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  • Writer's pictureBlakely Aaronson

Software & Hard Rocks

Oscar Lücke, Anirudh Patel and I are on a team studying GRAVITATIONAL ANOMALIES! Though this ominous phrase usually spells doom in Star Trek, it's definition in 21st Century Earth Science is far less threatening. For our purposes the word "anomaly" describes a disparity between what a perfect model of Earth's gravitational field predicts, and what we observe. If Ani and I were in Costa Rica right now we'd be lugging heavy equipment around the hills to find even more of these anomalies, but this summer Oscar will instead be showing us what to do with the data that the last two cohorts have already collected. Last year I analyzed astronomical survey data during my research into distant stars at the University of Texas, so I've already had some experience using data collected by others, as well as writing code meant to manipulate said data. I had really been hoping to do the collecting myself this year, but I'm still holding out for a chance to do that next summer! It's not what I anticipated, but being forced to shift our focus to learning to use the software first is a blessing in disguise: we'll be better data-collectors if we know what details we'll be relying on later for analysis, the quality required for good measurements, and a host of other information.

This week, our team met to begin playing with QGIS software. Ani and I are in a different time zone than Oscar, but only by a two-hour difference. That means that meeting remotely for this project carries roughly the same difficulties as doing anything in the age of COVID. Lea's blog post mentions QGIS as well, so I think that it's a widely relied upon tool in geology, seismology, etc. to do mapping; when I met Dr. Levin yesterday to pick up a special Rutgers laptop for research activities, he described competence with QGIS as "a marketable skill". Ani and I are going to be using it to map our own hometowns as a kind of practice. The cover image for this post is a shot of what I made during the meeting we had to introduce the QGIS software. I know it doesn't look like much, but it took some work to create!

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