Currently visiting: Dorian Abbot

23.06.2022

"Cool problems" and mathematics as an "Ode to Joy": Dorian Abbot works on "big picture" problems about Earth and other planets. The climate scientist and mathematician is visiting the University of Vienna within the framework of the Strategic Partnership with the University of Chicago to collaborate with the group of Aiko Voigt at the Department of Meteorology and Geophysics.

  • What is so fascinating about your research area?

Dorian Abbot: I like to find big picture problems about Earth and other planets that are interesting and exciting to work on. I especially like problems that are amenable to theory in addition to complex numerical calculations.

  • Which central message should your students remember?

Abbot: Science and mathematics are supposed to be an "Ode to Joy." If you aren't having fun, then you aren't doing it right!

 

  • Why did you decide to do research and teach at our Faculty?

Abbot: Aiko Voigt is an absolutely incredible scientist and I am coming to collaborate with him. I also want to meet new people and hear about research. It's very stimulating to be in a new environment and interact with different people. The University of Vienna is an extremely vibrant place for research and I want to get new ideas and research directions.

 

  • You are particularly interested in planetary dynamics and how it relates to habitability – what are recent findings in this area?

Abbot: Right now I am most interested in the very small probability that Mercury's orbit will become unstable and it will crash into another planet or the Sun. The Solar System is chaotic like weather in Earth's atmosphere and becomes unpredictable on a timescale of tens of millions of years. Mercury has a small angular momentum because it has a low mass and orbits close to the Sun, so relatively small transfers of angular momentum from Mercury to other planets can drastically reduce Mercury's total angular momentum, which requires that it's eccentricity gets very high. At this point it can intersect with Venus's orbit and either collide with Venus or be scattered. I led a team that applied a fancy rare event sampling scheme to estimate that the probability that Mercury's orbit becomes unstable in the next 2 billion years is about 1 in 10,000. That's a cool and wacky problem to work on!

  • Which three publications characterise your work?

- Abbot, Dorian S. et al.: Rare Event Sampling Improves Mercury Instability Statistics. The Astrophysical Journal, 923:239 (2021)

- Stephanie L. Olson, Malte Jansen, and Dorian S. Abbot: Oceanographic Considerations for Exoplanet Life Detection. Astrophysical Journal, volume 895, Number 1 (2020)
 
- Dorian Abbot, Aiko Voigt, Daniel Koll: The Jormungand global climate state and implications for Neoproterozoic glaciations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, Volume 116, Issue D18 (2011)


Thank you & welcome to our Faculty!

 

Dorian Abbot from the University of Chicago is visiting the Department of Meteorology and Geophysics in June 2022. Photo: Dorian Abbot
Dorian Abbot from the University of Chicago is visiting the Department of Meteorology and Geophysics in June 2022. Photo: Dorian Abbot
Photo: Dorian Abbot
In his research the climate scientist and mathematician concentrates on "big picture problems" about Earth and other planets. At the Austrian Academy of Science (ÖAW) he is also giving a lecture on "Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets" (25 July 2022, see invitation below).
Photo: Dorian Abbot
At the moment he is concentrating on the very small probability that Mercury's orbit will become unstable and will crash into another planet or the sun: "That's a cool and wacky problem to work on!" Photo: Dorian Abbot