The high-level observations for today:
- “Invited” speakers tend to be better than those that are… not invited.
I do not have enough data on quality of uninvited talks, but I see an opportunity for a great practical joke.
- If the invited speaker isn’t working, you can either wait it out or go to the alternate bloc of presentations. (You do have one, don’t you?) Or, tour the Poster Hall.
- Nearly half of today’s presenters were confounded in some way by the remote control. It seems people think “right click” means “forward one slide,” not “select some stupid menu that I’ll need help exiting.“
I woke up from a weird dream that involved being approached by a panhandler of the worst kind:
P: Spare a half million?
J:Hah – I don’t think so.
P: (Quivers.) C’mon, man, I need a little ‘series A’ for MyFaceTubePedia.com.
J: I said no.
P: Synergized social networking paradigms. Web 3.0. It’s the next Google!
J: Leave me alone and get a job, you bum!
I mention this only because the first speaker started by calling attention to what Europeans refer to as “cyber-infrastructure,” we in North America call “e-Science.” I was ruing passing up the cleverly titled “What Trees Do At Night When No One Is Looking: […].” When he used “cyber-infrastructure” and “e-Science again,” I cut bait rather than making a scene.
Malted Milk Ball
Upstairs were presentations of theories of the origins of Titan’s atmosphere. The seemed to agree that the atmosphere was probably not “primordially captured” because of the concentration of Argon is too low. Argon is heavier than the escape velocity of Titan, thus would be expected to still remain. (They did say it’s is possible the argon hasn’t gassed out.)
An impact event, such as a comet, was considered unlikely because the temperatures generated (>250K) would be high enough that the vapor pressure of the water would “short circuit” N2 production. (Titan’s atmosphere is 95% Nitrogen, compared to earth’s 78%.)
Thermal disassociation of Ammonia might be expected to contribute, but the isotopes — like Aluminum-26, which serves the equivalent as radiocarbon dating, but for planets — contradict this. The working theory they proposed is photolysis of the ammonia, for which the time scale fits.
Why this all matters is the established N2 atmosphere, liquid surface and subsurface, and trace levels of hydrocarbons could host (or at least is a precursor for hosting) microbial life.
I walked over to the other building to look at the day’s set of posters. I can only stand about an hour and a half of this at a time. The hall is huge, but crowds congregating in the middle of the lanes make it difficult to navigate. Which reminds me that I posted a little note on a bulletin board:
Dear fashionable, backpack-wearing person: I am most impressed at the supercritical density with which your bag is stuffed. You may be unaware of this, but you stick out about two feet. I noticed this when you made a sudden 90° turn to look at a poster, nearly causing my coffee to propel itself onto the comely Volcanologist. Please consider putting a turn signal on that bad boy. Or maybe don’t store all five days’ worth of clothes.
The three lectures opening the Paleoclimatology section were excellent. I’m still processing the information, but the major takeaway was the mid-Pliocene era is a good model for our climate trends for the 2,100 and 3,000 time frames. In these, the average worldwide temperature was higher and had high correlation with greenhouse gases. Also, the worldwide fauna restructured to adapt to the wetter and dryer cycles.
The five remaining sessions for the morning were back to Titan and Iapetus. More on those later if anyone is interested.
Not the Death Star
After a non-lunch — because I checked work email (and fixed a bug) — I went to the “Cold Region Hydrogeophysics” section. Dude was going through his slides too fast for me to keep up. Thinking the whole bloc would be like this, I got bold and ventured over to the geodynamics side. Total. Butt. Whuppin. The Sequel.Next: Tectonics. The four presentations were good. The one that I’ll say anything about was Chris Kincaid’s physical model of variations in mantle flow. This thing is awesome, like a Mythbuster‘s experiment, but without explosions.
The final bloc of sessions were in the Global Environmental Change, specifically on the detection and attribution of climate changes. The first speaker worked with models of the northern hemisphere. The second, North America. The third: snowpack in the western US.
The material was interesting, but also requires more thought than I can contribute tonight (including reading of the IPCC site).