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Remembering Mike… Our friend and colleague at Carleton.

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1 Remembering Mike… Our friend and colleague at Carleton

2 On Saturday, June 21, 2003 we lost our friend, Mike Ewers. While observing at Arecibo Radio Telescope, Mike and several other students took a break to explore the rain forest surrounding the observatory. During their excursion, Mike and his friend Kris Reilly suffered a tragic fall while hiking in the Tanama River. Carleton’s Department of Physics and Astronomy will miss Mike deeply. His joy for learning, his eagerness to help others and his friendliness and laughter have been a mainstay around the halls of Olin. This book is our attempt to share our memories of Mike and to celebrate his life with us here at Carleton.

3 Olin Hall Olin Hall was Mike’s “home away from home”. He spent many an hour in Olin working on labs and problem sets with his physics pals- building character and having fun. In the next few pages, we have gathered memories of Mike from classmates and professors about his life with us on campus.

4 Mike was a great procrastinator. I remember the last time that I saw him was at about 2:15 pm on Tuesday, June 10, 2003, as he was finally leaving his room on 1st Nourse (where I was his RA - he was supposed to be out by 2:00 pm). Only about a half hour earlier, it seemed, he still had posters up on his wall, a computer on his desk, and unemptied drawers full of who knows what; but he and his dad somehow got all of that stuff out of there. But that was what I liked about Mike. Whenever we had a problem set due in one of our physics classes, I always knew that no matter how late I started it the night before, I would find Mike in Olin working on it. We shared a number of late night Domino's pizza deliveries and recently, just this past term, we played a number of games of "Ted Ball," named after and played with one of our fellow physics procrastinators, Ted Holby (the game involves trying to bounce a small ball into one of the shelves in Olin 210, the room where we usually worked - it is a fairly amusing passtime at around 2 in the morning). Mike always had something to say during class and his characteristic laugh was never absent from the sounds of the classroom for more than a few minutes. That was Mike. I also remember Mike in the Nourse Main Lounge watching various sporting events on tv. If you were ever curious about how many years in a row the Timberwolves had lost in the first round of the playoffs, Mike could tell you. Last January (2002), a busload of people, myself and Mike included, went to a Timberwolves game. I was sitting near the front of the bus and found myself quite confused as the bus driver drove past the Target Center and got back onto the interstate. Apparently the driver was quite confused as well because about 10 minutes later he turned on the lights inside the bus and asked if anyone knew where we were. Mike, in a snazzy T-wolves jersey, came to the rescue and guided us back to the Target Center through Friday night Minneapolis traffic - we only missed about half of the first quarter. I think the Timberwolves ended up losing to the Spurs, but Mike was one of the loudest supporters in the stands for Garnett & Co. The most recent off-campus experience that I had with Mike was just a few weeks ago - on Friday, May 30, Eight people from 1st Nourse went to see the Minnesota Twins take on the Seattle Mariners at the Metrodome. Two of those 8 people, Mike and Will Dixon, were particularly obnoxious as they yelled from the stands down to Jacque Jones (Jacque was playing left field for the Twins - we were sitting in the upper deck above left field). Despite the fact that it was obvious that Jacque would never hear them, they continued to scream at him at the top of their lungs. It was great. A procrastinator. A vocal classmate and sports fan. Mike was a good guy. I'm going to miss him. Aleks Diamond-Stanick, Class of ‘04

5 I ask my students to me each day after they have finished their assignment and share with me what went well, what didn't, what questions they still have. After reading Aleks's description of Mike's procrastination, I went back to look at the s that he had sent me. Sure enough, more than two-thirds of them were sent after 3 a.m.! Invariably, Mike offered completely revealing, nothing-to-hide commentaries on his efforts to understand the material. Most of them involve technical details but here are a few comments that I gleaned from them that remind me of Mike's dedication, enthusiasm, and humor - "I had to consult my good old calculus book." "I believe I nailed (by this I mean I think I got them right) the problems that you assigned." "Well, that sums up my night in Quantum Land." "I am sure it will be fun to apply the Quantum concepts to this linear algebra ? yay!" "I found that I had a really fun time doing the problems that you assigned (no kidding!)." And, finally, this short and sweet one that he sent me at about 3:30 one morning - "I have no major concerns or questions with the reading. I thought that I should drop you a line anyway...." Mike provided a real spark of bright friendliness and joy. We'll all miss that very, very much. Bruce Thomas Mike was a great guy. I was lucky enough to be on a pre-frosh trip to the Boundary Waters with him, as well as going to Arkansas with him to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. On these trips I got to know him pretty well. I also spent many a late night with him working on physics homework in Olin. He would often tell stories about sports, his family, Target, astronomy and his dog, all things that he loved very much. He had such a great heart and sense of humor. I am going to miss him so much, but I know where ever he is, he is smiling. He always smiled. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Ted Holby, Class of ‘04

6 Hello my name is Nate Pogue, Physics major I thought that I would say that I am sorry for your loss, and we all feel your pain. I knew Mike for about two years and am proud to say that Mike was a fellow major, comrade, and friend of mine. Mike and I worked on several projects together and spent several nights in the dark halls of Olin. Mike always had a smile on his face and a cheerful heart. He had an infectious laugh that always lighted the mood, and was always willing to assist fellow students when needing help. Much of my time with Mike was in the halls of Olin, but on occasion we would hang out together. Several times we had a social get together of the majors. Mike was always there and always helped out in planning and organizing whenever he could. He had an appealing sense of humor and was a source of entertainment for us all. It was an honor to know Mike, Nate Pogue Here’s a picture of the Carleton frisbee fields. Mike enjoyed playing on the Physbee team, our department frisbee team.

7 I had just graduated from Carleton and spent a long week adjusting to the fact that I'd never spend another week with all my friends in Northfield. It was a hard week and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. Then I got and "Carleton student Colin (Mike) Ewers missing in Puerto Rico". Instantly my perspective changed. Instead of thinking about my own misfortune at having to leave Carleton, I was jolted into the world of Mike's parents and loved ones. My own problems seemed pretty insignificant after I heard about Mike. I learned so many things at Carleton, it's hard to put them all in words. However, I think now is an appropriate time to articulate one particular thing I learned. At Carleton, there is a very thin line between your friends and your colleagues. While I wouldn't have ever said Mike was one of my close friends at Carleton (after all, he was a year younger than me and I only had one class with him) he was definitely one of my colleagues. A fellow physics major, Mike was struggling as we all were to get through the difficult physics sequence with his sanity still intact. Every late night I spent in Olin trying to finish a problem set, there was Mike, doing the same. He was the constant, that one guy you knew you could count on to be in the physics building when you thought everyone else had given up for the night to go to bed. It was always comforting to know that if I was going to be up really late working on an assignment, Mike would most likely be there working hard to get his work done as well. Mike never had any pretensions that he was better or smarter than anyone else. He just worked hard every day to educate himself a little more. I really respected that about Mike and I wouldn't let anyone tell me he wasn't a hard worker. I, myself, have been known to be a workaholic, and seeing Mike right there with me on so many occasions made me respect his work ethic and willingness to got the extra mile to understand a concept. One particular thing I remember about Mike in this regard was in our Contemporary Experimental Physics class. Our professor (Nelson Christensen) put all the class notes on-line for us after each lecture. Every student (including myself) would print them off and look at them briefly before each test. Mike on the other hand, refusing to take the easy road, would look up each page of notes on the internet and write it in his own words in his notebook. When I asked him why he did this (instead of just printing them like the rest of us) he told me that it helped him understand the material better. That pretty much sums up Mike for me. He always went the extra mile to understand things the best he possibly could. To me, that's the most you can expect from someone. Getting back to my point above, after thinking about all my interactions with Mike over the past years (I was his lab assistant for Electronics and a fellow classmate of his in Contemporary Physics) I realize that a colleague in our department (Carleton Physics department) is, by default, a friend. You can't possibly spend countless hours toiling over problem sets and projects with a person and not consider them your friend. This is why when I read the headlines about Mike's disappearance it hit me so hard. While I may not have spent my weekends with Mike or gone to movies with him in my spare time, he went to battle in the same rooms as me in the same building as me with the same professors as me. Mike was a colleague and a friend. At Carleton, there's such a thin line between the two, that I can't distinguish between them. Mike was my friend and I hate to lose him. At least I know that heaven now has one more extremely hard working, curious soul than it had before. Tim O'Connell Carleton Class of 2003

8 Mike took Classical and Computational Mechanics with me Winter of '02. I enjoyed his presence in the class -- he was very sincere about learning the physics, perhaps a little unsure (like everyone else!) that all that homework was really necessary, but getting it done and steadily becoming more confident every week. He did a great job, particularly in the group project for the class since he got along very well with his peers. I chatted with him a few times that term outside class and since then saw him regularly at Department events, since he was reliably there and particularly happy to talk about Astronomy classes and interests. We are going to miss his steady smiling presence around Olin. Arjendu Pattanayak Mike was active in all Department functions. He was a regular participant in our weekly Physics Table lunch held in this dining room of the Language and Dining Center.

9 I met Mike during my first week at Carleton. I was sitting in the second Musser lounge, feeling very alone and wondering if I had made the right choice in coming to Carleton. Mike walked in, sat down at the table across from me and struck up a conversation with a smile and "Hi, I'm Mike. Who are you?" We chatted briefly and when I left the lounge that evening, my earlier worries had been erased. I felt as though there might still be "kindred spirits" at Carleton. Mike didn't have to come in and introduce himself to me, nor did he have to strike up a conversation with a very scared freshman, but he did. As the year progressed, I found him to have a deep appreciation for good jokes, and a kind of genuine friendliness that made him a good floormate as well as a friend. When the fall of my sophomore year arrived, I made it a point to introduce myself to the freshmen of my floor, remembering how much of a difference Mike's actions made to me. He was a wonderful guy, and I know that every time I see someone who's feeling new and alone, I'll walk up to them and say "Hi, I'm Katie. Who are you?" Katie Goetz, Class of ‘05 Mike lived in Musser Hall during his first two years on campus.

10 I was on Mike's floor freshmen year, before I even knew what my major was going to be. I remember him being excited about astronomy, and always wanting to talk about astronomy and physics and such once he found out I was thinking about being a major. I remember playing games with him, IM sports, and seeing his dog coming to visit him every few weeks. I remember working with Mike through some long labs in E&M, and he would always just keep going... his ability to keep going long after my energy and enthusiasm had died out was remarkable. I remember being in Astrophysics with him, and listening to him ask question after (very perceptive) question in class. He was excited, interested, laughing, and he knew how to mix his sense of humor with a desire to understand the world and the universe. Carleton is gonna miss Mike, as will I. David Steussy, Class of '04 During his junior year, Mike lived in Nourse Hall. His room was the first floor corner room on the right.

11 I met Mike in my Astrophysics class this past term. He was a very nice classmate. He was always enthusiastic and jovial, which I really appreciated since I also like to have fun as I learn this material. I had known nothing about Astronomy or Astrophysics before taking the course, and Mike definitely helped in showing me how cool it really is. Dan Brooks, Class of ‘05 The first time I met Mike was at a Timberwolves game against the Pistons. Campus activities organized the event, and about 25 Carelton students bought tickets. Mike sat just behind me. Every time the T'wolves scored he made sure that everyone in our section knew about it, such was his cheering. His enthusiasm for the game gave it an energy it would otherwise have lacked and pulled me directly into the excitement. Lawrence Uricchio, Class of ‘05 Mike’s classmates are shown here working on research in Olin 304. Mike enjoyed working in what we call the “Sun Room”.

12 Over the past week, I have thought a lot about Mike. The thoughts I think about him always come back to happy ones. I think about our Astro class last term. I sat next to him most classes, and without fail, I could always get him to laugh. I think about various observing nights we've had at Carleton, and the joy that Mike always brought to them. I think about the nights that I was doing problem sets in Olin and Mike came in. It always made me happy when Mike came in because I could always find something to joke about with him. I think about how he was always eager to help and eager to learn. I think about how happy I am that I was able to know Mike. Therefore, when I think about Mike, a smile comes across my face. This will be true no matter what has happened or what will happen. I am lucky to have known Mike and be the recipient of such memories. Best wishes, Ashley Ross, Class of ‘04 Ashley and Brynn work on astro research in Olin.

13 I never knew Mike that well personally, but I knew him very well as a physics major and astronomy lover. We had many a class together (I can remember all the way back to him joking with Joel in intro physics), but this past term was most memorable, as we worked on labs together. I always enjoyed working with Mike - he was serious enough to get things done, and cheerful enough to joke about everything anyway. If there's one thing I appreciate, it's a good sense of humor when stressing out about lab write-ups. He was always alert and interested in what we were doing, and not afraid to step in and turn knobs. And he would rearrange the optics set-ups with a flourish for the next group. I also remember how he kept trying to get the walkie-talkies to work for the speed of light lab, so we wouldn't have to yell through the rooms. He was annoyed that they would always lose contact just where we needed them. He was a great lab partner. Mostly, though, I remember Mike as an astronomer. He and I were both faithful volunteers for the monthly Goodsell open houses. I admired how he knew so many tidbits of information, like how far the Moon is or the workings of the 16- inch's clock drive. He always had an answer for visitors' questions, and if he didn't, he knew exactly where to go to look it up. And he had a passion for Saturn - he could never sneak enough peaks through the telescopes at it. In classes, he was interested about every aspect of astronomy, and always full of questions. It will be strange not hearing his familiar voice in class. As time goes by, I remember more and more conversations or events with Mike, from talking about the shuttle explosions and cosmology one night when no one showed up for tutoring (for intro astro), to his remembering that I like Japanese and encouraging me to try the JET program, which his sister did and loved. I never knew him as well as I wanted to, which frustrated me. I was looking forward to getting to know him better this summer, but this is not what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I remember how excited he was to have the opportunity to go to Arecibo, and I know he was happy there. Still, I think the astronomy world lost a wonderful and potential-filled member. I will miss him. Brynn Barile, Class of ‘04

14 Goodsell Observatory Mike loved astronomy. He spent many nights using the telescopes in Goodsell to enjoy the skies and he was always eager to share his enjoyment with others. Mike was a frequent volunteer at Goodsell public observing evenings.

15 Mike was a true lover of astronomy - you could say he majored in universe appreciation. He was always eager to learn and to share his newfound knowledge with others. Mike’s enthusiasm for learning was contagious and he often went out of his way to help others understand and feel comfortable with new concepts. In fact, Mike was so thoughtful he’d make sure you could understand what everyone was laughing about. He tutored me in the finer aspects of the movie “Space Balls” so I could understand the jokes in class! Mike spread cheer and humor wherever he went. Always willing to help, Mike was one of our most dependable volunteers at Goodsell open houses. His ready smile and easy friendliness were a hit with the visitors and he had a knack for making the universe come alive for young and old alike. He loved doing it and we loved working with him. At the end of spring term, Mike and I talked about his upcoming observing trip and his future research. He was so excited about going to Arecibo - it had been his dream since his first term at Carleton. We talked about his gift for teaching and I know Mike would have made a wonderful teacher. Mike has already taught us a great many things in his short time with us. He showed us how to spread cheer with a friendly smile and how to marvel at the universe. We will miss him very much. Cindy Blaha Mike was very fond of observing. He used both the large 16” refracting telescope in the dome and the new computer-controlled reflecting telescopes on the outside observing pad.

16 Mike often used the 16” telescope to enjoy many celestial sights. When we looked at the observatory log book, we noticed Mike had been the last to use the telescope.

17 This is the Hill of Three Oaks (well 2.7 actually…). Mike started learning the constellations on top of this hill during his introductory astronomy lab. Here’s one of the first CCD images Mike took with his lab partners. It is of the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules. As always, focusing is one of an astronomer’s most character-building experiences.

18 Observing at Arecibo From his first day at Carleton, Mike dreamed of going observing at Arecibo. Here he is making his dream come true. Mike, Joel Weisberg and Pei Zhuan admire their new data on the binary pulsar in the control room of the Arecibo Radio Telescope.

19 A Lesson from Mike In his Astrophysics class this past spring term, Mike taught the class all about the supermassive black holes that lie in the nuclei of galaxies. The following pages are the presentation slides from his talk. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did. We will always remember Mike’s smile, his laughter and his joy for learning. When we look up to enjoy the night sky, we will remember Mike’s great capacity to marvel at the wonders of the universe.


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