On Astronomy

I realize that to date few of my posts have had much to do with astronomy. That may be because I'm not an active researcher anymore, but I think that it has more to do with me enforcing my own rule never to blog at the office, and when I'm home I've usually just come from playing vball, just finished watching a football game, or just pruned the pine trees. So that's what I write about, and the thoughts I had all day about planets, stars, astronomers, or observatories are gone by the time I start typing.

Anyway, here are some really random thoughts on astronomy and astronomers.

1) Great joke at the ASP meeting, and I apologize that I can't remember who said it so that I can attribute it properly. During the Q&A session after the talk by the IAU's press officer about the Pluto controversy, someone stood up and said (paraphrasing) -- all of us face the problem when we teach about the planet between Saturn and Neptune -- it is embarassing when you get up in class and talk about the rings around Ura... Anyway, we can solve both problems by just renaming that planet Pluto! This drew the most laughs by far during the whole meeting.

2) Two good quotes from Neil Tyson during a clip we were shown from the new Nova program -- first, he said that if Pluto were moved closer to the Sun, it would sprout a tail, which is completely innappropriate behavior for a planet. Next, when he aked a person during a "man on the street" segment if he had a question about astronomy, he told the guy, "There are only something like 6,000 astronomers in the world, so this is a one in a million chance to ask an astronomer a question".

3) We had a colloquium the other day by a classmate of mine -- we took our first observing class together. She just got a faculty job at WVU. A few points here -- it was great to catch up with her, find out she's doing well, and see another one of my classmates make it out of postdoc land.

4) More on Pluto -- it was just pointed out to me that the whole Pluto / dwarf planet / Kuiper Belt change has real implications in our high stakes testing K-12 educational culture. You know there have to be questions on some of these standard assessment tests in one of the states asking how many planets are in the Solar System. What does a teacher do now?

5) Apparently there are some cool results coming out of something I worked on in my thesis. Some collaborators are talking about proposing for follow up with HET -- I assume I will probably wind up as the nth author on any paper coming out from this. It continues to amaze me, but I've been published several times since I went cold turkey on research. I don't mind being out of research, but it is nice to keep the tiniest toe in the water. It will really be neat to see if we find the stars we're looking for (and by we I mean they) and come up with a fun result.


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