Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Ed Fenimore, Scientist

May 20, 2010

Ed Fenimore is probably not a household name, unless you’re a high-energy astrophysicist, in which case he’s ED FENIMORE, scientist, instrument builder extraordinaire, theorist, rare case of honest and able data analyst in a field of charlatans, mentor of dozens of front-rank students.  Ed was a key figure in the process of turning the field of Gamma-Ray Burst studies from a freak show into an actual science.  He was also a key member of the High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) team, of which I also was a member.

We had a scientific meeting in September 2009 to celebrate Ed’s retirement from Los Alamos National Lab (actually he’s not really retiring, just taking evasive action from management responsibilities.  Rumor has it he’s still in his office 6 days a week, to his wife Sue’s chagrin).  There were talks all day, mostly on GRBs, and on Ed’s influence on the subject.  I gave the final talk of the day, by the title of “HETE-WXM: Fenimorean GRB Localization On A Shoestring”.  The PDF of my presentation is here.

At the end of the presentation, there’s a largely blank slide, entitled “Why Does Ed Always Think He Might Be Wrong (Even When He’s Right)?”. The slide has a single bullet, “A meditation on Ed’s unyielding commitment to scientific truth.” I showed that slide, then talked for about 15 minutes about some fairly deep things about science that I had learned from watching Ed at work. None of it was written down, which I’ve since felt was a shame, since I’m pretty sure it was worth preserving (and several other attendees told me they felt the same way). So here, now, as best I can reconstruct them (and cleaned up a bit, so as to be closer to what I would have said were I a better extemporaneous speaker), are those remarks.