My research interest is the geochemistry of the Moon and the terrestrial planets. I'm interested both in analyzing extraterrestrial samples and interpreting remotely sensed data. See my Brown personal webpage for details.
This website is devoted to my personal interests. I created the webpages linked below to share my insights about these interests and to compensate for poor coverage of these topics online and offline. This index catalogs these webpages by topic and provides some context. Email me with any questions or comments.
Amateur astronomy and astronomical instruments. I was president of the University of Chicago's storied astronomy club for two years. (I share this distinction with Carl Sagan and Dean Armstrong.) While president I developed an interest in spherical astronomy and astronomical instruments. James E. Morrison's book The Astrolabe inspired me to understand astronomical and navigational instruments as maps of the celestial sphere.
Theory of sundials. My cartographic approach to sundials has many advantages over the traditional, tedious trigonometric approach used in sundial books: the hour and date curves of common sundials are map projections of spherical sundial graticules.
Astronomy club documents (the Rchive). I mirror a collection of UChicago astronomy club documents and photos. The astronomy club's name (as of the late 1980s) is the RAS, short for Ryerson Astronomical Society, hence "Rchive."
SundialCam. Live video of an interesting gnomonic sundial on the wall of the Physics/Astronomy Building at the University of Washington, Seattle. If the weather's bad (which I understand is a common condition in Seattle), check out the time lapse videos. Geometry in motion!
ASCII art sundial. I created what I believe to be the world's first functional ASCII art sundial dial plate.
Astronomy club emails. I put this collection of involved emails I sent to the astronomy club listhost online in the unlikely hope that someone would find them useful.
Astronomy club website. I designed this webpage, although it's been modified by new astronomy club president and friend Tad Komacek. Check out our astrophotographs.
Johnson Space Center and Houston, Texas imaged from a weather balloon. My friends and fellow Lunar and Planetary Institute summer interns Abby Koss, Cameron Mercer, and others launched a weather balloon with a camera attached to image the Johnson Space Center and Houston. You can see the resulting images here. (I take no credit; I just wanted to make these images available online.)
Seton's rule. The Boy Scout role for finding south is seriously inaccurate. See this page for an explanation. I was inspired by a monk to come up with a better method. I succeeded, but I haven't written it up; the trick is to incline your watch so that it serves as a reverse equatorial sundial, rather than a reverse horizontal sundial.
What's your sign? An autopsy of an annoyingly uninformed article on astrology that swept the Web in early 2011.
Nocturnal explanation. An email to the UChicago astronomy club in which I decipher a puzzling nocturnal. Thanks to Luke Pacold for improving this explanation by making sense of a Latin phrase I misread.
My ham radio license information. This isn't astronomy-related, but I got interested in ham radio thanks to astronomy club. I'm a ham radio operator, Amateur Extra class, with callsign AB9TN. The "TN" is short for "telescope nut." My Technician and General callsign was KC9OKS. I hope to get back into radio someday. (I'm particularly interested in monitoring shortwave, but the spectrum seems to be dominated by Radio Havana and Christian broadcasters (not that either of those are uninteresting).
The Moon and Mercury. I'm professionally interested in the geochemistry and geology of the Moon and Mercury. I have an amateur interest in the mostly unexplored topic of the geography of these bodies. I'm also interested in visual observations of the Moon, which is in my opinion the most rewarding object to study telescopically. Charles A. Wood's book The Modern Moon: A Personal View inspired me to think about the geology of the Moon geographically. (Charles A. Wood is a former student of my advisor, Jim Head.) I hope to seriously observe the Moon once I can find an appropriate place in Providence (preferably a roof or observatory). Let me know if you have any suggestions.
"Mercury's Rotation and Visual Observations" by Cruikshank and Chapman (pdf). This paper from when Sky and Telescope was a serious scientific publication gives a useful and concise description of what was known about Mercury pre-Mariner 10 (very little). The albedo features of the Moon as observed from Earth are scientifically important; the albedo features of Mars and Mercury as observed from Earth are not very important, although a large amount of effort was expended mapping and observing these features (particularly those of Mars). Probably most or all of what I work on is also a total waste.
Georeferenced Lunar Prospector maps. I made some georeferenced Lunar Prospector maps for a project I was doing. If you're interested in lunar mineralogy, I would probably look to upcoming M3 data instead. (I did use these maps in an LPSC poster.)
Distribution of large lunar craters. I made a movie of the Moon spinning with a shapefile of large lunar craters >20 km in diameter overlaid. This catalog was painstakingly compiled by a former graduate student of my advisor, Seth Kadish. I'm glad I'm not presently mapping craters.
Moon mineral movies. I assembled these animated gifs showing the extinction of lunar minerals from pictures I took of the Educational Lunar Thin Section Set at the Johnson Space Center in summer 2010.
Mars orthographic maps. A famous image of Mars centered on the Valles Marineris region is in vertical perspective projection. I take the point of perspective to infinity and make a similar image in orthographic projection. The change in appearance is dramatic.
Recreational mathematics and mathematical geology. I'm interested in mathematics, although I don't have any particular talent for it. Fortunately, there are plenty of geological problems with mathematical flavor that are easy enough for me to figure out. This section also includes some non-quantitative geological pictures and pages.
"Can We Blast Japan From Below? This pre-plate-tectonics 1944 article by Harold Whitnall suggests bombing Japanese volcanoes to flood that country in lava. Even though a different sealed natural energy source was ultimately used against Japan, I still find the idea of triggering volcanoes interesting.
Colorado Plateau traced by national parks. I make some remarks about using surface probes to trace subsurface units in remote sensing and then, as an impractical application, use national parks to trace the Colorado Plateau. This was inspired by a comment in Dr. Nicholas Short's Remote Sensing Tutorial.
Geomantic figures. Geomancy purportedly divines the future from dot patterns. I decipher the names of these dot patterns. The geomantic algorithm has the interesting and likely unintended consequence that only half of the geomantic figures can be possible outcomes. The derivation of this fact is interesting, but I've lost the motivation to write it up.
Accurate Qibla calculator. The Qibla (the great circle direction to Mecca) is usually calculated using spherical trigonometry. This page calculates the Qibla on the WGS84 ellipsoid, improving its accuracy in my location by over a tenth of a degree. Thanks to Charles Karney for his help correcting the flawed algorithms I relied on.
Area codes mentioned in "Area Codes". I visualize the area codes mentioned in Ludacris's song "Area Codes". Someone else did this, too, but I also calculate the mean center of the area codes. Perhaps not my greatest intellectual contribution.
Radiogenic evolution and binary mixing. The chemical evolution of a radiogenic species can be understood as a binary mixture of a radiogenically primitive and radiogenically evolved (stable) component. This explains the similarities between binary mixing lines and the loci traced by radiogenic species on various isotope ratio plots.
Ternary plots. You can visualize three related variables in two dimensions with a ternary plot. These were never explained in my geology curriculum, so I figured them out myself. I have some additional insights on oblique ternary plots and tetrahedral plots which I plan to add to this page.
CTA map vs. reality. The CTA (Chicago Transportation Authority) map matches up to the CTA mapped.
My current age. At a New England graveyard, I saw gravestones giving the ages of the dead to the month and day. I do them one better and give my age to the nearest fourteen decimal places. There's a flaw in this code near my birthday which I ought to fix.
Chinese Zodiac placemats. I came up with this obvious algorithm to calculate the Zodiac sign of one's birthyear in a Chinese restaurant in scenic Wausau, Wisconsin.
Molecular weights of some oxides. Why are compositions reported in oxide weight percent? I skirt around the concise answer in this page: history; also, oxides are charge-balanced and make a more appropriate basis for composition space than charged ions.
Mosquito rule. A cool, obscure mnemonic you can use to make a logarithmic scale.
Olivine imaged by an old SEM. I analyzed chondrule-composition samples with UChicago's Cameca SX50 electron microprobe for my senior thesis. Check out the SEM output. I actually prefer this machine to modern microprobes.
Converting Labbook AUT files to plaintext. The SEM I used at UChicago inconveniently saves analysis location coordinates in a closed binary format. Here's a program I wrote to transform these blobs into plaintext.
Converting Labbook IM_ files to tiffs. The SEM I used at UChicago inconveniently saves image data in a closed binary format. Here's a program I wrote to transform these images into tiffs.
James B. Thompson's Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria class notes. These notes were taken by Caltech provost Ed Stolper. I was recommended these notes as a thermodynamics-for-geology primer by Caltech professor (and extremely smart guy) Paul Asimow. Phase diagrams are probably my second favorite topic in geology after crystallography. The chapter about composition space is particularly interesting. I think I understand the order of points on a composition line as a consequence of the projective geometry of composition space.
Rhode Island geology, geography, and other travelogues. I attend Brown University in Providence, RI, at the north edge of Narragansett Bay, about one-third of the state's length south of the northern border with Massachusetts. I don't own a car, but Rhode Island is small enough for me to plausibly bike or take public transportation anywhere in the state. I've visited and written about several of the locations described by Alonzo W. Quinn in his pamphlet Rhode Island Geology for the Non-Geologist. I also include descriptions of some other trips I've taken.
Collecting cumberlandite at Iron Mine Hill, RI. Rhode Island's state rock outcrops in only one locality, Iron Mine Hill, just south of Rhode Island's northeastern corner. I describe the petrology of cumberlandite and its associated gabbro and share some pictures from Iron Mine Hill. Thanks to cumberlandite investigator Judy Hadley for pointing out that what I identified as cumberlandite gravestones were actually slate.
Brown University webcams. Brown University unfortunately has fewer webcams than my undergraduate alma mater, but I've aggregated a few feeds on this page. I have a collection of images taken by the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts webcam every 5 minutes from August 2011 to the present. Contact me if you're interested.
Wetumpka, Alabama and the Wetumpka impact crater. There's an impact crater in Wetumpka, Alabama. I visited it with some non-geologists and, harried, missed the important outcrops. I did get to see some interesting paintings of the crater, thanks to the friendly Wetumpka town officials.
Trails I hiked at Devil's Lake, Wisconsin. Devil's Lake is a Wisconsin lake cut into Baraboo quartzite by fluvial processes and glaciation. The lake and the surrounding trails atop quartzite bluffs are very striking. Who says the Midwest doesn't have great scenery? I camped here for a night with Tote Hughes in 2010 and camped most of the trails.
The University of Chicago and Chicagoland. I attended the University of Chicago and lived in Chicago and Evanston for over twenty years. This section describes the dividends from some of my wanderings around the University of Chicago and greater Chicagoland.
Chicago Pedway maps. My most trafficked webpage. I describe and map the Chicago Pedway, a network of underground tunnels and skyways connecting buildings in Chicago's Loop. I walked the entire Pedway in December 2010 with Tote Hughes and the northeastern corner in June 2011 with Elliot Milco and Cyrus Raschtian. I intend to update this webpage with what I've learned.
UChicago webcams. Thanks to an enlightened IT staff, UChicago operates a complement of webcams showing scenes across campus. I aggregate the webcams on this page. I have a collection of images taken by all these webcams every 5 minutes from August 2011 to the present. Contact me if you're interested.
My interview with the University of Chicago Magazine blog. I argue that Virginio Ferrari's sculpture Dialogo cannot cast the shadow of a hammer and sickle, contra the persistent UChicago myth. Some of the subtleties of this argument (and the image quality of my figures) were predictably degraded in popularization.
Helen Mirra's "Instance the Determination". Quotes from indices written by Helen Mirra were painted on UChicago walls. I photographed these index entries with Tote Hughes in 2011. Several of the entries have been painted over and I imagine the rest will also slowly disappear.
Mansueto Q&A. My dad's involved with the Mansueto library, so I answered some Mansueto FAQs. In retrospect, this page has an annoying tone, but I like the typography.
Blizzard 2011 video. I assembled a video of the 2011 blizzard from images of a roof-mounted webcam. Turns out that not much snow accumulates on roofs when it's windy, so this video isn't very dramatic.
PANOPTIC PLATE Mk. 1. I make a video of mosaics comprising images captured from nine UChicago webcams every five minutes over a period of one and a half weeks. This video is "Mk. 1" since I plan to make a similar video for the whole year.
UChicago campus grid. UChicago buildings are internally referred to with IDs based on a grid system. There are several surprises in this system.
UChicago slide rule frieze. There's a frieze of a slide rule on the Social Sciences building (with quantitative implications). It dates the building. I like slide rules and own a rule with log-log scales. I also like thinking of slide rules in a nomographic context, something I might write more about later.
UChicago stair ruts. Mechanical weathering of stones from foot traffic is significant. There are ruts in stairs where people have walked.
"The Trees at Yerkes" (pdf). Describes the trees on the Yerkes campus. I've been to Yerkes several times and observed on the 24", 40", and 41", but never checked out the trees. Download this pdf and do me one better.
Weird UChicago websites. My idea of weird might be slightly different than yours ("RSOs I haven't heard of"). Most people find this page looking for goat.uchicago.edu. I guess UChicago sysadmins name their servers after the sort of objects you would in a game of 20 Questions. I scanned the subnet and found a long list of named servers, but very few serve funny images.
"Dialogo" debunked: UChicago's May Day myth. I argue that Virginio Ferrari's sculpture Dialogo cannot cast the shadow of a hammer and sickle, contra the persistent UChicago myth. This page includes only the explanatory figures I drew. You can supply the argument.
I was in Bartlett Grill at night. Tote Hughes and I infiltrated Bartlett at night via a complicated route. Here I am standing in the location where chefs fried me chicken tenders only a few years before.
I was in the Ida Noyes pool. Tote Hughes and I infiltrated the old Ida Noyes pool. Probably my proudest UChicago discovery, since I figured this pool had been destroyed in the construction of the GSB study space. Enter through the northern Ida Noyes basement mechanical room.
Research Institutes are concrete with a limestone facade. It's easier to make artificial stone (i.e. pour concrete) than it is to quarry and transport huge stone blocks. UChicago's proud stone buildings are really concrete with a limestone veneer. The Research Institutes will soon be demolished and this interesting exposure will disappear.
Rockefeller Chapel sculpture in storage. Sculptures meant to be viewed at a distance look really crummy close up. (I also guess these flimsy-looking sculptures aren't meant to redirect the chapel wall's thrust line.)
Steam tunnel below Ellis beside Research Institutes. Tote Hughes and I crawled several hundred meters through this dirty, wet, spider-infested steam tunnel hoping that we had found an inconspicuous entrance to the main steam tunnel system from the Accelerator building basement. Turns out we didn't: this tunnel system terminated at 57th. Let me know if you're interested in exploring UChicago's steam tunnels: I'd love to do it with you.
UChicago's sole sundial, an armillary sphere. There aren't many sundials on the UChicago campus. I drew a chalk analemmatic sundial at the center of the Main Quad with the astronomy club in spring 2010. I think this armillary sphere is misaligned, and it's definitely unreadable at ground level.
Visual novels, anime, manga, and miscellaneous. I didn't include a link to this up top, but I'm not ashamed! At least one great planetary scientist and polymath, Percival Lowell, was a Japanophile. I enjoy Japanese "nerd" media, which is (sorry to be a stereotype) enormously superior to the American equivalent. I really like visual novels, especially the Infinity series and 5pb's Science series.
Many mangas. I save every page of manga that appeals to me. Here are several hundred manga pages or panels arranged in a randomized order. Surprisingly, the first six panels make sense in sequence (at least to me).
Steins;Gate and Chaos;Head ringtones. I enjoy using the cell phone in the Steins;Gate VN, particularly carrying on a conversation with someone while "I" text someone else (a lordly pleasure that being an unsociable weirdo has unfortunately denied me in real life).
tototex: total Tote index. An unofficial and incomplete index to my friend Tote Hughes's website. (This link, and those following, belong to the "miscellaneous" category mentioned above.)
Many monsters. Several hundred random MonsterID images. I used this page to choose my Google Plus/Facebook profile picture.
Alexander from KQ3 turned into a cat. Not Japanese, but in a similar spirit. I like the King's Quest adventure games. (Generally I prefer Sierra games to those made by LucasArts, since Sierra games are more impenetrable and mean.) KQ3 and KQ6 are my favorites. This is a funny screenshot from KQ3.
Dr. James B. Calvert's website. The personal website of Dr. James B. Calvert, Associate Professor Emeritus of Engineering at the University of Denver. I really like this website, which I first found several years ago looking for information on slide rules. I wish I knew as much as Dr. Calvert (I'm working on it).
Steve Dutch's website. The personal website of Steve Dutch, professor at UW-Green Bay. I like this website, particularly Steve Dutch's travel photos and his clear, well-illustrated lecture notes.
Dr. Nicholas Short's Remote Sensing Tutorial. Dr. Nicholas Short (now deceased) wrote this thorough remote sensing tutorial. The tutorial is elementary, but the breadth of the topics covered (life, the universe, and everything) more than makes up for it. I particularly recommend Section 6, a survey of U.S. and world geography using Landsat imagery. Thanks to Michael Taylor, who repaired a number of the errors on this website (HTML pages had been replaced with mislabeled image files) shortly after I brought them to his attention.