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OCA General Meeting
Friday November 8th, 2013, 7:30 PM
Chapman University
Free and open to public more

BLURRING THE BOUNDARIES AMONG ASTRONOMY, PHYSICS, AND CHEMISTRY: The Moseley Centenary

Scientists, like other human beings, are territorial creatures, about our parking spaces, our seat in the colloquiu, room, our specific topics of research ("Who's been working on MY nebula and left it covered with dust?!"), and even whole disciplines.
I have been looking into a number of times and places when chemistry, physics, and astronomy trespassed on each others' territories and even attempted to grab parts of them, and will try to tell you about some of these. The time- trigger is the 100th anniversary of the Bohr atom (which perhaps you heard about in high school) and a couple of crucial papers by Henry Moseley (which you probably didn't). He showed clearly that atomic number is much more fundamental than atomic weight, sorted out a number of problems with the periodic table, and then went off to be killed at Gallipoli in 1915. With Bohr and Moseley, physics captured a good deal of ground that should (so said my Father!) have been part of chemistry.
Specific astronomical cases include non-cosmological redshifts (we were wrong; physicists were right), the solar neutrino problem (astronomy was right, both physics and chemistry wrong), and coronium and nebulium (pretty much everybody was wrong).
In general those who welcomed the invaders (for instance astronomers who took up spectroscopy) have come out better than the resisters (who said that the composition of the stars and planets is of no proper astronomical interest), though of course history is written by the winners. And speaking of history, 2013 is chock full of interesting anniversaries, a few of which I will mention.


Virginia Trimble

Virginia Trimble is a native Californian and graduate of Hollywood High School, UCLA, and Caltech. She has received honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge (1969 MA) and the University of Valencia, Spain (2010, dottora h.c.). Trimble is currently professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, though for almost 30 years, she bounced back and forth at a frequency of 31.7 nHz between here and the University of Maryland, where her late husband, Joseph Weber, was tenured.
In the 45 years since her PhD, she has held governance positions in the American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union, the American Physical Society, and 5 or 6 others, generally reaching her level of incompetence somewhere around vice president.
A list of more than 700 publications spans her current interests in structure and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the universe, and of the communities of scientists who study them, plus some dabbling in Egyptology, Jewish law, and Sherlockiana.


"What's Up?" in this month will be presented by Jim Benet

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