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David Rothstein
2005 - 2006 CSIP Fellow

Research Interest:
Astrophysics


I came to Cornell in the fall of 2000 and am currently a Ph.D. student in astrophysics. My research involves studying the environments around black holes and the complex processes that occur as material swirls into them. Although most people think of astronomy as constant and unchanging (if you observe the sky night after night, most stars look exactly the same), black holes are an amazing exception. The black holes I study are more massive than the Sun, but they would fit comfortably in the space between Binghamton and Syracuse, and therefore the "weather" around them can change as fast as the weather in upstate New York does (and in some cases much faster). My research involves observing this "black hole weather" with telescopes and trying to predict it with computer simulations.

As a CSIP fellow, I would like to use the enthusiasm that most students have about astronomy to teach them ideas that are applicable in other areas of science. For example, Einstein's theory of relativity, which governs the behavior of black holes (as well as more practical things such as the Global Positioning System), is a subject that can be understood conceptually by high school students and that can be made to mesh with curricula in many classrooms, including physics, math and geometry (in the past I've even taught it to an English class). When students realize that they can understand the basic ideas behind this seemingly complex theory, they gain confidence about their scientific abilities and a willingness to ask the types of probing questions that Einstein spent his career asking. In addition, I am interested in working with existing science curricula to help emphasize the idea of uncertainty in science -- the fact that we can never measure things exactly and that sometimes (particularly in astronomy), our uncertainty is so great that the best we can do is make very rough estimates, which nonetheless can still give us important insights about how the universe works.

 

 

 

 

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