Looking for Questioning (HS) Teachers

Some of the coolest moments in teaching only occur when your students realize they can safely ask anything. On random days, at random times, (during some unpredictable moment) one student will suddenly raise their hand and ask a question along the lines of “What you just said reminds me of something on TV.” They will then explain what they saw and may not have understood, and will end with, “Can you explain?” or “Can you tell us more?” or something similar as they try and build connections.

These random student questions can lead the class on wild rides (and I love rollercoasters). They give me a chance to answer a lot of questions involving space, astronomy, and spacecraft in my physics classes as we stray off topic into the realm of “what if?” There are also days when we get into discussions on all the ways you can destroy things, accelerate things, or (one of my favorite topics) design more frightening rollercoasters. This isn’t to say there aren’t also days when I say with a sigh, “I’m really sorry, but I need to at least get through some of [insert less interesting topic here] so you’ll get what you need out of the class.” Those days happen. There are also days when my students ask me questions I just can’t answer on topics like chemistry, particle physics, electronics (it’s all magic – when you see smoke, that’s the magic escaping), or even sometimes astronomy. I’ve learned that it’s okay to say, “Let me look it up,” or “email me so I can find someone who knows.” Students understand that we can’t know everything, and as long as I try and I’m honest, a good classroom dynamic seems to follow.

And I’m guessing I’m not the only teacher who has these days, and enjoys their students’ questions (even when they can’t answer them all). With Astronomy Cast, we’ve decided that we want to be a part of helping high school teachers  get their students questioning by putting ourselves out there as folks willing to answer questions.

And if you’re a school teacher, I’d love it if you’d email us so we can get you involved.

Here’s what’s going on: Inspired by the success of our “Questions Shows,” Astronomy Cast is creating a “Student Questions” series. These shows will answer a selection of student questions, emphasizing questions related to high-energy astrophysics, in 30-minute podcasts. High-energy astrophysics studies some of the most energetic and exotic objects in the Universe, including: supermassive black holes and their jets of charged particles, exploding stars, and city-sized neutron stars spinning thousands of times per second. Each show will eventually have an illustrated transcript, and questions will also be indexed online by topic. Submitted questions not used in shows will still be answered, but will only appear in the online index. To facilitate educators submitting audio questions, Astronomy Cast can provide recording devices that can be shipped on loan to schools at no cost to them (return postage provided). Teachers are also free to use any existing equipment their school has to send us audio. This program is sponsored by NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope Education and Public Outreach program.

Interested? To find out how to apply, download the front and back of this flier. If you’re a teacher, drop Astronomy Cast an email at info at astronomycast dot com, or email me at pamela at starstryder dot com. Also, feel free to give a copy of the front and back of that flier to your favorite teen’s high school teacher.

The more the merrier (and the more fun this podcast series will be). Get your kid(s) asking questions, and I’ll be here with Fraser, doing my best to get them answers.

(And tomorrow, I’ll talk about something more astronomical)


  1. Chandrashekhar November 8, 2007 at 5:34 am #

    Pl mail me details

  2. David Madison November 8, 2007 at 6:22 am #

    I write about astronomy. I wish I taught in school, but being unable to, I have written about 300 short descriptions of special objects. Occasionally, readers ask fascinating questions. Yesterday one of them asked if gas clouds collapsing into stars might be dense enough to allow a person to breathe in space. I told him that while I did not have the numbers right at hand, I suspected that the density was maybe a thousand times thinner than Earth at sea level. I then promised to look it up.

    In a few minutes, I had located the answer at several places, including Ohio State University. I shocked myself by discovering that our atmosphere was not a thousand times thicker than these molecular gas clouds, but rather a hundred trillion times. This lead to questions and answers about the process of collapse and the math behind the ideal gas law.

    Yes, I wish I taught in school.

  3. Freiddie November 8, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    According to some people’s opinions, being a teacher means that you have know everything, but I see that it IS a wrong conception.

  4. David Greenberg November 8, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    I am an engineering professor emeritus (University of Cincinnati) and, among other things professional I am involved with the Institute for Learning in Retirement within our College of Continuing Education. In it I have been teaching a series of courses entitled, “Our Glorious Universe,” in which I talk about the beginning and end of the Universe and just about everything in between including an introduction to Newtonian, Relativity, and quantum physics. The attendees are mostly retired professionals ranging in age from about 55 – 85 and seem to be vitally interested in this subject despite their advanced years. The course is taught twice each academic year and I update it constantly. Many pertinent questions arise and I would be interested in participating in any online discussions that you plan.

  5. Frank Winkler November 8, 2007 at 3:09 pm #

    I am confused about the speed at which radiation travels.
    Is the speed of light the the maximum speed of travel?
    Which part of the radiation coming from the sun travels at that speed? visual spectrum or all radiation? or different spectrums or radiation such as radio or gamma rays at different speeds?
    Radiation coming from different stars do they travel at the speed of light?
    Does some of the radiation travel at less speed than light?
    Do all other particle travel at less speed than light?
    What determines their difference in speed?
    Confused about the speed of light and what exactly travels at the speed of ligh?
    If some radiation does not travel at the speed of light then which radiation and why?
    where is the deliniation?

  6. Prerna November 8, 2007 at 3:29 pm #

    hi. I am prerna batra of class ixth.my biggest curiosity is about aliens and black holes.Like for aliens:
    who are they?are the stories such as roswell case true…or is it just 4 publicity?n my biggest ques.
    and as per black holes…
    My major ques. would be “what would happens if by chance we would get into a black hole?where would we lan?will the time be same?”

  7. Akash November 9, 2007 at 9:13 am #

    1)I am bsically a MBA student but i am studing astronomy right from my childhood.I want to get into the research department of any observatory.How shall i get into it

    2)What is a hypermassive black hole

    3)How does the inner part of the star collides to form either a neutron star or a black hole.

  8. HoosierHoops November 9, 2007 at 4:06 pm #

    my question is: Where is the math to prove a black hole..since it against all phyics to exist? are you just guessing?
    How come it isn’t just a black ball? no light can escape so you can’t see a hole or a ball..but the ball makes more sense since the numbers would work and everything in nature under pressure is squeezed into a ball shape. ( a little tiny..highly massive ball,smaller than a neutron star. ) your welcome Hawking.. 🙂


  1. Burzycki.org - Tech and Interesting Facts - November 10, 2007

    […] answering everything. If you’re interested in participating, check out Pamela’s blog, where she explains things in more detail. We’ll be announcing this in the podcast as well, but I just wanted to let you know here. A big […]

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