Friday, February 27, 2009

James Watson is a clueless idiot

Some one made the mistake of letting Watson out in public again (*), and true to form the old reactionary started spouting nonsense (quotes taken from the SciAm article):

He noted that a lack of money in the sciences meant that people had to be nice to each other, because they need to grovel for the limited research dollars. And, according to Watson, there's nothing worse than forcing young, ambitious scientists to be nice. "Christian values don't make any sense," he said, explaining that young people should be selfish and aim for success.
I presume Watson is advocating scientists would be better served engaging in character assassination and stealing other peoples results before publication and passing them off as their own. After all, that's exactly what Watson's fame is based on [1, 2, 3].

What is doubly absurd about Watson's statements is the idea that scientists are too nice to each other at the moment. That in the competition for increasingly scarce funding, scarce tenure-track jobs, scarce everything, that we've all became nicer to each other!

The reality is, of course, that a wide range of behaviour exists in the large and diverse science community. A small fraction of the population will always seek to game or exploit the system. I doubt any scientist would have trouble recounting at least one story of distinctly unethical behaviour that affected someone they know caused by some other scientists, be it real or perceived.

Back in crazy land Watson was not finished making a fool of himself:
Indeed, Watson's prescription for maintaining U.S. dominance in science includes postponing tenure for young scientists and allowing only one in five PhDs to stay in academics – and forcing the remaining grads to spread out and take up other occupations.
Because tenure is too easy to get! I laughed so much it hurt. I seriously doubt that as many as one in five US PhDs in the sciences ever get tenure. Forcing them to take up other occupations is unlikely to result in those people continuing to do scientific research, although they may indeed take their skills to technology based companies. Forcing people to change careers against their will is also hardly a method likely to result in high quality output of any kind.

Of course it wouldn't be Watson if he didn't make an unfair and dishonest attack on someone who wasn't there to defend themselves.
But Watson said he believes there is a larger hole in the U.S. educational system that is sapping our lead in science. "Part of the problem is too many of our teachers are dumb," he said, balking that "Teachers' unions are corrupt." He said that the relatively low pay educators receive has prompted smart people to flee teaching for other careers— although he made a point of noting that he does not support giving them raises. Teachers like the "bright woman that taught me Latin are nowhere near our schools [now]," he crowed.
So it is not the absurd and ham-strung funding system for US public schools, nor the lack of a national curriculum, nor the fundamentalist and partisan political attacks on science and science education, that are the cause of the US's less than stellar world educational rankings? Nope, according to Watson it is "dumb" teachers and evil Unions. For heaven's sake don't pay the teachers more! After reciting these bits of classic modern Republican party policy Watson then has the unmitigated cheek to criticize John McCain as "nuts" and "dumb". Wow! What a piece of work this man is.

(*) Whose bright idea was it to invite Watson onto a panel given what happened the last time Watson spoke?

Interesting Astrophysics: Feb 23 to Feb 27

The latest batch of interesting papers and preprints for February 2009. Doesn't time fly? As usual any comments I have on any of the papers are given in italics.

Galaxies and Starbursts

Ubiquitous Outflows in DEEP2 Spectra of Star-Forming Galaxies at z = 1.4
Weiner, Benjamin J.; Coil, Alison L.; Prochaska, Jason X.; Newman, Jeffrey A.; Cooper, Michael C.; Bundy, Kevin; Conselice, Christopher J.; Dutton, Aaron A.; Faber, S. M.; Koo, David C.; Lotz, Jennifer M.; Rieke, G. H.; Rubin, K. H. R., 2009, ApJ, 692, 197
PDF (2.04 MB) | HTML

A Young Super Star Cluster in the Nuclear Region of NGC 253
Katherine A. Kornei, Nate McCrady, arXiv:0902.4027 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 8 pages, 5 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ

Are ring galaxies the ancestors of giant low surface brightness galaxies?
M. Mapelli, B. Moore, arXiv:0902.3554 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 4 pages, 6 figures, Astronomische Nachrichten, Vol.329, p.948, proceeding of "Galactic & Stellar Dynamics in the era of high resolution surveys", Strasbourg, France, March 16-20 2008

The diverse X-ray properties of four truly isolated elliptical galaxies: NGC 2954, NGC 6172, NGC 7052, and NGC 7785
Elisabetta Memola, Ginevra Trinchieri, Anna Wolter, Paola Focardi, Birgit Kelm, arXiv:0902.3611 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Comments: 12 pages, 14 PostScript figures, 3 tables, LaTeX - Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics, The original version of the manuscript is available at: this http URL

The onset of warps in Spitzer observations of edge-on spiral galaxies
Kanak Saha, Roelof de Jong, Benne Holwerda, arXiv:0902.4436 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in MNRAS, 25 pages, 12 figures

Spitzer/IRAC 4.5 micron observations and luminosities of ESO121-G6, NGC 4013, NGC 4157, NGC 4302, NGC 4565, NGC 5907 (i.e. many of the Howk and Savage edge-on sample).

The Extragalactic Distance Database
R Brent Tully, L Rizzi, E J Shaya, H M Courtois, D I Makarov, B A Jacobs, arXiv:0902.3668 [pdf, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 9 figures, submitted to Astronomical Journal

The Extragalactic Distance Database: All Digital HI Profile Catalog
Helene M Courtois, R B Tully, J R Fisher, N Bonhomme, M Zavodny, A Barnes, arXiv:0902.3670 [pdf, other]
Comments: 17 pages, 22 figures, submitted to Astronomical Journal

A spectroscopic measure of the star-formation rate density in dwarf galaxies at z~1
G.T. Davies, David Gilbank, Karl Glazebrook, Richard Bower, I.K. Baldry, Michael Balogh, G.K.T. Hau, I.H. Li, P. McCarthy, S. Savaglio, arXiv:0902.3997 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in MNRAS Letters. 6 pages, 2 figures

Trigonometric Parallaxes of Massive Star Forming Regions: VI. Galactic Structure, Fundamental Parameters and Non-Circular Motions
M. J. Reid, K. M. Menten, X. W. Zheng, A. Brunthaler, L. Moscadelli, Y. Xu, B. Zhang, M. Sato, M. Honma, T. Hirota, K. Hachisuka, Y. K. Choi, G. A. Moellenbrock, A. Bartkiewicz, arXiv:0902.3913 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 35 pages, 7 figures, 7 tables

This is the actual paper associated with one of the January 2009 AAS meeting press releases I discussed in this older blog entry . Better late than never, eh? A really nice piece of work though.

On the origin of high-velocity clouds
J. Binney, C. Nipoti, F. Fraternali, arXiv:0902.4525 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Submitted to MNRAS. 13 pages, 9 figures

Poors cold water on the currently popular idea (Maller & Bullock, etc) that the HVCs are gas cooling out of the the hot Galactic halo via thermal instability. Apparently a hot atmosphere confined by a gravitational field and radially stratified by specific entropy is NOT thermally unstable in the common sense. Adiabatic (constant entropy) coronae are subject to thermal instability, but in addition to being somewhat unrealistic they can be stabilized against T.I. by even tiny amounts of thermal conduction (Spitzer/100). Impressive.

Black Holes and AGN

The effect of stellar feedback on the formation and evolution of gas and dust tori in AGN
M. Schartmann, K. Meisenheimer, H. Klahr, M. Camenzind, S. Wolf, Th. Henning, 2009, MNRAS, 393, 759
Full Text: HTML, PDF (Size: 9636K)

Evolution of X-ray cavities
Marcus Brüggen, Evan Scannapieco, Sebastian Heinz, arXiv:0902.4242 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 13 pages, 8 figures, MNRAS, in press

Nice work. Must check out the XIM software mentioned in the paper to see if it is more capable than my home-grown simulated X-ray imaging and spectra software that is sadly gathering dust.

The ULX NGC 1313 X-2 : an optical study revealing an interesting behavior
Fabien Grisé, Manfred W. Pakull, Roberto Soria, Christian Motch, arXiv:0902.4431 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 3 pages, 2 figures, to appear in the proceedings of the second Simbol-X International Symposium "Simbol-X - Focusing on the Hard X-ray Universe", AIP Conf. Proc. Series, P. Ferrando and J. Rodriguez eds

Looks like they're moving away from the intermediate mass black hole interpretation for ULXs as well. Sigh. It was nice idea... So where are the true intermediate mass black holes, if they're not ULXs?

CAIXA: a Catalogue of AGN In the XMM-Newton Archive - Correlations
Stefano Bianchi, Nuria Fonseca Bonilla, Matteo Guainazzi, Giorgio Matt, Gabriele Ponti, arXiv:0902.4539 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 3 pages, 3 figures, to appear in the proceedings of the second Simbol-X International Symposium "Simbol-X - Focusing on the Hard X-ray Universe", AIP Conf. Proc. Series, P. Ferrando and J. Rodriguez eds

Stars, Supernovae and Planets

Predictions of the extent of self-enrichment in oxygen of giant metal-poor HII regions
Aida Wofford, arXiv:0902.3679 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 13 pages, 6 eps figures, MN Latex v2.2, accepted for publication in MNRAS

A Smoking Gun in the Carina Nebula
Kenji Hamaguchi, Michael F. Corcoran, Yuichiro Ezoe, Leisa Townsley, Patrick Broos, Robert Gruendl, Kaushar Vaidya, Stephen M. White, Tod Strohmayer, Rob Petre, You-Hua Chu, arXiv:0902.4162 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 9 pages, 3 figures, accepted for publication to ApJL

The broad H-alpha, [O III] line wings in stellar supercluster A of NGC2363 and the turbulent mixing layer hypothesis
Luc Binette, Laurent Drissen, Leonardo Ubeda, Alejandro C. Raga, Carmelle Robert, Yair Krongold, arXiv:0902.3689 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 12 pages, 9 figures

Suzaku Spectroscopy of Vela Shrapnel B
Hiroya Yamaguchi, Satoru Katsuda, arXiv:0902.3672 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: accepted for publication in ApJ, 7 pages, 5 figures

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Orbiting Carbon Observatory launch fails

NASA's Orbiting Climate Observatory, launched this morning (Tues Feb 24th 2009) on a Taurus XL (which doesn't seem to have a stunning record of success), failed to achieve orbit and crashed in Antarctica (BBC article).

The aim of the OCO was to improve our understanding of atmospheric carbon (specifically CO2) sources and sinks , rather important for bettering our scientific understanding of Global Climate Change (GCC) and for formulating effective politcal policies to combat it. Thankfully the recently launched Japanese IBUKI (aka GOSAT) satellite should be able to perform similar measurements.

Of course, if you're a conservative talking head like George Will or John Tierney you don't need no stinking science to know what is going on or to inform policy. Its all a communist conspiracy by evil lefty scientists to undermine Western capitalism!

[Update: In case its not blatantly obvious to you what is so dishonest about Tierney's column then a post at Climate Progress spells it out for you.]

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interesting Astrophysics: Feb 16 to Feb 19

Another collection of interesting papers and preprints. Quite a lot of potentially interesting stuff this week, from the galaxy mass versus effective yield relationship at redshift z~3 to the effect of nearby historical supernova on Earth's atmosphere, along with tons of Spitzer observations of galaxies and AGN and a possible stellar disruption event.

I plan on doing a separate list of what I consider to be the most interesting White Papers submitted to the Astro2010 Decadal Survey and were also posted for public consumption on arXiv's astro-ph preprint service. I'll post that once it appears that posting of White Papers to arXiv is tailing off.

Galaxies and Starbursts

The present-day galaxy population in spiral galaxies
Reynier Peletier, arXiv:0902.2279 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 8 pages, Proceedings of 'Probing Stellar Populations out to the Distant Universe', Cefalu, Italy, Sep 7-19, 2008, AIP Conf. Proc. Series. Higher resolution version available at this http URL

Estimating the H I gas fractions of galaxies in the local Universe
Wei Zhang, Cheng Li, Guinevere Kauffmann, Hu Zou, Barbara Catinella, Shiyin Shen, Qi Guo, Ruixiang Chang, arXiv:0902.2392 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 11 pages, 8 figures, submitted for publication in MNRAS

Gas-poor galaxies do have higher gas-phase abundances than (less evolved) gas rich galaxies. Interesting. Compares to semi-analytic models, but the devil lies in the details of the recipe used for supernova feedback in the SAMs.

LSD: Lyman-break galaxies Stellar populations and Dynamics. I: Mass, metallicity and gas at z~3.1
F. Mannucci, G. Cresci, R. Maiolino, A. Marconi, G. Pastorini, L. Pozzetti, A. Gnerucci, G. Risaliti, R. Schneider, M. Lehnert, M. Salvati, arXiv:0902.2398 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: submitted to MNRAS

Surprisingly find that effective yields are lower in the more massive galaxies, and approach Solar at the low mass end of the sample. Unsurprisingly they end up requiring gas accretion to be more effective in the most massive galaxies in order to explain this. This is totally reversed from the local galaxy M-yeff relationship. Is this consistent the other estimates of M-Z relationship at z > 2?

Physical conditions in the ISM of intensely star-forming galaxies at redshift~2
M. D. Lehnert, N. P. H. Nesvadba, L. Le Tiran, P. Di Matteo, W. van Driel, L. S. Douglas, L. Chemin, F. Bournaud, arXiv:0902.2784 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: ApJ accepted main journal, 21 pages, 12 figures

Bulges Of Nearby Galaxies With Spitzer: The Growth Of Pseudobulges In Disk Galaxies And Its Connection To Outer Disks
David B. Fisher, Niv Drory, Maximilian H. Fabricius, arXiv:0902.3258 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted to ApJ

From the abstract: "In almost all galaxies in our sample the specific SFR (SFR per unit stellar mass) of the bulge is higher than that of the outer disk, suggesting that almost all galaxies are increasing their B/T through internal star formation."

The First Galaxies: Signatures of the Initial Starburst
Jarrett L. Johnson, Thomas H. Greif, Volker Bromm, Ralf S. Klessen, Joseph Ippolito, arXiv:0902.3263 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 11 pages, 10 figures; to be submitted to MNRAS

The Radio Luminosity Function and Galaxy Evolution in the Coma Cluster
Neal A. Miller, Ann E. Hornschemeier, Bahram Mobasher, Terry J. Bridges, Michael J. Hudson, Ronald O. Marzke, Russell J. Smith, arXiv:0902.3388 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 45 pages with 13 figures, accepted for publication in AJ

Black Holes and AGN

Mass Outflow in the Seyfert 1 Galaxy NGC 5548
D.M. Crenshaw, S.B. Kraemer, H.R. Schmitt, J.S. Kaastra, N. Arav, J.R. Gabel, K.T. Korista, arXiv:0902.2310 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 39 pages, 11 figures, accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal

AGN–starburst connection in NGC 7582: Gemini near-infrared spectrograph integral field unit observations (p 783-797)
Rogemar A. Riffel, Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann, Oli L. Dors Jr, Cláudia Winge, 2009, MNRAS, 393, 783
Full Text: HTML, PDF (Size: 3067K)

Resolving the mid-infrared cores of local Seyferts
P. Gandhi, H. Horst, A. Smette, S. Hoenig, A. Comastri, R. Gilli, C. Vignali, W. Duschl, arXiv:0902.2777 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics

Spitzer spectra of Seyfert galaxies
Luigi Spinoglio, Silvia Tommasin, Matthew A. Malkan, Kevin Hainline, arXiv:0902.3341 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: to appear in the proceedings of "The Starburst-AGN Connection Conference", Shanghai, China, 27 Oct - 1 Nov 2008, ASP Conference Series

Mid-infrared spectroscopy of infrared-luminous galaxies at z~0.5-3
A. Hernan-Caballero, I. Perez-Fournon, E. Hatziminaoglou, A. Afonso-Luis, M. Rowan-Robinson, D. Rigopoulou, D. Farrah, C. J. Lonsdale, T. Babbedge, D. Clements, S. Serjeant, F. Pozzi, M. Vaccari, F. M. Montenegro-Montes, I. Valtchanov, E. Gonzalez-Solares, S. Oliver, D. Shupe, C. Gruppioni, B. Vila-Vilaro, C. Lari, F. La Franca, arXiv:0902.3369 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 32 pages, 24 figures, 15 tables, accepted for publication in MNRAS

NTT, Spitzer and Chandra spectroscopy of SDSSJ095209.56+214313.3: the most luminous coronal-line supernova ever observed, or a stellar tidal disruption event ?
S. Komossa, H. Zhou, A. Rau, M. Dopita, A. Gal-Yam, J. Greiner, J. Zuther, M. Salvato, D. Xu, H. Lu, R. Saxton, M. Ajello, arXiv:0902.3248 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 18 pages, 8 (colour) figures; submitted to ApJ


Spectral States and Evolution of Ultraluminous X-ray Sources
Hua Feng, Philip Kaaret, arXiv:0902.2607 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 17 pages, 9 tables, 10 figures, accepted by ApJ

Cosmology, in particular numerical cosmology

Probing recent star formation with absorption-line strengths in hierarchical models and observations
S.C. Trager, R.S. Somerville, arXiv:0902.2336 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 17 pages

Cosmological formation and chemical evolution of an elliptical galaxy
E. Colavitti, A. Pipino, F. Matteucci, arXiv:0902.2768 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 8 pages, 6 figures, accepted for publication by A&A

Numerical Astrophysics and Hydrodynamics

Cosmological AMR MHD with Enzo
David C. Collins, Hao Xu, Michael L. Norman, Hui Li, Shengtai Li, arXiv:0902.2594 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 56 pages, 26 figures, submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Suppliments

Galaxy Mergers with Adaptive Mesh Refinement: Star Formation and Hot Gas Outflow
Ji-hoon Kim, John H. Wise, Tom Abel, arXiv:0902.3001 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 4 pages, 5 figures, Accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Image resolution greatly reduced, High-resolution version of this article and movies are available at this http URL

Interesting, but hardly deserves to be a Letter given that they're probably going to do a full paper as well.

Stars, Supernovae and Planets

An Antarctic ice core recording both supernovae and solar cycles
Yuko Motizuki, Kazuya Takahashi, Kazuo Makishima, Aya Bamba, Yoichi Nakai, Yasushige Yano, Makoto Igarashi, Hideaki Motoyama, Kokichi Kamiyama, Keisuke Suzuki, Takashi Imamura, arXiv:0902.3446 [pdf]
Comments: 18 pages, 5 figures, submitted to Nature

Pretty amazing stuff, although prior attempts at this sort of thing were not robust. From the text: "When a SN explodes close to the earth, the nuclear γ-rays produced (~0.1–1 MeV)
can lead to an enhancement of nitrogen oxide production in the middle atmosphere or
the stratosphere. SN events could therefore be traced in ice cores as NO3 concentration spikes."

The Secret XUV Lives of Cepheids: FUV/X-ray Observations of Polaris and beta Dor
Scott G. Engle, Edward F. Guinan, Joseph DePasquale, Nancy Evans, arXiv:0902.3449 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 6 pages, 1 figure, to appear in the proceedings of the "Future Directions in Ultraviolet Spectroscopy" Meeting - October 20-22, 2008; Annapolis, Maryland, USA

The Physical Properties of Red Supergiants
Emily M. Levesque, arXiv:0902.2789 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 2 figures; to appear in proceedings of "Hot and Cool: Bridging Gaps in Massive Star Evolution"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to force to run pdflatex

Here is a useful trick worth remembering. If you want to force to run pdflatex and not old latex on your tex file you need to stick \pdfoutput=1 in the first 5 lines of your tex file (see here). Latex, being nothing but a front for pdflatex anyway, will then effectively run pdflatex and directly create a pdf.

Note that this means that can't create a dvi or ps file by running latex anymore with that tex file even if you are using the ifpdf package and running latex from the command line.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Darwin blogging: Evolution in Astrophysics

In honor of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday a few days ago (February 12th) I thought it might be fun to consider the concept of evolution as it appears in astrophysics. Several rather fundamental concepts in modern astrophysics have the word evolution in them, and we're not even talking about astrobiology either.

What are these concepts and why (and how) are we using the word evolution to describe them?

Lets start by making it clear that evolution, when used in astrophysics, is largely used in the sense "change with time" and perhaps, at a stretch, "descent with modification." We don't mean "change in gene frequencies within a population of organisms" or natural selection.

There are three major core concepts in modern astrophysics that bear the name evolution:

  1. Stellar Evolution: The set of physical changes and stages a star (usually a single star) undergoes throughout its lifetime. This includes its formation, ignition of nuclear hydrogen burning at the start of its Main Sequence life, the Main Sequence, and post Main Sequence life as core hydrogen burning ceases. For some classes of stars there will be mass loss via stellar winds or expulsive processes, and some stars end up as white dwarfs, neutron stars, or even black holes. The details depend on the initial mass of the star, its initial elemental composition (often termed chemical composition), whether its part of a binary stellar system (even more complicated than single star stellar evolution), and in some cases its environment (stellar evolution in dense star clusters has additional complications, including stellar collisions).
  2. Chemical Evolution: The changes in the chemical composition of the Universe (in particular stars and galaxies, but also interstellar and intergalactic gas) as a result of nucleosynthesis within stars, and the expulsion of newly created elements in stellar winds, novae, and supernovae. Supernovae do more than just expel elements but also explosively synthesize elements that normal stellar nuclear fusion can not produce. The expelled elements usually end up in the interstellar medium (ISM), from which subsequent generations of stars form. The details of stellar evolution depend on the initial composition of the stars, so chemical evolution affects stellar evolution, which in turn drives chemical evolution, and so on...
  3. Galaxy Evolution: The processes by which galaxies form and change with time, which are influenced by their environment within the inter-galactic medium (IGM) and neighboring galaxies, their gas content (fuel to create new stars with), the history of star formation within them (in turn affecting their own chemical evolution), and the presence and role of and Active Galactic Nuclei. Galaxies certainly grow and change with time, and to a limit extent events can change some of them one from one type galaxy to another (e.g. mergers of spiral galaxies can eventually create elliptical galaxies).
This is a very superficial outline of stellar, chemical and galaxy evolution, and when played out 13.5 billion years you can imagine the interconnections between all these processes can generate a fair bit of complexity. Nevertheless, this complexity falls far short of the complexity and interconnectedness of biology, and none of these processes approach the biological concept of evolution. So why call them evolution?

One could try to argue that astrophysicists are simply using the older meaning of evolution as change or progression. But that explanation seems contrived, as all of these astrophysical concepts were developed well after Darwin's "Origin of Species" came out in 1859. Indeed, the leading British (*) physicist Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) caused Darwin and his supporters much anguish as Kevin's (incorrect) theory for the age of the sun allowed only 20 million years for the age of the Solar System, seemingly too little time for evolution to have happened.

More recognizably modern theories of stellar structure, nucleosynthesis and stellar evolution only followed the development of quantum mechanics in the first decades of the 20th century. The big names in the development of these astrophysical theories are Eddington, Jeans, Milne, Chandrasekhar (**), Bethe, Gamow, Fowler and the (rather tragic) Fred Hoyle. In short, the foundation of what is now termed stellar evolutionary theory and chemical evolution was developed between ~1920 an ~1960.

The concept of Galaxies as separate entities also date from about this time. The famous Shapley - Curtis debate happened in 1920, so the issue had been brewing for a little while before that (Virginia Trimble has a nice discussion of the history, background and outcome of this debate). Hubble's work, demonstrating the reality of galaxies other than our own, and the expanding Universe, also date to the 1920's.

I would suspect that the reason astrophysicists use the word evolution to describe many of the core concepts of modern astrophysics has a lot to do with the great influence and power biological evolution has a scientific concept. In short, the biological theory of evolution is such a elegant, beautiful and powerful bit of science that we astrophysicists are happy, even eager, to associate the word with the theories we consider to be some of the most fundamental, powerful, elegant and important aspects of our own science.

This is of course pure speculation on my part. But I would like to think that naming these theories stellar evolution, chemical evolution and galaxy evolution is (perhaps unconsciously) the tribute we astrophysicists pay to the great naturalist and scientist Charles Darwin.

(*) Kelvin was an Ulster Scot. Ireland was at that time still part of the U.K.
(**) The Chandra X-ray Observatory (which I use a lot) and the Chandra Postdoctorall Fellowship that I had are all named after Chandrasekhar.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Interesting Astrophysics: Feb 09 to Feb 13

Quite a large selection of papers this week, and relatively diverse. From "pure" starbursts only 3.3 Mpc away, and the metal content of the IGM at redshift 6, to strange quark stars and the mass-radius relationship of super-Earths.

Galaxies and Starbursts

Aperture Synthesis Observations of the Nearby Spiral NGC 6503: Modeling the Thin and Thick HI Disks
Eric W. Greisen, Kristine Spekkens, Gustaaf A. van Moorsel, arXiv:0902.0989 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 29 pages, 17 figures, for actual figures see this http URL submitted following referee report to AJ

Evidence of a pure starburst nature of the nuclear region of NGC 253
A. Brunthaler, P. Castangia, A. Tarchi, C. Henkel, M. J. Reid, H. Falcke, K. M. Menten, arXiv:0902.1044 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Astronomy and Astrophysics (A&A), accepted, 7 pages, 2 Figures, also available at this http URL

This is potentially a big deal for people interested in local starbursts (i.e. me), as it would force a serious re-examination of the current interpretation of the X-ray data on the nucleus of NGC 253. "Pure" starbursts are experimentally useful, as one can then reject AGN activity as a possible cause of the activity one sees (e.g. in a superwind).

The energetic environment and the dense interstellar medium in ULIRGs
O. Vega, M.S. Clemens, A. Bressan, G.L. Granato, L. Silva, P. Panuzzo, arXiv:0902.1202 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 6 pages, 4 figures, Proceedings of "A Long Walk Through Astronomy: A Celebration of Luis Carrasco's 60th Birthday", Huatulco, Mexico, October 2008, ed. E. Recillas, L. Aguilar, A. Luna, and J.R. Valdes; RevMexAA (Serie de Conferencias)

The hard X-ray view of bright infrared galaxies
R. Walter, N. Cabral, arXiv:0902.1395 [pdf, other]
Comments: 6 pages, accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astropohysics

A Shared Tully-Fisher Relation for Spirals and S0 Galaxies
Michael J. Williams, Martin Bureau, Michele Cappellari, arXiv:0902.1500 [pdf, other]
Comments: To appear in Galaxy Evolution: Emerging Insights and Future Challenges, ed. S. Jogee et al., Astron. Soc. Pacific, 2009

Star-Forming Galaxies at z~2: An Emerging Picture of Galaxy Dynamics and Assembly
Kristen L. Shapiro, Reinhard Genzel, Nicolas Bouché, Peter Buschkamp, Giovanni Cresci, Ric Davies, Frank Eisenhauer, Natascha Förster Schreiber, Shy Genel, Erin Hicks, Dieter Lutz, Linda Tacconi, arXiv:0902.1550 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 7 pages, to appear in the proceedings of "Galaxy Evolution: Emerging Insights and Future Challenges," Austin, TX, 11-14 Nov 2008

A downturn in intergalactic CIV as redshift 6 is approached
Emma V. Ryan-Weber, Max Pettini, Piero Madau, Berkeley J. Zych, arXiv:0902.1991 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 15 pages, 8 Figures, Accepted for publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Radio Emission from Supernova Remnants: Implications for Post-Shock Magnetic Field Amplification and the Magnetic Fields of Galaxies
Todd A. Thompson, Eliot Quataert, Norman Murray, arXiv:0902.1755 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 11 pages, 4 figures, submitted to MNRAS, revised to reflect referee's comments

The Environmental Impact of Galaxy Evolution
Jesper Rasmussen, Trevor J. Ponman, arXiv:0902.1978 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 5 pages, 3 figures, to appear in Proc. of "Galaxy Evolution: Emerging Insights and Future Challenges", eds. S. Jogee et al., ASP Conf. Series

OVI Absorption in the Milky Way Disk, and Future Prospects for Studying Absorption at the Galaxy-IGM Interface
D.V. Bowen, E.B. Jenkins, T.M. Tripp, D.G. York, arXiv:0902.1989 [pdf, other]
Comments: Invited review to appear in the proceedings of "Future Directions in Ultraviolet Spectroscopy" meeting, held Oct 20-22, 2008, Annapolis, MD. To appear as an AIP Conference Proceeding

Black Holes and AGN

Two Physically Distinct Populations of Low-Ionization Nuclear Emission-Line Regions
J. Wang, J. Y. Wei, P. F. Xiao, arXiv:0902.1023 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 12 pages, 2 figures, accepted by ApJ Letter

The Origin of the Silicate Emission Features in the Seyfert 2 Galaxy, NGC 2110
R. E. Mason, N. A. Levenson, Y. Shi, C. Packham, V. Gorjian, K. Cleary, J. Rhee, M. Werner, arXiv:0902.1187 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: ApJL, accepted

The evolution of runaway stellar collision products
E. Glebbeek, E. Gaburov, S. E. de Mink, O. R. Pols, S. F. Portegies Zwart, arXiv:0902.1753 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 6 figures, accepted for publication in A&A

Cosmology, in particular theoretical cosmology

Chemical enrichment in cosmological, smoothed particle hydrodynamics simulations
Robert P. C. Wiersma, Joop Schaye, Tom Theuns, Claudio Dalla Vecchia, Luca Tornatore, arXiv:0902.1535 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 28 pages, 25 figures, submitted to MNRAS

Formation of Isolated Dwarf Galaxies with Feedback
Till Sawala, Cecilia Scannapieco, Simon D.M. White, arXiv:0902.1754 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 14 pages, 12 figures. submitted to MNRAS

X-ray astronomy

Simulation and Fitting of Multi-Dimensional X-ray Data
Daniel Dewey, Michael S. Noble, arXiv:0902.1740 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: ADASS 2008 (Quebec) proceedings (4 pages, 3 figures)

Stars, Supernovae and Planets

The Strange Prospects for Astrophysics
Irina Sagert, Matthias Hempel, Giuseppe Pagliara, Jurgen Schaffner-Bielich, Tobias Fischer, Anthony Mezzacappa, Friedrich-Karl Thielemann, Matthias Liebendorfer, arXiv:0902.2084 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 8 figures, invited talk given at the international conference on strangeness in quark matter (SQM2008), Beijing, October 6-10, Beijing, China

Strange matter in astrophysics, always interesting...

Discovery of New Interacting Supernova Remnants in the Inner Galaxy
John W. Hewitt, Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, arXiv:0902.1386 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted to ApJ Letters, with 2 figures and 2 tables

A Study of the Accuracy of Mass-Radius Relationships for Silicate-Rich and Ice-Rich Planets up to 100 Earth Masses
O. Grasset, J. Schneider, C. Sotin, arXiv:0902.1640 [pdf]
Comments: In press in The Astrophysical Journal

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Bicentenial Birthday Darwin!

Charles Darwin was born today, February 12th, 1809. Without a doubt the greatest and most influential scientist of the 19th century, and quite possibly of the last 200 years (IMHO better even than the great Physicists of the 20th century. Sorry Einstein!).

Today also happens to also be the 200th birthday of another influential man, Abraham Lincoln.

I can't help but note that the US Postal Service has a full set of Lincoln Bicentenial stamps, but no Darwin stamps (zero, nada, zip). It might be nice to believe that is simple parochialism, as Darwin wasn't born in the US. Buts lets face it, thats not the reason at all. Its about fear of raising the wrath of the overly-religious types (including sadly enough, a large number of politicians) who view scientific knowledge (in particular Biology) as a challenge to the foundations on which their socio-political influence relies.

[Young Darwin image from]

Friday, February 06, 2009

Interesting Astrophysics: Feb 02 to Feb 06, 2009.

Its crunch time for writing Astro2010 Decadal Survey White Papers, at least for the IXO team given our internal review deadlines and "Red Teams" and other assorted buzz-words, and I've not been enjoying it at all. Nevertheless reading the new journal paper titles and astro-ph tiles on arXiv has given me a valid way to procrastinate... so here is what I think sounds interesting.

Galaxies and Starbursts

The optical structure of the starburst galaxy M82 - I: Dynamics of the disk and inner-wind
M. S. Westmoquette, L. J. Smith, J. S. Gallagher III, G. Trancho, N. Bastian, I. S. Konstantopoulos, arXiv:0902.0064 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 36 pages, 21 figures, accepted for publication in ApJ

Luminous Infrared Galaxies with the Submillimeter Array: II. Comparing the CO(3-2) Sizes and Luminosities of Local and High-Redshift Luminous Infrared Galaxies
Daisuke Iono, Christine D. Wilson, Min S. Yun, Andrew J. Baker, Glen R. Petitpas, Alison B. Peck, Melanie Krips, T. J. Cox, Satoki Matsushita, J. Christopher Mihos, Ylva Pihlstrom, arXiv:0902.0121 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 16 pages, 5 figures, ApJ Accepted

A Kiloparsec-Scale Hyper-Starburst in a Quasar Host Less than 1 Gigayear after the Big Bang
F. Walter, D. Riechers, P. Cox, R. Neri, C. Carilli, F. Bertoldi, A. Weiss, R. Maiolino, arXiv:0902.0662 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Nature, in press, Feb 5 issue, p. 699-701

Perhaps unsurprisingly this object looks like it obeys the classic starburst intensity (SF/area) limit. Still impressive though.

Evidence for a Non-Uniform Initial Mass Function in the Local Universe
Gerhardt R. Meurer, O.I. Wong, J.H. Kim, D.J. Hanish, T.M. Heckman, J. Werk, J. Bland-Hawthorn, M.A. Dopita, M.A. Zwaan, B. Koribalski, M. Seibert, D.A. Thilker, H.C. Ferguson, R.L. Webster, M.E. Putman, P.M. Knezek, M.T. Doyle, M.J. Drinkwater, C.G. Hoopes, V.A. Kilborn, M. Meyer, E.V. Ryan-Weber, R.C. Smith, L. Staveley-Smith, arXiv:0902.0384 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: ApJ in press. 16 pages, 10 figures 2 tables. Some of the imaging data
used in this study are available at this http URL . Typo fixed in
this version

HI in Local Group Dwarf Galaxies and Stripping by the Galactic Halo
Jana Grcevich, Mary E Putman, arXiv:0901.4975 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 18 pages, 4 tables, 6 figures

Black Holes and AGN

The Nuclear Outflows and Feedback in the Seyfert 2 Galaxy Markarian 573
K. Schlesinger, Richard W. Pogge, Paul Martini, Joseph C. Shields, Dale Fields, arXiv:0902.0004 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 31 pages, 7 figures, 4 tables

The Space Density of Compton Thick AGN and the X-ray Background
E. Treister, C. Megan Urry, Shanil Virani, arXiv:0902.0608 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted by The Astrophysical Journal, 12 pages in emulateapj format, 8 figures

X-ray Absorption and Reflection in Active Galactic Nuclei
T.J. Turner, L. Miller, arXiv:0902.0651 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Accepted for publication in the Astronomy and Astrophysics Review. 58
pages, 9 figures

The starburst-AGN disconnection
R. Cid Fernandes, M. Schlickmann, G. Stasinska, N. Vale Asari, J. M. Gomes, W. Schoenell, A. Mateus, L. Sodre Jr., for the SEAGal collaboration, arXiv:0902.0523 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: To appear in the proceedings of "The Starburst-AGN Connection" conference (2008)

Star-powered LINERs in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
N. Vale Asari, G. Stasinska, R. Cid Fernandes, J. M. Gomes, M. Schlickmann, A. Mateus, W. Schoenell, L. Sodre Jr., for the SEAGal collaboration, arXiv:0902.0528 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: To appear in the proceedings of "The Starburst-AGN Connection" conference (2008)

Revenge of the Warmers! (Warmers were part of 1980s/1990s alternative model for AGN that invoked hypothesized very hot stars to account for the high ionization emission of AGN, rather than relying on accretion onto super-massive black holes. Heretical even at that time and almost forgotten about now, it nevertheless motivated a lot of research on both sides of the argument and was important in creating the ongoing interest in the starburst/AGN connection. Hence [I presume] the ironic title of Roberto Cid Fernandes' paper, as he was one of the players in the original Warmer hypothesis) These papers really aren't about Warmers, but the core idea of high ISM ionization created by hot evolved stars is Warmer-like physics.

Numerical Astrophysics and Hydrodynamics

Galactic dynamo simulations
Detlef Elstner, Oliver Gressel, Günther Rüdiger, arXiv:0901.4929 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 10 pages, 5 figures, IAU Symp. 259 proceedings (in press)

A Field-length based refinement criterion for adaptive mesh simulations of the interstellar medium
Oliver Gressel, arXiv:0902.0260 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 5 pages, 5 figures, accepted for publication in A&A

Type-Ia Supernova-driven Galactic Bulge Wind
Shikui Tang, Q. Daniel Wang, Mordecai-Mark Mac Low, M. Ryan Joung, arXiv:0902.0386 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 37 pages, 19 figures, submitted to MNRAS; comments are welcome

Scalability of Hydrodynamic Simulations
Shikui Tang, Q. Daniel Wang, arXiv:0902.0403 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 12 pages, 1 figure, submitted to MNRAS; comments are welcome

Are There Phases in the ISM?
Enrique Vazquez-Semadeni, arXiv:0902.0820 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 11 pages, 8 figures. Invited review for the proceedings of "The Role of Disk-Halo Interaction in Galaxy Evolution: Outflow vs. Infall?", held in Espinho, Portugal, 18-22 August 2008

Stars, Supernovae, and Planets

Challenges for stellar pulsation and evolution theory
Jadwiga Daszynska-Daszkiewicz, arXiv:0901.4842 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: Invited talk presented at the JENAM 2008 Symposium No.4 "Asteroseismology and stellar evolution", eds. S. Schuh and G. Handler., Communications in Asteroseismology, 159, in press; 11 pages, 1 figure

This is a neat conference proceedings. I certainly hadn't realized how much of the Hertzsprung-Russel diagram was covered with stars with pulsational modes in addition to the classic RR Lyrae, Cepheids and Mira variables we were taught about in undergraduate astronomy.

60Fe and Massive Stars
W. Wang, arXiv:0902.0214 [ps, pdf, other]
Comments: 6 pages, 5 figures, talk at IAUS 252, The Art of Modeling Stars in the 21st Century, Sanya, April 6-11, 2008


Astrophotonics: a new era for astronomical instruments
J. Bland-Hawthorn, Pierre Kern, arXiv:0902.0415 [pdf]
Comments: 5 pages, Editorial for the Focus Issue on Astrophotonics (Optics Express); all 12 papers are free to air at this http URL
Journal-ref: Optics Express, 17, 1880 (2009)