Developing a better world, one astronomy lesson at a time

Developing a better world, one astronomy lesson at a time

Earlier today I realized I was one day off. I showed up for a meeting on communicating astronomy to the public and found myself in a meeting on generating more accurate world coordinate systems for sky surveys. While astrometry is important, it is something that I wasn’t interested in helping advance prior to lunch. Thus, I fled. In fleeing, I found myself in a session on how to use astronomy to develop the developing world. I sat my privileged white self down and pulled out my iPad and listened as delegates from nations as far ranging as Mozambique, Mexico, Nepal, and the Philippines presented talk after talk on how they are building a more educated future for our globe by building astronomy learning and capacity. I was sufficiently sucked in that I...

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Pink Tasks (post 2/2)

In yesterday’s women in science lunch, we ended with this question: Why do so many women remain silent about all the day-to-day micro-inequities and minor discriminations and injustices they deal with. Ignoring the obvious (it’s really hard to report someone for a million small things that can be blamed on “Oh, he was just in a bad mood), there are also many other reasons to remain silent. I long ago recognized that institutional bias against women – a bias that is often unconscious and unintentional – is something that is almost universal. Some institutions, when they recognize there is a problem, respond by working to positively change the institution. This occurred at MIT when it was realized that women were systematically given less...

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Pink Tasks (post 1 of 2)

In general, I’m not someone who is an activist feminist. My focus has always been on science research and education, but sometimes gender issues can’t be ignored. If you saw my talk from TAM2012, you know that for better or (more likely) for worse, the issues faced by women in science and skepticism have been a lot on my mind lately. I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this a lot. Here at the IAU meeting, several activities have been designed around generating dialogue about women’s issues and helping to provide mentoring and networking opportunities for the women who are here. During the “Women in Science” lunch, we all sat down with our bento boxes and found our conversation shaped by a pamphlet of statistics...

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IAU, I’m lost within you

IAU, I’m lost within you

This morning I woke up in Beijing. This wasn’t entirely surprising since I’d fallen asleep at about 32,000 ft on AA187, inbound to PEK from ORD. Nonetheless, no matter how much you know logically that you are soon to be somewhere very foreign, the reality of it is always startling. Beijing assaults the senses the moment the cabin door opens. There is the smell; air so thick with pollution that you feel constantly dirty, and my nose runs and lungs ache. There is the sudden change in personal space, which grows far less, and politeness, which becomes far more important. The buildings are like something out of the Fifth Element, but the roads are cluttered with an odd mix of foot traffic, bike traffic, rickshaw traffic, and insane car traffic. Beijing is...

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IAU, Pluto, and naming P5

IAU, Pluto, and naming P5

The 2012 meeting of the International Astronomical Union is about to begin in Beijing, China. I’ll be attending the second week of the meeting, and talking on the very last day (yikes!) The 2 constant questions about IAU are “Will Pluto get back its planethood?” and “what new objects might get named?” Well, no one is rumoring that the dwarf planet issue will come back up, so I think we’re going to have to go with “Dwarf Planet” or “Planet Classic” for a few more years. On the naming front, I see Pluto’s new moons possibly getting a few new titles, and it’s possible a few more objects might get approved. The issue of naming things is more complicated in some ways and not complicated in others...

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Red August: A Mars Month

Red August: A Mars Month

The month of August is named after Augustus Ceasar, the Roman Emperor who oversaw the expansion of the Roman Empire in the years after Julius Ceasar’s death on the Ides of March, and even Jesus Christ is said historically to have reminded people to render unto this particular Emperor what is his. This means that August might should stay Augustus’ month… but Mars keeps trying to leave it’s mark on this particular arc of Earth’s orbit. In August 1975, Viking 1 launched toward Mars, marking the beginning of the Viking missions. In August 1976, Viking 2 entered orbit of Mars, marking the safe arrival of the both spacecraft. In August 1980, after 1400 orbits, the longer living Viking 1 orbiter was finally shut down. In August 2003, we saw...

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