AGU's Expanding Universe
The American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco has attracted a record 15,000 scientists from all over the world. The Gauge Theory and Representation Theory conference in Princeton drew barely 100, and only for Ed Witten's talk. AGU has outgrown Moscone Center West and occupied the much larger Moscone South. Those huge concrete arches supporting the roof form catenaries, like an inverted Golden Gate Bridge. Subjects at AGU range from Earth's interior to climate to the Solar System. Every year more woman scientists and students show up, for these fields have far more opportunities. There is far more here than 10 people could possibly see.
Monday morning in Moscone South Room 102 Carolyn Porco began a series of talks on Saturn moons. Jennifer Meyer made the surprise assertion that Enceladus' 6 GW of heat can not be accounted for by tidal forces. The conventional estimate from tidal heating is only 0.12 GW. The old hypothesis or "radioactive decay" does not work for these icy moons. In desperation some researchers are conjecturing a meteorite strike at the South Pole, a true deus ex machina. Enceladus' core is an excellent place to consider a Black Hole.
Monday evening Moscone West Room 3005 was standing-room only for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Though Berkeley is just a subway ride away, not a single person from SNAP or Supernova Cosmology Project showed up at AGU. As the only astrophysicist in the room, I enjoyed a one-on-one talk with NASA Associate Administrator Alan Stern. He answered all my questions:
1) The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is permanently grounded for lack of Shuttle flights.
2) Though JWST is eating up the astrophysics budget, room was found to launch the NUSTAR Black Hole Probe in 2011.
3) Since people may not walk on Mars until after 2030, a Mars sample return mission is on the table.
4) NASA doesn't want Principal Investigators with no spacecraft experience (sorry, Saul).
5) A new Discovery mission was announced, GRAIL.
This huge building is crowded because people are very concerned about Earth and its problems. Many fine scientists like Kea are concerned about Earth. Even if a "dark energy" existed, it would have no conceivable use. The speed of light affects everything including the climate.