TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b: two temperate gas giants transiting mid-M dwarfs in wide binary systems

With a collaborator from Penn State University, we brought our little Nieves Observatory of the Soka University of America into its first published astrophysical paper. The project was to use our 0.3-meter telescope to confirm the detection of an extrasolar planet that was earlier detected by the satellite TESS. The light from the star is dimmed when the planet crosses in front of the star (or transits), and this allows measuring the size of the planet by comparing the radius of the planet with the star’s radius, which is derived from the fractional amount of light blocked during the transit. Our telescope was used remotely from PSU, and the data helps us learn more about the planets in these systems.

The paper was entitled “TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b: Two Temperate Gas Giants Transiting Mid-M Dwarfs in Wide Binary Systems” and was published in the Astronomical Journal in 2023. The paper confirms the existence of two gas giant exoplanets, TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b, orbiting M dwarf stars identified by TESS. These planets are notable for their relatively cool temperatures and their presence in wide binary systems, each with a significant stellar companion. The study utilizes a combination of TESS photometry, ground-based observations, speckle imaging, and high-precision radial velocity measurements to characterize the planets. TOI-3984 A b has a mass of approximately 0.14 Jupiter masses and an orbital period of 4.35 days, while TOI-5293 A b has a mass of 0.54 Jupiter masses and an orbital period of 2.93 days. The findings highlight the potential for these systems to provide insights into the formation and migration of gas giants around M dwarfs and their atmospheric compositions.

The light curve from the transit of the exoplanet, as taken with our Nieves Observatory at Soka University of America. the dip in the star’s brightness is caused by the planet transiting in front of the star, and the model (in blue) allows for the calculation of the size of the exoplanet.

This paper contributes significantly to our understanding of exoplanetary systems, particularly in the context of gas giants orbiting M dwarf stars. Traditionally, gas giants have been found around more massive stars, making these findings around M dwarfs relatively rare and valuable for comparative planetology. The study of TOI-3984 A b and TOI-5293 A b offers insights into the diversity of planetary systems and challenges existing models of planet formation and migration, especially in the less massive protoplanetary disks around M dwarfs. Additionally, the characterization of these planets expands our knowledge of temperate gas giants’ atmospheric properties and potential habitability. The methodologies employed in this paper, combining space-based and ground-based observations with high-precision spectroscopy, set a precedent for future studies of similar exoplanetary systems.

(note: this summary was made with the assistance of GPT 4o).

Multi-wavelength Photometry and Progenitor Analysis of the Nova V906 Car

With my former Yale-NUS student Jerrick Wee and former collaborator from Caltech Nadeja Blagorodnova, we studied an erupting nova known as V906 Car in optical and infrared wavelengths, using remotely operated telescopes in Chile. Two of our Soka University of America students, Taiga Morioka and Jeff Facey, contributed to the work. The paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal in 2020.

The paper was entitled “Multi-wavelength Photometry and Progenitor Analysis of the Nova V906 Car,” and presented an extensive observational study of the classical nova V906 Car (also known as Nova Car 2018 and ASASSN-18fv), discovered by the ASAS-SN survey on March 16, 2018. We provided detailed optical and infrared photometry data, highlighting the nova’s evolution over 126 days. The nova’s light curve showed a steep decline with a decline rate parameter ∆m15(B) = 0.88 and negligible host galaxy reddening. High-resolution spectroscopy estimated the extinction towards the nova as AV = 1.11+0.54−0.39. The progenitor system analysis suggests a white dwarf mass of < 0.8M☉, and a donor star likely being a K-M dwarf with 0.23-0.43M☉. The study contributes valuable data on novae’s light curves and spectral energy distribution, enhancing our understanding of their physical properties and progenitor systems.

The figure displays the light curves of V906 Car across various optical (BVRI) and near-infrared (JHK) bands. The nova exhibited a characteristic rise to maximum brightness followed by a rapid decline, consistent with a C-class nova. The presence of a secondary maximum in the near-infrared bands, particularly in the H and K filters, indicates complex interactions and the possible formation of dust within the ejecta. These detailed light curves help in understanding the photometric evolution and underlying physical mechanisms driving the brightness changes in classical novae.

The study of V906 Car provides critical insights into the broader astrophysical understanding of nova systems. By capturing the nova’s early rise and detailed multi-wavelength photometry, the paper contributes to refining models of nova outbursts, particularly the shock-powered mechanisms suggested by correlated optical and γ-ray emissions. The accurate measurements of extinction and distance further validate the use of classical novae as standard candles for cosmic distance calculations. Additionally, the analysis of the progenitor system enriches our knowledge of white dwarf accretion processes and the role of donor stars in nova systems, which are essential for understanding stellar evolution and binary interactions.

(note: this overview provided with assistance from ChatGPT 4o).

Stanford University Book Talk – May 15, 2024

With sponsorship from Stanford Digitial Education, my co-author Noah Pickus and I will be giving a talk on May 15, 2024, at 1 PM PST. The talk will be available to all via Zoom, and the registration link is below. I include a flyer and other images from the event below as well. The talk will include Minu Ipe, who is the vice chair and managing director of the University Design Institute of Arizona State University. Minu will moderate the discussion, and Noah and I will give an overview of the book, the eight amazing new universities we wrote about, and a discussion with the audience about the lessons these new universities provide for innovation and change in higher education. I hope you can join. Please share this with your friends!

The event is part of a series on Academic Innovation for the Public Good, and the Stanford Digital Education office has been sponsoring these as a series of talks. The link to the event website is below.

MIT X Talk – Reimagining Higher Education: Lessons from Around the World

During my sabbatical at Harvard, I had the chance to visit MIT frequently to learn about their work in artificial intelligence and to see first-hand how they adapt new technologies to undergraduate education. It has been great to get to know the MIT Open Learning Group and to have some great talks with Sheryl Barnes and others at MIT. Toward the end of the year, MIT invited me to give an X talk on April 24 entitled “Reimagining Higher Education: Lessons from Around the World.” That talk is based on the book The New Global Universities, which I wrote with Noah Pickus. The talk featured a nice group of in-person attendees and is available on recording from the MIT Open Learning YouTube channel.

The video is also imbedded below. I hope you enjoy it!

Harvard Graduate School of Education book talk on Building Universities

As part of my work at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), where I have been based this year as a visiting scholar, I was able to present a talk on April 25 based on our book The New Global Universities – Reinventing Higher Education in the 21st Century at HGSE for their students. The talk was entitled “Building a University from Scratch” and was with HGSE faculty member and former Macalester President Brian Rosenberg. We discussed the institutions that Noah Pickus and I wrote about in our book, as well as Brian Rosenberg’s experience at Macalaster and as a board member of ALU, which was one of the institutions in our book. We had a good discussion with the audience members, and it was great having a chance to present the book at HGSE as I wrap up my sabbatical year, and begin some new projects at Stanford toward the end of the academic yearl. The book talk is available as a zoom recording online at HGSE. I hope you enjoy it!

Visit to Asian University for Women in Bangladesh

This week I have been in Bangladesh, which included some time in Dhaka to learn more about the founding of Bangladesh in 1971 and to be in the country for its National Day on March 26, and then to Asian University for Women in Chittagong, where we met as the Board of Trustees to learn more about their ongoing work developing women who can help lead the future of their countries. The women were very inspiring and included many of the most talented young women from Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and over a dozen other countries. We heard directly from the women in both the pre-undergraduate, undergraduate, and the new MA programs at AUW, and the stories of the women were inspiring, as was their drive and tenacity as they learned to be leaders, coders, and designers of the future of our world. I am proud to be able to help AUW as it plans for its new campus and adds new students, new majors and new degree programs.

AUW logo

Master Class on Global Citizenship for the Aspire Leaders Institute

Last month, I had the honor of teaching a master’s class at the Aspire Leadership Institute, founded by Harvard Business School professors Tarun Khanna and Karim Lakhani. The Aspire team also gave me a great overview of the program, which currently reaches thousands of future young leaders around the world, with their top countries, including India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Kenya. They hope to grow to reach 100,000 students in the coming years, and their program is open to any student between 18-29 years old who come from from lower income levels, and who are first-generation students to go to college.

Their curriculum features three modules: a four-week course on personal and professional development, a four-week immersive learning environment featuring master classes from top thought leaders and academics, a six-week horizons course that develops advanced leadership skills, and then students join a growing alumni network across the world. My contribution was a master class on global citizenship, which is included in an article in their newsletter and is featured on their website. The class reached nearly 1000 students from around the world, and I tried to connect these students with examples of global citizens who have shaped the world and helped promote peace and a deep understanding of our common humanity. The talk featured quotes from Diogenes, Rabindranath Tagore, Daisaku Ikena, Wanjira Mathai, Anthony Kwame Appiah, and others, and I look forward to contributing to their future cohorts with additional talks in the coming years. You can see that link here:

Visit to Universities in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia and Hong Kong book talk during Winter Break

During the first few weeks in January, I set up a trip to visit several excellent universities in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia – all reinventing higher education in the 21st Century in their own ways.

I first visited Shenzhen and saw the results of the InnoX project, which includes workshops in new forms of engineering education, including one offered by Olin College’s Jason Woddard. The InnoX project is a massive undertaking hoping to spark new companies in China’s “Greater Bay Area,” including Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macao, and Guangdong, encompassing 71 million people.

The next stop was Hong Kong – where I visited the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and met with their staff working on innovation in teaching and learning. The meetings included Sean McMinn, Director of the HKUST Center for Education Innovation (who has prepared some amazing materials for faculty using AI), Winnie Leung from the Division of Integrative Systems and Design (who provided a tour of their vibrant maker space and reviewed their Olin-like engineering curriculum), and Alison Lloyd, Associate Provost of Institutional Research (who updated me on HKUST’s strategies).

Then, off to Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), one of our members of PALAC, where I met with Theresa Kwong, who directs HKBU’s Centre for Holistic Teaching and Learning. There. I gave a talk on our new book, the New Global Universities – Reinventing Higher Education in the 21st Century – and met with many of their faculty and had a great conversation about innovation in universities. Along the way, I had a wonderful visit with Thomas Schneider, who co-led the PALAC alliance with me and now directs the Association of Pacific Rim Universities.

Then, I went to Singapore, where I met with many old friends from Yale-NUS and met some amazing leaders of new institutions across Asia at the Yale-NUS liberal arts symposium. They also dedicated the performing arts hall as the new Yale-NUS Hall, which will be a lasting tribute to the vibrant and dynamic Yale-NUS College long after it has been absorbed by NUS and transformed into the NUS College.

Finally, I visited the new Asian School for Business (ASB) in Kuala Lumpur, a project in collaboration with Sloan MIT. ASB is currently being led by MIT’s Sanjay Sarma, who hosted me, gave me a great tour of Kuala Lumpur, and arranged meetings with his senior staff. I discussed the origins of the ASB with senior staff Joe Cherian and Zainon Mustaffa, and learned about the Action Learning programs from faculty members like Sangeeta Menon Matu. The institution was very inspiring and provides unique kinds of experiential learning within Malaysia for a cross-section of Asian students and business leaders.

The New Global Universities book published

Our new book, The New Global Universities – Reinventing Higher Education in the 21st Century, is now published by Princeton Press and available at bookstores and other vendors. The book has received a great reception so far at various book talks and among the press. My co-author, Noah Pickus, and I are very grateful to all who supported us in writing and researching the book and who are now helping us with the various book talks. Our schedule for the new year includes book talks at the Harvard COOP book store in late January, a panel discussion at the American Association of Colleges and Universities in Washington, DC, and many other events for the upcoming year. We were also thrilled to have our book named on a list of the best higher education books of 2023 by Forbes Magazine.

Before the holidays, I was able to join Michael Horn (Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor), Nina Marini (co-founder of Ashesi University in Ghana), and Mallory Dwinal-Palish (founder of Reach University) in the closing keynote for the NECHE annual meeting in Boston. The session featured a conversation about reinventing higher education for the 21st century, moderated by Micahel Horn. It provided a chance to share with the New England Commission of Higher Education some thoughts about new universities’ roles in the higher education ecosystem and what lessons we can learn from them in their innovations, institutional culture, and leadership.

I have included a few photos from the event and am grateful to Larry Schall, the NEHE president, and Michael Horn for their help in bringing the session together. You can see from the photos that our panel had a great conversation, and I look forward to working with this great group in the future!

Our group talking before the panel
My chance to share thoughts about the unique nature of the “startup” university and its value.
Some great questions from MIcahel Horn
Nina Marini and me talking with Larry Schall after the event.

Models of Time and Space Book published

Models of Time and Space from Astrophysics and World Cultures

The Foundations of Astrophysical Reality from Across the Centuries

My new astronomy book, entitled Models of Time and Space from Astrophysics and World Cultures has been published by Springer Inc. It is a popular book on physics and astronomy, and documents the ways that human cultures across the centuries mapped and explored our earth, the skies and the universe. It starts with celestial navigation and star maps and continues onwards to innovations that enabled astronomers to unlock the three-dimensional structure of space and map the most distant galaxies using modern telescopes like the JWST. The book also looks at the advances of science in the 19th and 20th centuries that enabled the development of particle physics and quantum mechanics, culminating in the CERN Large Hadron Collider and the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Along the way, the development of relativity and the notions of space-time and light cones expanded our notions of space and time to encompass both the smallest and largest physical dimensions but also the earliest times and the ultimate fate of the universe. New results from the JWST are described, as well as the latest discoveries from particle physics. The book explores these topics and more – including conceptions of time, space, and the vacuum from a wide variety of cultures. The book describes how time and space are visualized by diverse cultures, and includes Aboriginal Australian, Polynesian and Hawaiian, Native American, neo-Confucian, and Buddhist perspectives.

The book is available from the publisher at this link:

And can be found at Amazon here: