My Kepler Exoplanet Talk at cf.Objective() 2013

Last week I was at cf.Objective() 2013 in Minneapolis, MN. cf.Objective() is an excellent software development conference, and I was there to help promote Railo, as well as talk a little bit about HTML5, I decided to do a lightning talk on the hunt for exoplanets with the Kepler Space Telescope.

Lightning talks are fun to watch and even more fun to give (if your definition of fun is figuring out how to discuss a potentially complicated topic in under 7 minutes). The rules of engagement are that talks must consist of 20 sides which automatically advance every 20 seconds. The result is a 7-minute geek fest where the speaker attempts to keep up with the slides while still trying to convey something that resembles the points he was trying to make (at least that’s how it felt for me).

Since this was a talk aimed at software developers, I couldn’t help but point out a few goodies like the awesomely awesome Exoplanet app, and the Open Exoplanet Catalogue on GitHub. And I couldn’t help but give a shout out to Exoplanets.org, PlanetHunters.org, and Uwingu.

As it turned out, my talk couldn’t have been more timely with the announcement of the cessation of science operations just the day before, so I had to end my talk on a bit of a downer. However, I hope that the point of the tremendous advance in our knowledge of exoplanets thanks to Kepler was clear. No matter Kepler’s ultimate fate, the search for Earth’s twins continues.

Finally, I have to say a huge thank-you to the folks at cf.Objective() for organizing a great conference, and for having the insight to offer the opportunity to talk about something fun and interesting outside of our regular day jobs. And to my friend David Epler for capturing the video of me, and to the folks at Codebass Radio for the world-class audio recording.

Oh, and here is the lightning talk I gave at this same conference last year on the lifecycle of stars:

Galaxies, the Universe, and Everything in Reading, PA

Title slide for the talk "Galaxies, the Universe, & Everything"

Tonight I had a great time speaking to the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society at the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA, which on the whole wasn’t too far from where I grew up. It was nice being in my home state once again, even for an evening!

Despite it being a school/work night, I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout of the Berks club members and general public. After my presentation people stayed for a Q&A session that went on for about a good half-hour or so. I was worried I was keeping folks up past their bedtime, but I kept getting great questions, especially from the kids who haven’t grown up to learn they shouldn’t ask “dumb” questions like:

If a black hole were heading toward Earth, could we detect it so we would have time to escape?

Can a Gama Ray Burst be because two black holes collide?

What caused galaxies to form in the first place?

and this one, which had me thinking on my feet a bit:

If the Sun were to suddenly disappear, how long would it take for the Earth to stop orbiting it?

To those kids, let me just say, don’t grow up! Keep asking those “dumb” questions because they actually some of the most important questions we can ask!