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Insight Weeks 3 through 5

Note: This is the second in a series of posts about my Fellowship at

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Insight Weeks 1 and 2

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about my time at Insight Data Science.

 

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MetaMOOC (or, An Exploration into What Makes MOOCs Popular)

As some of you already know, I've decided to leave academia for industry. I'll be an Insight Data Science Fellow starting in June. I'm going to try to blog about my transition and public data projects I work on.

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 8: Ice Tunneling

Photo of Ice Tunnels

A few weeks ago I went on a tour of the South Pole ice tunnels. These run underneath the station, connecting it to the power plant, food storage, water treatment plant, and water supply. Probably the most interesting part was understanding how the water supply works. Fresh water comes from a Rodrigues well ("rodwell"), a hole in the ice we slowly expand by melting and pumping water out of it. To do so, we have to pump in hot water. Part of the heat is excess from the power plant, but the water needs to be heated again to 120 F immediately before being pumped into the rodwell.

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 7: Science with Keck Array at the South Pole

Photo of Keck Array

The main science goal of our experiment is to measure faint microwave signals to help us better understand the Big Bang. Because the signals are so faint (equivalent to temperature fluctuations of less than 0.000001 degrees), we need incredibly sensitive detectors to find them. Furthermore, there are lots of stronger signals (e.g. from our own Galaxy) we have to reject in order to see the tiny ones from the beginning of the Universe. Therefore, most of our work here comes in two parts: upgrading our telescopes and characterizing how they respond to different types of signals.

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 6: Antarctic Stations

Photo of map of Antarctic stations

Several people have asked me about the different stations in Antarctica. This time I'll provide some facts based on a table of the Antarctic stations displayed in the galley. Note that the version here was updated March 2009. More recent information can be found at https://www.comnap.aq/Information/. First the permanent U.S. stations are Amundsen--Scott (South Pole), McMurdo, and Palmer. Their peak populations are respectively 250, 1000, and 43. The total peak population of all stations listed is 4460.

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 5: Home Sweet Pole

Photo of my room at South Pole

The flight was canceled before lunch. The next day (December 13) we were scheduled for another 6:45 AM transport. Third time turned out to be the charm. There were only 3 passengers to Pole so we rode out in a van to the "passenger terminal" (a heated building with no bathroom). There we stayed until around 9. Then we went to board the LC-130, which left pretty much on schedule.

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 4: Backup

Photo of the Kress

The flight to McMurdo was about as good as it could be on a Hercules. It was only 7.5 hours, and as I wrote last time, not too crowded. The weather was beautiful when we landed. About freezing and clear skies. There wasn't much new to see so I didn't take too many pictures. Getting off the plane, we were told the bus to station had broken down and that they were sending something else. 40 minutes later a vehicle/truck/object arrived (see photo).

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 3: Travel

Photo of Government House

Friday morning was a bit of a scramble. Newegg had failed to ship some urgently needed computer parts in one day as promised. Therefore we made a last-minute MicroCenter run before closing my boxes and heading to the airport. My excess baggage was surprisingly low: one 50 lb box and one 68 lb monster box. The airport experience was much better than last year. My bags were checked with minimal trouble, and the flight was actually on time. The only downside was that I was sick with a cold. I put a box of tissues in my backpack. This proved to be very fortunate.

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Antarctica 2013--2014 Part 2: Logistics

One day's worth of packages

My deployment date (the day I leave the U.S. for Antarctica) is this Friday! This time I'm writing about packing, flying, shipping, and related matters. The first thing to pack (although many leave it until the end) is personal luggage, everything you'll need for a few months away from civilization. The options for buying e.g. toiletries on the Ice are very limited so you need to bring anything you can't do without. This year I'm bringing a bunch more stuff to help me sleep--that was probably the hardest thing about being at South Pole last year.

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