"Assembling Alien Worlds from Scratch," by Joel Green
Planets are (figuratively) falling from the sky thanks to the success of the Kepler telescope, but would we want to live there? Watching Star Trek, one gets the impression that the universe is teeming with life, and habitable planets are as common as barbeque joints. But when we glance around our own Solar System we see a treasure trove of incredibly hostile environments -- frozen, boiling, erupting with lava, covered in acid rain, or immutable. So what is the true variety of planets found in stellar systems in the universe? Only seventeen years after the first planet outside our solar system was discovered, we know of over 2000 planets and planet candidates, discovered with an inventive variety of techniques.
Joel D. Green is a research scientist at UT Austin, although he is hoping to start an internship with Slartibartfast. He grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and bounced between upstate New York and NYC itself for many years, but in Austin he has become addicted to sun, cowboy boots, and dry rub barbecue. He eagerly awaits the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, for which he has grand plans.