Family-Friendly tribulations

Today I was part of a session on family-friendly policies in academia (policies that promote healthy policies that allow faculty to not have to choose between family and work). My role was small – I recorded a digital video of one of the presenters because she is currently on maternity leave and was unable to present in person. I showed up, sat politely (admittedly typing up notes as people spoke) and then pressed play on the recorded presentation. Watching these panels on gender issues gives me a strange emotional mix of hope and stomach ache that is usually followed by an after taste of anger at the inequities. Universities and the academic track from high school to a tenured faculty position is not friendly to women and definitely discourages those of us...

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Increasing Science Literacy requires Clarity and Passion

Increasing Science Literacy requires Clarity and Passion

Today I attended a pair of excellent presentations by award winners Gerry Wheeler and Neil deGrasse Tyson (shown with me at AAS last January). Both, in very different ways, challenged the audience of physics (and astronomy) teachers and professors to not just instill in their audiences the facts of science, but to also make scientific thinking (e.g. the scientific method) part of day to day thinking. Gerry Wheeler focused on “here is what we’re doing and what’s wrong with our modern science communications” and Neil deGrasse Tyson focused on “here is what is wrong with mainstream thinking.” What is missing was a solution to the question: How do we make skeptical and observation-based thinking the norm. Let me step back and...

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Getting Real Research out of Your Consumer Telescope

Today at AAPT, I gave an 8 hour workshop on using small telescopes to do real research. Since I don’t think any of you were there, I want to share with you what I covered. Below is the content and links from the web-text I created for the workshop. The links will connect you over to my campus website (which you’ll find looks strangely similar to this one – something that will change before the semester begins). Enjoy! It is widely recognized that people learn better when they are able to participate in activities related to what they are learning. These gains are further increased when learners can participate in real research experiences. In astronomy, there are two basic paths to get into research: data-mining and telescopic observations....

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Meeting time again

Meeting time again

This morning I got up at 3am, contemplated how much more I like going to bed at 3am, and then loaded myself into a car to go to the airport. Several hours of travel and one nap later, I am mostly coherent in Greensboro, NC where I am attending the summer meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Tomorrow I will be giving an all day workshop on using small telescopes for research, and on Tuesday morning I’ll be showing a digitally recorded presentation I recorded of Dr. Kimberly Shaw, a colleague of mine whose on maternity leave and thus couldn’t be here in person. This is a short conference and a small conference with no news events or press releases. Mostly, it’s just people sharing ideas on how to teach physics (and occasionally...

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Black holes take a bite out of galaxies

Black holes take a bite out of galaxies

Astronomers usually try to educate the public that black holes do not go around actively eating the hearts out of galaxies. Usually. On July 24, astronomers announced that in the early days of the universe large numbers of young supermassive black holes actually spent their days feeding on galaxy cores. (image credit: NASA/CXC/Ohio State Univ./J.Eastman et al.) “The black holes in these early [galaxy] clusters are like piranha in a very well-fed aquarium,” said Jason Eastman of the Ohio State University and first author of this study. While there are some feeding supermassive black holes (technically called Active Galactic Nuclei or AGN) in the modern universe, they are rare. Using the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Eastman’s team found that when...

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