In retirement, Nobelist takes up moon bouncing | Science News


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In retirement, Nobelist takes up moon bouncing

A lifelong amateur radio enthusiast, Joseph Taylor sends signals via the moon

7:00am, June 30, 2015

RADIO REFLECTIONS  To send messages via the moon, ham radio operators send radio waves some 384,000 kilometers to the Earth’s natural satellite. The waves bounce and hopefully are received by a ham radio user somewhere else.

If the moon is up, there’s a good chance Joseph Taylor is on his ham radio, using a homemade antenna in his backyard to bounce signals off the moon’s pockmarked face. It’s a skill Taylor began cultivating in 2003, shortly before he retired from Princeton University, where he used radio waves to probe the secrets of pulsars, the spinning, magnetized neutron stars that emit bursts of radiation with clocklike regularity.

The work earned Taylor and his Princeton colleague Russell Hulse the Nobel Prize in physics in 1993, for detecting a new kind of pulsar that shed light on the nature of gravity. In his Nobel lecture, Taylor said that scientific goals motivated him, but so did his affinity for “a good intellectual puzzle, and the quiet satisfaction of finding a clever solution.”

The same attitude has driven Taylor, now 74, to spend his retirement moon bouncing. “It’s possible, but it’s difficult,” he says. “If you

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