Wednesday, June 26, 2013

galaxy fireworks: midpoint

i'm pleased to report that the feeding, feedback, and fireworks conference is progressing at a productive yet relaxed pace.  i was going to write more here, but i decided instead to go snorkling with the turtles and stingrays during our morning off.   you understand ;)

you can read the informative tweets from the first two days: HERE.

i'll highlight just a couple items.  lisa kewly created a particularly useful graphic, which simultaneously summarized the complicated lives of galaxies that we will be discussing at the meeting, and initiated the new astromeme:  #AGNshark!

also, stuart ryder gave us a lesson in how to create acronyms for survey names!

in other news, my body has decided that i should not miss a single sunrise this week, and i'm glad it did!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

galaxy fireworks: conference organizing

this week i'm on hamilton island, one of the whitsunday islands amid the great barrier reef off the northeast coast of queensland, australia.

this is the view from my room.

the near-supermoon rising as the sun set on the opposite horizon.

oh right, but i'm actually here for a big international astronomy conference.  that i organised.  i almost forgot....

the conference is called "Feeding, Feedback and Fireworks: Celebrating our Cosmic Landscape" and takes place this monday through friday.   nearly 100 astronomers from around the world are arriving to discuss "galaxy evolution and how various feedback and feeding processes transfer energy into and out of galaxies. We intend to bring together observations, from radio to X-rays, and the best available theoretical models, to create a more complete picture of our cosmic landscape."  (and to enjoy the island, i suspect!).  

i'm incredibly pleased with the diverse array of speakers that will share their research and ideas this week.   we brought forward the topics of gender and geographic diversity when the scientific organizing committee discussed candidates for invited speakers, and i'm pleased to report that of our 18 invited speakers, exactly half are women!   this is incredibly rare among professional astronomy conferences.   as you can see in this plot i swiped from the american astronomical society, the typical percentages of total female speakers is less than 30%.  i marked the overall percentage of female speakers (37%) at this conference with an orange line.

with regards to the recent issue about the fifth dotastronomy conference, where a shocking 7% of the women who registered for the conference actually submitted abstracts to give talks, for the galaxy fireworks conference, nearly everyone who registered to attend, male and female, asked to give a talk (97%).  i think many people justifying an investment in a trip this far want to give a talk in order to get financial support, in addition to contributing to the productivity of the meeting, of course.   also, our registration website probably made it seem that abstract submission was non-negotiable.

organizing a major conference is no small feat and i couldnt have done it without a capable and reliable committee helping out.  i've tried to choose an alluring location to get people interested, and nearly 50% of the attendees are flying in from overseas!   i can give more details on suggestions for those of you organinzing big conferences in the future, but i want to wait until the event actually happens so i know which ideas were a success and which turn out to be failures.

so far, i'm pretty happy on this tropical island :)

not sure how much i'll be able to post this week as i'll be fairly distracted, but you can follow me (@astropixie) or the conference hashtag on twitter: #GalaxyFireworks.

UPDATE: report from halfway through the conference.
UPDATE: a trip to the great barrier reef after the conference.
UPDATE: the perseus cluster of galaxies.
UPDATE: conference photos

Thursday, June 20, 2013

the true measure of justice

a quote from nobel peace prize winning burmese opposition leader aung san suu kyi:

"the true measure of the justice of a system is the amount of protection it guarantees to the weakest."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

frequency and vibration visualized

nikola tesla said "if you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration." 

the video below shows the "chladni plate experiment" which beautifully visualizes complex patterns that form as a result of resonant vibration on a solid surface.  this experiment is achieved by connecting a metal plate to a speaker then, sprinkling sand on the plate's surface, change the pitch (frequency measured in Hertz (Hz)) of sound that vibrates the plate, and watch the sand jump into the resonance pattern that results from each different sound wave vibration.  

the patterns are beautiful, and i particularly like the transitions between different frequencies.   5201 Hz is my favorite pattern!

this is what the chladni patterns for a square plate look like:

chladni first performed this experiment by running a violin-type bow along the side of the metal plate to find the resonance, so it shouldnt be as much of a fascinating surprise as i found it to be to see these patterns on a violin's surface!

a similar thing happens to guitars, mandolins, cellos, cymbals, etc. super cool.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

the woodcut moon

this is a very nice piece of art, which must have required steady skill and patience to create.  i also like the sense of humor shown in the last image of "the moon".

Thursday, June 13, 2013

planetary trio

an astronomy picture of the day that shows an amazing image of the recent planetary conjunction visible in the northern skies.

this compilation image was created by chris kotsiopoulos and shows (from left to right) the close-together planets of jupiter, venus, and mercury.   also shown is the stacked digital image is the star elnath.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

better than sinatra

tropfest is a large short film festival.  the finals of australia's version are held in sydney each year at a big park where everyone gathers to watch all the finalists.   there is a signature item that must be included in the video entries each year.  this year's item: balloon.

one video that i particularly liked this year is called better than sinatra and introduces raymond borzelli.  he struggles in his everyday life to pay bills and afford proper food, but he comes alive when he walks around the streets of sydney listening to the music of local buskers.

this video was directed and produced by jefferson grainger.  unfortunately, i cannot embed the video and i hope internationals can watch it at THIS LINK.  enjoy! 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

you are stardust

you are stardust is a beautiful picture book that i intend to own before too long.

the book harbours art and poetry inside.

be still.  listen.
like you, the earth breathes.
your breath is alive with the promise of flowers.
each time you blow a kiss to the world, you spread pollen that might grow to be a new plant.

Friday, June 7, 2013

professional female lego figures!

i just learned about Cuusoo - a platform where people can propose new LEGO ideas!  if a proposal gets 10,000 votes, then lego will consider producing the product for the masses.

i just found a set of designs to introduce professional female figures.   yes! if you like them, go VOTE NOW!

here is an astronaut, an astronomer, and a laboratory scientist:

a falconer (kinda random, but very cool!), a geologist digging, and an engineer building a robot!

a zoologist, a judge, and a mail carrier (who looks like a superhero)!

if you like these, go HERE and vote using the green button at the top right.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

dirty space news: albedo libido

today's installment of dirty space news asks the question: does albedo affect libido?   that's how i interpret this research by aomawa shields and collaborators, anyway!

the way a planet's climate behaves is caused by many factors, one of which is the the kind of light that shines from the star around which the planet orbits, and how this light reflects of the planet's ice and water.  the amount of light reflected is called "albedo" and can be thought of as measuring the "whiteness" of the planet.

this paper tests how different kinds of light from a parent star can affect different layers of the planet's atmosphere, and well, changes in the model dont appear to affect libido ;)

their models also appear to have found some creepy duck clown face thing with a looming monster.   i dont claim to understand this part of the research at all!

thanks to alex parker for the dirty tip on twitter.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

does alien life exist?

i'm convinced the answer is yes.  the thing to understand is that the universe is GARGANTUAN, so the likelihood of actually communicating with alien lifeforms that we may find will be extremely difficult.

my friend and colleague, simon o'toole, explains the science behind finding planets around other stars (exoplanets) in this veritasium video.  while simon's explanations are great, the random people on the street that are asked "what is a galaxy?" and "what is a light year?" give answers that are fairly depressing.

i certainly have my (new) job cut out for me!

dont forget what to do if you should happen to be the first human to ever make alien contact!

Monday, June 3, 2013

being direct

this is a quote from mark nepo in the book of awakening. i havent read the full book, but i enjoyed this:

we waste so much energy trying to cover up who we are when beneath every attitude is the want to be loved, and beneath every anger is a wound to be healed and beneath every sadness is the fear that there will not be enough time.

when we hesitate in being direct, we unknowingly slip something on, some added layer of protection that keeps us from feeling the world, and often that thin covering is the beginning of a loneliness which, if not put down, diminishes our chances of joy.  

it's like wearing gloves every time we touch something, and then, forgetting we chose to put them on, we complain that nothing feels quite real.   our challenge each day is not to get dressed to face the world but to unglove ourselves so that the doorknob feels cold and the car handle feels wet and the kiss goodbye feels like the lips of another being, soft and unrepeatable.  

via literary jukebox.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

seeking assistance

at a recent event in the US, heather skye asked patrick stewart a poignant question: "Besides acting, what are you most proud of that you have done in your life?"

without hesitation, he talked about how his personal childhood experiences have influenced the (non-acting) work he has pursued in his adulthood.

for his mother, he works with an organization called refuge which provides safe houses for women and children trapped as victims of domestic violence.  it's frightening how quickly a domestic situation can get out of control. just a few months ago i read a disturbing story in time magazine - photographer as witness: a portrait of domestic violence.  it is not clear what causes domestic violence to occur, from individual socioeconomic and psychological factors like substance abuse, mental illness and unemployment, to patriarchal cultural values.  but what matters is that those affected need to be able to find a safe escape and those responsible need to be held accountable and offered assistance to recover.  

for his father, patrick stewart works with the organization combat stress which helps war veterans deal with the intense psychological wounds that result from being in the armed forces.  post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is anxiety that can affect anyone who has been through or witnessed a dangerous event - natural disasters, road accidents, active combat, etc.  as a society, it's time we began talking about the mental health of those around us: friends, family, coworkers, everyone.

it's worth listening to patrick's full response.   a touching video...