Johns Hopkins Magazine
Johns Hopkins Magazine Current Issue Past Issues Search Get In Touch
J U N E    2 0 0 8    I S S U E
The Big Question

Q: What does a rocket scientist think about when he's not building rockets?
A: Rocket scientists are a curious lot. They tend to think about all kinds of stuff all the time. It's kinda hard to turn it off — effort reporting is a nightmare. Here are some of the things I think about after I've finished adding one more bolt hole to the detector drawing I'm working on and go on my daily mind-clearing run:

1. A day off? How can I get a day off?
2. How can a rocket scientist do the work and have a life?
3. How does complexity emerge from uniformity?
4. How to keep from waking up at 3 in the morning?
5. How to find the edge without going over it?
6. How to get back once you do?
7. How to get invited to really cool parties?
8. What do I do when I get there?
9. How to get people to stop bitching and start a revolution?
10. What is the dog's problem with the cat, anyway?

Stephan R. McCandliss is a principal research scientist with the sounding rocket program in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Physics and Astronomy. The program seeks less expensive ways to test-fly new telescopes and observational tools. He has launched 14 sounding rockets since 1988, leading to observations of comets, planets, and nebulae. He is at work on a new astronomy instrument that would help a powerful telescope currently in development to interpret dust-sensitive Lyman-alpha emissions from the oldest star-forming regions in the most distant galaxies. "Knowing when the first dust forms sets a limit on how soon life can emerge," he says. "After all, the dust becomes us."
— Michael Anft

Return to June 2008 Table of Contents

  The Johns Hopkins Magazine | 901 S. Bond St. | Suite 540 | Baltimore, MD 21231
Phone 443-287-9900 | Fax 443-287-9898 | E-mail