Emerging Fields: Astronomy Communications and Education

Emerging Fields: Astronomy Communications and Education

When I started graduate school, I was given the impression that astronomy consisted of two broad formats (observational and theoretical) and addressed a set of specific subtopics (planets, stars, intersteller media, galaxies/cosmology). In this paradigm, people who studied how people learn astronomy were off to the side somewhere. In broad brush strokes, this is a fairly fair image. While there is a rich and dynamic group of people working to both teach astronomy and communicate astronomy to the public, these people are generally side-lined, devalued, or just not seen as professional astronomers. Today, in South Africa, the “Communicating Astronomy to the Public” meeting is seeking to change this view by bringing a new level of professionalism to our...

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Lost in the vastness of space

Lost in the vastness of space

Tonight I co-gave the opening address at the Templeton Foundation supported Q3 conference on Cosmology and Theology. It was perhaps the most nerve wracking talk I’ve ever given. While I am a Christian, I must admit to being terrified of conservative Christians. I’ve just realized I can’t count the number of churches who have made me feel rejected because I spend my days studying our universe. At the same time, I’ve lost count of the number of scientists and skeptics who’ve claimed I can’t possibly be a real scientist or a real skeptic if I believe in God. Over the years, I’ve learned how to speak safely around scientists, and I’ve learned when to speak unsafely, but the Christians – they’ve continued...

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LPSC: NASA Night

Live blogging will begin here at 5:30pm 5:10pm A presentation will be by Dr Laurie Leshin, Deputy Associate administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Title : “New Oppurtunities in the President’s FY2011 Budget” 5:12pm Speaker is not dressed in back. While there are people downstairs pre-lecture drinking in the bar, I don’t think it will be too awful. I fear for man (or at least manned space exploration) but I trust in science (or at least Obama’s support of science and science ed) 5:14pm This liveblog is made possible by my Verizon 3G cell card and the power strip under the mixing board (and the help of the friendly person manning the mixing board). 5:19pm They are now micing people up and the room is filling. 5:24pm...

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Two Views on Gravity Part 2: Geometry

Two Views on Gravity Part 2: Geometry

Sometimes analogies just feel right. For instance, “as hard to find as a needle in a hay stack” is often a good way to describe trying to find a needed quote in a half-remembered book. The mental image and the actual task just fit. In physics, I sometimes feel like the hardest part is finding the perfect analogy that will make it possible for everyone in the class to visualize the concept I’m trying to explain. In the case of gravity, Einstein kindly provided the needed analogy. He said the way we need to think of gravity is as a divot in the 4-dimensional space-time reality, where orbiting objects simply roll around the inside of the well, like bicylcists racing around the sides of a velodrome. Ok, so maybe that analogy is a bit more...

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Come here & hear Steve Squyres at SIUE?

Come here & hear Steve Squyres at SIUE?

If you’re like me, you’ve been following NASA’s desperate attempt to free Spirit, and the ongoing roving of the rugged little Opportunity. These two rovers, with Captain Jack like habits of not dying, are in part the creation of Steven Squyres. Next week, on Wednesday night, Squyres will be giving a talk here at SIUE. Come give him a listen? Here are the details: Steven Squyres “Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity and the Exploration of the Red Planet” Wednesday, February 17, 7:30 p.m. Meridian Ballroom, Morris University Center Sponsored by the Shaw Memorial Fund Steve Squyres is the man responsible for taking us to the Red Planet and igniting a new firestorm of interest in space exploration. “Spirit and Opportunity” have...

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The End of IYA (Part 2)

The End of IYA (Part 2)

Sometimes it takes a bit longer than planned to get around to writing than expected. The second day of the IYA Closing ceremonies was filled with talks on history & vision – Who was Galileo and what was the real relationship between him and the Chrutch? How do we move forward to celebrate astronomy in years that aren’t 400 year anniversaries? How do we build on what we’ve done so that great new projects aren’t lost? And where does science go tomorrow?- Presented talks included talks from politicians, historians, and scientists. Want to see what we saw? Full video coverage is available here. In the past 400 years since Galileo turned a telescope toward the sky and reported what he was seeing, the technology has come a long ways. From...

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