Week 2: Astronauts and Turkeys

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Sunday, June 19, 2016


Marissa Murray

After a mostly relaxing weekend, by Monday we were all ready for round two.  Going into the second week, you now know your way around the metro, the office, where to get coffee, etc.  I finally stopped arriving everywhere 45 minutes early because I knew exactly how long the walk/metro/bus would take.  I spent Monday and Friday at ACP and the rest of the time I was at events and hearings around DC.

On Tuesday I attended the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) ten-year anniversary conference which was located on the roof on the Newseum.  I started my day outside, overlooking DC, with freshly squeezed OJ and a make-your-own yogurt parfait.  Not a bad start at all.  The next 5 hours of the event included panels discussing everything from long-term productivity growth to how will emerging technology help drive capital investment.  Notable speakers included Rob Atkinson, president of ITIF, Senator Coons and Senator Gardner, Arvind Krishna who does research for IBM, and Greg Zacharias, Chief Scientist of the US Air Force.  In discussing America's subpar infrastructure and our lack of advancement in that area in the past decade, I particularly enjoyed the plethora of Amtrak jokes: "I took the fastest train in the country and it only went 73mph and I couldn't even use my laptop the car was shaking so much."  When the conference concluded, the staff was handing out Newseum tickets (which are usually $20).  So after typing up my notes, I thought, why not take a little stroll through the Newseum and check it out.  My favorite part by far was the Pulizter Prize photograph gallery which had walls of beautiful, controversial, tear-jerking photos.  The quote at the beginning of the exhibit read, "If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart then that's a good photo" and boy was that true.  The best part was reading the blurbs next to the photos which told the great lengths the photographer went to in order to get that photo.

Wednesday and Thursday I attending three hearings: Innovation in Solar Fuels, Electricity Storage, and Advanced Materials, Human Spaceflight Ethics and Obligations, and SBIR/STTR Reauthorization: A Review of Technology Transfer.  I learned so much about where we are in terms of reusable energy, how major upgrades need to be make to our national labs in order to remain a world leader, how astronauts should be taken care of after they return from space, why NASA wants their health data, how close we are to going to Mars, and what our government does to encourage commercializing technolgical breakthroughs.  The coolest part by far was being in the same room as three astronauts, Scott Kelly being one of them.  He was speaking on the hill on his hundredth day back on earth.  I've never really been a space geek but I got chills when he walked into the room.  I was in the same room as someone who's seen earth from space!! 

Friday I was asked to write up a draft of an FYI on the first of the three hearings I went to, which was quite a bit harder than I thought it would be.  It will definitely need some major editing work, but it was fun to think that I could eventually be making a more tangible contribution to FYI. 

Friday night ended with some bowling and dinner at Lucky Strike with the SPS executive committee.  I had never been there before, but boy oh boy that is the only way anyone should ever bowl.  AIP had rented us four lanes to use, and in-between bowls, we sat on giant comfy couches and munched on buffet food and chips and dip. Bowling with fellow physics majors was rather funny, as after gutterballs people would come back to the couch mumbling, "I can do all of the math, I can tell you exactly how to do it, but I just can't hit the pins!"  which then prompted many jokes about not being able to teach a theorist how to bowl.  I, on the other hand, am definitely an experimentalist.  Not to brag or anything but I got a 'turkey' which is bowling talk for three strikes in a row.  With that I am retiring my bowling shoes and finishing my career on top.

Until next time,


Marissa Murray