Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't forget your heels the next time you head to the lab

Last Thursday, the EU Commission released a promotional video entitled “Science: It’s a Girl’s Thing!” in attempt to draw more young women into scientific fields.  Due to overwhelming negative responses, it was removed within 48 hours. 

Here's the video:

I was dumbfounded after watching this.  How did anyone expect this ad to be a success? I can quickly categorize my frustration:

Portrayal of Women (in Science)
What female scientists trot around in high heels and miniskirts?  Ever heard of close-toed shoes in the lab?   I agree that there should be more of an effort made to encourage young women to become interested in science, but illustrating this with models in makeup  just emphasizes an already prominent gender line in many areas of science.  Where's the gender equality when you need it? This video didn't need to endorse gender stereotypes, and yet it delved into the worst ones.  Also, with the exception of a model writing an equation, there was no involvement of women actually doing science in this video. 

Portrayal of Science
I know, I know, people think science, they think "microscopes, beakers, oh boy!" (wordplay intended), but why is the European Commission endorsing this?  Science is so much more -- let's advertise this!  I would have loved to see science portrayed as the pursuit of curiosity and discovery and critical thinking.  

When it comes down to it, I'm upset mostly about the fact that the European Commission thought this was a well-crafted and successful ad.  Kudos for taking it down so quickly.

An interesting article written by Elizabeth Newton on Astrobites (and links to other articles on the topic) can be found here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Every Year Should be the International Year of Astronomy

2009 marked the International Year of Astronomy, a global celebration of Astronomy and its contributions to society and culture.   Throughout the world, there were special lectures, activities, and projects galore that celebrated the wonderful science of Astronomy and commemorated the 400th year of Galileo Galilei's use of the first telescope.  Today I started working on updating the International Year of Astronomy's Observing Guides to be applicable to any future year.   For each month, there's a special guide with an overall theme that includes objects to observe, current NASA missions, stories, photos, etc.

When looking at objects to observe in the springtime, I came across this photo of the Whirlpool galaxy, also known as M51.  This was the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) image from July 24, 2000.  It's a beautiful spiral galaxy, 23 million miles away, and 65 thousand light years across.  To put this in perspective, the distance from Earth to the Sun is just 8 light seconds!  I couldn't stop staring at this photo; not only is the spiral particularly beautiful in this image, but the interaction with the second galaxy on the left is especially cool.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

NASA's video of the Transit of Venus

The video was taken in optical light as well as ultra-violet light, allowing us to get an even better (aka AWESOME) view of the Sun and Venus.

(Thanks, APOD!)

"Why I Became an Astronomer" by Phil Plait

Great article by "Bad Astronomy" blogger, Phil Plait.

"Bad Astronomy" is a Discovery Magazine blog that has a lot of interesting posts on astronomy, space science, and just science in general:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Finishing up my first week

It's been a busy and wonderful week at the ASP!

Tuesday was the final transit of Venus until 2117! The ASP had an event at UC Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science.  Throughout the afternoon and the late evening, there was an array of viewing stations with solar telescopes set up and wonderful ASP staff members to help and explain the transit.  Over the course of the day, we estimated that there were a couple thousand or so people at the event! It was a wonderful day, and very exciting for everyone.

I've included some of my favorite snapshots:

(Can you see Venus??)

I spent the rest of the week researching and adding to my multicultural astronomy document, and helping the office out with a mailing.  (I found the postcard addressed to Neil deGrasse Tyson - so fun!).  I also worked on my application to get funding to go to the annual ASP meeting, with this year's theme as "Communicating Science" - hopefully everything will work out!  Had an interesting staff meeting today; very cool to see the non-profit and fundraising side of the ASP.

All in all, a great first week!

Monday, June 4, 2012

First Day at the ASP

Today was my first day as an intern at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific!  After a wonderful tour and introduction to the office, I got to work.  One major focus of this summer is researching and preparing materials on multicultural Astronomy education.  An interesting article on the subject can be found here.

I spent today researching Native American Astronomy traditions, legends and activities.  It's been so much fun; I got to read a myriad of folklore on astronomical topics, and all were very interesting.  I've started compiling this information in a document that is broken up into five sections: legends/folklore, videos, journal articles, activities, and useful links.  My hope is to be able to add to this document throughout the summer, make similar documents that pertain to other cultures, and using these,  maybe put together a small program that might include a folk tale with accompanying videos, activities, etc so that they can be more easily used in an educational setting.

For some samples of Native American sun-related folklore, check out this

Tomorrow, I'll be going with the rest of the ASP crew to help out with a transit of Venus event at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA.  This is the last time you'll be able to see a transit of Venus in your lifetime -- the next transit will be in 2117!  To learn more about the transit of Venus and find a viewing time (depending on location), check out this

Looking forward to the rest of my summer working here!