Leon Lederman | How I Knew Him

There was sad news in the physics community about the death of Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman on 3 Oct 2018. He was 96. He lived a distinguished career in physics research and education.

1988 | Director of Fermilab

My first contact with Leon came in 1983 as a participant in the first Summer Institute for Physics Teachers held at Fermilab near Batavia IL. Participants met daily for several weeks. Several days each week started with a talk by a physicist explaining the state of research about fundamental particles which make up the world we know. We had special tours of the research facilities. Through these insights we were charged to include modern physics topics into our classroom teaching.

Dr. Lederman was the lab director at that time. His interest in science education often brought him to our group of teachers. He showed up at the talks, took some tours with us, and talked informally with us. He always carried a smile and had a good joke to tell. His hope for the Theory of Everything was that it would fit on a T-shirt. Simplicity of concepts was important.

Leon meets with the Education Office team | 1985

I took over as coordinator of the physics part of the Summer Secondary Science Institutes until 1992. That’s me next to Leon. The Fermilab Education Office had a farewell dinner in my honor when we moved from the area. Seated at my table that evening were my wife, my closest teaching colleagues, and Leon. I was thrilled to share the evening with him.

One sad facet of the news of his death included the fact that in 2015 he sold his Nobel Prize for $765,000 to pay for medical expenses related to his care in a nursing home for dementia. His wife said:

“It’s terrible,” Leon’s wife Ellen Lederman told NBC News back in 2015 after they had to sell the Nobel Prize. “It’s really hard. I wish it could be different. But he’s happy. He likes where he lives with cats and dogs and horses. He doesn’t have any problems with anxiety, and that makes me glad that he’s so content.”

It is inexcusable that this wealthy country does not have a plan in place to guarantee care and comfort to its citizens. I believe it should be a right. Leon Lederman certainly did his share of contributions to our country. He deserved better.


Eye of Michael | GOES View | 10 Oct 2018

This is the best view I’ve ever seen of the dynamics of the eye and wall of a powerful hurricane. Michael was recorded by the GOES-16 weather satellite on 10 Oct 2018 as it made landfall in Florida with 150 mph winds. Notice how the eye lost shape as it went inland.

Click on the image to be taken to the University of Wisconsin Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. There you can watch the video.

U of Wisconsin | Dept of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences


Eye of Michael | ISS View | 10 Oct 2018

ISS View of Michael

According to NASA, cameras outside the International Space Station captured views of Hurricane Michael at 12:58 p.m. EDT Oct. 10 from an altitude of 255 miles. The eye was making landfall with winds of over 150 mph as a category 4 storm. This video is part of a longer video captured from their YouTube channel. It is about double normal speed. The view is directly down into the eye.

3-D View of Eye

I got two screen captures of the view down into the eye a few seconds apart. They are from slightly different directions due to the rapid speed of the ISS. The two images were sized the same and placed side-by-side in the image below.

If you are able to do the parallel viewing method, stare through this image at a distance. The images for your right and left eyes should merge into a third one in the center. The center one is a 3-D view down into the eye. Be patient. It might take a few moments for the effect to become easily seen. I can see the water surface below a thin cloud deck. The walls of the eye are steep and tall.

Amazon River Sunglint

I looked at the GOES-17 full-disk view of Earth during sunrise across the Americas on the morning of 7 Oct 2018. It was a beautiful way to start the day. The video on the site looped repeatedly while I watched showing images taken every 15 min.

Something curious caught my eye in the Amazon Basin. I screen-captured this short video. Watch the Amazon region for movement of bright light up-river. It is sunglint. Reflection of sunlight off the water surface into the GOES satellite optics.

Using the tools on the site, I zoomed into the Amazon Basin for a better look. Here it is from the mouth at the Atlantic to the west toward the Andes. Not much of the river is visible.

Watch what happens when the same region is viewed at 15 min intervals in this video loop. I stepped the video forward over a 3 hour interval, rewound, and repeated.

Here is a close-up of the river and tributaries at the middle of the basin. Amazing what you can see with the new GOES weather satellites.

If you want to explore more from a GOES weather satellite. Here is a link to the image viewer. Note the tabs across the page. Try them out. The U.S. Regions tab offers closer views and animations. Go ahead and have some fun. You can’t break anything.

Vesta Near Saturn | 3 Views

Movement of Vesta and Saturn

I posted recently about my first view of the protoplanet and 2nd largest asteroid 4 Vesta. Later, on 23 Aug 2018, I managed to get an image of dim Vesta. With a magnitude of +6.5 at this time, it is not quite visible to my naked eye even under the best viewing conditions. It does show in binoculars. For comparison, Jupiter and Mars now have magnitudes of -1.8, and -1.2 respectively. They are bright. Here is a table of magnitudes of other objects.

At about 8 pm on 23 Sep, 26 Sep, and 4 Oct, the sky was dark with good seeing. Saturn was in a pattern of stars I could easily see. I knew Vesta was somewhere below Saturn. Below is the broad view using desktop software. South and southwest are labeled along the horizon at the bottom. Scorpius is at lower right. Sagittarius is in the center. The 2nd image is the zoomed-in view of the box in the center. Click for more detail.

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Moon Visits the Planets

The sky has been graced by four planets in recent weeks shortly after sunset. Farthest west has been Venus. Next toward the east has been Jupiter, then fainter Saturn, and brilliant Mars in the southeast. This view from Starry Nite desktop software shows their arrangement in mid-August soon after sunset.

Click embiggen

The Moon was a new thin crescent on 11 Sep soon after sunset here photographed by Heiko Ulbricht in Germany.

Heiko Ulbricht | September 11, 2018 | @ Mt. Lerchenberg, Saxony, Germany

Each successive night after 11 Sep, the Moon appeared farther east in the evening sky as it orbited Earth. Our weather forecast predicted a series of clear days which gave me hope of capturing an image of the Moon near each of the four planets during the coming week.

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In the Pine Woods

Fourteen years ago I walked to a pine woods not far from our backyard. New construction was taking place. I wanted to get some images of the pine trees before they were cut down. Lots of other trees were removed as new streets and lots were installed. I am glad to say these pines are still there.

For the images of the tall pines, I wanted a different perspective. I chose a spot with a good view upward. Lying on my back, I shot about 10 pictures up into the trees. The images were overlaid so the trunks and branches were in good alignment. The end result was very close to how I saw it.

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