from the world's big
Witnessing one of Hubble's greatest hits
Heidi B. Hammel joined The Planetary Society's Board of Directors in 2005. A Senior Research Scientist with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, Hammel herself lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
She received her undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982 and her Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Hawaii in 1988. After a post-doctoral position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California), Hammel returned to MIT, where she spent nearly nine years as a Principal Research Scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.
Hammel primarily studies outer planets and their satellites, with a focus on observational techniques. Hammel received the 2002 American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (AAS/DPS) Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public .
Question: What was your involvement with the Hubble Space Telescope?
Heidi Hammel:When Hubble was launched, it became clear very shortly thereafter that there was a problem with the optics. The mirror was not quite the right shape. And the one program that I had really been looking forward to doing with Hubble was studying outer planets in our solar system, the planets Uranus and Neptune. And they’re so far away. Even though they’re big planets, they’re so far away that they’re really, really challenging and hard to see. And it was clear that with the optics not quite up to snuff, we couldn’t really do these planets. So I didn’t propose for the first couple of years that Hubble was up. But then there was a servicing mission where they put in some new optics. Basically they put in like a pair of glasses, if you will, on Hubble. And so I had proposed a program to use Hubble to look at the planet Neptune. But before that could happen, someone discovered a comet, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, and it was in orbit around Jupiter. And I remember thinking, “So what?” Comets are like little balls of ice. Jupiter’s a huge planet. Nothing’s, you know, it’s not a big deal. They discovered the comet was going to hit Jupiter, you know. It’s like, well, so what? Nothing’s going to happen. But there was a guy down the hall from me at MIT, Tim Dowling, and he did this really high falutin’, super computer model type stuff of atmospheres. And he did models of what would happen to Jupiter’s atmosphere when the comet hit it, and his models predicted it would make these big ripples and rings, sort of like if you threw a rock in a pond, you’d see these rings expanding from where the rock hit. And he said, “Well, Heidi, can you write a proposal to use Hubble to look for these rings?” And I said, “Well, yes, sure, Tim. I mean, I know how to write a proposal. I’m good at that.” So I wrote a proposal to use Hubble to look for these expanding rings that he had predicted. And a few weeks went by, and they read the proposals. And I got a phone call, and they said, “Heidi, we picked your proposal as one that we’re going to do. And we picked six others, and we’d like you to be the principal investigator, the team leader, and combine all these proposals into one program.” And I said, “Oh, me? Okay. Well, let me think about it and get back to you.” That’s a standard response that blue grass musicians use when they’re asked for a gig. “Let me get back to you on that. I’ll check my calendar.” So I thought about it for like a day and a half, and you can’t say no. I mean, here they’re asking you to use the Hubble Space Telescope, even though I’d never used it before, because my other program hadn’t happened yet. So my very first program was this huge event that we didn’t even know if anything was going to happen, very risky. There I was about to use Hubble and my personal opinion, before the event happened, was that nothing would be seen. Kind of embarrassing if you’re thinking of doing 30 orbits of Hubble time, and you’re not going to see anything, but you have to take a chance every once in awhile. One of the things I’ve learned that has made me very successful, I think, as a scientist in general, sometimes you just have to take a chance. Got to for it even if you don’t know what’s going to happen. So I did. It turned out to be spectacular. We had the best view on earth or space of these impacts. Hubble performed beautifully, flawlessly, and we got spectacular images of these black impact sites where these comets crashed, those comet fragments crashed into the cloud tops of Jupiter. It was just absolutely amazing. And everyone on earth could see the spots. Even with like a little, tiny toy telescope from Sears, you could see these black spots on Jupiter, but then you could see our Hubble images, which were clearly fantastic images. We really put Hubble kind of back on the map, and it was a fantastic thing to do.
Heidi Hammel's team of scientists put the Hubble Space Telescope "back on the map" when they captured the dramatic collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter. Hubble performed "beautifully, flawlessly, and we got spectacular images."
Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.
- The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
- The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
Photo: Feichen Yang.<p>That's the word from a team in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University. Their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/adfm.202003451" target="_blank">new paper</a>, published in the journal,<em> Advanced Functional Materials</em>, details this exciting evolution of this frustrating joint.<br></p><p>Researchers have sought materials strong and versatile enough to repair a knee since at least the seventies. This new hydrogel, comprised of three polymers, might be it. When two of the polymers are stretched, a third keeps the entire structure intact. When pulled 100,000 times, the cartilage held up as well as materials used in bone implants. The team also rubbed the hydrogel against natural cartilage a million times and found it to be as wear-resistant as the real thing. </p><p>The hydrogel has the appearance of Jell-O and is comprised of 60 percent water. Co-author, Feichen Yang, <a href="https://today.duke.edu/2020/06/lab-first-cartilage-mimicking-gel-strong-enough-knees" target="_blank">says</a> this network of polymers is particularly durable: "Only this combination of all three components is both flexible and stiff and therefore strong." </p><p> As with any new material, a lot of testing must be conducted. They don't foresee this hydrogel being implanted into human bodies for at least three years. The next step is to test it out in sheep. </p><p>Still, this is an exciting step forward in the rehabilitation of one of our trickiest joints. Given the potential reward, the wait is worth it. </p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?
- 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
- Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
- Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.
70 data points and machine learning
Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash
Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash