David J. Helfand offers a valedictory column in which he channels Charles Dickens to describe the best of times and worst of times, that is, his two years as AAS President.
All Posts by David J. Helfand
AAS President David Helfand welcomes the new year with thoughts about big astronomy meetings, how to advocate for federal investments in science, and the astounding pace at which our understanding of the universe is increasing.
Just past the equinox, AAS President David Helfand reflects on some of the things that make this season special and on some of the special challenges we face this season.
AAS President David Helfand reflects on some of the beginnings and endings relevant to the Society and its members as we head toward autumn.
David Helfand reviews the current state of our journals, which is excellent, and argues for improving it further by including links in ApJ and AJ articles to the data that underlies a paper's conclusions.
AAS President David Helfand describes a new program, based on the precinct-captain model of election campaigns, to improve communication between the Society and its members.
For a significant fraction of our membership, February is probably not their favorite month. Despite being the calendrical midget with the smallest number of days, for those on the job market it probably produces the largest amount of anxiety. Indeed, the entire job search process seems to consume a larger number of months, a larger expenditure of resources, a larger amount of time, and a larger quantity of emotional energy than it did the last time I applied for a job 36 years ago. Should we reduce this burden? And, if so, how do we go about doing that?
As I noted in my opening remarks at the 221st meeting of the Society in Long Beach, the state of the AAS — unlike that of the nation — is strong. We ended the year with a small positive balance in the Society's account for the fourth year in a row. Our collection of journals — the highest impact journals in the world in our field — is in even stronger financial shape.
From close-up pictures of water-sculpted pebbles on Mars, to the detection of galaxies at the boundary of the Dark Ages, discoveries in our field continue to advance our understanding of the Universe and to fascinate legions of the public who support our inquiry. Unfortunately, we do not see similar progress in the political sphere, even now that the consequences have been spelled out of allowing budget sequestration to hit every government agency in January.
At 1:32AM Eastern time on 6 August, the Mars Science Laboratory and its charmingly named rover, Curiosity, executed a perfect landing in Gale Crater. President Obama called the highly complex landing procedure “an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of pride far into the future.” While we certainly hope Curiosity’s lifetime on Mars is a long one, we must all continue to make the case that we do not want to see this success as the only “point of pride” generated by a solar system mission in the coming decade.