Why we do Science and Storytelling

As I got the bus home this evening, I was proof-listening this week's compilation of the 365 Days of Astronomy episodes. I listen each week to check if my automatic script has created the show correctly (it has only failed once). I was particularly taken by two of the episodes this week both of which featured storytelling.

The first one was Monday's episode by Ben Lillie - a physicist who hosts a monthly science storytelling show in New York named The Story Collider. Ben's episode was a monologue about why we do science and makes for a good listen. I particularly liked his final quote:

And so this is what we do. We go out and explore because we have to, and when we go out there we find things we don't expect. And sometimes those things are beautiful, sometimes they're useful, sometimes they're evil, and sometimes when we find them we just look at that and say, "Huh. We needed to know that, and now we do."

The second episode I want to recommend is from today. It was created by Oscar, Cornelia, Katie, Connie, Abigail, Tom, Khairul, Ina, Jonah, Thomas, Andreas, Isaac, Isabel, Manveer, Solu, and Tatiana who are all students at the British School of Washington. They presented a series of their own imaginitive stories all with a space theme. The students are fairly young (4th form) and I think they've done a brilliant job with their episode. The purple aliens with orange spots of Planet 63 remind me of my childhood imagination.

This variety of voices, sharing a passion for the universe, is what I think the 365 Days of Astronomy is all about. So turn off the internet for a few minutes, get yourself a cup of tea, pull up a comfy chair, and give them a listen.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 28th Apr 2010 (23:28 BST) | Permalink


It is that time again; the UK's National Astronomy Meeting 2010. I may or may not blog depending on how busy I get but I will certainly be tweeting along with many others using the hashtag #NAM2010.

We've already had a series of nice images of baby stars in the Rosette Nebula from Herschel (a re-make of one shown on Rob's blog previously ), an animation of Saturn's aurorae taken "in-situ" by the Cassini spacecraft and an image of the GOODS-North field from Herschel. I couldn't find the last one online yet but you can keep up-to-date with Herschel's released images using the Online Showcase of Herschel Images.

Expect plenty more images and results this week.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 12th Apr 2010 (16:33 BST) | Permalink

Internet Representation

Firstly, a warning; this post is not about astronomy and even touches on politics so stop reading if that is likely to annoy (or bore) you.

I write this post after having followed the UK's Digital Economy Bill as it raced through several steps of the parliamentary process with very little engagement by Members of Parliament. Only around 30 MPs (of 646) bothered to take part in discussions about it on Tuesday night and the proponents of the Bill didn't really seem to understand these things we call the Internet and the world-wide web (kudos to the few MPs who did show that they understand the issues or had concerns about the rushed way the legislation was enacted with little time for sanity checking). My MP failed to show any interest in the Bill just as he showed little interest in my concerns over STFC. Anyway, all this got me thinking about representation in the digital age.

MPs represent a constituency in Parliament. Constituencies each contain roughly 68,500 voters. Traditionally a constituency is a specific geographical area but what if Parliament were to create an Internet constituency? Perhaps 68,500 UK voters could agree to be taken off the electoral role of their geographical constituency and added to a non-geographic constituency. The elected MP for this non-geographical constituency would be just like any other but would be representing people who live in an online world.

There are plenty of problems with such an idea. Who would organise and run the voting process? The Electoral Commission might be suitable for that job. Voting would have to be secure, full of safeguards to prevent fraud, and keep anonymity in the voting process. Getting your new Internet MP to do something about your local school/hospital etc would also be difficult (your local school isn't their local school) but then local councillors should probably be doing that sort of thing anyway. Would the population of the non-geographical constituency fluctuate too much for it to be viable? Would one such constituency be enough? Getting in touch with your MP won't be any harder and might even be easier given that they are likely to know how to use email and Twitter. There are likely to be many issues with such an idea but, given how useless my MP has been over the past few years, I'd be willing to give it a try for one term of Parliament.

Of course, this idea may just seem neat because it is past 4am and I can't get to sleep.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 08th Apr 2010 (04:35 BST) | Permalink
[an error occurred while processing this directive]