The Initial Conditions of a Pendulum

Hello readers!

I would like to introduce myself as the new APS science writing intern, starting work this gloriously sunny and autumnal day in College Park.

I have just landed back in the States after completing my PhD in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge across the pond. In the week since I’ve been back in the US, it’s been bizarre to experience culture shock in my home country. The cars are so big and the people are so friendly! Please excuse any future ‘British-isms’ in my posts – I’ll do my best to keep the references to ‘aluminium’ and ‘maths’ to an absolute minimum.

Prior to my stint in Cambridge, I studied physics and math at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Oregon is my home state and I am most at home hiking and climbing in the Cascades, preferably with the promise of a campsite under clear, dark skies.

While in Oregon I became involved with the university’s Society of Physics Students chapter, as well as the local planetarium and amateur astronomy club, sparking an on-going passion for physics outreach. This outreach experience morphed into science news reporting a few years ago when I started working with the UK-based Naked Scientists podcast. I had great fun as the guest astronomer, specializing in exoplanets and high-energy astrophysics, and am excited to start contributing to the Physics Central podcast in the coming months.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum and C. O’Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), 
and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

My PhD research focused on the fluid dynamics of radio galaxy jets. These are some of the largest and most efficient engines in the universe, powered by supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. Radio jets often extend millions of light years from their galactic hosts, blasting their way through the surrounding gas and dust at nearly the speed of light. This is clearly a favorite topic of mine, and I look forward to crafting a dedicated post in the near future about these incredible jets.

For now I’ll sign off with my new call sign, Pendulum, which is a nod to both the physics of these surprisingly chaotic simple oscillators, as well as the rock climber in me who enjoys catching the air in a good ‘whipper’ pendulum swing every now and then.

By Tamela Maciel, also known as “pendulum”

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