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Who is the Messenger of the Mothership?


Hello to all. This is the opening to an adventure into blog writing. Hopefully this exploration shall not suck me into some kind of science writing oblivion. As this is just the beginning, a very brief introduction is given here.


As a scientist trained in the study of rocks and space I, and the student colleagues that I have worked with, thrill in bubbling up sometimes noxious yet useful concoctions in laboratories as well as wielding lasers and some other state-of-the-art devices to determine the chemistries of extraterrestrial rocks. Plus, I have completed and am often occupied with a fair amount of technical writing to realise the all-important reporting to my peers of findings arising from these scientific interrogations. I also do my bit to bring scientists together to exchange knowledge and ideas so that we retain our happy 'buzz' and questioning to accelerate progress as a community.


Images: Resultant thematic volume and attendees of a scientific workshop that I led.


How did our watery planet Earth that supports an array of complex life first form and then evolve? How has the history of our Solar System determined the fate of our world and that of our quite different neighbours - for example, Mars and the Moon? How has this knowledge come about and what more are we learning right now? To share knowledge of these subjects widely, this blog allows me to draw on my inner child's thrill in these questions to write in a friendly way.


I love a challenge and tend to resist the restraints of any given label. My work is incredibly exciting, and I am very fortunate that it has led me to live in and visit a number of fascinating parts of the world. I have even been a National Geographic Explorer, and am presently developing the story telling of science through books for young people and the wider public. Every day I wonder how I ended up doing what I do, but it is fun so I carry on pursuing what is enjoyable while treasuring the freedom to do so.


As a true nerd, I view fundamental science as a passion and an important service to society that should be undertaken and freely shared with everyone. University students of this subject area have tended to enthusiastically agree, but they are generally ready-formed converts to these subjects before we meet. Of course my nephew, who has just entered high school, keeps it real by telling me that I’m boring. It generally follows that he then sends me an insane amount of messages with hundreds of gifs and his own questions that I am dutifully required respond to. This hard-to-please soul chooses, each year, to gift me books about women in science and toys of the women of NASA. So as boring as I might be personally, the science excites my young critic (though he shall not tell me so). Another future adult, who doesn’t have to twist my arm to join him for trampolining, takes the opposite view and is happy to share that he thinks I’m pretty cool (as well as science). So much so that he draws space science pictures, covers them in glitter, and posts them to me every now and then. I’m often required to photograph where I hang these so that he can judge what to draw and send to me next. Logically then I feel - in equal measure - challenged, if not dared, and encouraged to type my way into the unknown by beginning this friendly blog.

Image credit: Alexandra Lefort. A taster of those drafted for our forthcoming book.


This monthly writing is open to everyone and will highlight a new discovery in planetary science each four weeks. The most exciting and important discoveries can provide elegant solutions to long-term problems, or may challenge us with original questions that open the door to new types of research as well as potentially necessitating inventive innovations. Pioneering and influential developments often arise from scientists of a rich mix. I look forwarding to highlighting such inspiring teams of thinkers. In being a bit of a life-long treky, the pearls of wisdom Mr Spock shared play a part in my motivation. As he said “Insufficient facts always invite danger”. Hopefully this blog will be one small contribution to entice the next generation of fact finders to keep us wise and safe in an era during which human exploration of the cosmos is a likelihood.


Amy Riches

Image credit: Alexandra Lefort. A second taster of those drafted for our forthcoming book.

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