For the last 12 years at maricopa, my e-mail signature has been “Was Geologist, Now Technologist” a Readers Digest condensed version of my tale of transforming from a graduate student in Geology to a techie at Maricopa. Last night, I attended an event at Arizona State University, for one night of flashback nostalgia.
The event was the Department of Geological Sciences 2005 Robert S. Dietz Lecture, featuring Phil Christensen on
“The Evolution of Mars: Changing Views of a Changing World”. While I recall playing volleyball and drinking beer at his house, Phil has achieved a long list of amazing planetary science work at ASU, most recently with his team’s spectroscopy devices that have gone on both Mars Rovers and the Mars orbiting space craft.
Phil’s talk covered the range of our ever changing views and knowledge of this neighbor planet, from the “red dot in the sky” to Huygens’ first pencil sketches in the 1600s, to Lowell’s falsely identified canals, even Marvin the Martian, and the current fantastic imagery from the Mars Rovers. These surface images are such striking, and very familiar to the red rock landscapes of Arizona and Australia, except for the eerie pale orange sky, lacking a single cloud. Very cool stuff, and the full packed lecture hall was very engaged. Face it, humans love Mars.
Anyhow it was fun to see some of my teachers from 12-15 years ago when I was a student there.
It reminded me a bit of the neat “What If” site created by someone who graphically generate a path their life might have taken with a different set of decisions. In 1989, having finished my Masters in Geology at ASU, I was at one of those Robert Frost-ian forks in the road– I had an offer to do PhD work with Phil Christenen’s Mars Group and one from Sue Kieffer to do research in volcanoes and fluid dynamics. I chose the latter, and a long series of events catapulted me from there to here, and I can wonder where I would be had I stayed on the Mars side.. maybe still wearing tattered jeans, a scruffly beard, and who knows what?? You cannot say, just on rare times, idly speculate what could have, might have been.
On the other hand, the road chosen has been extremely blessed and without any second guessing of that choice.