ASP – EPO, post defacto blogging

I admit it, I found my wall. Sometime Friday afternoon the part of my brain capable of writing and (somewhat more importantly) filtering the majority of the silly thoughts in my head from coming out my mouth turned off. As Saturday came on the heels of 5 hours of sleep, and crawled across 18 hours of work and travel, progressively more part of my brain continued to shut off. On Sunday, I was a puddle of brainless mush, and I alternated between sleeping, and spending far to many hours at the local home improvement store trying to figure out how to repair my bathroom. Today, I feel almost human, and I can reflect on last weeks meeting.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the meeting was realizing that at any moment I could be talking to someone with no college degree or a PhD, and most of the people there didn’t care about what degree a person had as long as they could effectively communicate to the public via educationally sound means. This means that an amateur astronomer who didn’t take one class beyond high school who is innovating new ways to use the Night Sky Network materials is respected just as much as a PhD creating new ways to use sky meters. In this population of astronomy loving, astronomy communicating friendly folks, there were a lot of women, a lot of 30 somethings (who are very young in my field), and a lot of creativity.

It was cool.

One of the myths of astronomy is that most people become astronomers after being amateur astronomers growing up, or at least after positive experiences looking through a telescope. While I admit to using a telescope as a kid, I got interested in astronomy because of Sci Fi (the old Battlestar Galactica was the center of my childhood fan fiction writing universe). Being surrounded by people interested in getting others into astronomy and having just come off of adventures at Dragon*Con, I posed the question, “What got you interested in astronomy?” to a small group of friends one evening and found none of them had been amateur astronomers as kids as their primary route into astronomy. One person did come close, and he told what I think will be a story I’ll never forget.

As a kid, this person whose name I am protecting even though he said I could use it, read a lot of sci fi and came across one story about a mysterious glass box that was able to randomly teleport objects to other worlds. Eventually, Earth people figure out how to teleport a person with this box, and when the person arrives at another planet he is able to look at the stars and realize he is no where near the Earth because the constellations he sees resemble nothing in the northern or southern hemisphere. Well, my friend, as a child reading this story, had the paniced realization that should he ever find himself on another world, he wouldn’t be able to tell if he was near the Earth because he didn’t know his constellations. In reaction to this panic, he systematically learned the entire sky.

Now that is an interesting way to get a kid into astronomy.

I’m still giggling 🙂

And tomorrow, while giggling, this blog will return to its regularly scheduled programming with a set of reviews of recent episodes of “The Universe” and the science that went into them, and on Wednesday I’ll be doing a roundup of journal articles. Now that classes are back in session, interesting content is starting to come out again. (And, hopefully one of those papers will be my own paper on the listener survey we did over on Astronomy Cast.)

4 Comments

  1. Heather
    Sep 11, 2007

    So where do I get a copy of that story? 🙂

  2. Stephen
    Sep 11, 2007

    Did he ever get teleported to another planet? If not, was learning the sky a waste of time?

  3. Helio Huet
    Sep 12, 2007

    Wait till he finds out the Sun is not yellow; he’ll never find his way home!!

    The Heliochromologist was here. 🙂

  4. Diane
    Sep 14, 2007

    Not having read the story, the specifics of the situation are unknown to me. I think that teleporting blindly to some unknown location would be an incredibly brave thing to do. How would I get back? Would the destination be a habitable world with a breathable atmosphere? Would I be able to find sustenance? Would there be sentient life, and if so, would I survive long enough to communicate with them. I cannot imagine sacrificing my life to take a peek at something completely unknown, such as what Jody Foster’s character, Elly, did in First Contact. What she did still gives me cold shivers.

    How did I become interested in Astronomy? My oldest sister. 7 years older than I, she had a 3″ Newtonian cardboard tube telescope and used to point it at things in the sky to show to me when I was a kid. When she went on to college, she earned a BS in Astrophysics, but sadly has never worked a day in the field. Star Trek later fueled my imagination, and then reading science fiction as a young adult. At 52, Astronomy remains as an undying fascination with me.

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