On December 9, 2012, a balloon the size of a football field ascended nearly 140,000 feet into the Antarctic sky. The balloon carried Super-TIGER, a two-ton instrument built to detect cosmic rays. Drs. W. Robert Binns and Martin Israel, who head the cosmic ray group within the physics department at Washington University in St. Louis, describe this record-breaking experiment and explain why they seek to know more about the origins of cosmic rays.
Christine Floss, research professor in the physics department at Washington University in St. Louis, spends her time investigating microscopic specks of dust that have remained unchanged since before the formation of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago. These presolar grains help researchers like Floss answer questions about the formation of elements, the solar system, and the universe as a whole. Floss describes how she and her students search for presolar grains in ancient meteorites, why tiny grains of silica are particularly fascinating, and how as an undergraduate geology major she first became hooked on outer space.
What questions have yet to be answered about the Moon? Bradley Jolliff, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, describes how lunar samples and orbiters continue to provide insights into the geologic history of Earth's closest neighbor. Jolliff, who works with the Mars rover Opportunity, also shares his dreams of a future lunar rover that would visit sites that continue to puzzle scientists, including the immense South Pole-Aitken Basin and the icy, permanently shadowed lands near the Moon's poles.
As a mathematician and a musician, professor David Wright believes in approaching the world both analytically and artistically. Back in 2002, he designed and began teaching "Mathematics & Music," an undergraduate course focused on the connections between these two abstract and beautiful fields of study. Wright, who serves as associate director of the musical group Ambassadors of Harmony in addition to chairing the mathematics department at Washington University in St. Louis, shares some concepts from the course and reflects on both the artistry of mathematics and the mathematical structure of music.
What do polygamy, prostitution, and pet inheritance have in common? For the final episode in our 10-part series on American Identities, Adriennne Davis, professor of law and vice provost at Washington University in St. Louis, discusses the role of law in regulating intimate relationships in the United States. According to Davis, personal attachments, identity, and citizenship are fundamentally linked, and in her research, she envisions concrete ways in which the U.S. legal system might be more accepting of irregular forms of intimacy.
Super-TIGER had a perfect Antarctic launch on Sunday, December 9, 2012. The following video was shot by Richard Bose, an electronics engineer in the physics department at Washington University in St. Louis.