Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Texture of the Atmosphere

The second candidate physicist for the position of Assistant Professor gave a talk at school today. He's an atmospheric physicist, a category of people I've never really run into before. His talk was quite interesting, all about weather phenomena at scales not usually considered, interspersed with talk about his work on finding low-cost ways to capture lots of weather data using methods that haven't been used before (he currently works at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I might add). It covered a lot of scales of the atmosphere that we don't usually think about, mainly less than a day in time and less than a kilometer or so in distance. For instance, one experiment he did was to cover the top of a building on the UN Kearney campus with a 5x6 grid of buckets to record how much rain it received, and how fast. The data showed that just over the scale of the building, some buckets received more rain than others (there was also something about how it showed when the rainstorm changed from one type to another during the middle, but I couldn't quite follow that part). Although he has done a lot of different weather related work, rain is his current focus, and he even got some small NASA grants to study it (gosh, you think he might enjoy Hilo?). As one professor quipped while he was going over the details of a particular sophisticated rain gauge, "Here the problem is not whether you'll get the rain, it's that it will most like swamp your detectors!"

Now that I've seen both candidates for the position, I don't envy the search committee their decision, as they both seemed like good, qualified individuals with nothing really to pick one over the other. Whoever they pick, it'll be interesting to watch, especially if they begin teaching next semester (certainly a possibility).

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