Lamont Weekly Report, October 10, 2008

There was a great fire in Rome in 64 AD, and Nero was in the city at the time, but whether he actually played some kind of musical instrument while the fire was raging is somewhat uncertain. (He certainly did not play a fiddle - they were not invented for another thousand years or more). In stark contrast, however, it seems quite certain (because it was reported in Nature [Global Carbon Project,  2008] and who doesn't believe everything they read in Nature?) that the rate of increase of CO2 levels in our atmosphere is increasing - I repeat - the rate of increase is increasing - (2.2ppm per year in 2007 versus average 2.0ppm per year for 2000-2007 versus average 1.5ppm per year for 1980-2000). While this is going on (and the world financial markets are collapsing), our nation is debating whether the husband of a vice presidential candidate engaged in vengeful action against the supervisor of the ex-husband of his wife's sister.

Sometimes I worry about our future.

Open House last Saturday was a great event. Despite the cold early start to the day the afternoon was beautiful and we had over 3200 folks exploring our campus.  Attendance was down from last year. I do not know anybody who knows why - but it was nevertheless a wholly successful day. The only organizational crisis of which I was aware was the lack of bottle openers and cork screws at the post-event party. This omission served to emphasize another of Al Queda's 
destructive impacts on our world - the significant reduction in the number of air-travel-weary researchers who routinely carry a Swiss army knife in their pocket.

Jeff Sachs was the lead off speaker in the Monell auditorium -  speaking to a standing-room-only crowd, and provoking considerable  debate over our nation's energy policy. And there were a number of really great new exhibits this year. As always the event was a success only because of the more than 250 volunteers - thank you to everyone -  and especially to the organizing committee - it is a huge effort, but it benefits Lamont greatly.

I really enjoyed Jim Davis' (from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard) talk on Wednesday - I had never realized the incredible capabilities of the GRACE satellite data before - being  able to look at changes in the earth's gravity field on those temporal and spatial scales boggles the imagination.

Wade McGillis and I met the new Mayor of Piermont on Tuesday for the first time - Chris Sanders - and had a useful discussion about Piermont Pier. Next year is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's trip up our river, so Piermont - very sensibly - is looking at ways they can prepare themselves for all the hoopla that will undoubtedly surround this celebration.

I did not attend the Open meeting that the Campus Life committee organized on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the controversial issue of installing a radio tower on campus to help communications for Rockland County emergency services. Discussions on this will continue I am sure.

The Chair of DEES Steve Goldstein and I maintained the annual tradition of holding an open Town Hall style meeting with the students earlier this afternoon.  I hope it is testament to the students overall contentment that only seven turned up - but it was a useful discussion!

Finally, it was great to host Andy Revkin from the New York Times on our campus once again as today's Colloquium speaker. He is an oasis of articulate logic within the bizarre world of the mass media.

Enjoy the sunshine- lets hope summer sticks around for another week or two - but please do not forget - Rome is burning.

- Mike