About Me

I'm an Explorer, Engineer, Writer, Public Speaker, and Entrepreneur. I write about exploration, travel, and science. 

Any views expressed on this site are my own.  

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For a complete list of works from the MIT Science Writing Program, click here.

For a list of my blog posts on Open NASA, click here

Thursday
Jan102013

PART 1: Searching for Life Where the Sun Don't Shine: Explorations to the Seafloors of Earth and Europa

Originally produced as the thesis for my Master's from MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing. Recently published in Astrobiology Magazine

This is Part 1 of a 6-part series telling the story of humankind’s efforts to understand the origins of life by looking for it in extreme environments where life thrives without relying on the sun as an energy source. It follows an oceanographic expedition to the Mid-Cayman Rise, led by Chris German of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and NASA’s efforts to plan a future mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. By understanding how life can live without the sun, we may discover how life began on our planet and whether or not Earth is the only place in the universe capable of supporting a biosphere.  

R/V Atlantis, morning before departure to the Mid Cayman Rise. Image Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)

On February 17, 1977, Tjeerd van Andel of Stanford University and Jack Corliss of Oregon State took a few last breaths of the South Pacific air before closing the basketball hoop-sized hatch of the research submersible, Alvin. Their pilot, Jack Donnelly, then guided the 23-foot long craft down 9,000 feet towards the seafloor, away from the team’s research vessel Knorr and mother ship, Lulu. Ninety minutes later, the trio reached the bottom.

Six hours and forty-seven minutes later, they were back at the surface. When the science team extracted the first water samples taken from the seafloor, the entire lab on the Knorr was filled with a horrible stench: rotten eggs.

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Tuesday
Sep112012

Duck Pin, We Have a Problem

(as published in MIT's Technology Review)

Link to article

Tuesday
May152012

A Decade Inside the Olin Oval 

Ten years after a prominent foundation dumped all of its money into the creation of a tiny undergraduate engineering school from scratch, how does it shape up? 

There’s an oval in Needham, Massachusetts, where big ideas are taking shape. The oval itself isn’t that big, maybe 400 feet at its longest and 300 feet at its most narrow. Three buildings, curved to match the oval’s outer arc, surround a concrete walkway around the perimeter and an unspectacular patch of grass is bisected by walkways crossing through the center. A grassy mall stretches out radially from the space between two of these buildings, expanding in size, manicured to perfection. Two more unassuming buildings line the mall and the whole 70-acre campus is dotted with pines and fields, hemlocks and parking lots, showcasing the simple beauty of Eastern Massachusetts with a nod to the elegant traditional design of New England colleges.

That’s it. Five buildings and an oval: the layout of a campus designed to redefine engineering education in the United States for the 21st century.

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Tuesday
May012012

On the Playground with the Bullies of Science

A review of The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Can’t Solve Our Global Problems, by Henry Petroski

274 pages. Knopf, 2010. $26.95

If would-be pocket-protecting scientists were the kids that received wedgies on the playground and were nearly forced into malnutrition by bullies stealing their lunch money, I wonder what would-be engineers endured in Henry Petroski’s school.

“Engineering can be as much of an assault on the frontiers of knowledge as is science,” asserts Petroski in The Essential Engineer, sounding the battle trumpet of engineering. A professor of civil engineering at Duke University, Petroski’s out to get engineers some respect. He’s tired of bully scientists hogging the spotlight of public esteem and relevance. 

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Wednesday
Apr252012

The Phase Between Gemini's Legs


Gemini image source:
http://stars.astro.illinois.edu

I’m lying on my back in the grass—cold, but not too cold. Just enough to cause fingers to numb slightly in fifteen minutes’ time. I hear a couple laughing as they walk somewhere behind me. A tall guy with a beard passes by, looks at me funny. A girl power walks across the courtyard, holding a plastic bag at the end of each arm. I see a jogger with a headband, unicolor in navy blue. I hear cars, trucks, buses, horns, and nineteen seconds of crosswalk beeping roughly every minute and a half.

Above, the bright light of Venus blurs behind a thin cloud layer, off to the right of my view. An almost perfect half moon—a first-quarter moon actually—is pretty much directly overhead, a bit right of center. Off to my left, the illuminated, curving spire of the MIT Chapel shines skyward, pointing to the pale red dot of Mars. 

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