Redux: Auditing Astronomy Class

This was first published in Dec 6, 2011 — it was originally a guest post, Cameron wasn’t yet an LWONer — and was honorable-mentioned for the American Institute of Physics’ 2012 science writing prize in the New Media category. Her mom sounds like a doll. I’m not sure exactly where this story begins, but maybe it’s […]

SHE?

My first interviews for this current astronomy story were with the astronomers I’ve known and known of for decades — whose research I’ve followed, whose talks I’ve attended, whom I’ve interviewed, as I said, for decades.  The astronomers were what they have been likely to be:  men. Astronomer:  Werk looked at other metal lines.  She […]

Things that Smell

My nose has been extra-sensitive lately. I can catch dog food at a hundred paces, both the kitchen and my still-diaper-wearing kids’ bedroom feel like odor minefields, and I have to walk along the lineup of barbecues at the nearby park with my shirt over my face. It’s a good thing I’m not an astronaut.

Union and Reunion

Splendid, isn’t it. It’s UGC 8335 — one name, so once it was apparently mistaken for one thing though obviously it’s two. They’re spiral galaxies in the process of running into and through each other. This is a photograph by the Hubble Space Telescope; the galaxies are really there; this is real.  You could think […]

Giving History the Finger

The middle finger of Galileo’s right hand is a satisfying sight. Not because the resemblance to an obscene gesture is unmistakable (though that’s pretty amusing). And not because such a gesture might suggest that in the end a scientist who suffered persecution for the sin of being correct had gotten the last word—well, two words (though that would be amusing, […]

Anti-Copernican Shock

[NOW WITH NEW VISUALIZATION:  see below] Planets around other stars, exoplanets, have given me a long-running case of boredom – how long can you sustain OMG LOOKIT THAT PLANET HAS TWO SUNS? not long.  I keep writing about them anyway.  I do it because 1) sometimes somebody pays me to; and 2) the planets may […]

Science Metaphors (cont.): Tidally Locked

I’ll go home tonight, I’ll open the front door, I’ll yell, “Hey sweetie, hi!”  Then Sweetie will yell, “Hello, young Ann.” I’ll look at the mail, then I’ll yell again, “Did you pick up the salmon?” And he’ll say, “Yep, it’s in the refrigerator.”  And then I’ll look over the mail and start to throw […]

Repeat After Us

I was reading the end-of-semester student essays in the Science as Narrative course I teach when one phrase stopped me. Stopped me as in, I didn’t go on: “Darwin was happy to be tasked with telling a fire by its ashes.” Was it an actual thing, I wondered, this “telling a fire by its ashes”? I […]