The ^zhurnal entry of 11 April 2000 (SpinningSources) described a 1979 publication of mine: "It was rather a dull paper in my opinion, without any fundamental or exciting new insights. Boring work, but somebody had to do it." That occurs a lot, in research as well as in everyday life. Most of the time the feedback loops don't close; the happy consequences of quiet labors go unrecognized.

But in August 2000 the unexpected happened. A Berkeley astrophysicist, J. Garrett Jernigan, wrote and then phoned to tell me about a new theory he had come up with, to explain Quasi-periodic Oscillations (QPO) seen from Low Mass X-ray Binary (LMXB) neutron star systems. Professor Jernigan proposed that free precession of a neutron star's crust could produce the right kind of flickering X-ray emissions --- rigid-body precession quite similar to what Eugene Szedenits and I had computed in grad school more than two decades earlier, following suggestions of Kip Thorne and Roger Blandford.

The conversation with Garrett was a thrill. Imagine: somebody actually read what Gene and I had written! And something in the real world (maybe) corresponds to our calculations! Incredible. Garrett swore me to secrecy until his paper could get further through the publications process. A few days ago, he gave me permission to write; a preprint of his draft is now on the public LANL archive. Will Jernigan's theory survive critical review and further tests against observation? It's too early to tell. The contributions that Gene and I unwittingly made to this research are minor. But nevertheless, how nice to see (as two bibliographic references out of 57) evidence of the echoes, still reverberating, from old struggles to learn, explain, and share. (See RememberMe, the 21 May 1999 ^zhurnal item quoting from George Eliot's Middlemarch.)

Monday, January 08, 2001 at 06:09:40 (EST) = 2001-01-08

TopicPersonalHistory - TopicScience

(correlates: SpinningSources, ShadowCasting, TerribleObstacles, ...)