Launch Pad Days 6 and 7

A Picturesque Saturday Morning

Saturday mornings are quiet on the University of Wyoming, Laramie campus. I actually slept in a bit, after staying up late chatting with folks in the lounge. I had a text from Chaz Brenchley telling me that the student union was closed and that he would be heading over to the Turtle Rock cafe to get his writing done. I lazed around a bit longer and finally headed over in the direction of the Turtle Rock cafe at around 7:30 am.

Laramie Morning

The streets were empty. Even the sidewalks were empty. On my walk to the cafe, I saw exactly 1 person, an early-morning jogger. But it was gorgeous out. Not too warm, and that blue sky that goes on forever in this part of the country. The picture above gives only a partial glimpse of what it was like.

Chaz and Doug had already found a table and were writing away. There wasn’t much room at their table, so I chose a different one to do my work, ordered a bagel and set about my blogging and other writing for the day. Later, more people showed up and we ended up joining tables and chatting before heading off to lectures.

Cosmology

Saturday’s lectures were among the most dense and most interesting lectures of the week. We started where we left off on Friday, talking about the galactic center and then gradually moving further and further out, to other galaxies, taking up Hubble’s Law, galactic clusters, gravitational lensing, interacting galaxies, active galaxies and Seyfert galaxies. And we didn’t stop there. We moved onto other related topics like cosmic jets and radio lobes, and quasars and their spectra. And all of this was crammed into a marathon 2-hour session, which we did without a break. My brain was humming when we finally set off to the cafeteria for lunch.

After lunch, we jumped into another marathon session on cosmology, this one covering Hubble’s Law in a little more detail. We talked about the expanding universe (and what that means), the age of the universe, and how we are able to look back at the early universe. We discussed the cosmological principle, the shape and geometry of the universe, and general relativity. From there, we moved into discussions of the deceleration of the universe, model universes, dark matter, baryonic dark matter, the cosmological constant, and the cosmic microwave background.

(Deep breath!)

We wrapped up the final day of lectures with a fascinating discussion of cosmological themes in science fiction. Finally, we took our post-test to see how much we improved from when we first arrived at Launch Pad.

Sweet Melissa’s

A group of people that included Christian and Jeri, Andy, Jenn, Douglas and Anna, Brenda and myself went back to downtown Laramie for dinner on Saturday evening. We went to Sweet Melissa’s, where the other gang went the previous night. We had a leisurely dinner there, and I tried their margarita, which was good, surprisingly strong, and quite inexpensive. A few people went to the local bookstore and picked up various things. Then it was time to party.

Mike Brotherton’s Launch Pad party

The party was held at Mike’s house and included all of the Launch Pad people, as well as many of the graduate students and other astronomers working and teaching at the university. It was a good mix. We got to see Mike’s house, and in particular, the downstairs of his house, which is decorated with all kinds of skeletons and vampires and other monsters. He had a room down there that serves as a library and it is always fun to browse other people’s libraries.

The party was a lot of fun, and I got to talk to quite a few people, both Launch Pad folks and others. I can’t remember exactly what time we left the party, but I think it was around 11 pm.

The Final Launch Pad Breakfast and Farewell

We’d made arrangements for which van we’d be taking to the airport on Sunday, based on our flight times. I was originally on the early van (7:30 am) for a 4 pm flight, because I am the “early bird,” but I managed to get on the noon van instead so that I did not have to spend my day at the airport.

I managed my longest night’s sleep on Saturday night, sleeping for just about 6-1/2 hours. All of us except for Doug Farren, Jenn Bissett and Claudine (who left on the 7:30 van) met at 8:30 for breakfast and walked over to Turtle Rock Cafe one final time. We pushed some tables together and at some point during breakfast, I managed to get a panorama shot of the table:

LP Final Breakfast

From left-to-right: Andy Romine, Christian Ready, Jeri Smith-Ready, Caren Gussoff, Brenda Clough, Jennifer Campbell-Hicks, Liz Argall, and Jay O’Connell. Way off to the right, you can see a table with an empty chair on one side. Sitting on the other side of that table, writing, was Chaz Brenchley.

After breakfast we headed back to the dorm to finish packing. Then we checked out, got into our respective vans and headed toward Denver. I was in a van with Christian, Jeri, Andy, Chaz, and Jay. It took us about 2-1/2 hours to get down to Denver. I called the car ride, “car-con” and it was a lot of fun. It worked out really well, too, because by the time we got to Denver, and returned the rental, I checked my bags and pretty much walked right onto my airplane. My plane left on time and I was back at my house at 11 pm. Not everyone was quite so lucky. There were some delays.

I had a blast at Launch Pad. I’m still trying to process it all. I am so fortunate to be able to have gone and grateful to Kelly for taking on the tough job of dealing with two little kids for an entire week by herself.

I’ll have one more post about Launch Pad shortly, talking about the people I met and the friends I made there. Stay tuned.