Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SLB Follower Profile: Karla Sachi

[This mini-essay is the first in a series of sketches about Science Lifestyle Blog readers (SLBers) who contact me to tell me about their own life in mathematics and science.]

What do the Science Lifestyle Blog and an ex-Playboy model/surfer girl have in common? Seemingly not much, but I was pleasantly surprised to get a plea for help the other day from Karla Sachi who contacted the Physics Groupie from her home “on a little coffee farm in South Kona” on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Apparently Karla has been obsessed for over 20 years with mathematical “curves” of a very specific formation. After a few e-mail discussions, I found out that the curves she has been scribbling all those years were none other than Lissajous curves, the same ones that we science kids used to play with on oscilloscopes when I was growing up. The parametric equations describing Lissajous curves are fairly well known as in the following:


Lissajous curves are also quite useful for space missions as many recent spacecrafts are in “Lissajous orbits.” Take for example the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Telescope that launched on May 14, 2009 which is currently in a Lissajous orbit about the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (L2). The illustrious WMAP mission that measured the cosmic microwave background radiation from the Big Bang also used a Lissajous orbit.

Sachi came to the Physics Groupie in a state of desperation, “I've got a conundrum, I can't find a mathematician anywhere! I was one of those bright girls who was misdirected--and fled for the beach instead of academia--ended up in Playboy and became a Malibu surfer, hippie, artist and did a lot of traveling, kicking the Hollywood sleaze and spot light in the shins. I have forever had this obsession with a series of curves. I don't have the math chops … so I've asked around and haven't run into anyone with math skills who understands anything. I searched and finally have become exasperated enough to ask a Physics Groupie,” she said.

Well Karla came to the right place since I love math and astrophysics so I conveyed that Lissajous curves (and orbits) aren’t that far-fetched but are in fact quite commonplace. I hope Karla continues to dream math dreams. It is a pleasing way to relax!

1 comment:

  1. I REMEMBER KARLA CONWAY!!! SHE WAS A FAVORITE OF MINE AS A LAD. LOVE MATH TO BOOT? WHOA!
    -WALT

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