As long as I can remember, my dad was awesome. Some of my earliest memories with him are running through the computer lab at UCSD swinging the large spools of data that hung on long racks, and playing with those old, long computer punch cards. I was introduced to computers by him back when the TRS-80 (trash-eighty) was the leading consumer computer, and all the monitors were that strange green color. I played Zork (“Hello, Sailor!”) and got to watch as detectors for satellites were built right in front of me.
In school, my dad would come and play “Mr. Wizard” and bring in science experiments for the class. The old standby was bringing in a big canister of liquid nitrogen. There was nothing cooler than watching him dip flowers into the bubbling liquid and see him shatter them on the wall. He’d freeze rubber tubing and bananas, all while explaining thermodynamics and what it was used for. He’d always finish it by plunging his hand into the vat, withdraw it screaming, and slam it on the wall. The kids loved it – they’d scream, expecting his hand to shatter, and then my Dad would explain why it didn’t.
Later, when I was in high school, me and all of my hessian buddies would go to the planetarium and watch my dad in his element – presenting to a planetarium of science-folks. There’s nothing as cool as watching someone who’s really an expert in something while they’re in their element. It was great. To this day, whenever my friends end up at the house, you’ll always find them in an intense conversation with my Pop about wormholes, the big bang, and the possibilities of aliens.
My Dad began his career in astrophysics when he went to Goddard Space Flight Center as a National Academy of Science/National Research Council postdoctoral fellow. He joined the X-ray astronomy group and was assigned to be the instrument scientist for the sounding rocket program. This meant a rocket flight from White Sands Missle Range in about 9 months to view two black holes and a neutron star. This flrst flight led to the discovery of never before seen X-ray bursts lasting a millisecond from one of the black holes and evidence for a very high magnetic field of the neutron star. A second flight a year later confirmed the bursts, and made the first detection of iron atoms in the vicinity of the other black hole system. With many instruments being built in the X-ray group at that time, he was assigned as instrument scientist and co-Investigator for the Goddard X-ray detectors to be flown in late 1970’s on the first High Energy Astrophysical Observatory satellite (HEAO-1). Before its launch, he and his wife Marcy relocated to San Diego and he joined the X-ray and Gamma Ray group at UCSD. There he led the analysis of X-ray observations from an earlier UCSD X-ray instrument on OSO-7 satellite as well as that from the UCSD instrument on HEAO-1…
What can I say about me. This podcast isn’t really about me. It’s about my dad. And I guess, my relationship with him. In my teenage years, I was an ass, and really didn’t realize how great he was. But now, I realize who this guy really is, and I want to share his awesomeness with the world.