An academic life punctuated with bullets

An academic life punctuated with bullets

Every university seeks to convince parents (and itself) that it is a safe place where learning and personal development are fostered in a protective yet stimulating environment. This is part of the myth of the Ivory Tower: we form the intellectual fortress where the knowledge-wealth of a society is stored, and intellectual returns roll in at double-digit rates as papers are published and student sponges absorb the words of the marble and bronze professors we’ve placed on pedestals.

In truth, universities are just places that strive to be more, but often struggle to make their dreams reality. As places run by humans and often open to the public, they aren’t as secure as we may desire. While the majority of crimes are related to random strangers entering campus to thieve, and peep, and sometime grope and rape, the most tragic crimes we see are the ones perpetrated by the students and staff who become broken as they try to run the academic gauntlet.

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Dorrit Hoffleit, 1907-2007

Dorrit Hoffleit, 1907-2007

dorritgrad.gif DorritShe turned 100 on March 12 and passed away after a breif illness on April 9. She was sharp and witty and active all the way to the end. Many people have written about her, but I think her personal words describe her the best: “I do it because I like it. … . [Astronomy], it’s my life.”

This video is from an interview done in July of 2006 and re-editted yesterday.

July 2006 Interview with E. Dorrit Hoffleit:

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Conflicted by Light

Conflicted by Light

As an Astronomer, I am very pro-dark sky. As a person in favor of migrating birds, baby sea turtles, and general good health, I’m anti-light pollution. As a human who wants to see our planet’s environmental crash slow down and reverse, I’m in favor of energy conservation. Generally, these three sets of opinionated voices in my head work in tandem to encourage people to use down-pointed lights that contain orange-ish low-pressure sodium lamps. When those don’t work, I turn to the web site of the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) where they list lighting, even Antique Street Lamps that would match my historic neighborhood’s idea of good landscaping. Unfortunately, a new light on the block is going to bring conflict to the normally collaborative voices. That new light is the ulta-luminous white LED. Taking 63 watts to produce 8500 lux, and lasting roughly 30 years, these brand new lights are every energy savers dream come true. Municipalities are considering switching to this new new tech toy to save city resources. Unfortunately, white LEDs (see image left, credit: CREE lighting) are every dark sky dreamer’s worst nightmare.

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