Monday, April 10, 2006

Gamma-ray bursts

We had a great guest speaker at our club meeting last night: Dr. Derek Fox, an assistant astronomy prof at Penn State. He's a young guy with a ton of enthusiasm for the subject matter, which was admittedly intriguing: short and long gamma-ray bursts. After summarizing the history of our observations of GRBs and the evolution of various ground- and space-based detectors, he showed us the research that led to the current theories of the two types of GRBs. The most fascinating part of the presentation (along with the sexy "Hollywood" animations of stars collapsing and polar jets forming), was the evidence that led his team to be the first to pinpoint a short GRB and measure its distance.

It's experiences like this that make me regret I didn't go into sciences like I intended to in college. The thrill of discovery must be really fantastic, and I think Dr. Fox did a great job of giving the audience a brief vicarious experience of that thrill.


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