, especially at low frequencies.

GEM Workshop, Wednesday plenary session

This morning we got the agency reports via NSF program head Kile Baker. He reported two personnel changes in the Upper Atmosphere branch: Cassandra Fesen is the new Aeronomy director (replacing Bob Kerr, who is the new director at Arecibo), and Vladimir Papitashvili will return to NSF in August as a staff member heading the Antarctic program, which has been without a director for almost a year. The budget news is better than in the recent past: a 6% budget increase in FY2007 compared with 2006, with an increase of at least 4% expected for 2008. The GEM program success rate increased to 24% (6 of 25 proposals) from last year's 18% (4 of 23 proposals). The Space Weather competition news is not so good, with a success rate of around 10% expected. There are a couple of new initiatives under discussion: an interest in funding small satellites for space weather observations (i.e., nanosats and picosats) possibly starting as early as FY08, and a new initiative for computer-enabled discovery and innovation, with funding relevant to space physics available starting in 2009.

Kile relayed the following reports from other agencies: The AFOSR Young Investigator program has been expanded to include soft money scientists, with proposals due 24 July. Thomas Zurbuchen (Michigan) has proposed a collegiate space weather competition along the lines of the existing tropospheric weather competition; the first run would probably be March or April of 2009. NASA wants to speed up Explorer missions: A draft AO is (or will soon be) released, with a final AO targeted in October and three missions to be launched in 2012-2014. The Living With a Star Targeted Research and Technology deadlines may be postponed depending on when the Focused Science Topics are finalized. Magnetospheric Multiscale will likely be descoped and/or rephased to match available budget.

The tutorial speaker was Nick Omidi of Solana Scientific on "Use of hybrid and MHD models in addressing TADMAC's [the focus group on Transport at Dayside Magnetopause and Cusp] objectives". He showed that waves generated at the bow shock impinge on the magnetopause and can affect the reconnection sites if the IMF is northward. Apparently symmetric bow shocks are not. Foreshock waves can induce significant perturbations in the solar wind. Foreshock cavities (correlated dips in density and magnetic field) occur on various scales from ion gyroradius to 1 earth radius or more. A solitary shock can form when a rotational discontinuity hits the bow shock. Flux transfer events impinge on the cusps (this portion of the tutorial was shown in the breakout session yesterday). An MHD model of 3-D magnetopause reconnection shows that regions of both antiparallel and component reconnection occur.

GEM workshop, Tuesday poster session

I was one of about 65 people giving posters in the Tuesday session. I can't comment too much on the other posters as I was busy giving mine, but the session seemed to go well. The venue was a semi-open exhibition hall next to the hotel.

There were a few logistical glitches. The poster boards were delivered later than expected. The poster session went until 2200 MDT, at which point a timer cut the lights abruptly. But for the most part, it went well.

I am now done with my duties for the week; I get to listen (or not) to the remaining sessions.

GEM workshop, Tuesday breakout sessions

For the first half of the afternoon I attended the breakout session on global M-I coupling chaired by David Murr (Dartmouth). Speakers were Murr giving an overview of the selected events, G. Crowley (Astra Corp.) on AMIE runs, Jo Baker (APL) on SuperDARN data, Aaron Ridley (Michigan) on including seasonal variations of the aurora in models, and Bill Lotko (Dartmouth) on summer-winter variations in ionospheric plasma. The highlight of the session was Lotko's talk, in which he showed that both ionospheric conductivity and density can affect auroral intensity (Newell et al. focused on ionospheric conductivity in their 1996 Nature paper).

After the break I switched to the cusp session, chaired by Karlheinz Trattner (Lockheed) and Dave Sibeck (GSFC). Speakers were Antonius Otto (Alaska) on test particle simulations of cusp diamagnetic cavities, Nick Omidi (Solana Scientific) on hybrid simulations of the interaction of flux transfer events with the cusp, Masha Kuznetsova (GSFC) on MHD simulations of same, and Katariina Nykiri (Florida Tech) on particle acceleration in the high altitude cusp. Omidi's and Kuznetsova's talks were the most interesting, particularly Omidi's claim of a connection between FTEs and poleward moving auroral forms, and Kuznetsova's claims of FTE breakup due to sausage instability. Note to self: Ask Omidi about whether the FTE-cusp interaction might be related to my work with Charlie Farrugia on momentum transfer on old open field lines.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

GEM Workshop, Tuesday plenary session

Today's plenary session speakers were Jimmy Raeder of UNH on "Quo vadis, GGCM" and Harlan Spence of Boston University on the radiation belts and the RBSP mission.

Raeder discussed some details of how global models work in situations involving reconnection. Ideal MHD should have a zero reconnection rate, but real-world implementations will have numerical diffusion which can produce reconnection (as well as form shocks, something else that ideal MHD should not do). Numerical diffusion can also counteract the tendency of numerical dispersion (diffusion and dispersion are due to even and odd error terms, respectively, in the truncation) to drive the code unstable. If the Hall term is included, GGCMs even manage to get close to observed reconnection rates (and if they are off, the models usually get higher rates). The implication is that reconnection rates on the dayside are set by boundary conditions, not the microphysics of the reconnection region. On the nightside, average reconnection rates (over periods of an hour or more) must equal dayside reconnection rates. Substorms are the result of short-term deviations from this balance. It is not clear whether GGCMs produce genuine substorms (there are plasmoids, but some of the other signatures are absent). Tail reconnection in the GGCM models is much more fragmented than the classic substorm models. High ionospheric conductance can suppress convection.

Spence is the lead scientist on the Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission. He reviewed the history of radiation belt paradigms and science and advertised the mission. The goal is to be able to understand, and predict, the variation of relativistic particle populations in response to energy inputs from the Sun. The satellite can make in situ measurements of high energy astrophysical phenomena.

It seems that there are capacity limits on connections from the conference center. I'm posting this from my room.

Monday, June 18, 2007

GEM Workshop, Monday breakout sessions

I attended two breakout sessions devoted to the focus group on Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling Electrodynamics and Transport. Bill Lotko of Dartmouth and Josh Semeter of Boston University led the discussion. I spoke in the morning session, the second-to-last talk before lunch. Other speakers in the morning session were Yi-Jiun Su (UT Arlington) on the electron cyclotron maser instability in the Alfvénic acceleration region, R. P. Sharma (India Institute of Technology) on nonlinear kinetic Alfvén waves, Peter Damiano (St. Andrews) on Alfvén wave induced electron precipitation, Joo Hwang (Colorado) on test particle simulations of the effect of moving double layers on ion outflow, and Alex Glocer (Michigan) on ion outflow modeling in the "gap" region. Speakers in the afternoon session were Matt Zettergren on a kinetic-fluid coupled model for computing ion outflow, Bill Lotko on the importance of 0.1-1 Hz Alfvén waves in ion outflow, Andrew Wright (St. Andrews) on the effects of field-aligned currents on the ionosphere, Josh Semeter on an observational perspective of M-I coupling in the auroral region, Jo Baker (APL) on midlatitude ionospheric convection as observed with the SuperDARN Wallops radar, and Jerry Goldstein on "SAPpy musings" about M-I coupling.

Some highlights of the sessions:

Damiano showed that at least 40% of Alfvén wave energy in a field line resonance is lost every half period due to induced electron beam precipitation (the loss is higher with hotter electrons). He can derive a Knight-like I-V relation for warm electrons in a field line resonance; as Lotko pointed out, this implies that the wave period is much longer than the electron transit time. The initial current perturbation must broaden so that the electric field can replenish the loss cone.

Hwang showed significantly enhanced (by an order of magnitude), but episodic, ion outflow in the presence of moving double layers as compared with the extended static parallel electric field structure examined by Gorney et al. (1985). She pointed out that the outflowing ions need not pass through a moving double layer.

Lotko noted that if ion parallel dynamics are properly included, the ion density depletion in the lower F region can be ~80%, rather than ~1% if the ion dynamics are not included. The extra depletion is due to a nonlinear coupling of Alfvén waves to ion sound waves. The ions are pushed upward.

Wright noted that a downward parallel current can deplete the E region on time scales of ~30 seconds. The parallel current region must broaden to compensate. The reflection coefficient, and therefore the ionospheric Alfvén resonator, are significantly modified. He derived a parameter which determines whether depletion is (nearly) complete and a time scale for the depletion. He raised the question of whether the depletion of E region plasma implies current closure in the F region.

Semeter showed that the apparent motion of auroral arcs may be due to dispersive propagation of Alfvén wave packets.

GEM Workshop, Monday plenary session

Today's plenary session speakers were Joe Huba of NRL on M-I coupling from the ionosphere point of view and Joachim Birn of Los Alamos on transport of plasma and particles from the tail to the inner magnetosphere.

Huba's talk gave a different perspective on global modeling from that of most people in the audience; he is an ionospheric modeler, whereas many magnetospheric modelers treat the ionosphere as an annoying boundary condition. His talk covered a number of points of interest, including coupling his model (SAMI3) to the Rice Convection Model, the penetration of magnetospheric electric fields to low latitudes (when the Region 2 current should shield them out), and Total Electron Content and its effect on GPS signals. A comment by Bob McPherron pointed out an implication of Huba's work that the standard ionospheric correction to the Dst index may be in the wrong direction.

Birn gave an overview of how plasma is transported from the tail to the inner magnetosphere. He gave arguments for why the average transport from the distant tail to the inner magnetosphere should be 0, as observed. Unfortunately, lack of sleep caught up to me and I dozed through about half of the talk.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Safely arrived

I have safely arrived in Utah. No difficulty with the flights; in fact, an unusually smooth ride. My checked bag was the last one off the plane, but no problems.

The area where I am (Midway, UT, near Heber City) has a noticeably moister climate than most areas west of the Missouri River. Trees grow even in the valleys. It's even a noticeable difference between here and Salt Lake City, which is only an hour drive away.

I'm not used to seeing so much truck traffic, even on the interstates. There's a good reason why I-80 is three lanes each direction all the way through Parleys Canyon and up to Park City.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday music mix: Ten for the road

Since I'll be on travel next week, here are some songs about going places.

Cat Stevens -- On The Road To Find Out
Pink Floyd -- Learning To Fly
Alan Parsons Project -- One More River
The Beatles -- She's Leaving Home
Chicago -- Wishing You Were Here
The Guo Brothers -- Soldiers Of The Long March
Talking Heads -- Road To Nowhere
Elton John -- Rocket Man
Arlo Guthrie -- Coming Into Los Angeles
Paul Simon -- Another Galaxy

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Slot screws are evil

A follow-up to yesterday's post.

I don't know why anybody still uses slot screws. There are so many better options out there: options which don't invite the driver to slide out and cause serious damage to people and/or property.

My contractor agrees with me that slot screws are evil. He says that the only time he ever uses a slot driver is to take out old screws so that he can replace them with something better.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

M. C. Escher, design engineer

I tried to hang a new curtain rod at my house Sunday and Monday. Because the run is longer than 48 inches, I need to add a couple of support brackets. The problem is that the brackets cannot be installed before the curtain rod is in place, and (at least with the tools I have) the brackets cannot be installed while the curtain rod is in place.

Why do so many designers try to emulate M. C. Escher in products people are actually supposed to use?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 11 June 2007

Lots of papers to keep me busy on the plane ride next weekend:

Mays, M. L., W. Horton, J. Kozyra, T. H. Zurbuchen, C. Huang, and E. Spencer (2007), Effect of interplanetary shocks on the AL and Dst indices, GRL 34, L11104.

Swisdak, M., and J. F. Drake (2007), Orientation of the reconnection X-line, GRL 34, L11106.

Lin, Y., X. Y. Wang, and S.-W. Chang (2007), Connection between bow shock and cusp energetic ions, GRL 34, L11107.

Sauer, K., E. Mjølhus, E. Dubinin, and K. Baumgärtel (2007), Banana-polarized solitons in anisotropic plasmas related to Ulysses observations, GRL 34, L11109.

Shprits, Y. Y., N. P. Meredith, and R. M. Thorne (2007), Parameterization of radiation belt electron loss timescales due to interactions with chorus waves, GRL 34, L11110.

Yoon, P. H., and A. T. Y. Lui (2007), Anomalous resisitivity by fluctuation in the lower-hybrid frequency range, JGR 112, A06207.

Su, Y.-J., R. E. Ergun, S. T. Jones, R. J. Strangeway, C. C. Chaston, S. E. Parker, and J. L. Horwitz (2007), Generation of short-burst radiation through Alfvénic acceleration of auroral electrons, JGR 112, A06209.

Singh, N., G. Khazanov, and A. Mukhter (2007), Electrostatic wave generation and transverse ion acceleration by Alfvénic wave components of broadband extremely low frequency turbulence, JGR 112, A06210.

Kozlovsky, A., A. Aikio, T. Turunen, H. Nilsson, T. Sergienko, V. Safargaleev, and K. Kauristie (2007), Dynamics and electric currents of morningside Sun-aligned auroral arcs, JGR 112, A06306.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday music mix: It was 40 years ago today (or sometime this month)

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is one of two Beatles albums I own (the other is Abbey Road). The goal was to explore the limits of what was then possible in a new phenomenon, the concept album. It is widely, and reasonably, considered one of the greatest albums ever recorded. My thoughts (and ratings) about the songs on this album:

  1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (4*): The album starts with a rousing tune introducing the fictional band portrayed in the album. The song establishes the mood of the album, then segues into...

  2. With A Little Help From My Friends (4*): Ringo (as "Billy Shears") takes the lead, with the rest of the band backing him up, as befits the title. A fitting song about friendship.

  3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (5*): Despite the psychedelic nature of the song and the initials LSD, John Lennon always insisted that his son came up with the title. The song is about alternate realities--highly relevant in the time of G. W. Bush.

  4. Getting Better (3*): Paul sings about self-improvement ("Man I was mean/But I'm changing my scene").

  5. Fixing A Hole (3*): This song doesn't quite work for me.

  6. She's Leaving Home (5*): One of the highlights of the album, a song about escaping the confines of one's parents, who are in denial about the situation. The string arrangement is just right for the song.

  7. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite (4*): Apparently taken from a circus poster, and with an arrangement to match. Listen for the tape effects near the end.

  8. Within You Without You (4*): George Harrison's attempt at writing Indian classical music. A reminder that we are all interconnected parts of the world, as much as some would like to forget the fact.

  9. When I'm Sixty-Four (4*): Paul sings about getting old. The 1920's-style jazz arrangement is the perfect match.

  10. Lovely Rita (3*): Love can come in the unlikeliest places--like the meter maid.

  11. Good Morning, Good Morning (3*): I'm not really sure what this song is supposed to be about. At the end fox hunt sound effects lead into...

  12. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise) (3*): The second time is just not as good as the opening number. The Beatles were right not to end with this one.

  13. A Day In The Life (5*): A musing on some of the little oddities of life ("Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire"). Life goes on, somehow.

The CD reproduces the repeating phrase that was on the run-out groove at the end of Side 2 of the record. The tape snippets make for an interesting effect.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Maps: Trust, but verify

Later this month I will be in Utah for the GEM workshop. I'll be flying into the Salt Lake City International Airport and driving to the meeting site, which is about an hour east of the airport.

The hotel website has a link to Yahoo! Maps for driving directions. The problem is that the point Yahoo! Maps calls the Salt Lake City Airport is on the opposite side of the airport from where the passenger terminal and rental cars are located. If you follow Yahoo!'s directions and try to "Follow the signs for your terminal" at the end, you probably won't be able to. (I say "probably" because I have never actually left the Salt Lake City airport by land before.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Just another weather U-turn

Yesterday our high was 59 degrees Fahrenheit. I had to run the heat last night.

Today I am thankful to work in a building with air conditioning. There is a severe thunderstorm watch in effect:
The NWS Storm Prediction Center has issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for portions of
western Maine
New Hampshire
eastern New York
Rhode Island
coastal waters
Effective this Tuesday afternoon and evening from 1205 PM until 700 PM EDT.

Hail to 1.5 inches in diameter... thunderstorm wind gusts to 70 mph... and dangerous lightning are possible in these areas.

The Severe Thunderstorm Watch area is approximately along and 85 statute miles east and west of a line from 5 miles north of Newport Vermont to 35 miles southwest of Windsor Locks Connecticut. For a complete depiction of the watch see the associated watch outline update (wous64 kwns wou7).

UPDATE: Tornado reported in Lee at 1436 EDT (1836Z).

LATER UPDATE: Also funnel clouds were reported in Barrington and Somersworth. Many reports of hail, the largest being 1.75 inches (about golf ball size) in Dover.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 4 June 2007

Several papers of interest this week, including two (!) from Reviews of Geophysics (I subscribe to the dead-tree version) and one poached from a reference list.

Ergun, R. E., L. Andersson, Y.-J. Su, D. L. Newman, M. V. Goldman, W. Lotko, C. C. Chaston, and C. W. Carlson (2005), Localized parallel electric fields associated with inertial Alfvén waves, Phys. Plasmas 12, 072901.

Frey, H. U. (2007), Localized aurora beyond the auroral oval, Rev. Geophys. 45, RG1003.

McComas, D. J., M. Velli, W. S. Lewis, L. W. Acton, M. Balat-Pichelin, V. Bothmer, R. B. Dirling, W. C. Feldman, G. Gloeckler, S. R. Habbal, D. M. Hassler, I. Mann, W. H. Matthaeus, R. L. McNutt, R. A. Mewaldt, N. Murphy, L. Ofman, E. C. Sittler, C. W. Smith, and T. H. Zurbuchen (2007), Understanding coronal heating and solar wind acceleration: Case for in-situ near sun measurements, Rev. Geophys. 45, RG1004.

Ofman, L., and A. F. Viñas (2007), Two-dimensional hybrid model of wave and beam heating of multi-ion solar wind plasma, JGR 112, A06104.

Dorelli, J. C., A. Bhattacharjee, and J. Raeder (2007), Correction to "Separator reconnection at Earth's dayside magnetopause under generic northward interplanetary magnetic field conditions," JGR 112, A06204. (The subject paper of the correction is JGR 112, A02202.)

Palmroth, M., N. Partamies, J. Polvi, T. I. Pulkkinen, D. J. McComas, R. J. Barnes, P. Stauning, C. W. Smith, H. J. Singer, and R. Vainio (2007), Solar wind-magnetosphere coupling efficiency for solar wind pressure impulses, GRL 34, L11101.

Automatic software updates: How and how not to do it

I have several software packages on my Mac which have auto-update features: Microsoft Office, Adobe CS2, and of course MacOSX.

There is a right way and a wrong way to handle auto-updates. The right way is to have some regular schedule (weekly for Apple, monthly for Microsoft). That way I can schedule the update for some time when it won't interrupt what I am doing (e.g., first thing Monday morning, for Apple), even if the update process needs an administrator password, as Apple's does.

The wrong way to do it is to go looking for updates when I start up the program, as Adobe does. The concept should be simple: If I start up a program, it's because I want to use that program, and I want to use it NOW, not 15 minutes later when the updates (which almost always require me to quit the program I'm trying to use) are complete. As Vince Flanders so eloquently put it: I don't care about your $#@!$#@ problems, I want you to solve my $#@!$#@ problems.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Friday music mix: Songs I love to hate

I just read the introduction of a paper that should not be set aside lightly--it should be thrown across the room with great force. Since my inner curmudgeon is out today, here are some songs that I consider among the worst I've ever heard. I don't have a plausible explanation for how they ever got any radio play, but I've heard them all on the radio at one time or another. I'm excluding Christmas songs here--I could do another such post with just Christmas music.

1. Toni Basil, "Hey Mickey": The most annoying 80s song ever, with ridiculous video to match. (Hint to the ladies: If you're old enough to legally buy alcohol in this country, and you want people to take you seriously, do not put on a cheerleader's uniform.) A repetitive song with nothing even vaguely resembling a hook. If you really must hear what this song sounds like, look for Weird Al Yankovic's parody "Hey Ricky," which is actually halfway decent.

2. Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit In The Sky": This guy must be in league with Satan, because few things will turn you off of Jesus faster than this song allegedly in praise of Jesus. Repetitive bad lyrics. Bad theology, too, in the line "I've never been a sinner."

3. Alice Cooper, "Eighteen": You're not 18 anymore, Alice, so stop taking up airtime singing about it already.

4. Elton John/Kiki Dee, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart": There are lots of Elton haters out there, and this song is a strong argument in favor of that position. There are a few good Elton John songs out there, but not the ones that get significant airplay.

5. Guns 'n' Roses, "Knocking On Heaven's Door": A brilliant idea--let's have a Bob Dylan tune covered by just about the only famous singer (Axl Rose) with a worse singing voice than Bob Dylan! There are other ways in which this song is a bad stylistic match.

6. Black Sabbath, "Iron Man": Bad physics and bad chemistry ("He was turned to steel/In a great magnetic field") to go along with the annoyingly repetitive musical phrase (with the lead guitar doubling the singer, no less).

7. Led Zeppelin, "Whole Lotta Love": OK, Led Zeppelin fans, explain this one. The song is much too long, with a long stretch of moaning, and another annoying singing voice--Robert Plant in falsetto range. This is one of my arguments that Led Zeppelin was highly overrated.

8. Rolling Stones, "Under My Thumb": Another overrated classic rock band. Proof that misogynistic lyrics did not start in the rap era.

9. Gang Green, "Voices Carry": The original version by 'Til Tuesday isn't so bad, but screaming the refrain, as is done in this version, completely contradicts the meaning of the song.

10. Huey Lewis and the News, "Hip To Be Square": Huey Lewis rates as the biggest disappointment among the prominent musical stars of my teen years. He had the talent. He could have been somebody. Instead he became a pop sellout with songs like this one.

Stupid newspaper tricks

Foster's Daily Democrat
333 Central Ave.
Dover, NH 03820

Dear Foster's:

Thank you for coming up with your brilliant marketing technique of giving free one week trial home delivery subscriptions to unsuspecting homeowners who may or may not be in town that week. This makes our jobs much easier.

--The burglars of the Seacoast region

This week several houses on my street, including mine, were "lucky" recipients of the aforementioned trial subscription from the local fishwrap, Foster's Daily Democrat [sic].

Now Dover is not Miami, so I can understand why it would take them a minute (as opposed to five seconds) to realize why this is a bad idea. But they do publish police blotter columns, and some fraction of the crimes reported therein are burglaries. What better way to let burglars know who is out of town than to let newspapers pile up at a house whose owner didn't know they would be piling up?

Oh, and another piece of free advice to Foster's: Don't give free advertising to the competition. Their papers are delivered in plastic bags which advertize home subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal. It just so happens that the Wall Street Journal's parent company owns the other daily newspaper in the Seacoast region, the Portsmouth Herald.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

New NSF proposal guidelines

Our Office of Sponsored Research and our institute business office really want us to know about this, because they have sent this message out several times. New preparation guidelines for NSF proposals go into effect tomorrow.

Only the following typefaces will be acceptable (note that Times New Roman is not among them): Arial or Helvetica for sans-serif fonts, Palatino or Georgia for serif fonts, or Computer Modern for LaTeX users. A Symbol font may be used for Greek letters and other special math characters (such fonts are obsolete on platforms that support Unicode character sets, which MacOS 10.4 does). Font size must be 10 points or larger. Type density is limited to 15 characters per inch and 6 lines per vertical inch.

One of the e-mails notes reports of shrinkage during the PDF conversion process, and therefore recommends a minimum of 11 point type.

The type density and line spacing are simple to do. In the PostScript era, one inch is 72 points. (Other definitions have been used: Donald Knuth, in The TeXbook, gives 72.27 points to the inch.) As long as you do not choose a condensed version of your font, the 15 characters per inch should take care of itself if you meet the 10 point requirement. Likewise, setting your interline spacing to at least 12 points (13 if you are worried about shrinkage) will take care of the 6 lines per inch requirement.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

All your scientist are belong to us

Another scientist has joined our group: Larry Kepko, formerly of Boston University.

Additions to the pile: Week of 28 May 2007

One paper and one correction (oops!) this week:

Chaston, C. C., A. J. Hull, J. W. Bonnell, C. W. Carlson, R. E. Ergun, R. J. Strangeway, and J. P. McFadden (2007), Large parallel electric fields, currents, and density cavities in dispersive Alfvén waves above the aurora, JGR 112, A05215.

The corrected paper (which I seem to have missed the first time around) was Yamamoto, T. (2006), A theoretical model for the distribution of latitudinal extents of field-aligned electron acceleration, JGR 111, A11217.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday music mix: Star Wars

Thirty years ago today, the original Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope) was released. Among the many innovations was a soundtrack consisting largely of epic concert hall music written specifically for the movie. There had been other examples of classical music used in film (the most famous being Rossini's William Tell Overture for The Lone Ranger and Richard Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra for 2001: A Space Odyssey). There had been original scores of orchestral pops music (e.g., Rocky). But the score by John Williams introduced what many would consider serious original classical music to films. So this week's selections are taken from the soundtracks to five of the six movies (I do not own the soundtrack to Episode II: Attack of the Clones).

Episode I: The Phantom Menace: Duel of the Fates; Qui-Gon's Noble End; The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon's Funeral
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith: Anakin's Dark Deeds
Episode IV: A New Hope: Imperial Attack; Cantina Band; The Trash Compactor; The Throne Room/End Title
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back: The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi: Emperor's Throne Room

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On finding a "lost" classic

Whenever a reviewer complains that the authors of a paper have failed to cite one or more relevant references, the reviewer is almost certainly right. There are so many papers published that the probability of overlooking a relevant paper approaches 1.

I just encountered such a "lost" classic. I knew that the authors of the paper had done this work, which is relevant to my research, and I have seen the key figure many times, but I discovered to my surprise that I have never actually read the paper in question:

Newell, P. T., and C.-I. Meng (1992), Mapping the dayside ionosphere to the magnetosphere according to particle precipitation characteristics, GRL 19, 609.

I've added it to the pile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 21 May 2007

Papers of interest in AGU journals last week:

Millan, R. M., R. P. Lin, D. M. Smith, and M. P. McCarthy (2007), Observation of relativistic electron precipitation during a rapid decrease of trapped relativistic electron flux, GRL 34, L10101.

Volwerk, M., K.-H. Glassmeier, R. Nakamura, T. Takada, W. Baumjohann, B. Klecker, H. Rème, T. L. Zhang, E. Lucek, and C. M. Carr (2007), Flow burst-induced Kelvin-Helmholtz waves in the terrestrial magnetotail, GRL 34, L10102.

Vapirev, A. E., and V. K. Jordanova (2007), Calcualtion of bounce-averaged velocities and hydrogen densities for a storm-time magnetic field, GRL 34, L10103.

Jacobsen, S., F. M. Neubauer, J. Saur, and N. Schilling (2007), Io's nonlinear MHD-wave field in the heterogeneous Jovian magnetosphere, GRL 34, L10202.

Hsu, T.-S., and R. L. McPherron (2007), A statistical study of the relation of Pi 2 and plasma flows in the tail, JGR 112, A05209.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday music mix: Celebration!

It's Commencement Weekend here, so let the celebrating begin!

E. Power Biggs -- Triumphal March (Karg-Elert)
The Guo Brothers -- Dancing and Singing in the Village
Gustav Holst -- Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (from The Planets)
Wayne and Shuster -- Happy Birthday to Us (Canadian Centennial Song)
Andrew Kazdin -- Prelude and Happy Dance
Cat Stevens -- If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out
Alexander Borodin -- Polovtsian Dances
Fleetwood Mac -- Don't Stop
Chicago -- Beginnings
John Williams -- The Throne Room/End Title (from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope soundtrack)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Recent additions to the pile

Some articles of interest from the last few weeks:

Araneda, J. A., E. Marsch, and A. F. Viñas (2007), Collisionless damping of parametrically unstable Alfvén waves, JGR 112, A04104.

Hasegawa, H., B. U. Ö. Sonnerup, M. Fujimoto, Y. Saito, and T. Mukai (2007), Recovery of streamlines in the flank low-latitude boundary layer, JGR 112, A04213.

Watt, C. E. J., and R. Rankin (2007), Electron acceleration due to inertial Alfvé waves in a non-Maxwellian plasma, JGR 112, A04214.

Morley, S. K., and M. P. Freeman (2007), On the association between northward turnings of the interplanetary magnetic field and substorm onsets, GRL 34, L08104.

Vaivads, A., O. Santolík, G. Stenberg, M. André, C. J. Owen, P. Canu, and M. Dunlop (2007), Source of whistler emissions at the dayside magnetopause, GRL 34, L09106.

Arridge, C. S., C. T. Russell, K. K. Khurana, N. Achilleos, N. André, A. M. Rymer, M. K. Dogherty, and A. J. Coates (2007), Mass of Saturn's magnetodisc: Cassini observations, GRL 34, L09108.

Divin, A. V., M. I. Sitnov, M. Swisdak, and J. F. Drake (2007), Reconnection onset in the magnetotail: Particle simulations with open boundary conditions, GRL 34, L09109.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We have a president

Dr. Mark Huddleston, presedent of Ohio Wesleyan University, has been elected the 19th president of UNH.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Addtion to the pile: Week of 16 April 2007

Only one paper of interest last week:

Huba, J. D., and G. Joyce (2007), Equatorial spread F modeling: Multiple bifurcated structures, secondary instabilities, large density 'bite-outs', and supersonic flows, GRL 34, L07105.

Flood warning

The latest storm resulted in a small stream flood warning for our area. The Town of Durham reports that several area roads are closed or may close:

  1. Bagdad Road by pond - 1 foot of water going over roadway.

  2. Coe Drive by SAU - water over roadway by large culvert

  3. Mill Road at Plaza entrance

  4. Pettee Brook/Madbury Road at brook - the Pettee Brook is running over Madbury Road

  5. Bennett Road in typical three locations - near Packers Falls Road; by LaRoche Brook; Between Beaudette and LaRoche farms.

  6. Dame Road by Dame Farm/twin culverts (on Durham Point end of road)

  7. Durham Point Road in two locations - by Bay Road; by Deer Meadow Road

  8. Route 155 to Dover is closed

  9. Route 4 to Portsmouth is open but a great deal of water on either side of road by Wagon Hill Farm

  10. Route 108/Dover Road by Evangelical Church is under 1 foot of water and is expected to worsen

  11. Route 108/Dover Road by Beards Creek is a concern - the water is very high here.

UNH was open this morning but curtailed operations sometime around 10:15 EDT. I saw the Mill Road closure on my way to work this morning: water was gushing out of a storm drain at College Brook, which is at the highest level I have ever seen it (and quite a bit higher than during last year's monsoon).

UPDATE: NWS has posted a spotter report of 5.35 inches of rain from this storm as of 8:00 EDT, and it's been raining all day.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday music mix: Games and luck

Today is Friday the 13th, a date many in the West associate with bad luck. So here is a list of songs about games and luck:

Warren Zevon -- Lawyers, Guns and Money
Little River Band -- Lonesome Loser
Bob Seger -- Fire Lake
Genesis -- Invisible Touch
Jethro Tull -- Only Solitaire
Alan Parsons Project -- Games People Play
Suzanne Vega -- Knight Moves
ABBA -- Take A Chance On Me
Pink Floyd -- On The Run
Queen -- Play The Game

One bullet dodged, another coming

Snow in April hereabouts is not that unusual. Three snowstorms in the same April is.

We didn't get much snow out of yesterday's storm, but there's another one coming:

... A potential major coastal storm may affect the entire area Sunday through early next week...

Latest indications are showing a growing potential for a major noreaster to develop and intensify along or off the mid Atlantic
coast on Sunday and then stall off the southern New England coast early next week.

If this occurs the potential for copious amounts of snow or rain exist. Very strong winds would also accompany this storm.

Along the coast coastal flooding and beach erosion may occur due to the potential combination of strong onshore winds and astronomical high tides early next week.

Mariners should also take note and be prepared to head to port and take the appropriate precautions.

This is a storm that will need to be monitored very closely due to its potential size and intensity. All interests are advised to
keep abreast of the latest statements on this developing situation since it is still several days away.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Here we go again...

Tomorrow's forecast calls for 3-6 inches of snow mixed with rain. Another big mess.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 9 April 2007

Last Monday there wasn't anything to report, but this week we have quite a few papers of interest in AGU journals:

Chaston, C. C., C. W. Carlson, J. P. McFadden, R. E. Ergun, and R. J. Strangeway (2007), How important are dispersive Alfvén waves for auroral particle acceleration?, GRL 34, L07101.

Lui, A. T. Y., M. W. Dunlop, H. Rème, L. M. Kistler, G. Gustafsson, and Q.-G. Zong (2007), Internal structure of a magnetic flux rope from Cluster observations, GRL 34, L07102.

Wang, H., and H. Lühr (2007), Seasonal-longitudinal variation of substorm occurrence frequency: Evidence for ionospheric control, GRL 34, L07104.

Sandholt, P. E., and C. J. Farrugia (2007), Role fo poleward moving auroral forms in the dawn-dusk auroral precipitation asymmetries induced by IMF By, JGR 112, A04203.

Xin, L., and J. D. Menietti (2007), Modulation of the growth of auroral kilometric radiation by electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves, JGR 112, A04205.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Friday music mix: Twelve bar blues and twelve tone rows

I like quite a few different kinds of classical music, from the Renaissance to modern stuff, as well as quite a variety of popular music. There are some exceptions. In two of those cases, the fundamental reason why I dislike the genre is the same, but the details of why are quite different. They are twelve bar blues and twelve tone rows, and the fundamental reason is that in both cases the artificial restrictions imposed are too severe.

Twelve bar blues has a rigidly defined chord progression: I-I-I-I-IV-IV-I-I-V-IV-I-I. Repeat ad nauseam. The result is that all such songs have a tendency to sound alike. Note that it doesn't take much deviation from the formula to make a song enjoyable: the Pink Floyd songs "Money" (from Dark Side of the Moon) and "Dogs of War" (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason) are based on that same chord progression but have deviations as simple as changes in meter that are enough to make both songs enjoyable.

In principle, it is quite simple to write a twelve-tone piece. Start with the twelve notes of the Western chromatic scale arranged in some initially arbitrary order. Once that order is fixed, the following transformations are allowed:

  1. Inversion. Where the original sequence goes up (down) by n semitones, the new sequence goes down (up) by the same number of semitones.

  2. Retrogression. Play it backwards. (The people who were looking for hidden messages by playing songs backwards were looking in completely the wrong place.)

  3. Inverted retrogression. Do both of the above transformations.

  4. Transposition. Take the original sequence, or the result of any of the above transformations, and shift every note by the same number of semitones.

In most cases, these transformations will give you a total of 48 sequences. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use all 48 sequences in something that actually sounds like music and not just mind games. I don't know of anyone who has succeeded; there has not been the equivalent of the Well-Tempered Klavier for twelve-tone rows. Again, it's not that I dislike 20th century concert hall music; on the contrary, I count Aaron Copland, Gustav Holst, and Percy Grainger. The difference is that these composers connect with the listener, in ways that practitioners of twelve-tone music like Arnold Schoenberg do not.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

It's a mess out there

Lots of tree limbs down, power is out in many areas and not expected to be fully restored until Saturday. At least one neighborhood in Durham was completely cut off earlier today: downed power lines and trees prevented all access.

I had power this morning (there is now a carload of brush in my yard, but none of it fell on power lines), so I shoveled out and then walked to work as usual. Only when I got to campus did I find out that operations were curtailed all day. The power was out in my building (and probably campuswide) for several hours overnight; presumably the administration wasn't sure when (or if) the power would be back today. For the record: it was back by 9 AM.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Just because it's April doesn't mean winter's over

A winter weather advisory is in effect tonight:

A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect from 6 PM this evening to 10 am EDT Thursday.

Look for occasional snow or rain during the day today... with snow accumulations generally an inch or less. The mixed precipitation will change to snow tonight. By the time the snow tapers to rain and snow showers Thursday morning... expect a storm total accumulation of 4 to 6 inches.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday music mix: Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel have been among my favorites since childhood. They recorded five albums between 1964 and 1970, and much of that music still sounds fresh 40 years later. Their third (and IMO best) album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, was the first album I bought with my own money (25 cents at a neighborhood garage sale when I was 11) and is the only album I have owned on vinyl, cassette, and CD.

They had two brief reunions after their breakup: one in 1975 when they recorded the song "My Little Town", and circa 1981 for a concert in Central Park. Art Garfunkel never did anything musically significant without Paul Simon; he played Lt. Nately in the movie version of Catch-22 but never caught on as an actor either. Paul Simon has had a successful solo career; his most recent album is 2006's Surprise.

It's hard to pick only ten of their songs for a playlist, so here are all of their songs that I have given five-star ratings to (sorted by album):

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. (1964):
Bleecker Street

Sounds of Silence (1966):
Sounds of Silence
Richard Corey
I Am A Rock

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (1966)
Scarborough Fair/Canticle
Homeward Bound
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
The Dangling Conversation
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
A Poem On The Underground Wall

Bookends (1968)
Mrs. Robinson
Hazy Shade Of Winter

Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
Bridge Over Troubled Water
The Boxer
The Only Living Boy In New York

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What is the dispersion relation for the Alfvén-ion cyclotron wave?

What is the dispersion relation for the Alfvén-ion cyclotron wave at arbitrary propagation angle?

I've looked in most of the textbooks. The ones that give any dispersion relation at all assume parallel propagation, or at minimum (in the case of Stix) propagation not too close to perpendicular. That assumption is not valid for what I have in mind.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Aptitude, schmaptitude

Via Uncertain Principles, here is an excerpt of an essay, allegedly in English, that was written for the SAT:
A major reason why cooperation is a preference to competition is because competition induces civil struggle at a time of crisis while cooperation reduces tension. In the 1930’s, American businesses were locked in a fierce economic competition with Russian merchants for fear that their communist philosophies would dominate American markets. As a result, American competition drove the country into an economic depression and the only way to pull them out of it was through civil cooperation. American president Franklin Delenor Roosevelt advocated for civil unity despite the communist threat of success by quoting ‘the only thing we need to fear is itself,’ which desdained competition as an alternative to cooperation for success. In the end, the American economy pulled out of the depression and succeeded communism.

The essay from which this paragraph was taken (see the article to download) doesn't get any better than this. In additional to the above historical revisionism, there is a complete misrepresentation of Brian Jacques' Redwall Chronicles and an incoherent personal anecdote. Yet the essay in question received the highest possible rating from the readers, who thought that the essay demonstrates "reasonably consistent mastery" as well as "strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples" and that it "effectively develops a point of view". In fact, the essay was a piece of intentional nonsense written by a student coached by MIT writing professor Les Perelman.

The A in SAT stands for "aptitude". That's clearly not what the test is measuring.

Additions to the pile: Week of 26 March 2007

Papers of interest published last week in AGU journals:

Gosling, J. T., S. Eriksson, T. D. Phan, D. E. Larson, R. M. Skoug, and D. J. McComas (2007), Direct evidence for prolonged magnetic reconnection at a continuous x-line within the heliospheric current sheet, GRL 34, L06102.

Zeng, W., and J. L. Horwitz (2007), Formula representations of auroral ionospheric O+ outflows based on systematic simulations with effects of soft electron precipitation and transverse ion heating, GRL 34, L06103.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday music mix: Spring

What a difference a week makes. The snow is melting, and soon I'll actually be able to take advantage of Daylight Savings Time.

Pink Floyd -- Signs Of Life
The Beatles -- Here Comes The Sun
Aaron Copland -- Appalachian Spring
Cat Stevens -- Silent Sunlight
Elton John -- Your Song
Enya -- Aldebaran
The Guo Brothers and Shung Tian -- Springtime on Parmir Mountains
John Dowland -- Clear or Cloudy
Henry VIII -- As it bare out one morn in May
Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov -- Russian Easter Overture

"As it bare out one morn in May" tells of the meeting of Robin Hood and Maid Marian (but does not mention Robin's difficulties with the Sheriff of Nottingham).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why is software so #$%^&#% bad?

There is a tremendous amount of bad software out there, and it seems to be getting worse.

Take, for instance, the backup software that came with the hard drive I bought last week. The default behavior is to back up certain types of files that many people have, and only those files. If I want to back up other types of files (because I use other kinds of software, some of which is decidedly not rare) with this program, I have to manually add the other file types, and not miss a file type. This is exactly backwards.
The point of a backup is so that, if the worst case scenario occurs, I can restore my files to the state in which they were at the time of the most recent backup. Thus the default behavior should be to back up any and every file type. Optionally, it can let me choose to not back up certain file types or certain folders, but it certainly should not fail to back up a file type that I forgot to add to the list.

I've also been having trouble with my income tax software. I have been using TurboTax, because when I first started doing my taxes on the computer TurboTax was the only Mac tax package which would allow me to do New Hampshire income taxes.* In past years TurboTax has worked reasonably well. This year, however, one of the forms I use sent the step-by-step interview into a loop that had to be broken by manually going to the next stage. Now, Intuit seems to be confused about whether my return has been accepted: I e-filed Monday evening and got an e-mail timestamped 04:14 EDT Tuesday saying the return was accepted, but the program thinks that Intuit doesn't know yet whether the return has been accepted. Not good quality control on Intuit's part here.

I haven't even gotten into Microsoft Office yet--I'll save that for another rant.

*Yes, New Hampshire has an income tax. See RSA 77:1 and 77:3.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

British mailing addresses

Brad DeLong, trying to subscribe to British newspaper Financial Times, asks:

Did that form from really just ask me to type in my "house name"?

From which I infer that Brad doesn't publish in Elsevier journals. Their complete postal address: Elsevier Science Ltd., The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford OX5 1GB, United Kingdom.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 19 March 2007

Papers of interest published in AGU journals last week:

Teh, W.-L., B. U. Ö. Sonnerup, and L.-N. Hau (2007), Grad-Shafranov reconstruction with field-aligned flow: First results, GRL 34, L05109.

Gonzalez, W. D., E. Echer, A. L. Clua-Gonzalez, and B. T. Tsurutani (2007), Interplanetary origin of intense geomagnetic storms (Dst < -100 nT) during solar cycle 23, GRL 34, L06101.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday music mix: Winter

Snowstorm tonight, 6-10 inches forecast. So this week's theme is songs about winter or snow.

Soundtrack to Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back -- Main Title/The Ice Planet Hoth
Midnight Oil -- Antarctica
Alan Parsons Project -- The Cask of Amontillado
Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians -- Air of December
Fleetwood Mac -- Landslide
Simon and Garfunkel -- Hazy Shade of Winter
Jethro Tull -- Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day
Pink Floyd -- Terminal Frost
Mannheim Steamroller -- Wolfgang Amadeus Penguin
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky -- Waltz of the Snowflakes (from The Nutcracker)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Only be sure always to call it, please, research

The old Tom Lehrer song about Lobachevsky describes a technique for advancing an academic career which, although frowned upon, probably happens more often than we care to admit:

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
Only be sure always to call it please, "research".

It looks like the people who run the preprint server the arXiv are doing something about the problem. The current issue of Physics Today includes an item about a plan to check new submissions to the arXiv for plagiarism.

They have figured out a way to deal with a large fraction of false positives:

In the study, about 10% of arXiv manuscripts had text blocks that overlapped with other documents. After removing instances of authors reusing parts of their own text, different collaborators on a single project using the same text in separate conference abstracts, and other apparent false positives, less than 1% of manuscripts were still suspect, says [Cornell computer science graduate student Daria] Sorokina.

The item also quotes Paul Ginsparg, creator and overseer of the arXiv and a professor of physics at Cornell:

The surprising thing is that people submit to the same database where they found [what they copied]. It's mind boggling, given the existence of Google, given the existence of searching on full text, that people wouldn't have an intuition that they would be caught.

Ginsparg shouldn't be so surprised. I've caught one set of authors plagiarizing from my work: A paper I reviewed in 2005 for the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Physics copied multiple paragraphs verbatim from an article I published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Physics. Nor did getting caught deter these authors; two weeks after the JASTP editor rejected their paper, the authors submitted essentially the same manuscript to Annales Geophysicae, which published it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Additions to the pile: Week of 12 March 2005

Papers of interest published in AGU journals last week:

Avinash, K., and G. P. Zank (2007), Magnetic structures in the heliosheath, GRL 34, L05106.

Lobzin, V. V., V. V. Krasnosekskikh, J.-M. Bosqued, J.-L. Pinçon, S. J. Schwartz, and M. Dunlop (2007), Nonstationarity and reformation of high-Mach-number quasiperpendicular shocks: Cluster observations, GRL 34, L05107.

D'Amicis, R., R. Bruno, and B. Bavassano (2007), Is geomagnetic activity driven by solar wind turbulence?, GRL 34, L05108.

Lorentzen, D. A., P. M. Kintner, J. Moen, F. Sigernes, K. Oksavik, Y. Ogawa, and J. Holmes (2007), Pulsating dayside aurora in relation to ion upflow events during a northward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) dominated by a strongly negative IMF BY, JGR 112, A03301.

Mac hard drives don't speak Vietnamese

From the Help Desk column of Macworld, April 2007 dead tree edition, page 89:

Adobe's Vietnam Danger Do you use the $599 Adobe Photoshop CS2 ... or $499 Adobe Illustrator CS2 ...? Check the /Applications/Adobe Photoshop CS2/Legal.localized and /Applications/Adobe Illustrator CS2/Legal.localized folders for a file called Tiêng Viêt.html. If you find this file, delete it immediately. OS X can interpret the special characters as illegal file names, resulting in damage to your hard drive's directory that even Disk Utility's First Aid feature (/Applications/Utilities) can't fix.

The offending characters are ế and ệ, where the second accent indicates tone. Note also that if you navigate with the Finder the folder in question will be called "Legal".

I have both programs installed on my desktop and laptop. The desktop is OK. The laptop has some damage, and Disk Utility won't repair it. Unfortunately, the external hard drive to which I backed up yesterday (which took all afternoon) promptly went south and won't even mount.

UPDATE: The external drive mounted on my desktop Mac, but it's hosed beyond Disk Utility's ability to repair it. Time for a new backup drive.

LATER UPDATE: The Research Computing Center people were able to fix the laptop drive. As for the backup drive, I'm backing up the backup to my office machine (which has plenty of free space) so that I can erase the backup drive and, if all goes well, get that working and save myself a trip to Best Buy tonight.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Friday music mix: The so-called "Definitive 200"

Via Salon's Audiofile, I see that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Association of Recording Merchandisers has released a list of the definitive 200 albums.

Naturally, "definitive n", where n is arbitrary, is purely a matter of taste (or lack thereof), so I'll offer my comments on where their list overlaps my personal CD collection and some of the CDs I own that I think should have been on their list.

1. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

2. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

It's hard to argue with these two choices. Personally, I would have put Dark Side of the Moon in the number 1 slot, but I can understand the argument for Sgt. Pepper.

12. The Beatles, Abbey Road (1969)

22. The Who, Who's Next (1971)

25. Pink Floyd, The Wall (1979)

Again, no complaints here. All of these deserve their top 25 ratings.

35. The Eagles, Hotel California (1976)

Their best known. It should definitely be somewhere on the list, although not necessarily that high.

70. Billy Joel, The Stranger (1977)

We're getting into guilty pleasures territory here, but most of the songs on this one hold up well.

74. Phil Collins, No Jacket Required (1985)

This one is definitely in the guilty pleasures category. "Take Me Home" holds up pretty well, but the rest of this album is just so 1985.

83. Paul Simon, Graceland (1986)

One of the groundbreaking albums in terms of incorporating world folk music into Western popular music. Should be much higher on the list.

89. Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms (1985)

Also should be much higher on the list.

112. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

Although this one deserves a place on the list, Bridge Over Troubled Water is only the fourth best of Simon and Garfunkel's five studio albums. Their best is Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (1966), while Bookends (1968) and Sounds of Silence (1966) are also better choices.

119. The Police, Synchronicity (1983)

There are several good songs on this album along with a couple of real clunkers. A case can be made for including it, but it should be lower on the list.

126. Journey, Escape (1981)

This one is extraordinarily uneven. Half of the songs would make a great album side; the other half are mediocre to atrocious. Frontiers (1983) would have been a better choice.

132. Enya, A Day Without Rain (2000)

It's hard to argue with putting this one somewhere on the list, but Watermark (1988) should be included also.

Now for some of the conspicuously absent albums, in addition to the few I mentioned above:

  • Wendy Carlos, Switched-On Bach (1968)

    An exploration of the possibilities of the then-new Moog synthesizer. If you've never heard Bach before, this is a good place to start.

  • Soundtrack from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

    The first installment of the Star Wars saga was truly groundbreaking in its use of original classical music as a soundtrack. This one should have been in the top 50.

  • Suzanne Vega, Suzanne Vega (1985) and Solitude Standing (1987)

    Suzanne Vega was the first of the 1980s urban folk singers to hit it big. At least one of these albums should have been on the list.

  • Peter Gabriel, Security (1982) and Us (1992)

    Peter Gabriel knows how to create soundscapes. At least one of these should have made the list.

I mean, this list includes Christina Aguilera at number 127, the Footloose soundtrack at number 134, and Avril Lavigne at number 162. Surely they could have done better.