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Showing posts from January, 2012

AAS Day 4

I had the best of intentions to get to Robert Kirshner's talk on "Exploding Stars and the Accelerating Universe" (an interesting topic to begin with, but I also know he's a good speaker) but I had to get gas and money before going in to the convention center so I didn't make it in time. The work he discussed is the research that led to the discovery of "Dark Energy" and was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. I knew that was research that would eventually be awarded a Nobel but what I wasn't sure of was how they were going to choose *who* to award given the large number of people who contributed to the discovery (a lot of projects are done by research teams). In the end it was awarded to Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam G. Riess as team leaders. Hopefully someday I'll be seeing some of my co-workers getting that prize after figuring out what dark energy actually is with HETDEX!

I didn't have volunteer duty in the morning so …

AAS Day 3

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I started off the day a little late (again) but had a chance to get a few photos of friends at posters before heading to my first session.


Drs. Mary Kay Hemenway and Chris Sneden and the SOFIA Teachers with their research poster.

I designed the poster above, so I had to get a photo of the authors with it!

The first session I worked was also one that I was interested in anyway - "Professional Ethics in Astronomy: An Ongoing Dialogue". One of the panelists was a professor at my university many years ago, but I'm pretty sure he didn't remember me. The discussion was very interesting and it makes me really glad that I don't have to deal with a lot of the issues that some of my colleagues do! I wish I had taken more detailed notes on the actual talks and resulting questions and conversations but my laptop battery was low. Anyone interested in the topic should check out the Sigma Xi ethics publications. Unfortunately the session that is probably most related to my own …

AAS - Day 2

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This was the first full day of the meeting after the previous night's opening reception (which I decided not to attend). I skipped the 8:00 a.m. welcoming address and 8:30 a.m. invited session this day in favor of a few extra minutes of sleep.

My first volunteer session was on "Exciting Astrophysics: Supernovae, Relativistic Astrophysics, and Other Results I" and it was my first introduction to the system they have devised for getting the talks into all of the rooms from the central "speaker ready room". The idea is to have all of the speakers pre-load their talks in one central location and they are then piped to the appropriate room that is already set up with a laptop and projector (I was pleased to see all of the machines were Macs - both in the ready room and meeting rooms!) There were a few hiccups in that first session, but the a/v staff were able to get it ironed out before we were scheduled to start. Having run the a/v for MANY astronomy meetings, I w…

AAS 219 - Day 1

Before I get too far away from the actual event, I thought I would write up my experiences at this year's AAS meeting, the first I had fully attended since the late 1990s.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting returned to Austin earlier this month and I was able to volunteer for free registration. Because I fall in to a weird gray area in the astronomy profession (undergraduate degree and 15+ years employment in the field, but no PhD) I haven't been a member of the organization and even with membership the meeting costs are high. (They now have an educational affiliate membership category that I qualify for and I'm planning to join under it soon.) So working at the meeting seemed the best way to get a chance to attend. The trade-off is, of course, that I would have to work some sessions that I might not really be interested in and might miss some that I was. But given the way these conferences are scheduled it's pretty hard for everyone to get to everything t…

Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored

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I went over to the Harry Ransom Center last week to see a small display of historical astronomy texts (more on that later) and finally also saw their larger exhibition Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored shortly before it closed.

The exhibition focussed on the years between the world wars and the various organizations and methods that were employed to "to rid the country of offensive literature". I often find it hard to believe that things like this happened in our nation's history, but then I remember that during this same period, alcohol was banned by Constitutional amendment.

It seems that the rise of fascism, the outbreak of WWII and public Nazi book burnings took the wind out of the sails of organizations who had previously advocated doing the same thing in the United States. I loved this poster with a quote by President Roosevelt condemning book burning:



Of course, banning and/or challenging books, particularly in schools (e.g. this previous post), is still with …

Stop SOPA and PIPA!

I decided not to blackout any of my blogs or sites today mainly out of laziness (and fear that I'd totally screw something up) but I support those who did. I wrote my congressional representatives and I hope those of you in the US will do the same. I also want to take issue with those who claim that people who are against SOPA and PIPA are by default FOR piracy. Of course that is not the case, it's a false dichotomy. They (and I) are for reasonable IP protections that don't break the internet and prop up old business models that don't want to be dragged into the 21st century.

BTW, Lamar Smith (R-Tx), author of SOPA, was at the American Astronomical Society meeting last week and spoke for about 10 minutes before the "Science and Society" talk. Unfortunately he didn't take questions, but I was sorely tempted to yell out while he was trying to tell us how much of a nerd he was "Then why did you write a bill that could break the internet??".

If you …

My First Creation Debate

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As I was migrating everything back to this site from the science and skepticism one that I'm shutting down, I came across a few draft posts that I had never finished and published. This is one of a creation/evolution debate that I attended in April 2009. Thankfully I have notes that I typed up close to the event, so hopefully not too much is misremembered.



Well, my first live and in person creation debate, since I've watched them through the internet before. Unfortunately I didn't get around to typing up my notes until more than a month after the actual debate, so some of my recollections might be a little fuzzy now. Head over to Skeptiblog for Michael Shermer's write-up. (One small correction that I would make to Shermer's write-up is that the arena is primarily used for volleyball, not basketball... but that doesn't really have any relevance to the debate!)

My first reaction was to be a little surprised at the turnout. I know some people were organized church…

Importing posts from old blog

Apologies to anyone who follows this site with an RSS reader - you're going to get bombarded with a bunch of old posts I'm importing from my science blog that I'm merging in to (back in to, technically) this one.