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Posts Tagged ‘astronomy’

Post by Ruthanna Gordon

My parents would never have considered visiting a city without checking out the museums. So I suspect I got exposed to them rather younger than most. On the other hand, a friend just announced proudly that his not-quite-2-year-old loves the chick hatchery at the Museum of Science and Industry. So maybe I’m not as weird as I thought.

I have a clear memory of staring, awestruck and terrified, at a 15-ton meteorite in New York’s American Museum of Natural History. I was about 7; in my mind, this was the comet that had killed the dinosaurs. Somehow, this didn’t scare me away from my fascination with space science. A few years later, I recall staring with equal fascination at a model of the as-yet-unbuilt International Space Station, tacked on to the end of a Science of Star Trek experiment. Oh! This stuff is real! If they need a cognitive scientist up there, I’m still game.

What are your best (or scariest) museum memories? What exhibits stand out years later?

Me, I’m waiting eagerly for the day my son is old enough to go on a Field Museum sleepover. I also grew up on From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E. Frankweller, so a night in the Hall of Dinosaurs sounds like the perfect memory.

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In every culture throughout the world, we can point to examples where science takes hold and changes the lives of these people forever.  From agriculture to FabLabs, everyone has the ability to contribute to science in new and enlightening ways.

For Black History Month, we are taking this week to talk about African Americans and their contributions to the world of science & technology.

Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is a prolific writer and science communicator.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an Astrophysicist and science communicator.  He is also the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and host of NOVA’s ScienceNOW on PBS.

Born in 1958, the son of a sociologist and gerontologist, Dr. Tyson’s passion for physics blossomed early in his life, giving his first lectures at the age of 15.  He also served as the Editor-in-Chief for The Bronx School of Science’s Physics Science Journal.  When applying to college, Dr. Tyson was courted by one of Cornell University’s most notable faculty members Carl Sagan (Tyson decided to go to Harvard).

A prolific writer and science communicator, Dr. Tyson’s research interests include the formation of stars, dwarf galaxies, and the Milky Way’s overall structure.  In the 2000’s, Dr. Tyson was appointed by President Bush to sit on commissions to study the Future of the US Aerospace Industry and The Implementation of the US Space Exploration Policy.

Dr. Tyson has received many honorary degrees, and has written and communicated prolifically about science.  However, he may currently be best known for his television show ScienceNOW on PBS.

Watch Dr. Tyson as he talks about his interest in science:

A few more tidbits about Dr. Tyson:

  • 2000 – voted “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People Magazine
  • 2001 – Asteroid named: 13123 Tyson, renamed from Asteroid 1994KA by the International Astronomical Union
  • 2001 – The Tech 100, voted by editors of Crain’s Magazine to be among the 100 most influential technology leaders in New York
  • 2004 – 50 Most Important African-Americans in Research Science (read more here)
  • 2007 – Harvard 100: Most Influential Harvard Alumni Magazine, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 2007 – The Time 100, voted by the Editors of Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world (read more here).
  • 2008 – Discover Magazine selected him one of the ’50 Best Brains in Science’ (read more here)

Follow Dr. Tyson

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/neildegrassetyson

Twitter – http://twitter.com/#!/neiltyson

NOVA ScienceNow – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/

Justin H. S. Breaux

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Last week we had art analyzed by science, science informed by art, and art created accidentally in the lab.  I want to start this week with another connection: science as an inspiration for art.

One of the major purposes of art—if it needs a purpose—is to explain the world.  Science tells us how it works, but art interprets those findings emotionally.  How should I think about this?  How does it affect my life?  Other times, art simply translates, talking about the most interesting findings in a more entertaining way than even the most well-written journal article can manage.

But it’s better to illustrate than explain.  I harbor a particular fondness for science-inspired music.  Some songs are explanatory and some interpretive.  Some take their subject literally, while others use it as a metaphor.  For the list below, I’ve tried to follow a couple of rules:

-No songs specifically created to be teaching tools.  There are a million of these, and some have artistic value in their own right, and some… probably retain a touch of educational value in spite of themselves.  But I wanted songs that were inspired by science rather than required by it.

-A limited number of songs from any one genre or artist.  A limited number of songs about any one science.  If you saw my music collection, you’d understand that this rule is necessary to avoid The Post That Never Ends.

Starting with my own field, I love Dar Williams’ Press the Buzzer.  If ever a psychology experiment was created to inspire folk singers, it was the Milgram Shock Study.  The song, like the experiment, is about the costs of blindly following authority, both to others and to one’s own conscience.  She gets the central details of the study right, but I always twitch at the end.  “Do you know what a fascist is?” may scan, but doesn’t belong in any self-respecting debriefing session!

Another famous psychology study is Pavlov’s discovery of classical conditioning in dogs.  They Might Be Giants use this in Dinner Bell as a symbol for… whatever early TMBG songs are usually symbolic of.  It’s an awesome song, regardless.

If you know They Might Be Giants, you’re now wondering why I didn’t mention The Sun instead, which contains actual scientifically accurate details.  See my first rule—Here Comes Science may be the best educational album ever, but it was created specifically to teach.  Besides, I’d only just gotten it out of my head when you brought it up.  “The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace…”

If we’re looking for astronomy songs that do follow the rules, Jonathan Coulton’s I’m Your Moon is a good place to start.  It’s a love song from Charon to Pluto.  I think the de-planetizing of Pluto was entirely justified, but this song makes me cry.  Don’t even say it.  Holst is on my side; his famous symphony, The Planets, only goes up to Neptune. Eighty-three years later, Colin Matthews snuck Pluto in, only to be contradicted by the International Astronomical Union in 2006.

Spreading beyond the solar system, both Monty Python’s Galaxy Song and Barenaked Ladies The History of Everything (song starts 40 seconds in) are more properly descriptive from a scientific standpoint.  In spite of the title, though, don’t count on the latter for the order of events.  “The bipeds stood up straight, the dinosaurs all met their fate…”  Actually, there were bipedal dinosaurs.  Not the first thing most people think of, though.

The floor is open to discussion.  What have I left out?  (Nothing wrong with The Comment Thread That Never Ends.)  Do you prefer the more poetic songs, or the more descriptive ones?  And why are there so few good songs about biochemistry?

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