Sunday, September 07, 2008

Packard highlights

Some things I learned at my final Packard meeting:
  • The density of stars in a globular cluster is just absurd - something like 104-106 stars in a volume 10 ly on a side. Wow.
  • The joint between the stem and base of a wine glass is a perfect lens for demonstrating the types of Einstein rings that one sees in gravitational lensing.
  • In the protoplanetary disk phase of solar system formation, elements get mixed on very rapid timescales (like around 1000 years).
  • Bacteria are much better at using 40Ca in their metabolism than 44Ca, and it's not at all clear how this works kinetically.
  • 3-5 million years ago, in the early Pliocene, the global climate is a good test case for comparison with global warming models. Bad news for me: if the trends can really be mapped onto today, the hurricane rate is likely to increase by a factor of two.
  • Using isotopic analysis (!), it is possible to put an error bound on how many people the lions in the Fields Museum actually ate: 41 +- 11. Anecdotal evidence had put the number between 15 and 135.
  • We're all going to be able to get our genomes sequenced very soon, since the rate at which DNA can be sequenced (base pairs per day, for example) has gone up by five orders of magnitude in the last five years.
More later....

1 comment:

Will said...

#4 and #6 are really crazy; it's amazing how much of a difference isotopes make.