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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Slow Science & Peer-Review

Slow Science & Peer-Review

Science moves slowly. That may seem like an odd statement when the pace of press releases and breaking news seems to imply that new discoveries are flying fast and furious, with labs making discoveries and publishing them almost before they’re ready for prime time. What is missing from this perspective are the realities of the funding cycle and publishing cycle. I just had to fill out a form that required me to list all my recent publications, and I realized that every publication I had submitted, first author or not, in 2011 has to be resubmitted to another journal because either no rational referee could be found (one paper included in the referee report “But I’m a biologist, not a social scientist, so maybe I just don’t get this.”...

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Breaking Stereotypes with We are CosmoQuest

Breaking Stereotypes with We are CosmoQuest

The question I get asked the most is “Why are you an astronomer?” The tone of this question varies from “I never thought I’d meet an astronomer? How did this happen?” to “Are you insane – that’s hard! Why would you do that!” to “Do astronomers have a reason to exist?” to, well…. reactions vary and it is clear I’m not the vision of what people expect an astronomer to look or sound like. I’m not the only one who experiences this. I sometimes think the only people who look like “astronomers” are white, 50-something men who make poor wardrobe choices. The problem with this stereotype is that’s just not astronomy. We are young. We are old. We are men and we are women....

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STEM Education for Tomorrow

STEM Education for Tomorrow

Over the past several weeks I’ve had more than one person ask me, “What is your view on the future of STEM (1) Education?” Sometimes they have gone on to ask further about how I feel about the future of science in general. This much repeated question has been triggered by many things. On one hand, I work in a Center for STEM Research, Outreach and Education, and we’re working to define our vision. On the other hand, the National Science Foundation is working to review its portfolio and perhaps redefine how it spends its money. Then there are random factors, like congress considering what comes after “No Child Left Behind” and my own personal work to try and define what comes next for Astronomy Cast and all my other projects and...

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Universal Education

Universal Education

Here in the USA (or I should say there, since I’m currently in France), education tends to be somewhat nationalistic. It has to be. Teachers are tied to state and federal learning standards and if students don’t learn what is specifically listed in those standards, and specifically tested along those standards, schools are considered to have failed. While the national standards were written with the best of intentions to create a more literate population, they have had a stifling effect on creative teachers and creative learning environments. People like me do what we can to get the “fun stuff” (I’m biased toward thinking Astronomy goes in that fun category) into kids outside of school and I think we’re creating some pretty good things. What is amazing to me...

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Lunar phase visualization contest

Lunar phase visualization contest

Right now I’m sitting in the main ‘ballroom’* of the NASA Ames conference center. I’m here for the NASA Lunar Forums, which are hosted by the NASA Lunar Science Institute, which is housed at NASA Ames. (As one might guess, there are NASA meatballs everywhere). It is a good meeting, filled with good content, and all the latest good news from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The multi-hat wearing Nancy Atkinson is here writing stories for Universe Today and recording podcasts for 365 days of Astronomy. I’ll leave it to her to talk science. While she’s busy doing the fun stuff, I’ve been in and out of meetings, and working to plan great (I hope!) things for the future. Coming up on October 8, 2011 (and on TBD dates in...

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