Week 3: The Darren, The Data, and The Fixed Code

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Friday, June 21, 2013


Darren McKinnon

Ahh… IT access. Work was finally moving along. The Eta Car group had me working with a new program they were hoping to use to get a new angle on their research. Mairan, one of the Ph.D.’s in the group, had done a bit of work with the program, but for the most part we were all on the same level by way of understanding how exactly to work things. It was decided that I should flex my new IDL muscles and work on automating the code. I began running a few of our data cubes through the program to understand how it was being processed.

I was becoming extremely comfortable with my understanding of the program, so I decided to run a particular data cube through, deconstructing it, evaluating it, processing it, and finally reconstructing it with only key features. I figured that this would be a decent exercise, since this was what we intended to do with the program. Feeling quite proud of myself for reconstructing this particular data cube without the signal noise that it originally contained, I decided to show it off to my mentor.

His response was not at all what I anticipated. He became quite attentive to the image at hand, excitement exuding from his every action. In the reconstructd image, a new structure had shown up. It was something that they hadn’t seen before, but upon initial evaluation, it could very well fit with many predictions that were being made by the models the group was creating. This excitement was revisited after lunch when the entire group convened in my tiny office. The discussion of what it could or couldn’t be lasted for an hour, each scientist showing the same excitement as my mentor. This was the part of my internship that I hoped for, but honestly didn’t expect. The anticipation of what could be, the love for science, the brilliant formation of ideas… All hemmed by scientific reasoning and plausible doubt.

Like all things science, this little discovery wasn’t the end of things. Now we had to verify that it exists, and that it was what we thought it was. This brings me to my task at the conclusion of my third week. I would now need to run many different data cubes through to see if we could see this same type of structure show up through any of the other emission lines. Along with this the week concluded with a Skype call to a few collaborators in Mexico.

I end this week on a note of elation and anticipation. The weekend is calling with the allure of entertainment, and I am elated about the opportunity to see one of the many processes of science. Don’t worry… I’ll keep you updated.

Darren McKinnon