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We are enjoying Day 1 of my research group’s semi-annual writing retreat, this year at the visually inspiring Wildflower house at the Sundance Resort. Besides finally getting all the papers done we have been meaning to do all year, the retreat also gives us an opportunity to do some group professional development with an outside expert.
This evening, that expert was my spouse and science journalist Genevive Bjorn, who led us through a discussion of the Nature article “Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome” (Lander et al., 2001, Nature, 409, 860-921). This is the famous “first human genome” paper produced as part of the Human Genome Project. As a group of astronomers dissecting the 62-page foundational article of the field of genomics, we experienced the frequent perspective of scientists outside our field trying to understand our work.
Some time back I wrote a post on the reporting of astronomy and how it is frequently couched in violent or aggressive tones. The brilliant folks at IRrelevant Astronomy have fired their own salvo at this trend (see how easy it is to make astronomy violent?) with a great mockumentary on the making of an education film: “When Galaxies Collide”. You tell them, Felicia! Also starring Buffy Henshaw and Sean Astin (as an audiobook).
Here’s the video:
The folks at IRrelevant Astronomy have put together a new episode of their Robot Astronomy Talk Show that features yours truly (in fact, both good and evil versions of yours truly) It is based on our recent find of a very dim pair of brown dwarfs. If you haven’t checked out the various CG-driven videos put together by Michelle Thaller, Doris Doau, Linda Hermans-Killam, Robert Hurt and Jim Keller for the Cool Cosmos website then please do so. The site is chock full of great educational resources focused in infrared astronomy, including tutorials, games, images & videos, and classroom preparation resources. And the material is all very informative, engaging, creative and frankly laugh-out-loud funny. A model for 21st century science outreach and education.
NASA has just posted a press release on one of my recent results involving the very cold brown dwarf 2MASS J0939-2448. Based on observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based astrometry, we find this source to be one of the coldest brown dwarfs known (600+/-35 K) and, because of its overluminosity, an (as-yet) unresolved double. The paper appears in today’s edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters.
NASA Press release: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2008-232
Original paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/595747
PDF version of result: http://web.mit.edu/~ajb/www/papers/2008ApJ_689_L53.pdf
Recently NASA released a press report with the colorful title: “Death Star Galaxy’s Black Hole Fires at Neighboring Galaxy.” Death Star Galaxy? Does the administration know about this weapon of mass destruction? Is this a new member of the “axis of evil”? Should we fear the wrath of a rogue and aggressive galaxy?