Education and Outreach: December 2007

Since we cannot put stars in a laboratory, astrophysicists had to wait till the invention of computers before becoming laboratory scientists. For half a century now, we have been conducting experiments in our virtual laboratories. However, we ourselves have remained behind the keyboard, with the screen of the monitor separating us from the world we are simulating. Recently, 3D on-line technology, developed first for games but now deployed in virtual worlds like Second Life, is beginning to make it possible for astrophysicists to enter their virtual labs themselves, in virtual form as avatars. This has several advantages, from new possibilities to explore the results of the simulations to a shared presence in a virtual lab with remote collaborators on different continents.

Piet Hut (IAS, Princeton) Comments: 10 pages, 2 figures, Conference proceedings for IAUS246 'Dynamical Evolution of Dense Stellar Systems', ed. E. Vesperini (Chief Editor), M. Giersz, A. Sills, Capri, Sept. 2007 Subjects: Astrophysics (astro-ph)

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Oceans and Life on Planets: Remote Exploration of Seafloor Microbial Activities

In the spirit of the interdisciplinary nature of astrobiology, the course is open to graduate students in oceanography and/or microbiology, as well as to other graduate students in science and engineering who wish to pursue an intensive learning experience. Deadline for applications: 31 January 2008.

This two-year position is jointly funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) and the Astrobiology Program (AP) at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. The Virtual Planetary Laboratory, based at the University of Washington (, is an interdisciplinary research team of 40 members at 22 institutions. The VPL team undertakes interdisciplinary modeling research on the formation of habitable planets; their interaction with their parent star; the environments of the Early Earth; the plausible range of habitable extrasolar terrestrial environments; and the nature and detectability of remotely-sensed biosignatures.

Spaceward Bound is an educational program designed to train the next generation of space explorers. Students participate in the exploration of scientifically interesting but remote and extreme environments on Earth as analogs for human exploration of the moon and Mars.

UCLA has launched an initiative to grow the Geosciences under the theme "Surface envelopes of Earth and planets: Processes and interactions" (see EOS, November 27, p. 534). The Department of Earth and Space Sciences and the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics seek a talented and creative scientist with experience and interests in research and teaching in one or more of the biogeosciences (geobiology, geomicrobiology, paleobiology, astrobiology, biogeochemistry) for appointment as an Assistant or Associate Professor.