N e a l  H u r l b u r t
Physicist
Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, Palo Alto CA

Neal points out the "magnetic carpet" a landscape of magnetic fields, which he and his colleagues think helps to explain the features we can see on the Sun.

That plan didn't last long however. Once I opened my first engineering text, I discovered that I was more interested in where the equations that filled it came from, rather than how they were used to make something. I also missed the mountains, so I moved back to the Northwest, and went back to my childhood interest by studying physics. But I was still unsure of what to do, so I also got a job as a cameraman at the local television station. My mind was finally made up when I discovered that the chairman of the physics department had faced a similar dilemma in his early career. His advice was "you can always go into television with a physics degree, but you can't get into physics with a television degree". So I focused on physics from then on.

A few years later I was faced with the next big decision. What to do after college? At the time I was torn between doing something practical and my newly-discovered interest in the philosophy of science. Then one evening, while watching the PBS NOVA series, I saw the perfect job. There was a fellow who seemed to spend his time in the great libraries of Europe studying ancient records of the Sun in search of how changes in its radiation influenced the Earth's weather. Now that was something that seemed both practical and exotic. So I went off to Colorado and became a solar physicist.

Up until then I had never left the West Coast, and never been away from the Northwest for more than a month or two. Studying in Colorado forced me to become more mobile. After finishing my Ph.D. I when to England for a year, where I met my wife. The two of us then spent several years wandering between England, Colorado, Washington and New Jersey before finally settling down in California.


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