Jan 23, 2010

The program on Exoplanets will evolve organically, in response to participants' input concerning how best to optimize interactions, communication, productivity, and science. The goal is to spark ideas and cross-fertilization, to generate new directions and collaborations, and to further the understanding of extrasolar planetary science, writ large. It is also to foster dialogue between observers and theorists, and planetary scientists and astronomers.

To get things going, Kristen and I have mapped out a tentative and loose format for the next two weeks to test the waters and inaugurate the program. Feedback from the participants on what works and what does not will be crucial, as will active participation by all attendees.

To this end, we will have an orientation and greeting meeting Jan. 25 at 10:00 a.m. in the "small seminar room" (Rm. 1003A). (There are numerous venues for meetings, large and small, a fact you will quickly discover and exploit.) Our tentative plan is to have coffees every weekday at 10:00 a.m. in the "Founders Lounge," (Rm. 1201) during which we will discuss topics of current interest, astro-phs, various papers, etc. Each day, one of us will volunteer or be asked to lead the discussion and choose the general topic. However, the flow of conversation should never be restricted to a narrow focus.

This week we will have talks Thursday morning at 11:00 a.m. (after coffee) and that afternoon at 1:30-3:15 p.m., and the same on Friday. The specific schedule will soon be posted. Normally, we are suggesting to have talks Tuesday and Thursdays at the same times, but to ensure universal participation in the first week we will be starting slowly.

A philosophy of all talks is that they foster audience participation and lively discussion. Though at times we might have a standard 50+10 minute lecture, we encourage more informal, shorter presentations. The goal is to frame the topic(s), results, and ideas, and then to engage the audience to expand on what was presented. "Talking heads" and passive audiences are not the KITP way. The presentations can even be blackboard talks, and needn't employ powerpoints, though if powerpoints are deemed useful this is perfectly fine.

You are encouraged now to think of general central themes and "open problems" in Exoplanetary science and comparative planetology. I will start the discussion on this on Monday, but we will set aside some of our Thursday morning 11:00 a.m. slot to brainstorm on these themes in more detail. Come to that session with a list, to be merged and developed as the program matures.

You are also encouraged to think about topics and themes on which you would like to have smaller breakout sessions (e.g., on GCMs, planet formation, orbital dynamics, atmospheric chemistry, equations of state, UV photolysis, disk instabilities, etc.). These can be spawned easily for times during the week in response to a felt need by one or more participants. This is your program and you should feel free to develop such rump sessions, in which many may not participate, but to which all are invited. We ask only that you allow us to post these so that others are aware.

We will have a weekly social event, usually a dinner (Wednesday or Friday?), but hiking trips, wine tastings, excursions, sporting events, etc. are all possible. There is to be a Journalist in Residence for the program (more later). Moreover, there is a program wiki, with schedules, information of all sorts, and space for collaborative interaction and blogs. If there are those among you who would like to set up a blog on this site, with comments on topics, talks, and exoplanet news and discoveries, you are more than encouraged to do so (more information later). (The wiki URL is: http://exoplanets10.wikispaces.com .) The program email alias is: exoplanets10@kitp.ucsb.edu. Accompanying this message is a list of regular KITP and UCSB events and you are encouraged to participate in all of these.

Exoplanet research is in its early, heady days of first discovery and characterization. It is currently attracting a disproportionate fraction of new astronomical talent (and headlines) and is destined to become a core field in both planetary science and astronomy. Our KITP program sits on the cusp of this transformation. Theory is the means by which the new data will be converted into knowledge and we have an opportunity to help set the tone and direction for future progress. Welcome to the revolution!

Adam (for the Organizers)