Monday, August 17, 2009

Old White Men

After a week of frantic proposal writing, that document is done and sent in to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. I am now at a meeting organized by this same agency on this same topic. Why they scheduled the meeting on top of the proposal deadline is truly bizarre, but that’s what they did. I suspect most of the people here did not write proposals, as it was only open to universities, and there are only about 3 of us here from academic institutions. Tomorrow I get to give my pitch, and hope that those here from the military like it. As I have never actually done anything with modeling (or any research) of artificial radiation belts (i.e., from a high altitude nuclear explosion), I call my talk a pitch because I will only show “natural” radiation belt results, and talk about how the model could be used for this specialized source term. There are about 40 of us here, and I’d like to describe this crew. One of the attendees is female. She also looks Native American, and works for the Air Force in LA. There is another guy here from the Naval Research Lab who is Indian born (now a US citizen, as is everyone in the room). Everyone else is a white guy. About half are over 60 years old, a good number of them over 70. I don’t think I am the youngest in the room, but I am pretty darn close...perhaps 2 or 3 are younger than me. Many at this meeting are a crew that began in this field at the dawn of the space age 50 years ago. The field has lost interest over the years, and I am sure there is some decay lifetime for the number of researchers in this field. In the last few years (okay, since 9/11), this field has gotten more attention within DoD. So, that’s why there are the younger people here, but the younger crew is not a particularly diverse population, and the room (and the opening speaker list) is certainly dominated by old white men.

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