Should You Take a Sabbatical?

first_img Learn More Before you take a sabbatical, it’s important to decide whether or not it’s the right time to do so. In general, it helps to be established enough in your career that you can pick right back up from where you left off, but not so senior that you would be missing out on game-changing opportunities. It can also be easier to take a sabbatical before you have certain responsibilities, like dependents or a home.Lia Saunders, owner of the travel blog Practical Wanderlust, shared how she knew the timing was right to take a sabbatical: “I don’t have dependents and I’m able to save money and take a year off — the time is perfect. I didn’t want to be on my deathbed wishing I’d traveled more and worked less. And I knew if I let myself wait until later, later might never come,” she said. “So I set myself a deadline when I started my career right out of college. I gave myself five years to get my career to a place I could leave and come back to without having to start over. Then, I committed to taking the leap, and did it!”If you’re not sure whether or not the timing is right, ask yourself these questions:Do I feel secure in my desired career path?Would taking an extended amount of time off set me back? If so, could I recover from it? Do I have any dependents? If so, will I be able to care for them when I’m not working?Are there any other obligations tying me to my current work and life situations? There isn’t one correct reason to take a sabbatical — people from all walks of life, in all stages of their careers and from all different circumstances take sabbaticals. Some of the more common reasons include:Wanting to travelWanting to take a break or rechargeWanting to spend time with familyWanting to give back or volunteerWanting to train for a new careerWanting to pursue a journey of self-discoveryThe extended time off that sabbaticals provide is a great way to explore the options above. Alternatively, you could also consider taking an extended vacation, requesting a more flexible schedule or going on medical or FMLA leave — it’s all up to you, and what you think is best for your life and your career. Think About Timing Evaluate Your Finances While there are many considerations worth taking into account before deciding to go on a sabbatical, there are undoubtedly benefits to it as well. Many of those who have taken sabbaticals come to treasure the memories they’ve made traveling, volunteering or pursuing their personal passion projects. Some simply take the time off to relax or take care of personal matters, which leaves them feeling refreshed and ready to take on new challenges at work upon their return. Others use the time to prepare for an entirely new line of work, honing the skills they need to secure their dream jobs. And still others emerge from a sabbatical with a more profound understanding of who they are and what they want out of life.“If your spirit is crying for change, and you just don’t know what that next step looks like, taking time off to simply ‘be’… to meander a while and follow your curiosities… can be incredibly renewing and insightful,” said Kim McCabe, U.S. Public Relations Lead + Brand Champion at G Adventures. “It’s only when we step off the treadmill that we can sometimes notice the subtleties on the side of the road.”center_img Common Reasons for Taking a Sabbatical Of course, you can’t take a sabbatical without thinking about how it will affect your finances. If you work for a company that offers a paid sabbatical — lucky you! — you’ll be able to continue earning a steady stream of income for however long your company policy dictates. If not, though, you’ll have to carefully reflect on your current financial state. Ideally, you should have a comfortable amount of savings already built up that won’t be completely depleted by a lack of income and expenses incurred during your sabbatical. To make sure you’re on solid financial footing, ask yourself these questions:Do I have enough money saved up to go without a steady income for a certain period of time? What will my daily/weekly/monthly budget look like while I’m on my sabbatical?Is there a way I can make money during my sabbatical? If so, how much can I reasonably expect to make?How much money do I want to have left over by the end of my sabbatical? Benefits of Taking a Sabbatical 14 Companies Offering Sabbaticals & Hiring NowHow to Talk to Your Boss About Taking a Sabbatical5 Ways to Overcome a Career Slump7 Reasons You Need to Schedule Vacation Time Now14 Cool Companies With Unlimited VacationHow to Spot Burnout Before It’s Overtaken Your Life3 Times It Makes Sense to Take a Career Risk12 Companies Hiring Now That’ll Pay You To Travel the World7 Affordable Cities Where Digital Nomads Can Live, Work & Save Money15 Companies With The Best Parental Leave Policieslast_img read more

Astronomers Think They Can Explain Mysterious Cosmic Bursts

first_imgThe data are about to pour in, ready to narrow the field. During the past five months, while CHIME has been in a commissioning phase, researchers have found more bursts that they haven’t publicly released. Team members hope to start the official observing run in April. The Australian Square Kilometer Array, a network of 36 radio dishes in western Australia, is also trawling for more examples and working to pinpoint their exact homes. And within a few years, so will HIRAX: an array of dishes in South Africa, Botswana and Rwanda that will hunt FRBs in an environment free from ambient radio signals.After years of sparse data and theoretical daydreaming, a solution finally seems within reach. In mid-February, FRB-curious astronomers met in Amsterdam to share new, please-don’t-post-this-on-Twitter discoveries and discuss the idea that neutron stars are in some way responsible. “That is what is so nice about his theory coming out just recently,” wrote Amanda Weltman, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Cape Town, in an email. “It is a perfect time.” The researchers debated Metzger’s model, presented at the meeting by his coauthor Margalit, but wouldn’t yet commit to it. “We are on the verge of convergence,” Tendulkar said. “Let’s just put it that way.”Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research developments and trends in mathematics and the physical and life sciences. Lucy Reading-Ikkanda/Quanta MagazineAll this is still tenuous, but the idea is ready to pass or flunk based on what happens next in the FRB story. It’s the most quantitative, deeply thought-out scenario yet. “They’ve done the most-detailed calculations, and they’ve been able to make the most-specific observational predictions,” Spitler said.Metzger’s model predicts a number of specific features that future FRBs should share. For one: All future FRBs should follow the same downward shift in frequency. They might show gamma-ray or X-ray emission, which astronomers such as Spitler have already started to hunt for. They should live in galaxies that are forming lots of new stars and producing fresh magnetars. And when they do repeat, they should take breaks from bursting after astronomers observe a major flare. At that point, the system is so choked with material that subsequent flashes can’t make it out.Metzger’s model now faces a crowded bracket of other, still-viable theories. FRBs could be a consequence of merging neutron stars, which lit up both telescopes and gravitational-wave detectors for the first time in 2017. Neutron stars might also make FRBs when they crash into other objects like black holes or white dwarfs, when they themselves collapse into black holes, or when their magnetic field lines are plucked by fierce winds of plasma.And it’s not even clear if FRBs all come from a single kind of event. While Metzger’s model has a “stranglehold” on observations of the first repeater, said the astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi, also at McGill, “I personally am always a little nervous when something is so tailored to one source.” Compared with the repeaters, perhaps one-off bursts come from entirely different sources. Or, as Spitler and others pointed out last November, all FRBs might turn out to repeat if astronomers only waited around for long enough. To Metzger’s team, this last clue seemed oddly familiar. In the 1950s, physicists studied the blast waves of nuclear weapons to estimate their yields. In these models, the shock fronts from nuclear explosions sweep up more gas as they expand outward. That extra weight slows down the shock, and because it slows, radiation released from the shock front shifts downward in frequency thanks to the Doppler effect.Metzger had been thinking this blast wave effect might hint at the true nature of FRBs when suddenly, in early January, the haul from the CHIME telescope included another repeating event. This one’s repeating radio signals showed the same downward frequency drift. “The idea was there with the first repeater,” Metzger said, “but seeing that feature of FRBs reinforced sort of put me on overdrive.”Now Metzger, Margalit and Sironi have released their full model, based mostly on explaining the ins and outs of the first repeater. Imagine a magnetar, a city-sized neutron star forged in a supernova only a few years or decades earlier, its surface roiling and churning. Like the sun on a bad day, this young magnetar releases occasional flares that blast out electrons, positrons and maybe heavier ions at near the speed of light.When this material launches, it runs into older particles vomited out during previous flares. Where the new ejecta meets the older debris, it piles up into a shock, inside which magnetic fields soar. As the shock presses outward, the electrons inside gyrate around along magnetic field lines, and that motion produces a burst of radio waves. That signal then shifts from higher to lower frequencies as the shock slows. (And presumably, far away and eons later, Earth’s astronomers get a very exciting email alert from radio telescopes.) Radio astronomers soon pinpointed its origin to a small, misshapen dwarf galaxy. Trying to squeeze out every clue from these radio signals, they found that it came from a dense region of plasma gripped by extreme magnetic fields. They also found that the burst was surrounded by a fainter, constant radio glow. And last November, the astronomer Jason Hessels (with Spitler and others) noticed something else strange: Each split-second burst actually contains a few sub-bursts that, without fail, shift downward from higher to lower radio frequencies. The model favors, but doesn’t require, a magnetar as the source of the explosions. A magnetar is a young neutron star that sometimes burps out charged particles in a supersize version of the coronal mass ejections that erupt on the sun. Each new blast plows into the surrounding clutter. When it does, it creates a shock wave, which in turn beams a short, laserlike flash of radio waves halfway across the universe.“In just very general terms, this makes a ton of sense,” said James Cordes, an astrophysicist at Cornell University, adding that while further details still need to be worked out, “I would say it’s a good horse to bet on.”What the astronomers really like, though, is that Metzger’s theory generates very specific predictions for what future FRBs should look like, predictions that will soon be put to make-or-break tests. A new Canadian radio telescope called CHIME is expected to find between one and 10 FRBs each day after it becomes fully operational later this year. During initial testing last summer it detected a baker’s dozen of the bursts, results that were published in January. “I think that over the next year or so we’ll be able to test this very well,” said Shriharsh Tendulkar, an astrophysicist at McGill University and a member of CHIME’s FRB team.At Shock Wave SpeedThe theory developed by Metzger and his colleagues Ben Margalit and Lorenzo Sironi builds on the biggest break in the FRB case so far. In 2016, a team led by Laura Spitler at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, published their results on the first-ever FRB known to repeat. Previously, each event had been a one-off. As a consequence, astronomers were unable to track down where they were in the sky, so while they suspected FRBs came from far beyond our galaxy, they knew nothing about where. But this one blared out burst after enigmatic burst at unpredictable intervals. Between this past Christmas and New Year’s Day, Brian Metzger realized he had his home to himself—no emails coming in, no classes to teach—and maybe, just maybe, the glimmer of an answer to one of astronomy’s most stubborn mysteries.He chased hard after the lead, worried a little error could unravel everything or that someone else would put together the same pieces first. “You’re racing a little bit against the clock, because other people probably see this as well,” said Metzger, an astrophysicist at Columbia University. “It can kind of become all-consuming.”Along with scores of other researchers around the world, Metzger has spent the last few years brainstorming ways to understand fast radio bursts (FRBs). These are millisecond-long blips of intense and unexplained radio signals that pop up all over the sky, temporarily outshining radio pulsars in our galaxy despite being perhaps a million times farther away. Before 2013, many astrophysicists doubted that they even existed. In the years since, researchers have invented dozens of possible explanations for what might be causing them. One catalog counts 48 separate theories, a tally that until recently outnumbered the events themselves.An FRB theory needs two parts, roughly akin to a suspect and a weapon in a cosmic game of Clue. The suspect is an astrophysical beast that can unleash vast sums of energy. The weapon is something that will transform that energy into a bright, head-scratchingly unusual radio signal.Now Metzger and his colleagues think they have reconstructed the crime scene. Earlier this month they released a paper on the scientific preprint site arxiv.org that sketched out a way for FRBs to arise from explosions in regions of space cluttered with dense clouds of particles and magnetic fields. 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