Category Archives: Argentina

On my 1,000th Geocache

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A little over four years ago, while killing time before class in my M.Sc. days in Cleveland, I was looking around for new apps for my iPhone and remembered a thing I’d heard about called geocaching.  It was the idea that a person would hide a box somewhere (the geocache) and upload the GPS coordinates to the Internet, and then other people would find them in a bit of a scavenger hunt.  It was an idea that I found interesting when I first heard of it in college, but a GPS was too pricey for me as a student (and I had no car, making me a lot less mobile) so I promptly forgot about it.  But a search that day revealed that in the smartphone era one could go geocaching via a smartphone’s GPS, and there was even a free app, and hey there are a lot of these things around Cleveland!

I promptly went out that weekend to start finding a few of these things and the rest is history, as it turns out geocaching is a great thing to do when searching for an adventure.  The thrill of the hunt aside (and occasional swag to trade), they tend to be hidden in interesting locations that someone wants to bring you to, so a little research before traveling to an area on popular geocaches there rarely disappoints.  So far geocaching has taken me to extraordinary viewpoints from Italy to Tanzania…

IMG_2173girl-at-ngorongoro

Re Teodorico, Verona and NgoroNgoro- A Big African Caldera Continue reading

Photo: What Science Looks Like

I’m not sure if this is one of those things that only a mother could love, but my M.S. thesis (“An Extended Study on the Effects of Incorrect Coordinates on Surface Detector Timing”) is submitted and will be defended next week. This fellow, alias “Figure 6,” is the most colorful and hence cutest of the graphs.

Yes, I just called a bunch of Gaussian distributions cute.  Shut up!

For anyone who actually wants an explanation here, what I basically did for my M.S. thesis was take GPS units similar to those in the Pierre Auger Observatory and test to see what would happen if the position got increasingly wrong on them.  In addition to position data a GPS unit also gets timing from satellites, making them a very accurate clock, and accurate timing is exactly what you need when you’re trying to track a shower of particles hitting the ground at nearly the speed of light.  Literally every nanosecond counts!

Normally in the field we just set the position to make the timing data more accurate (because the GPS won’t have to worry about finding where it is and what time it is with each cosmic ray strike), but sometimes that’s off for a myriad of reasons.  So the above graph is the product of modeling that: one GPS “clock” was allowed to find the correct position/time and the other was given an increasingly incorrect position, and the difference between the two tells you what happens when you actually have an incorrect position in the field.  Then when you add up all those differences over the time it took to collect the data (five days was typical, with one data point each second) and plot the distribution, you discover that the higher you go the quicker you receive the signal.  Just what you’d expect when a GPS is getting signals from overhead satellites really: when you go higher up you’ll receive the signal just a little bit quicker.

And that, ladies and gents, is what science looks like.  Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

Video: Gauchos in Malargue, Argentina

Taken November 16, 2010

These gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) are just a small fraction of the hundreds who come from miles around to participate in the annual Malargue Day Parade.  They are amazing horsemen who even handle the horses well even when they were spooked by the crowds!

Journey into the High Andes

It’s impossible to be in the shadow of the tallest mountains of the Americas and not succumb to the urge to go explore them.  So on Thanksgiving Day I did just that, going on a day trip from Mendoza up toward the Chilean border. Continue reading

The Mendoza Wine Tour

It is mildly impossible to fly in and out of the wine region of Argentina without sampling delicious wines, even if your hostel doesn’t give you free wine each night!  The traditional backpacker thing to do is head out to the vineyards and rent some bikes to cycle from place to place but this sounded like a silly idea to me- I can’t recall ever ending a wine tour sober enough that pedaling seemed like an awesome idea, so I opted for the fancy wine tour instead where they actually drove you around and gave you lunch.  This turned out to be about as good an idea as expected! Continue reading

A Visit to Mendoza

Mendoza was a nice enough city but I admit we never got along for the simple reason that I kept getting lost in it.  This is rather embarrassing for me to admit because after so many strange cities I never get lost- least of all in something as benign as a city with a grid layout- because I have orienteered enough in strange cities that my sense of cardinal directions is really hard to mess up.  In Mendoza, however, there were no obvious landmarks visible from everywhere in the city (you can’t see the mountains in town) except, this being the middle of the desert, the sun.  And when you set out in the middle of the day instinctively supposing the sun is in the south without stopping to consider the fact that you’re in the southern hemisphere, well, you typically don’t end up where you wanted in the first place.

So sorry, Mendoza.  I’m sure you’re a lot nicer than I’ll give you credit for, it’s just you were dealing with an over-confident astronomer who didn’t stop to think about how terribly far from home she really was. Continue reading

Bariloche: The Land of Chocolate

If you want to find a lovely little Patagonian hideaway you should head straight to the town of Bariloche.  In fact, it’s such a good spot that the town has a history as one of the places where ex-Nazis evading justice lived for several decades (and one or two may still live today), and fugitive war criminals likely know best when it comes to this sort of thing, right?

To begin, one of the reasons I loved Bariloche was because I lucked upon an awesome hostel while there that is a bit of a Shangri La of backpacker lore. Called Penthouse 1004, it was essentially a large apartment on the tallest buiding in Bariloche with the coziest common areas I’ve ever encountered, all dominated by the incredible view-

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Horseback Riding in Patagonia

Back in Cleveland right now no matter what this blog says, as I’m a firm believer of experiencing things over sitting around and writing about them.  But don’t worry, the Argentinian chronicles will continue…

I must admit that the gauchos of Argentina have made quite an impression on me, and because I’m a huge believer of “when in Rome” I signed up for a half day of horseback riding outside Bariloche.  This being Patagonia, the scenery did not disappoint-
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Hiking at Cerro Otto

There are a few things I know in life, and one of them is when National Geographic labels a spot as one of the “Top Ten Views in the World” and you’re in town you’ve gotta go see it. And as someone turning slowly into a one woman National Geographic, I’m proud to confirm they’ve nailed this one-


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Patagonian Bicycle Ride

If you’ve ever had the urge to play a joke on the world by picking up Switzerland, shaking out the bankers and expensive prices, moving it halfway across the globe and filling it with fun-loving Spanish and Italians, well you’d better stop because it appears that someone has already done it. It’s in a place called Patagonia.

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