Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sunday in Brest

Greetings from Brest, France! After the conference, I decided a small vacation was in order as was mentioned a couple posts ago. I spent today walking around the city trying to just see what there was to do and attempting to see some of the standard tourists sights. One of the many sights is the Musée de national de la Marine, a castle housing the French naval maritime museum. The castle is apparently the oldest monument in Brest and dates back possibly to the year AD 260 when the Romans had an outpost there. Anyway, the history isn't important, what is important is that it was free. Not knowing any differently, I was all in favor of touring. Below is a picture of just one segment of the outer wall (taken from within the castle). The tower in the picture is one of several towers you can visit.

Later in the day, I was having a coffee in the hotel and the hotel worker said that all museums were free this weekend! He mentioned that it was a special weekend, but didn't elaborate - he seemed very hesitant to continue, so I didn't push any further. One site he highly recommended is a tunnel called Abri Sadi Carnot. Not knowing what it was exactly, I looked it up online. During WWII French civilians in Brest and a large grouping of German soldiers were hiding in the tunnel (really a bomb shelter). One night, the clerk in charge of the generator made a mistake somehow and a fire ignited - which then lit the reserve fuel which was nearby. Shortly there after the ammunition which was stored in the shelter erupted. In total, ~400 French and ~700 Germans died in what was apparently a massive explosion - probably enhanced by the topology of the shelter. This occurred on September 8 (I believe).

 Anyway, that isn't necessarily what makes this weekend so special. It turns out that tomorrow is anniversary of the liberation of Brest from Nazi control. On September 18, 1944 the American forces finally freed the city. I'm not sure if it's because I'm American that he didn't want to say, or if it's just a very trying time for the people of the city, but either way, this weekend is one of celebration.

Friday, September 16, 2011

EES 2011 - Outlook

Greetings from Roscoff. Unfortunately, I was not able to publish blog posts during the meeting. This was mostly due to internet issues, which were not resolved until mid-week, but there was also the issue of time constraints. The meeting is fairly well scheduled, which means one is quite often supposed to be somewhere at all times. The "free time", however, generally ended up being consumed with conversation or (even) research. Many interesting papers were released to the pre-print archive astro-ph this week (include one on modeling the Kepler object KOI-126). I will hopefully be posting a bit more over the next couple days as the school wraps up and I start my mini-vacation in Brest!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

EES 2011

Tomorrow I head off to Roscoff, France for nine days to participate in a summer school on low-mass stars and the transition to brown dwarfs. I will attempt to keep the blog updated with my current status and anything interesting that learn about or see on my trip. This may or may not include pictures, but we all know what the answer to that should be from a previous post

What precisely is a summer school and what exactly is it about? The former is fairly simple to answer. A summer school isn't like your typical "summer school" we are all used to hearing about. You know, the one for misguided children and those basically failing in their studies. Quite the opposite. It is for the mega-nerds of the world to go and learn as much as they can on a particular subject. Some schools last a few days, some months. This one is 5 days, so not too much of an information overload. 

The latter is more difficult to answer. I know we will be exposed to pretty much every topic imaginable about low-mass stars and the transition to brown dwarfs. Well, not exactly all of them... but pretty close to it. There is some very interesting physics that goes on in this stellar mass regime, and plenty that hasn't yet been studied in detail. So maybe that answers the question I posed. It'll be more about learning the current state of the field in order to gain exposure to what is known and what still needs to be done, opening new research avenues. The lectures last all week, save a half day on Wednesday where we travel to l'Ile de Batz.

Oh, and yeah, the last remaining days of my trip will be spend touring around Brest. Might as well take a mini-vacation while I'm there! It should be a lot of fun, but also quite a bit of work, so the vacation will be well earned, in my opinion.