Monday, October 18, 2010


Dear Physics Buzz Readers:

With the autumn season comes change: Trees' leaves change colors, young students greet new teachers, and hats, gloves and scarves replace swimsuits, shorts and sunscreen. In the spirit of that change, allow me to introduce myself as the latest APS science writing intern!

I'm a recent graduate of Northeastern University, where I earned a master's in journalism. Before that, I worked for two years at a meteorology software company in northern Massachusetts, though I'm actually a native Texan.

I chose the alter ego "Echo Romeo" as a nod to my undergraduate alma mater, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona Beach, Fla., where I got a degree in meteorology and spent some time flying. At Riddle, each airplane's tail number ended in "ER" for "Embry-Riddle." In the phonetic alphabet, as the letters would be said to air traffic controllers, "ER" is "Echo Romeo." So, it's actually really geeky and has nothing to do with Shakespearean romance.

In the photo above, you can just make out the "ER" on the tail of the mangled, upside-down Piper Seminole in the foreground. This mess - a twin-engine Piper Seminole entangled with a single-engine Piper Arrow - was caused by an F2 tornado that struck the Daytona Beach airport and the adjacent Embry-Riddle flight line on Dec. 25, 2006. (In an ironic twist of fate, the tornado tore off part of the administrative building, Spruance Hall, to reveal a message spray-painted on a steel beam that said "Merry Christmas" dated Dec. 25, 1986.)

Though it was a sad event that ultimately resulted in $50 million worth of damage to the school, for a meteorology student, it was downright fascinating. Science in action! I remember my professors piecing together the evidence on campus as they debated whether the destruction was indeed caused by a tornado or instead by a microburst.

Although I'm not a physicist, I did study physics as a part of my meteorology degree and have a deep appreciation for those who can make math and physics digestible for any audience. Here, I'll try to do the same for you. Happy reading!

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