Thursday, January 30, 2014

communication strategies

i gave a talk on communication strategies at the dotAstronomy 5 conference.

Title: How Do You Organize a Party in Space?  You Planet.

Abstract: So you want to engage the community, inspire students, promote your research, and/or advertise your brilliant web-based innovation so more people use it.  How can you do this?   What are the best ways to promote your project?  And maybe most importantly, how do you measure your impact so you can report your successes and seek further financial support?  First, you define a communication strategy, and then you use all the tools available to you to achieve those goals.  I will discuss ways to go about doing these things.

you can watch the below or check out the slick player on the website that also shows tweets as they happened and various links i referred to throughout.

Amanda Bauer - Communication Strategies: How do you Organize a Party in Space? - .Astronomy 5 from Robert Simpson on Vimeo.

the points i'd like to stress most:

tell the story of whatever you are trying to convey to the audience; don't just give facts and conclusions.

consider the audience - it's not about you, it's about your audience!  giving a presentation is your opportunity to share your fascination about a topic with the audience and empower them to wonder "why?" about the same questions.  but taking the audience along the journey of the same result should most likely be presented differently for groups of different levels.  it's not appropriate to recycle the same old talk for every audience!

do not use jargon or words/terms/acronyms that only specialists will understand.

use appropriate technology to tell the story you want to tell.  while certainly fun sometimes, the question is not always "how can i use this fancy new technology?"  the question should be "i have this great story to tell about my work, which technology will best help me visualise what i want them to see?" 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

severe sky

being a storm chaser is scary work, but you capture some amazing photos in the process!

Photo by Mike Hollingshead 

Friday, January 24, 2014

the art of astrophysics

MIT has initiated a contest called the art of astrophysics so you can share your views of just how beautiful the universe can be.   categories are:  data visualization, movies and animation, astrophotography, painting/drawing/print, poetry/music/rap, sculpture, timelapse photography, dancing, fiber arts. 

now for some inspiration and then get submitting!


the original eames Powers of Ten video (1977)

The Big Picture as featured on APOD.

Credit: Dennis di Cicco/Sean Walker


Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

The Humble Telescope (link)


"Pluto, the Previous Planet" hacked together in one day by astropixie and the transneptunian objectors at dotAstronomy 3.



Crochet model of hyperbolic plane by Daina Taimina

Thursday, January 23, 2014

supernova calling

roughly one supernova explodes in a galaxy every one hundred years.

telescopes scan the sky regularly for changes which could reveal objects like asteroids moving quickly across space or stars exploding as supernova in distant galaxies.  even with advanced technology, sometimes the automatic telescopes miss things, and a supernova that exploded in nearby galaxy M82 yesterday is one such example!

it turns out an astronomy class at the university of london observatory were imaging M82 and noticed a bright spot that didnt look familiar!

here is a before (top) and after (bottom) shot showing the bright supernova in the dusty spiral galaxy viewed from its side.

The supernova in M82
Credit: UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright
This supernova appears to be a Type 1a, meaning it was a white dwarf star that gravitationally pulled in enough gas from a neighbouring star, that it became too dense and exploded.  precisely how this happens is still a mystery, which is one of the many reasons why this relatively close explosion is so exciting!

The M81-M82 galaxy pair live in Ursa Major near the Big Dipper.
Sky and Telescope
if you live in the northern hemisphere, get your binoculars ready! the light from this stellar explosion has been traveling to us for 115 million years, and it hasnt reached its peak brightness yet!  so iver the next two weeks, have a look with binoculars or telescopes and try to spot the it

galaxies M81 (left) and M82 (right) through the milky way's haze (Credit: Ivan Eder)
here's a lovely image of M81 and M82 from APOD last year.  the fuzzy stuff that appears to be floating the space in the image is not associated with those galaxies at all.   after exposing for 25 hours, the photographer managed to capture the faint glow of the cirrus dust clouds in our own milky way galaxy.   beautiful!   

Monday, January 20, 2014

siding spring obs fires: one year later

watching the natural process of regrowth around siding spring observatory after the fires that swept through exactly a year ago has been fascinating.  AAO's zoe holcombe took all these photos and i put them together to directly compare the detail.   

the trees all look fuzzy!

Friday, January 17, 2014

dear daily mail

i'm surprised to realize i havent posted this brilliant impromptu song of amanda palmer's here.

the daily mail is an awful gossip rag in the UK and they published a predictable article about palmer that had nothing to do with her music or performance.  in this video, she tells the story of the article before singing the song she wrote as a response, called "dear daily mail."   it's wonderful!  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

dirty space news: aliens

i dont know who to give credit to for creating this cartoon, but i saw it in a tweet from i f*cking love science.  

it all makes sense now.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

what is the sun?

last year i was invited to be a consultant for a group of digital media design students at swinburne university in melbourne, who were tasked with making an animated astronomy video to answer a question asked by a student in africa.  the student asked "what is the sun?"

after seeing a first draft, i spent a few hours giving some suggestions, and the video below is the result of their hard work.   i think it's fantastic, although i must point out that i'm fairly sure my voice is a bit different than the one my character in the video possesses ;)

"Created by Christ Thompson, Kenneth Waples and Leigh Bennet, Jimmy and the Sun is a tale of a young inquisitive lad who has some big questions about science.  Jimmy has always wondered how and why, when and where, and with the help of super hero Astrophysicist Dr Amanda Bauer, is learning some of the biggest mysteries in the galaxy."

The Adventures of Jimmy from scienceqanda on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

pandora's cluster

this week i attended the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting near washington DC.   it has been cold. it was also the biggest AAS ever which made it one of the largest professional astronomy meetings in the world.

one of my favorite results comes through this gorgeous hubble space telescope image of a galaxy cluster, Abell 2744.

Abell 2744 (Credit: NASA/ESA/EFF)
the big fuzzy galaxies and lovely spirals mostly belong to the cluster, but there is a lot of dark matter and hot gas between those galaxies as well.   all that stuff acts like a lens and a magnifying glass to bend and distort the light from galaxies that live far behind the cluster.  the distorted galaxies look like long curved arcs.

these "gravitational lenses" are not easy to find, but you can help astronomers find them through the zooniverse project space warps.

read more about all the great physics and astronomy hidden in that image HERE.

now i get to jump on planes for the next 24 hours and return to summertime sydney.  it's been fun to enjoy this mini-winter, but i'm ready for some sun!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

i hope you make mistakes

a friend pointed me to a wish for a new year written by neil gaiman a few years ago.   it's lovely.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.