When Harvard graduate student ZACHORY BERTA ’07
, left, first spotted the planet known as GJ 1214b, it was just a tiny blip dimming the light from a star in the Ophiuchus constellation. But the blip passed the star regularly — every 1.6 days — and Berta and his colleagues at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ MEarth Project soon confirmed that it was a planet, a “super-Earth” located 40 light-years away. (A super-Earth is a planet between one and ten times the mass of the Earth.) There are more than 400 known planets outside our solar system, so finding a new one is not always big news. But GJ 1214b is notable for several reasons: It is relatively small (2.7 times the size of Earth), likely has water on its surface, and may be the first super-Earth with an atmosphere. A paper describing the planet appears in the Dec. 17 issue of Nature
GEORGE GOLLIN *81,
a physics professor at the University of Illinois who was named a Guggenheim fellow in June, was the subject of a profile in the January issue of Wired
magazine (http://www.wired.com/magazine/ 2009/12/ff_fake_physics/). Gollin is using his fellowship not for physics research, but to write a nonfiction book about diploma mills in higher education. He has been involved with efforts to increase regulation of these companies since 1992.
A Jan. 3 New York Times
profile told the story of HAROLD FERNANDEZ ’89
, a native of Colombia who entered Princeton as an undocumented immigrant in 1985. Fernandez spent his teenage years in West New York, N.J., and used a fake green card and black-market Social Security number when he applied to college. But a records check in his freshman year revealed his undocumented status. The Times
piece describes how Fernandez made a formal apology for violating the University’s honor code. He earned financial aid as a foreign student, went on to Harvard Medical School, and now is a cardiac surgeon in Roslyn, N.Y.
LOCOMOTIVES New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie selected Pfizer executive and former state senator RICHARD BAGGER ’82 as his chief of staff. ... Babble.com named LISA BELKIN ’82’s New York Times blog, Motherlode, the best-written parenting blog on the Web. ... ANDREW BAXTER ’78 was sworn in as the U.S. magistrate judge for the Northern District of New York Jan. 3. ... ANDREW HENDRICKS ’70 was knighted Sept. 7 on behalf of Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. Hendricks spearheaded construction of a replica of the Half Moon, on which Henry Hudson sailed to the New World in 1609, and founded the New Netherland Museum. ... W. BRADFORD WILCOX *01, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, spoke to National Review Online Jan. 5 about marriage and financial matters. His verdict: Divorce is down, and “today’s tough times may have inspired a new dedication to financial good sense and family togetherness.”