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March 2009 Archives


The first ever Report on the State of Birds has been released. the description from the project Web site:

Birds are a priceless part of America’s heritage. They are beautiful, they are economically important—and they reflect the health of our environment. This State of the Birds report reveals troubling declines of bird populations during the past 40 years—a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems. At the same time, we see heartening evidence that strategic land management and conservation action can reverse declines of birds. This report calls attention to the collective efforts needed to protect nature’s resources for the benefit of people and wildlife.

The full report and video overview of the project are available on the State of Birds Web site: http://www.stateofthebirds.org

New thirty minute video reflects on Why Is Science Important, watch it here:

Why is Science Important? from Alom Shaha on Vimeo.

You can share your thoughts on why science matters, submit your thoughts and ideas to the [Why is Science Important Web site.

(Transcendent Man, a documentary on the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, will premiere on April 25 in NYC. Learn when and where tickets are available, here.)

I first met Ray when I was about 24 yrs old, working at Discover Magazine (then owned by Disney). He patiently talked me through the tech behind his outrageously cool Kurzweil Keyboard and we set forth to put it on display at Disney's Epcot. Here we are today, five years later (give or take 10 yrs). I asked Ray to field questions from Science Cheerleader subscribers, and Bart's readers, regarding his wildly controversial Singularity predictions. And now for the answers to the questions you posed to Ray right here. (Thanks, Ray!).

Here are my responses. Please confirm receipt and indicate if this meets your needs. These were good questions which I enjoyed answering.

Best, Ray
Read the rest of this entry »

Additional information can be found at: sci_cheer_logo_type.jpg

Professor James Trefil (author of Science Matters, Why Science?, and 30 other books on science literacy) identified 18 key science concepts every adult should know to be a science literate. We're here to help make this FUN! It's all part of our Brain Makover project to increase adult science literacy. Here's concept #1, explained by Professor James Trefil. We'll post one each week (more or less).

Professor James Trefil explains:

Drop a ball and it falls. Drop a pencil and it falls. Drop a book and it falls. When you let something go, you expect it to fall, and would be amazed if it didn't. This is an example of a very deep truth about the universe--that it behaves in regular and predictable ways. It is this fact that makes science possible.

One of the oldest sciences--astronomy--was developed when our ancestors realized that the movements of objects in the sky would repeat themselves over time. The same constellations would be in the sky every spring, the sun would come up behind a particular hill on the shortest day of the year, and so on. The construction of monuments like Stonehenge are embodiments in stone of the principle of regularity.

Discovering regularities in nature requires that we observe the phenomena around us. This is the beginning of science, the first step in the scientific method. Once we understand what the regularities are, we can think about what the universe must be like for us to see those regularities (i.e. we can build theories). We can then use those theories to make predictions about what will happen, then observe nature again to see if the theories are correct. Science begins and ends with observation.

Additional information can be found at: sci_cheer_logo_type.jpg


A worldwide exhibition of large-scale astronomical images has launched in the United States under the banner of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). The "From Earth to the Universe" (FETTU) project is designed to bring the undeniable beauty of astronomy to the general public in a series of free showings across the country, which have begun with a traveling image exhibit now open at Tucson International Airport in Arizona.

FETTU is a major project of both the US and global efforts for IYA2009. With images taken from both ground- and space-based telescopes, FETTU showcases the incredible variety of astronomical objects that are known to exist - planets, comets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, clusters, and more. The exhibit also shows how some of these objects look different when viewed across the electromagnetic spectrum, from the ultraviolet and visible light to infrared, X-rays and gamma rays.

FETTU is being shown in non-traditional public venues such as parks and gardens, shopping malls, metro stations and airports in major cities across the world. The FETTU images have been selected for their stunning beauty to engage members of the general public who might normally ignore or avoid astronomy. With short, but informative captions on each panel, the goal is introduce some basics of the science involved once an individual has been drawn to the image.

In the US, FETTU is being sponsored by NASA and will appear in semi- permanent installations in Atlanta and Chicago later this spring. The traveling version of FETTU, with its first stop in Tucson, will then move to Memphis in April. More FETTU locations are being planned across the US and an enhanced schedule is being developed.

Several editions of FETTU will also be appearing in the San Francisco and the Bay Area beginning in May. The funding for these comes from to NASA's Lunar Science Institute, the Fermi and Swift missions through Sonoma State University, and several other organizations. Also, the NASA IYA Student Ambassador program is facilitating a FETTU exhibit in Madison, Wisc.

With NASA support, FETTU panels for the visually impaired are being prepared. The caption material for all of the images in the US collection of 50 images is available in both English and Spanish.

"It's very rewarding to see FETTU taking shape across in the United States thanks, in large part, to NASA," said Kim Kowal Arcand of the Chandra X-ray Center and principal investigator for the NASA FETTU grant. "It's also amazing to see how it has taken off around the world."

With 2009 underway, FETTU is already being showcased in a variety of formats - both as physical installations and digital displays - in over 40 countries around the globe. These worldwide exhibits have been funded through a variety of local resources and are organized by each individual location. For a full list of known FETTU exhibits - both in the US and internationally -- visit www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/table_events.php.

FETTU is one of 11 global cornerstone projects being supported by the International Astronomical Union's IYA2009 efforts. To learn more about IYA2009 internationally, the cornerstone projects, and other activities please visit www.astronomy2009.org.

Additional information on the US plans and programs for IYA can be found at www.astronomy2009.us


At least 1 out of 6 Europeans, 2 out of 5 Americans, and 1 out of 10 people worldwide have never seen 90% of the stars in our night sky. With half the world's population now living in cities, this problem is only getting worse. Yet you can easily be part of a local solution to a global problem.

Shed light on light pollution! Take a few minutes to monitor your local night sky brightness, place your measurement on-line noting your location, date and time and within a few weeks see a map of light pollution levels worldwide.

Be part of the "GLOBE at Night" citizen-science campaign and make a world of difference! The GLOBE at Night campaign runs March 16-28, 2009. Help preserve our natural heritage for generations to come. Find out more information at the GLOBE at Night web site (www.globe.gov/GaN ). GLOBE at Night is an official International Year of Astronomy Dark Skies Awareness cornerstone project.

To learn more about other IYA2009 Dark Skies Awareness cornerstone projects and the effects of light pollution, visit the links on www.darkskiesawareness.org .

Mar 4, 2009, Paris

The Galileoscope -- a high quality, easy-to-assemble and easy-to-use telescope at an unprecedentedly low price -- is now available to order. A Cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), the Galileoscope was developed by a team of leading astronomers, optical engineers and science educators to make the wonders of the night sky more accessible to everyone. Orders can now be placed through www.galileoscope.org for delivery beginning in late April.

iau0906a.jpg By encouraging the experience of personally seeing celestial objects, the Galileoscope project aims to facilitate a main goal of IYA2009: promoting widespread access to new knowledge and observing opportunities. Observing through a telescope for the first time is an experience that shapes our view of the sky and the Universe. It prompts people to think about the importance of astronomy, and for many it's a life-changing experience. Galileoscopes will open up a whole new world for their users and are an excellent means of pursuing an interest in astronomy during IYA2009 and beyond.

Galileoscopes are available at the incredibly low price of US$15 per kit. Discounts are available for group purchases of 100 or more, bringing the price down even lower, to US$12.50 each, reducing costs for schools, colleges, astronomical societies, or even parties of interested individuals. Never before has such a high quality and professionally endorsed scientific instrument been available for this price.

To further this aim, the Galileoscope Cornerstone project has initiated the "Give a Galileoscope" programme. Participants may buy Galileoscopes for themselves, their families, or their friends at the regular $15 or $12.50 price (depending on quantity) plus shipping, and/or donate as many telescopes as they'd like for $12.50 each, with no shipping charges. Donated Galileoscopes will go to less advantaged schools and other organisations worldwide, especially in developing countries. This will help bring a modern education to students in poor schools and empower them to pursue science and technology knowledge. Donating Galileoscopes increases the project's global impact and gives people who might otherwise never have the opportunity to look through a telescope the chance to join millions of skywatchers worldwide in a shared experience of astronomical discovery.

The Galileoscope is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, who first observed the heavens through a telescope 400 years ago. His observations were nothing short of revolutionary and changed our view of the world forever. The Galileoscope is optimised to provide views of the very same objects that inspired Galileo all those years ago- including craters and mountains on the Moon, the rings of Saturn, the phases of Venus, a variety of star clusters, and moons orbiting the planet Jupiter. Sights such as these astounded Galileo and they are all visible, along with countless other objects, through the Galileoscope. Although, with its 21st-century optics, it will provide a much better observing experience than Galileo had!

Galileoscopes are also invaluable educational tools, tying in with topics such as mathematics, physics, history and philosophy. As practical instruments they can be used to demonstrate basic optical theory in a real-world scenario, a technique often praised by educators and pupils themselves. Free educational guides are available on the project's website, providing further information to teachers, students and enthusiasts. Experience has shown that the "Wow!"-factor that kids get from assembling their own fully functional, high quality Galileoscope is unsurpassed.

"The ability to experiment with lenses while building the telescope offers a much more powerful learning experience than receiving a preassembled telescope," says Rick Fienberg, Editor Emeritus of Sky & Telescope magazine and Chair of the IYA2009 Cornerstone project. "Users will learn many aspects of optics and even have a chance to construct two types of telescopes - a modern one and a more primitive one similar to Galileo's," adds Stephen Pompea, US IYA2009 Project Director and member of the IYA2009 Cornerstone project. "Building and using a Galileoscope gives kids the feeling that science is fun."

Galileoscopes are easy to use, sturdy, reliable and well-designed windows to the Universe. Orders are now being taken through the official website, www.galileoscope.org. Build one and the stars will be within your reach!

Worldwide observing projects with small telescopes are a key part of the Galileoscope Cornerstone. The "You Are Galileo!" project, organised by the IYA2009 Japan National Committee, uses classroom telescopes along with worksheets and manuals to form part of a year-long observation programme. These are designed for children and certificates are available for participants who send records of their observations to the "You Are Galileo!" team.

Notes for Editors
The Galileoscope is a high quality 50-mm f/10 telescope, with a glass doublet achromatic objective. A 20-mm Plössl-like eyepiece with twin plastic doublet achromatic lenses gives a magnification of 25x across a 1.5-degree field, and a 2x Barlow lens (also a plastic doublet achromat) gives a magnification of 50x. The Barlow lens can also be used as a Galilean eyepiece to give a magnification of 17x and a very narrow field of view to simulate the "Galileo experience". The standard 1.25-inch focuser accepts commercial accessories, and the standard 1/4-20 tripod adapter works with any standard photo tripod (not included).

In addition to the IAU, UNESCO, the IYA2009 Global Sponsors and the IYA2009 Organisational Associates, principal sponsors of the Galileoscope project include the American Astronomical Society, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the National Science Foundation, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Carthage College, Merit Models, Photon Engineering, Sky & Telescope, and Galileo's Place, home of Galileo-brand telescopes.

IYA2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first astronomical observations through a telescope. It is a worldwide celebration, promoting astronomy and its contribution to society and culture, with events at regional, national, and global levels.

Galileoscope website: www.galileoscope.org
IYA2009 website: www.astronomy2009.org
You Are Galileo! web site: www-irc.mtk.nao.ac.jp/~webadm/Galileo-E/

For more information:
Dr. Richard Tresch Fienberg IYA2009 Galileoscope Cornerstone Project Chair Andover, USA Tel: +1 978 749 4753 E-mail: rfienberg@galileoscope.org
Dr. Stephen M. Pompea US IYA2009 Project Director/Chair, US Telescope Kits Working Group National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, USA Tel:+1 520.318.8285 Cellular: +1 520.907.2493 E-mail: spompea@noao.edu
Dr. Kazuhiro Sekiguchi National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo Tel: +81 42 234 3955 E-mail: galileoscope@astronomy2009.jp
Further contacts
Pedro Russo IAU IYA2009 Coordinator ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany Tel: +49 89 320 06 195 Cellular: +49 176 6110 0211 E-mail: prusso@eso.org
Yolanda Berenguer UNESCO Focal Point for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 UNESCO HQ, Paris, France Tel: +33 1 45684171 E-mail: y.berenguer@unesco.org
Dr. Karel A. van der Hucht General Secretary, International Astronomical Union IAU Secretariat, Paris, France Tel: +33 1 43 25 83 58 E-mail: K.A.van.der.Hucht@sron.nl
Lars Lindberg Christensen IAU Press Officer ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany Tel: +49 89 3200 6761 Cellular: +49 173 3872 621 E-mail: lars@eso.org