Friday, March 4, 2016

Interview With the Colyer

How strange but wonderful. I just had my first interview (subject: Pluto Re-Planetfication), and it humbles me. Thanks to "MB" (Michael Baumli) for the interview. We never forget our first time. ;-)

Pictured: nerdy me at age 10 with fake vampire teeth and my pet turtle, Augie (found him on Aug. 1, hence the name)

MB: Can you list your education and work experience?

SC: After 8 years of American public education in the 1960's and 4 years of Catholic high school in the early 70's, I got two college degrees. Rutgers Mechanical Engineering, BSME, and Rutgers Graduate School of Management, MBA. From age 22 to 32 I worked in the Oil Services Industry as an application engineer designing steam turbines, centrifugal gas compressors, and river water pumps. At 32 I quit the industry and focused on management and consulting. My specialty in engineering was thermodynamics and fluid dynamics; in management, marketing. I also minored in Organizational Psychology and Entrepreneurship in getting my MBA, which I got part-time at nights while working full-time. Most of my education was self-study, however. I love research and if a subject interests me, I study it. My first love was Space. I was born in late 1956 so of course I was all over the US and USSR astronaut and cosmonaut missions. Since my mother died in 2008 I began to study Theoretical Mathematical Physics, and began a popular blog titled "Multiplication by Infinity" in 2009. My chief interest there is phenomenological quantum gravity. In 2011 I joined Facebook and met more scientists and engineers in months than I had during my whole life. Incredible place. In 2013 I met Laurel Kornfeld, tireless advocate for Pluto's re-planetfication, who introduced me to the Astronomy Club at Sperry Observatory in Cranford, NJ, and she introduced me to Alan Stern at NEAF in 2014.

MB: Please tell me why you believe Pluto should be considered a planet over the dwarf planet status assigned by IAU?

SC: Got an hour? wink emoticon Because, it's a planet, and "planet" shouldn't be defined by its location. The people to talk to about planets are planetary scientists, not astronomers. At one time planetary science was a branch of astronomy, but has broken away from astronomy in the last 50 years, beginning with the Mariner 4 flyby of Mars, IMO. The I.A.U. is mainly astronomers. The oldest branch of astronomy is astrometry, the search and locating of night-sky objects. In fact astrometry is older than astronomy, it was used by astrologers and ships' navigators going back to antiquity. Brian Marsden was an astrometer, and Mike Brown is an astrometer, as was Neil deGrasse Tyson. Astrometers care about location. Planetary scientists care about the contents of the planet itself, location being but one parameter. A planet can orbit a star or be a rogue traveling between stars and galaxies. It can orbit another planet. But wherever it is, a planet is a planet, period.
The I.A.U. vote of 2006 was unfortunate, I wish they hadn't done that. They abused two different terms Alan Stern coined: "dwarf planet" and "clears its neighborhood". In Alan's scientific papers those terms have very different meanings. My research indicates the vote was engineered specifically by Marsden to demote Pluto from the list of planets. The vote itself made science in general look bad, as you can research by all the jokes that came out soon thereafter. My favorite was by Jay Leno: "Hey, did you hear that scientists have decided that Pluto isn't a planet anymore? That's right, and now they can't find it! Last we heard it was hanging out with Saturn ... looking for work!" Anyone can do the research I've done and I strongly suggest they start with the excellent and objective look at the planetary status issue that Alan Boyle presents in his book, "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference." And it has more Pluto emoticon

MB: Why is this so important to you?

SC: Because I hate injustice, and the 2006 vote was unjust. I also advocate fiercely for good science and the people who science (heh, "science" as a verb), good scientists. Especially basic research. The 2006 vote was bad science IMO and in the opinion of the vast majority of planetary scientists. Location should only matter in real estate and restaurants.

MB: Is there any reason that you consider this activity a patriotic duty? (Pluto was the first Planet discovered by Americans)

SC: Patriotic to whom? To truth? To my species? Yes, I have children and friends with children and I wish to see them survive. Good science and better and more basic research seems to be the best solution to me. Our species is approaching a point where if things don't change soon we may soon pass the tipping point of species survival. We may have already.
Patriotic to my country? Yeah, sure, I'm proud of our nation's accomplishments in Space, but I prefer to think of us all as astronauts/cosmonauts/taikonauts/vyomanauts whatever on a really big 13,000 km-wide spaceship with a ship's crew of 7 billion. As far as the IAU being an anti-American vote, I can't prove that but I think the circumstantial evidence leans in that direction. 2006 was the year of the fiercest fighting in the internationally unpopular Iraq War, New Horizons had launched six months earlier, and I don't think the IAU has ever forgiven the US Government for banning them from holding their conventions in the USA during the McCarthy era. The IAU is HQ'd in Paris, and for some reason the French seem jealous of Americans. I don't know why, we really appreciate that big statue they sent us. Merci, France!

MB: Is this in any way reflective of your other values in life?

SC: I guess. My primary goal is to leave the world a better place than when I entered it for my having been here. In Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting, our leaders told us to leave a campsite cleaner than how we found it. Mom was raised Puritan Congregationalist and Dad Catholic, and those values last a lifetime, or should. But primarily as I said I hate, loathe and despise injustice. We were raised on John Wayne and Audie Murphy films, and James Bond and Beatles and Batman and Superman in the 60's.

MB: Are there any other successes that you feel you have in your life?

SC: I married a good woman and raised our four kids, and any other accomplishment is secondary after that.

MB: How do you feel you inspire others around you?

SC: You'd have to ask them, lol. I value respect most of all, then friendship. I try to be a good friend and help where I can, and respect the opinions of those who disagree with me. They have rights, including the right to be wrong.

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