The Outsider's Inside View post#002 - Publish or Perish


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Profile KevinDouglasPhD
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Message 510455 - Posted: 29 Jan 2007, 17:34:20 UTC

First off, our group meeting looks to be postponed until Wednesday, same day as our science meeting, so I won't have much inside info to spill until later in the week, I guess. Oh well, I've given myself until Wednesday to draft the abstract for the paper/poster I'll submit for the Bioastronomy conference.

I enjoyed the discussion that arose out of my blog from last week. I can't say I'm terribly familiar with the Quicksilver Messenger Service, but they might have had a track on a K-Tel compilation LP my Dad has. I'm always looking for recommendations of interesting and challenging music, so keep them coming.

I also want to say that the story I read in one of the other forums about someone's laptop being recovered by tracing its SETI@home communications was just great. I would humbly suggest that "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" would be a good media outlet for such a story. He's always got stuff about criminals being caught in clever (or not-so-clever) ways.

I am up to 60 SETHI datacubes completed, so I'm 5/12 of the way there. I expect only about 3-5 more to finish this week, so I'll be concentrating on getting a lot of stuff done for my other radio astronomy projects. As a postdoc I'm supposed to concentrate on getting my name on a lot of refereed publications, so all this data analysis I do (and love to do) is great but I have to balance that with an effort to show that I can do good science with all the pretty images I am creating. Fortunately, I've struck up some very productive collaborations during my time at Berkeley. One such group is the GALFA consortium. GALFA is an acronym for Galactic ALFA (studies), where ALFA is the Arecibo L-band Feed Array, or what we refer to commonly in SETI@home and elsewhere as the new Arecibo multibeam receiver. This instrument has really improved Arecibo's imaging capabilities, which when combined with that telescope's massive collecting area, makes it an excellent facility for producing datasets with very good sensitivity, and in relatively little time too. I've probably processed more GALFA data than anyone on the planet at this point. There are some surveys for which I have to look at new data practically every morning, as well as some targeted smaller projects for which I've been in charge of the data processing. So I've gotten really good at making beautiful datacubes showing the HI emission in the Arecibo sky, and my SETHI data compliment the GALFA data quite well, though the GALFA data is of much better quality.

Here are some "slices" of the most recent datacube I've made. These are only a few channels from a much larger datacube, but they give the idea of looking at HI emission at different frequencies/velocities to get a sense of the 3-dimensional distribution of gas in the interstellar medium.





OK, that should be enough for now. I feel warmed up to do some actual article-writing.
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Message 510472 - Posted: 29 Jan 2007, 18:36:17 UTC

Thanks for the images Kevin. Nice progression.
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Message 510477 - Posted: 29 Jan 2007, 19:00:30 UTC


@ Kevin - 1st - Thanks for the Update / Info

2nd - got mail off to Keith Olberman @ MSNBC (Countdown) w/ Dr. Anderson's No.

3rd - keep up the Amazing Work & Correspondence - it is Appreciated Sir . . .

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Message 511077 - Posted: 31 Jan 2007, 3:41:56 UTC

@ Kevin, Can Oxygen be found this way, or is that a stupid question?
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Message 511290 - Posted: 31 Jan 2007, 16:58:37 UTC - in response to Message 511077.

@ Kevin, Can Oxygen be found this way, or is that a stupid question?


Not a stupid question at all. In the cold interstellar medium, oxygen is mostly locked up into molecules like CO, O2 & water (H2O). But atomic oxygen (which we'd label OI, just like atomic hydrogen is HI) has an infrared emission line at 63 micrometres, that has been detected toward many star forming regions, ie. protostars. What probably happens is that the CO molecules near the protostar are dissociated so that there are lots of free C and O atoms around that can radiate. It's easier to see CI than OI. Of course the real problem is all the oxygen in our atmosphere, so we need infrared space telescopes to see interstellar O.

Had some trouble with sidious earlier in the week, but I now have 11 SETHI datacubes crunching away on that machine, 25 running in all. 64 done, 80 to go.

Hockey fans, how about Craig Conroy's triumphant return to the Calgary Flames? I'm from Calgary myself, so it warms my heart to hear about someone ending up back in Alberta after doing a stint in California. Kinda hoping for the same thing to happen to me - but I'd be happy (almost) anywhere in Canada.
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Message 511297 - Posted: 31 Jan 2007, 17:30:19 UTC

@Kevin,

I take it that the complex organic molecules that are known to exist in space can be found in a similar fashion?

List of molecules in interstellar space

It makes me wonder if these organic clouds could have had a seeding effect on planetary systems (not unlike the panspermia hypothesis).

So what do you do when all your datacubes are completed, will you still have a job?
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Message 511349 - Posted: 31 Jan 2007, 21:02:07 UTC - in response to Message 511297.

@Kevin,

I take it that the complex organic molecules that are known to exist in space can be found in a similar fashion?

List of molecules in interstellar space

It makes me wonder if these organic clouds could have had a seeding effect on planetary systems (not unlike the panspermia hypothesis).

So what do you do when all your datacubes are completed, will you still have a job?



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Message 511354 - Posted: 31 Jan 2007, 21:11:43 UTC - in response to Message 511290.
Last modified: 31 Jan 2007, 21:15:17 UTC

@ Kevin, Can Oxygen be found this way, or is that a stupid question?


Not a stupid question at all. In the cold interstellar medium, oxygen is mostly locked up into molecules like CO, O2 & water (H2O). But atomic oxygen (which we'd label OI, just like atomic hydrogen is HI) has an infrared emission line at 63 micrometres, that has been detected toward many star forming regions, ie. protostars. What probably happens is that the CO molecules near the protostar are dissociated so that there are lots of free C and O atoms around that can radiate. It's easier to see CI than OI. Of course the real problem is all the oxygen in our atmosphere, so we need infrared space telescopes to see interstellar O.

There’s a notorious species of ionized oxygen, called OIII by astronomers, that radiates in the visible spectrum. I say notorious because when first detected, in emissions from planetary nebulae, its spectral lines (near 5000 Å in wavelength) were erroneously identified as belonging to a previously unknown element, which was dubbed “nebulium”. (There was a precedent for this kind of discovery; helium was detected in the Sun’s spectrum quite some time before being found on earth.) It wasn’t until years later that the lines were shown to come from “forbidden” electronic transitions in the oxygen atom—it takes the extremely low pressures and high energies of the space environment to produce this behaviour, which is never observed from atmospheric oxygen or in a laboratory.
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Message 511473 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 2:38:07 UTC - in response to Message 511297.

@Kevin,

I take it that the complex organic molecules that are known to exist in space can be found in a similar fashion?


Essentially, yes. Some have transitions at radio/microwave/infrared wavelengths, while others have spectral lines only at higher energies. Astrochemistry is a really interesting field, but you need to know a lot of quantum theory to predict accurately the emission from interstellar molecules.


So what do you do when all your datacubes are completed, will you still have a job?


When the datacubes are done we'll try and publish a number of papers on them, and make them available to others in the Galactic astronomy community. Then in a few years the GALFA surveys will be done and the SETHI data will have been successfully rendered obsolete. As to whether I'll have a job, I certainly hope so, though who knows if it'll be at Berkeley? Being a postdoc is not the greatest thing if job security is important to you.

So this afternoon our meetings didn't go ahead as scheduled. Frustrating. Eric was away today but he deserves it after spending most of the last month on a major NASA proposal. And Dan had to go meet a potential donor, plus Matt & Jeff were putting out another (figurative) computer-related fire. Not that I like meetings, but I had turned down an invitation to go somewhere else this afternoon because they were scheduled. We probably would've talked about charging for work units, so the longer we can delay that conversation the better, I say.
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Message 511503 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 3:33:18 UTC - in response to Message 511473.

We probably would've talked about charging for work units, so the longer we can delay that conversation the better, I say.


As in, paying to be a part of science?
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Message 511549 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 5:32:12 UTC - in response to Message 511503.
Last modified: 1 Feb 2007, 5:35:13 UTC

We probably would've talked about charging for work units, so the longer we can delay that conversation the better, I say.


As in, paying to be a part of science?


As in, this isn't even an option as far as I'm concerned. Not gonna happen as long as I'm working here. Not like anybody is really considering this anyway. I think a more sensible option (if it comes to this) would be to shut down the project and spend our remaining funds doing whatever science we can as opposed to doing whatever science we can *while* trying to run the world's biggest supercomputing project.

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Message 511578 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 9:11:26 UTC - in response to Message 511549.
Last modified: 1 Feb 2007, 9:17:36 UTC

We probably would've talked about charging for work units, so the longer we can delay that conversation the better, I say.


As in, paying to be a part of science?


As in, this isn't even an option as far as I'm concerned. Not gonna happen as long as I'm working here. Not like anybody is really considering this anyway. I think a more sensible option (if it comes to this) would be to shut down the project and spend our remaining funds doing whatever science we can as opposed to doing whatever science we can *while* trying to run the world's biggest supercomputing project.

- Matt

If push comes to shove, what's the possibility of transferring SETI@Home to a volunteer community type thing, along the lines of what Linux Developers do - Sourceforge and all that?

Perhaps not a realistic suggestion as the whole point of SETI in the end is scientific analysis of telescope data for potential artificial non-terrestrial artefacts.

But it's a suggestion never the less, has any thought been put into porting seti elsewhere (the seti league, say, or seti institute, or even distributed amongst interested universities, etc, etc).

I'd rather not see this happen (unless others can see something good in the idea), but it may well be worth considering.

To me SETI@Home is too groundbreaking and worthwhile to simply shut off the power to, if we can help it.
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Message 511739 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 19:26:20 UTC - in response to Message 511503.

As in, paying to be a part of science?

That’s actually been the rationale for my donations so far: 1¢ per Classic WU, and 0.1¢ per BOINC cobblestone earned here and in Beta. I realize that doesn’t come to a lot, but it should more than cover the costs of handling the work I’ve done, and in principle it makes a kind of sense to me … if even 10% of the users were to do so, I figure that would come to something on the order of $2500 a day.
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Message 511743 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 19:44:22 UTC - in response to Message 511739.



As in, paying to be a part of science?

That’s actually been the rationale for my donations so far: 1¢ per Classic WU, and 0.1¢ per BOINC cobblestone earned here and in Beta. I realize that doesn’t come to a lot, but it should more than cover the costs of handling the work I’ve done, and in principle it makes a kind of sense to me … if even 10% of the users were to do so, I figure that would come to something on the order of $2500 a day.

Yes !

I agree , I think this would be an Excellent idea !

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Message 511760 - Posted: 1 Feb 2007, 20:47:19 UTC
Last modified: 1 Feb 2007, 21:20:49 UTC

I'd just like to point out that at 0.1 cent per cobblestone, if taken retrospectively, that at this time it would make $1043.35 and $176.88 for each of you.
[ not such a big ask, or is it? ]
Jason.

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Message 511878 - Posted: 2 Feb 2007, 0:17:44 UTC - in response to Message 511760.
Last modified: 2 Feb 2007, 0:23:06 UTC

I'd just like to point out that at 0.1 cent per cobblestone, if taken retrospectively, that at this time it would make $1043.35 and $176.88 for each of you.

I’m nowhere near Byron’s league—that’s starting to look like serious money in his case—but my last donation, about a month ago, was based on a total of 162680 cobblestones. At the moment I ‘owe’ another $45 or so (I’m including my thirty-thousand-plus credits from Beta where, incidentally, Byron is one of the very top contributors) but I wasn’t planning to make another donation for a few weeks: fewer, larger donations means less ‘overhead’ in terms of processing, mailing tax receipts, &c.
[ not such a big ask, or is it? ]

Not for me, but I’m steadily employed, I own my home, and my dependents, two cats and a python, don’t need clothing or education. I’m sure many other participants have greater obligations, or more computing power than cash on hand, so such a scheme wouldn’t likely fit in with everyone’s priorities.
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Message 512259 - Posted: 2 Feb 2007, 19:49:06 UTC - in response to Message 511760.

I'd just like to point out that at 0.1 cent per cobblestone, if taken retrospectively, that at this time it would make $1043.35 and $176.88 for each of you.
[ not such a big ask, or is it? ]
Jason.

Yes it is...I would/could not do seti of I had to pay.

@Kevin. Thanks for the interesting pics and explanations. It takes me back to my college days when I did a whole course on the interstellar medium....I remember calculating the angular momentum for rotating dust grains...but I can't remember why we did it.
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Message 512289 - Posted: 2 Feb 2007, 20:32:46 UTC - in response to Message 512259.

Yes it is...I would/could not do seti of I had to pay.


You and thousands of other loyal volunteers, I'm sure. It's just too bad we're in a funding situation where such a thing even has to be considered. I agree with Matt that if we focussed our efforts on taking the results we do have and get them published in one of the major journals, we'd be on better ground to seek funding through the proper grant agencies, though it'd still be a steep upward climb.

@Kevin. Thanks for the interesting pics and explanations. It takes me back to my college days when I did a whole course on the interstellar medium....I remember calculating the angular momentum for rotating dust grains...but I can't remember why we did it.


Because you can, that's why! I'm just kidding - probably something to do with the polarization of starlight.

I don't think I'll get around to seeing Of Montreal in San Francisco this weekend. Yesterday was payday and I'm still trying to pay off my Ireland vacation over New Year's. I'll just stay home and watch my Magma and Gentle Giant DVDs.
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Message 512372 - Posted: 2 Feb 2007, 22:36:07 UTC - in response to Message 512289.

Yes it is...I would/could not do seti of I had to pay.


You and thousands of other loyal volunteers, I'm sure. It's just too bad we're in a funding situation where such a thing even has to be considered. I agree with Matt that if we focussed our efforts on taking the results we do have and get them published in one of the major journals, we'd be on better ground to seek funding through the proper grant agencies, though it'd still be a steep upward climb.

I think that sounds like a much better plan. Us volunteers donate quite a lot to your project when you think about it. I know it is not enough to pay the bills, but in the end we are volunteers. I can't see people being willing to pay to 'work' for you. That just doesn't make sense to me, no matter how worthy the science is.

@Kevin. Thanks for the interesting pics and explanations. It takes me back to my college days when I did a whole course on the interstellar medium....I remember calculating the angular momentum for rotating dust grains...but I can't remember why we did it.


Because you can, that's why! I'm just kidding - probably something to do with the polarization of starlight.

I don't think I'll get around to seeing Of Montreal in San Francisco this weekend. Yesterday was payday and I'm still trying to pay off my Ireland vacation over New Year's. I'll just stay home and watch my Magma and Gentle Giant DVDs.

You are right..I've still got my 'Bowers and Deeming Astrophysics II' on the shelf. (how's that for an exciting read?) and it was to do with the polarisation of star light. I guess I haven't forgotten everything I learned at university!

I'd say a trip to Ireland was well worth having to have to odd quiet weekend at home to pay for it, so I wouldn't feel too bad about it if I were you. :-)
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Message 512469 - Posted: 3 Feb 2007, 3:21:08 UTC - in response to Message 512372.
Last modified: 3 Feb 2007, 3:23:24 UTC

I think we are paying quite enough in electricity for our machines to support the project. I have some machines that do nothing else but crunch, and they do cost money to run, not a fortune, but still significant.

In an idea world, we would receive money for contributing processing resources and have running costs reimbursed.
Perhaps one day this could be a reality, but SETI et al and the incredible resource we supply would have to be taken seriously by mainsteam science and governments to supply appropriate funding to cover all our expenses.

Seems to me to be completely ridiculous that SETI@Home has to rely on charity and waste valuable research time in fire fighting and raising money.

Extraterrestrial life just has to exist somewhere else in the Universe, perhaps it isn't detectable in such a short timeframe with such a huge space to cover in time and distance and uncertain population density, but we have to try and this should be funded by international governments. If Bush and Putin can sign an agreement to cooperate in case of alien invasion, then they should take the search for it equally seriously!

And/or, I'm sure Intel, AMD, Gates, Jobs, Paul Allen et al could come up with more than enough funds to ensure survival of SETI. A million users and their friends is a very significant market that they can influence using BOINC as a coloseum for processor wars and get exposure and useful work done too. Somewhere in there perhaps we can get real credit for our contributions, instead of warm fuzzy feelings and willy waving opportunities!

Andy.

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