The Largest Planet, A Monster, A Frenzy, and the search for media alluring adjectives

The Largest Planet, A Monster, A Frenzy, and the search for media alluring adjectives

After spending roughly a week away from my press feed, I found myself face to face with a lot of intriguingly titled press releases. One announces: “Astronomers Find Largest Exoplanet to Date,” and another teases “Monster Galaxy Pileup Sighted,” and yet a third promotes “BLACK HOLES IN FEEDING FRENZY” (Yes, the press officer yelled in type). Other provocative titles employed the words: Largest, flood, giant, colossus and puff. While some of the stories lived up to the hype, in general the truth is far less interesting than the title. (image left, credit NASA / JPL-Caltech / K. Rines (CFA)) Case in point, let’s consider that “Largest Planet.” When I see the word largest, I tend to think high mass and high...

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So you’ve attended 2 conferences in 7 days:
Now what are you going to do?

So you’ve attended 2 conferences in 7 days: Now what are you going to do?

Let me preface this by saying I am sometimes a bit crazy. After AAPT and ASP, I decided I needed a brain break. The ASP conference ended at 3pm Sunday, and having checked out of my room at 2pm, I hatched a crazy plan to go to Disney. And I did. I rented a car from Ontario airport (Enterprise will not pick you up on Sundays if you are in Claremont, CA), drove to Disney, and by 5:30pm I was inline for Space Mountain. I stayed at the park until 1am riding rides and mentally writing a blog entry I now don’t have the mental energy to write. Just shy of 2am I was in my rental car on my way to LAX, and at 2:42am I found my self confused at Enterprise at LAX. They close at a reasonable hour, and have people turn cars in at a nearby hotel after hours. This actually...

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Online Education and Intellectual Property Protection

Currently, there is a movement to move classroom instruction onto the Internet. Software such as iTunes U and Blackboard both support the distribution of Audio, Video, and PDFs to students in a password protected environment. While this works to protect our personal intellectual property, it also makes it easy for us to inadvertently break copyright law. In this entry, I will work to identify the pitfalls that an instructor can fall into while teaching and propose ways that we can all avoid breaking the law. Fine Print: This document is meant as a guide and can not be construed as a substitute for legal advice. You are stongly encouraged to the linked in original documents and if a question arrises, please contact your university’s legal department. I am...

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Pluto: Still Not a Planet

Pluto: Still Not a Planet

Last night was the conference banquet and after party. Many of us stayed up too late. Many of us looked at our conference program this morning in hopes that maybe something boring was going on that we wouldn’t mind sleeping through. All of us dragged ourselves out of bed and came to the 8:30am Sunday morning talk. Michael Brown, the premier finder of small icy-rocky things in the outer solar system, is giving a talk titled, “How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming.” How can anyone sleep through a talk like that? He just showed us digitized versions of the original discovery plates for Pluto and it is now talking about how odd Pluto was known to be even at the moment it was found by Clyde Tombaugh. Everyone was looking for another Neptune or...

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Second Life Rocket Park

I have to admit that while I am normally an early and avid adopter of new technologies,  Second Life  has generally confused me. My avatar is ugly. I tend to wander lost. In a desperate attempt to become one of the cool techno kids who get this virtual world of sex, foxes, and text and troll I decided to take a workshop on astronomy in Second Life that was run by Anthony Crider of Elon University. In this wonderful 1 hour session I discovered (in a guided tour) NASA sites, telescopes, planetariums, and even a cool rocket park. I also learned everyone is ugly until they buy their first second skin. I’m thinking tomorrow I’m going to spend some money, buy a nice face, and explore some nifty astronomy education...

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