Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory

Interviewed by
Jon Phillips
Interview date
Location
video conference
Abstract

Interview with Abel Méndez, professor of physics and astrobiology at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo. In this interview, Professor Méndez discusses his upbringing in Puerto Rico and early interest in astronomy, his education at the University of Puerto Rico and work at Fermilab, and the early stages of his work on astrobiology with NASA. He describes the origins of the Planetary Habitability Lab at Arecibo and his work studying exoplanets for potential suitability for life. Finally, he discusses the work environment at Arecibo, the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, the collapse of the telescope’s dish, and the potential future of the Observatory.

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Location
Video conference
Abstract

In this interview, Joseph Taylor, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Princeton University, recounts his upbringing in and around Philadelphia, and the centrality of Quakerism throughout his childhood. He describes his undergraduate experience at Haverford, where he developed his interest in physics and in experimental radio astronomy specifically. Taylor discusses his graduate work at Harvard, and why the mid-1960s was an exciting time for radio astronomy, and he describes his thesis research under the direction of Alan Maxwell on observing radio galaxies and quasars to create two-dimensional maps. Taylor describes the impact of the discovery of pulsars, just as he was completing graduate school, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at the University of Massachusetts to start the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory. He describes the fundamental advances in pulsar research in the 1970s, and he recounts his early and soon to be significant interactions with Russell Hulse, and he describes the logistical challenges of setting up research at the Arecibo Observatory. Taylor describes the intellectual origins of discovering gravitational radiation, and he explains his decision to join the faculty at Princeton which centered around its strength in gravitational physics. He discusses the long period of time between his research and the Nobel Prize for which he was recognized, and he discusses the impact of the prize on his life and his research. Taylor discusses his tenure as Dean of Faculty at Princeton, and in the last part of the interview, he describes his current and recent interests in WMAP, and why he welcomes the strides his field has taken toward greater diversity.  

 

Interviewed by
Spencer Weart
Interview date
Location
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Abstract

Childhood in Germany and family background — competitive spirit; war years — internment and radar work with Bondi and Hoyle (1942-1945) at Cambridge — development of theory of hearing and steady state theory; at Greenwich (1952-1956) — research on lunar surface and terrestrial dynamics; positions at Harvard and Cornell — involvement with Arecibo; involvement with governmental agencies including NSF and NASA — changes in government funding. A major part of the interview covers the development and reception of the steady date theory.