04 June 2011

The Author

I suppose any blog should identify the writer as the first order of business.

I'm a Mormon, a research geophysicist with the US Geological Survey, and a Jujitsu Sensei. I've worked for several private companies, but the large majority of my experience is with the USGS. I was raised as a Catholic, was an atheist from age 11 til 15, a militant atheist from age 15 to 21, then began searching around for something that made more sense - was more coherent with my life experiences so far.  

I'm married to an amazing lady with two highly disparate Masters Degrees (Linguistics and Ecology), who gave me the five most eclectic kids on Earth - all of whom I'm extremely proud of.  In my family we count fluency in Spanish, French, Arabic, Mandarin, Czech, Slovak, and some Russian. We also count five black belts - who each have taught on the side as a community service. We all have day-jobs that we love - "doing things that float your boat."  

For me, that includes conducting research on how to reach out father in time to predict a volcanic eruption - earlier.  Right now that predictive window is just a few months out, and I want to extend that to several years. Other things I do include analyzing an asteroid impact site in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia when the temperature reached 61C/142F - and publishing articles about the physics of a hypervelocity impact gleaned from that close study. It includes earning patents on an electrical geophysical technology that can map placer minerals (titanium, gold, platinum) beneath the sea-floor, and rapidly tracking oil plumes in the Gulf of Mexico. It includes geologic mapping in the jungle of Venezuela and a mountain range in Mexico. It includes developing a technology to map groundwater in three dimensions in a vast, arid basin straddling the US-Mexican border - from the air. It includes calculating the undiscovered (that's no typo) potash resources beneath Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This really can be done, a measure of how smart USGS scientists (not me) who developed the technology really are.  

My working experience has also included several rotational management assignments, something fairly unusual in the Federal government. The theory behind it is that to manage scientists you must be a scientist: both to earn their respect - and to be able to understand what they do.  We are not "Dilbert Managers." Some of us call this "doing your time in the barrel" in order to be of service to the USGS.  I do this because the USGS has allowed me to have so many incredible adventures - to live in Latin America and the Middle East and work in Alaska with my family. My last rotational assignment before this one was a 5-year-long, arduous tour as Chief Scientist for Volcano Hazards. As such I presided over the response to the 2004-2006 eruption of Mount St Helens. On the first day of the sixth year of my assignment, I reassigned myself to be a research geophysicist - and my work-week dropped from ~60 hours to ~45 hours. Sort of a no-brainer. 

But I'm also a Mormon. A Mormon Astronaut named Don Lind once gave a talk in Tucson (1972-1973) where he said that this was the only religion that was completely compatible with his science - he has a PhD in high-energy physics from Berkeley. Being a Mormon didn't require him to believe one thing on Sunday and something else the next six days. I fully concur  Among other things, this particular Original Christianity practices things found in the Bible that no other Modern Christianity practices - or even understands - like baptism for the dead, and that marriage can last beyond death through the sealing powers exemplified and taught by Elijah. I've been given opportunities to serve in rotational leadership positions here too: two different branch presidencies, two different bishoprics, and even a stake presidency (that one done in Spanish). My favorite is teaching a 15-year-old Sunday School class, where I learn more than I convey.

Finally, and most important, I'm a Husband and a Dad.  These things are what will count 50, 100 years from now and beyond - not the 200+ publications or the 5th degree black belt or the asteroid named after me.  I have five adult children, some of them active and some not, and I’ve told each of them some of these things, but not all the same, nor at the same time.

I've come to realize that parenthood lasts for your whole lifetime - you can never stop being a parent.  To that end, this blog (and book) are the things - the wisdom and experience so painfully acquired - that I hope to still be able to teach my adult children.  I am doing this long after they have become independent movers and contributors on the international stage (one daughter is a professor in Australia).  With my youngest, a medical student, I have wonderful weekly conversations that commonly last two hours - typically until a phone battery runs out.  These conversations are extremely wide-ranging, and they are truly conversations - two way teaching/learning opportunities.  These are the things that enrich my life.  

This blog (and book) are aimed at two audiences: 
- parents with adult children who still feel, like me, that there are things they haven't yet taught their kids, 
- adults who have either lost, or never had, a faithful Scientist Dad to talk with about science, religion, and philosophy, and how these all seek the answers to the same thing: WHY.


More details (the brief version) of my background are available at my Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Wynn

The Full Monty, with all the scientific publications I'm guilty of, is available at my Professional page: http://profile.usgs.gov/jwynn

My Jujitsu Dojo web page is here: http://www.vancouverjujitsu.org/

On the side I am also the Webmaster for the American Jujitsu Association: http://www.americanjujitsuassociation.org/

The asteroid I mentioned: "9564 Jeffwynn"

Another book, co-authored with my wife and describing the mesmerizing experiences of working in the jungle in a Latin culture undergoing massive transformation: 
2 Worlds - The Real Venezuela, Living on the Edge of the Jungle and the Rise of Hugo Chavez

The cover photo is our youngest daughter Valerie holding a loving and gentle monkey called a Mono Viuda.  He loves to have his neck scratched - and to eat flower petals and graham crackers.


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