Famous Physics Cat, Second Only to Schrodinger’s #physics #science #cats #research #quote

siamese cat

This isn’t FDC Willard, but let’s pretend it is, with some of his many academic awards

“Science must be understood as a gutsy human enterprise.” Stephen Jay Gould

Yes, scientists are human. They even have a sense of humor – consider the career of F.D.C. Willard. He’s known for being listed as an author for several serious research papers, and he’s a cat.

It seems Jack H. Hetherington, a Michigan State University physics professor, wrote a soon-to-be-influential paper on the low-temperature physics of helium-3 isotopes. He was the sole author, but in the formal tone of research, he had

written the entire paper using the “we” pronoun. This was against the journal’s style rules. Hetherington’s paper would surely be rejected if it wasn’t retyped. livescience

visit Kate Rauner's blog - science and scifiLike any of us, he hated the idea of retyping his paper, so he solved his problem with a touch of whimsy. He added a co-author, his cat Felis Domesticus Chester, or F.D.C. He gave F.D.C. a family name following the usual practice of Americans, the cat’s father’s name of Willard. Now there were two authors and no need to change the paper.

Hetherington’s solution wasn’t a secret. His colleagues were fine with it and even enjoyed the joke. F.D.C. Willard became famous in the small world of physics.

visit Kate Rauner's blog - science and scifiSeveral years later, a French paper on helium-3 appeared under a single author’s name: F.D.C. Willard. Apparently, the actual research team could not agree on a version of the paper that satisfied them all, so they decided to credit America’s best-published cat instead. livescience

F.D. C. Willard appeared henceforth repeatedly in footnotes, where he was thanked for “useful contributions to the discussion” or oral communications, and was offered a professorship by a Professor and Imminently Erstwhile Chairman:

‘In response to your valued letter of 25 November: let me admit at once that if you had not written I should never have had the temerity to think of approaching so distinguished a physicist as F. D. C. Willard, F.R.S.C., with a view to interesting him in joining a university department like ours, which after all, was not even rated among the best 30 in the 1969 Roose-Anderson study… Can you imagine the universal jubilation if in fact Willard could be persuaded to join us, even if only as a Visiting Distinguished Professor?’ wikipedia

On April 1, 2014 (note the date) the American Physical Society announced that cat-authored papers, including the Hetherington/Willard paper, would henceforth be open-access, rather than behind a pay-wall.

This post is mostly quotations, because I can’t improve on reality.

If you plan a career in research, be sure to take your sense of humor with you.


Lunar Eclipse on a Perfect Winter Morning #lunar #moon #eclipse #sky

Total lunar eclipse - Kate Rauner

Lunar eclipse from New Mexico 31JAN2018 – moon looks much more orange in picture than it did to my eye

Perfect morning for the lunar eclipse. I could stand at my kitchen sink and watch the moon through a window, then step out on my deck for a view of the whole sky. The morning was clear and calm. As moonlight dimmed, the stars grew brilliant. Then, just at totality, the rising dawn began washing them out again.

I live in the mountains of New Mexico, so once the usual morning breeze kicked up, I hopped back and forth – outside for a better view of the moon’s coppery blush, inside to warm up. Lunar eclipses last long enough for leisurely viewing. There’s time to make coffee and take pictures, even with a simple amateur camera.

The rising dawn won out, and the darkened moon, in the last minutes of totality, faded faster than it set.


Fading bright to dim
Now engulfed in Earth’s shadow
Blushing as you set

Another Successful Science Olympiad – We Play Nerdy #science #citizenscientist #nerdgirl #nerdboy #STEM #education

Science Olympiad at WNMU

Crush-testing a tower

Science Olympiad regional at Western New Mexico University is complete and the awards will be handed out shortly at the closing ceremony. I coordinated a middle school event this year, and there was also a high school division. We had great participation from area schools and fine weather.

Science Olympiad at WNMU

Roller coaster marbles

Congratulations to all the teachers who’ve been coaching their teams for months, to everyone who had to catch a school bus at 5 am to arrive on time, and especially to the competitors. Whether these kids pusue a career in science and technology or not, they’ll be better informed citzens for their interest and knowledge of science and, I think, more interesting people.

Our Solar System is Odd. Does That Mean Life is Rare in Universe? Who Knows?. #astronomy #stars #planet #space #exoplanets

We often start with the assumption that Earth, our Sun, and our entire solar

Kepler is amazing, but it’s a big universe

system is fairly typical. But as we learn more about the universe, we begin to look odd. The Kepler Space Telescope sees solar systems with planets that are fairly close in size, with regular orbital spacing.

By contrast, our own solar system has a range of planetary sizes and distances between neighbors. The smallest planet, Mercury, is about one-third the size of Earth — and the biggest planet, Jupiter, is roughly 11 times the diameter of Earth. There also are very different spacing between individual planets, particularly the inner planets. space.com

We have a lot to learn about how solar systems form, and who knows what the current research may mean for the possibility of life in other star systems. Or closer to home, where oceans beneath the frozen surfaces of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s moons may be the best places to search for extraterrestrial life.

The Kepler study reminded me of an old book, (published in 2003, which makes it very old in the field of exoplanets) Rare Earth. Even without the latest exoplanet data, the authors knew that our Sun is uncommonly rich in heavy elements, and that Earth orbits in a narrow habitable zone and has an oddly large moon. Plate tectonics have formed and reformed Earth but not our neighbor Mars. Global catastrophes from a frozen Snowball age to the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs makes llife on our blue globe seem remarkably lucky.

Rare Earth is still worth reading. On Amazon, the book is popular. Some reviews complained the authors “seem to feel the reader needs the same information endlessly repeated.” Or that, while the authors demonstrate that life on Earth pretty much had to evolve on Earth, they don’t consider that life on other worlds may be very different.

That reflects a problem all exobiology struggles with – we only have one example of life. Maybe earthly life is rare but life-in-general is common.

ET is a fascinating subject. Maybe, in our lifetimes, science will find something swimming beneath the frozen surfaces of Jupiter’s or Saturn’s moons. Maybe, someday, something from out there will find us, swimming in the atmosphere that covers our planet. The possibilities are too compelling to ignore. Keep searching, astrobiologist. Keep searching, and let us know what you find.

Science Olympiad – it’s time for the nerds to shine :) #science #education #nerdgirl #nerdboy #nerd

So many distractions as I try to finish the final edit of my new book, but here’s a worthwhile distraction. Western New Mexico University hosts our regional Science Olympiad every year and I’m one of the many volunteers.

Black Widow Spider

Part of my event requires kids to identify poisonous critters – from pictures only! The Black Widow is easy.

This is a science competition for middle school and highschool kids. They get an inside look at a real university and a chance to prove themselves in both written and hands-on challenges.

The competition comes up at the end of the month and I’m diverted to getting ready. This year I’m working on the Potions and Poisons event! Slows my editing and delays research for my blog posts, but well worth it! Good luck Olympians!

Women Who Write #poetry #stories #poems #women #amwriting #amreading #reading

look for Kate Rauner's poetry on Amazon

Not all rainbows though there may be a few 😉

If you’re looking for the voices of women in poetry and prose, check out this blog. You’ll find one of my most popular poems, Desert Watermelon, along with many other fine pieces.

Beate accepts submissions years round, so (if you haven’t yet) let 2018 be the year you share your writings, as women have for generations.

You Tube for Books #newtrailer #trailer #scifi

Kate Rauner on You TubeI’m dipping my toe into a new pond – a trailer for one of my science fiction books. Not bad for a first try, if I do say so myself, though I left the music playing way past the end of the trailer. Still some things to learn. I’d love to know what you think about my maiden voyage, about book trailers in general, or what you’d like to see from authors. It’s only a minute long. View it here.

UPDATE: I think I got the audio fixed! Check it out.