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OFJ Field Journal from Claudia Alexander - 12/19/95


This past week was the winter meeting of the American Geophyiscal Union in San Francisco, and this AGU was one of my wildest ever. First off, I left my laptop computer in the limousine from the airport. (Did I mention before that I was the world's biggest moron?). I sweated for a few hours until I got it back! Thank God there are still a few honest people left!

I tried to stay in the hotel for the most part, so I used room service for several of my meals. That meant I spent $25 for a 13" pizza and a coke. I spent $18 for a cocktail glass full of muslix and a cup of coffee. (It's the first time I've ever had gourmet muslix). I spent $20 for 2 pancakes, 2 slices of bacon and 2 eggs. Hmmm, that time I also had fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, so that must be where the money went.

I meant to work on my paper, but things kept coming up. First, my collaborator and I still had work to do on the poster we were presenting at the meeting. A poster is another way of showing people your research results: instead of giving a talk, you write up a summary and put it up as a poster for people to read. He was from Brigham Young University and I was from JPL, so we had not had a chance to see how our mutual contributions to the poster looked together. We laid everything out on a big table and noticed that there had to be a few changes. Since I was the one with the computer, I had to go back to my hotel and type all the changes we came up with, about a dozen pages in all. How do you print out something from your computer when you don't have a printer? Easy. I FAXed all the pages from my computer, to the phone in my room, to myself at the hotel.

Then I went downstairs to find the FAX machine I just FAXed to. I wandered around for some time, trying to find my FAXes, until finally the concierge said, peering at me over the top of her glasses, "Oh no, we bring those to your room when they are done."

So I went back to my room and twiddled my thumbs for awhile and sure enough eventually 12 envelopes were pushed under my door. My heart sank as I looked at those envelopes because I was not only thinking that some tree somewhere had given its all for 11 wasted envelopes, but also how tacky my poster was going to look because they had FOLDED my pages! Later my collaborator asked if the hotel had a paper iron to get the creases out. (no -- they had gourmet muslix but no paper iron!)

This poster contained some predictions for the magnetic environment of Jupiter that Galileo might encounter, and a lot of scientists came up and wanted to know all about Galileo. That was kind of cool. It was exciting to know other scientists in the community were paying attention and were interested in Galileo. Some scientists even collected "souvenirs" of Galileo from my poster!

When I took the poster down, I noticed two of my friends were confiscating some of the material, including a plot I had made of Galileo's orbits around Jupiter. I said, "Hey, that's mine," and one guy said, "not any more, I'm taking this home with me!"

(As an aside, another cool thing that happened this week was that I was finally asked to make an animated movie that would show how Jupiter's magnetosphere works! I have been trying to generate some momentum to get one made, because I believe it is important for scientists to show people what the cool stuff is that their tax dollars are paying for. But there was resistance, and part of the drawback is that we are not really staffed to do this. A lot of the work is going to have to come out of people's private time. Namely, my private time. For me, though, it was kind of cool to be recognized and asked to do it. To get it right will be a big job.)

The other thing that came up was that I have another project to work on that is an Internet public use/learning tool with which to present NASA science, called Windows to the Universe, or Windows, for short. We'll be showing this in a limited way to the public on Feb 1, 1996, which means we don't have a lot of time left to get things ready. The person in charge of Windows -- who is also my good friend Roberta -- wanted me to prepare a section to be critiqued on Saturday by some teachers to see if we were writing the material well enough for kids to actually use. That meant I needed to work hard the entire week on *that* project as well.

Two other scientists who are on the staff of Windows, Jon and Janet, were also at the AGU meeting. Evidently Roberta found out and made (Janet) leave the meeting and go home so she could work on her Windows material! We were all laughing about what a slave driver Roberta had become, and I was trying to explain all this to a friend of mine at dinner when a professor who knows about the Windows project came over and said "I see you are not working on your Windows project... I think I 'm going to call Roberta and tell her that I saw you relaxing at dinner!" I got down on my knees in the restaurant and said "Please don't tell her I wasn't working, Please don't tell her I wasn't working!!"

The very last detail of the week is the Galileo Project Science Group meeting, which will take place Monday. The Project Science Group meeting was specifically set up for the end of the AGU meeting so that all of the Galileo scientists who were in the area for the AGU could hear about the probe results before they are released to the public. Among the important questions that the probe data should help answer: how close is Jupiter to the original material out of which all the planets formed? Did we really sample a remnant of the primordial solar nebula?

It is really a privilege, and very much a learning occasion to be able to attend these sessions. I have been present before, when the scientists, who are among a select group of the top scientists in the world, were discussing what was the really important science for Galileo to perform during one of its Earth/Moon flybys. I'll never forget that meeting as long as I live. I felt *very* lucky to be in the room. The presentation of these probe results will be a historic occasion and I *very* much want to attend, but I need to concentrate on finishing my paper, which was my original goal.

So I've decided to skip the Project Science Group meeting. I feel really bad about missing this historic occasion, not to mention that I would like to write about the results for the Windows project. Nevertheless, I really need to concentrate so I'm going to hide away in a special place and just work. I will get a full report on all the results later, and there will be many other historic occasions yet to come on the Galileo project.



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