A layman's guide to this Web site
One of the nice features of putting technical, scientific material
on the Web is that anyone can surf in and see what's going on in
the world of professional science. Often all the public gets
about scientific discoveries are
dumbed-down (and therefore somewhat inaccurate, or at least
incomplete) sound bites, leaving the real story as well-hidden
as before. In this site you will find a decidely not-dumbed-down
version of two days in the lives of 31 professional astronomers.
These pages contain the proceedings of a scientific
conference held on October 6 and 7, 1997 at the Lowell Observatory in
Flagstaff, Arizona. The purpose of this conference was to discuss
Solar analogs -- which stars in the sky are most similar to our own Sun.
If you plow through all the material in these pages, you'll see that this
is an important, and difficult, question to answer.
Proceedings are written versions
of scientific conferences. Astronomers who attended the meeting
submit written versions of their contribution to it, which the
editor then compiles into a single volume.
You'll find several kinds of contributions in these pages.
- Invited talks: The conference organizer usually invites
a number of astronomers to speak at the conference. These speakers
created a written version of their talk after the conference.
- Contributed posters: Many astronomers offer to make a
presentation at the conference, even if they haven't been specifically
invited to. Many of these contributions take the form of posters,
which are really just high-level versions of those posterboard
displays you made for grade-school science fairs. The astronomers who
contributed posters to the meeting also made separate written versions of them
for the proceedings.
- Discussions: It's standard practice in scientific circles to have
a question-and-answer session following a talk, so that the audience can
discuss, or in some cases, grill the speaker about his or her statements
and results. This is the essence of science: all statements must be open
to inquiry, skepticism, and testing before acceptance. We taped all the
discussions during our conference, and have included the transcripts in
the proceedings. There are brief discussions after each talk, two long
general discussions, and four extemporaneous presentations during the
"panel discussion" session. We have edited the transcripts to preserve the flavor
of the spoken word, which is very different from the written word. Hopefully it
will be interesting reading how 31 astronomers from around the world debated the
complex issues before them.
Editor, Solar Analogs Workshop proceedings