The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for the ‘space’ Category

“Skeptics Under the Stars 2013” Event in July!

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 16, 2013

If you happen to be in the upper Midwest in late July, I invite you to attend an event hosted by the Women Thinking, Inc: it’s called Skeptics Under the Stars (or SUTS)! Here’s more information…

SUTS 2013

Do you love astronomy, skepticism and the outdoors? You can enjoy all of that at once at the Third Annual Skeptics Under the Stars, a star party camping trip hosted by Women Thinking, Inc!

This year’s trip will include special guest Nicole Gugliucci, otherwise known as the Noisy Astronomer.

Like in past years, we’ll be staying on a private lake in Delavan, Wisconsin at the beautiful McIntyre Resort and visiting the Yerkes Observatory at Lake Geneva. Unlike past years, it will be the middle of summer so …there will be no need for winter coats. You can expect lots of astronomy, food, booze and great company.

To find out more and to get your ticket visit http://womenthinking.org/suts.html

If you have any questions, just send a facebook message to Jamie Bernstein or email her at jamie@womenthinking.org

Posted in skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NASA Debunks Mayan Doomsday Prophecies… AGAIN

Posted by mattusmaximus on December 10, 2012

*Sigh* I’ve said it before, but it is worth saying again…

The World is NOT Going to End on December 21st!!!

[In case you know anyone who thinks it will, please refer them to willtheworldendin2012.com :) ]

Incidentally, if common sense isn’t enough, and you happen to have some poor deluded family member or friend convinced they cannot come out of the basement until after the planet has been turned into a mutant-populated, radioactive hell, you could consider sharing this well-written article with them:

NASA says world won’t end in 2012 despite Mayan  calendar

mayan calendar

We’re less than a month away from the so-called end of the world, but NASA  says you don’t have anything to worry about.

Earlier this month, NASA posted a list of frequently asked questions about  why the world won’t end in 2012, like some believe the Mayans calendar  indicates.

The post explained that Earth has been getting along fine for the last 4  billion years and there is no threat to our planet this year. …

But how can those egghead geeks at NASA be so sure?  Well, there are these things called “logic” and “reason” which tend to give validity to arguments such as this:

… But just as your desk calendar ends on Dec. 31 and world keeps going on, the  same goes for the Mayan calendar, NASA explained. Just before you run out of  pages doesn’t mean life as we know it will cease to exist. …

Personally, I cannot wait until December 22nd.  Because then there are going to be a LOT of people with a LOT of egg on their faces, just like all the other times the world was predicted to end and it didn’t.

In fact, regarding all the doomsday predictions ever made in the past, there is one thing they all have in common: They were all dead wrong.

Posted in astrology, doomsday, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Farewell Neil Armstrong, and Thanks for That “One Small Step”

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong died today.  The first human being to ever set foot on another world – the Moon – died today.  It is with more than a hint of nostalgia that I write this, because as I reflect back upon my 40 years of life I have to marvel at the fact that humans walked on another world before I was even born!

Let’s hope we can get back “out there” even more, for the sake of Neil’s memory and the future :)

In closing, I can think of no better way to close than by referencing this amazing obituary for Neil Armstrong from The Economist Magazine:

Obituary

    Neil Armstrong 

Aug 25th 2012, 20:38 by T.C.

ASTRONAUTS do not like to be called heroes. Their standard riposte to such accusations is to point out that it requires the efforts of hundreds of thousands of backroom engineers, mathematicians and technicians to make space flight possible. They are right, too: at the height of its pomp, in 1966, NASA was spending about 4.4% of the American government’s entire budget, employing something like 400,000 workers among the agency and its contractors.

But it never works. For Neil Armstrong, who commanded Apollo 11, the mission that landed men on the moon on July 20th 1969, the struggle against heroism seemed particularly futile. The achievement of his crew, relayed live on television, held the entire planet spellbound. On their return to Earth, the astronauts were mobbed. Presidents, prime ministers and kings jostled to be seen with them. Schools, buildings and roads were named after them. Medals were showered upon them. A whirlwind post-flight tour took them to 25 countries in 35 days.

As the first man to walk on another world, Armstrong received the lion’s share of the adulation. All the while, he quietly insisted that the popular image of the hard-charging astronaut braving mortal danger the way other men might brave a trip to the dentist was exaggerated. “For heaven’s sake, I loathe danger,” he told one interviewer before his fateful flight. Done properly, he opined, spaceflight ought to be no more dangerous than mixing a milkshake. …

Read the rest of the obituary here

Posted in space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Mars Science Laboratory Landing: Science – It Works!!!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 6, 2012

I, like many of my fellow humans on planet Earth, am simply bursting with joy, excitement, pride, anticipation, and (pardon the pun) curiosity after the successful landing of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the Red Planet.  This was a big deal, for a number of reasons outlined at this link, but for me this remarkable acheivement can be summed up in one quick phrase:

Science – It Works!!! :)

Image source and caption: In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from a second batch of images sent from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. The video screen was inside the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team inside the Spaceflight Operations Facility for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California August 5, 2012.The rover landed on the Martian surface shortly after 10:30 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday (1:30 a.m. EDT Monday/0530 GMT) to begin a two-year mission seeking evidence the Red Planet once hosted ingredients for life, NASA said. REUTERS/Courtesy NASA TV/Handout

Image source and caption: Aeolis Mons (unofficially Mount Sharp), as seen from Curiosity.

And if that isn’t cool enough, check out this Youtube video of the descent of the MSL towards the surface of Mars taken from the lander itself!

**Note: I want to give a shout out to my FB friend Rob for inspiring the title of this blog entry :)

Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“We Are Star Dust” – Symphony of Science

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 12, 2012

Astrophysicist and science/skeptical activist Neil deGrasse Tyson is working on a re-release of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, and this nicely autotuned Youtube video clip from melodysheep clearly shows why he is the right person for the job :)

Posted in scientific method, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NASA Video Crushes Mayan Doomsday 2012 Predictions

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 14, 2012

The fine folks at NASA have put together a nice, quick video debunking the claims of doomsday related to the supposed end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012.  Check out the video over at Life’s Little Mysteries…

NASA Crushes 2012 Mayan Apocalypse Claims

by Natalie Wolchover, Life’s Little Mysteries Staff Writer

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have put out a new video to address false claims about the “Mayan apocalypse,” a non-event that some people believe will bring the world to an end on Dec. 21.

In the video, which was posted online Wednesday (Mar. 7), Don Yeomans, head of the Near-Earth Objects Program Office at NASA/JPL, explains away many of the most frequently cited doomsday scenarios. [See video]

Addressing the belief that the calendar used by the ancient Mayan civilization comes to a sudden end in December 2012, and that this will coincide with a cataclysmic, world-ending event, Yeomans said: “Their calendar does not end on December 21, 2012; it’s just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. It’s just like on December 31, our calendar comes to an end, but a new calendar begins on January 1.” …

Read the rest at Life’s Little Mysteries

 

Posted in astrology, doomsday, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Incredible Time-Lapse Footage from the International Space Station

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 8, 2012

I came across this Youtube video recently of time-lapse footage from the International Space Station’s low-light camera, and it was so awesome I just had to share it.  This video is breath-taking in its artistry, beauty, and it also speaks to the power and utility of science to illustrate our world to us in a manner inaccessible otherwise.

Enjoy the show! :)

Posted in space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“A Glorious Dawn” in Honor of Carl Sagan

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 11, 2011

We’ve made yet another journey around the Sun, and once again the annual celebration of Carl Sagan’s life and legacy is upon us.  If you have never read his pivotal work, Cosmos: A Personal Journey, I highly recommend it.  Sagan and his work was responsible for encouraging so many people, like me, into pursuing science and the study of the natural universe with a sense of awe and wonder.  As a quick tribute to Carl Sagan, I would like to share with you a very popular music video from YouTube called “A Glorious Dawn”, which is based on one of the key ideas in Cosmos

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe…” :D

Posted in skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Come See Some Heavenly Bodies at the 2nd Annual Skeptics Under The Stars!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 4, 2011

[**Update: We will be offering grants to deserving hopeful attendees who cannot afford to attend. Please contact Elyse Anders at elyse@womenthinkingfree.org to be considered.]

For anyone who likes skepticism, astronomy, camping, Bigfoot, hiking, drinking, and campfire stories, boy have I got the event of the season for you – it’s the 2nd annual Skeptics Under The Stars outing!!!  If you are anywhere in the Midwest during the weekend of Oct. 21-23, consider joining the Women Thinking Free Foundation as we journey to the lovely backwoods of Wisconsin in an effort to get educated on the science of astronomy, tour the world-famous Yerkes Observatory, get liquored up around a cozy campfire, and search for Bigfoot in (where else?) Bigfoot State Park – and things won’t necessarily take place in that order ;)

Read on for more information – we hope that you can join us…

This year’s trip will include special guest Nicole Gugliucci, otherwise known as the Noisy Astronomer.

Like last year, we’ll be staying on a private lake in Delavan, Wisconsin at the beautiful McIntyre Resort and visiting the Yerkes Observatory at Lake Geneva.

McIntyre Resort:
N 6471 Milwaukee Rd.
Delavan, WI 53115

——————
Tentative Schedule of Events (subject to change):

Friday Oct 21
Get to McIntyre Resorts at any time prior to 9pm to set up camp
9pm: Meet at Yerkes Observatory for a private tour

Sat Oct 22
Morning: Breakfast at the campground (provided by WTFF)
Afternoon: Bigfoot hunt at Bigfoot Beach State Park
Dinner: Dinner at the campground (Provided by WTFF)
Evening: Fun with the Noisy Astronomer

Sun Oct 23: Leftover breakfast and packing up the campsite
—————–

Ticket Prices:
$55 for only Saturday night -or-
$75 for both Friday and Saturday night
Children under 10 are free!
You can buy a ticket at this link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e4ytf2y520f4f802&llr=ewyi8mfab

What is included in your ticket price?
- Camping site costs
- Yerkes Observatory tour
- Breakfast and dinner on Saturday
- Getting to camp with the Women Thinking Free Foundation and Nicole Gugliucci
- Wine, beer and other adult winter drinks (mulled wine, peppermint schnapps cider, bailey’s hot chocolate, etc)
- Camping snacks and smores
- Boats (seriously…there are boats we can use at our private lake!)

What do I need to bring?
- Tent
- Sleeping Bag
- Warm Clothes (it will be VERY cold!)
- Flashlights
- Telescope (if you have one)

What happens if you don’t own one of these items?
It’s ok! Many people do not own their own tent or sleeping bag, but there are others that either are willing to share their tent or have extra camping supplies. Please use the comments portion of the facebook event to ask for any supplies you don’t own. If you’re unable or having trouble finding a tent or sleeping bag, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org and we’ll help you out. No one should not be able to attend just because you don’t own the right equipment!

Need a carpool?
It’s ok if you don’t have a car. There are many people driving in from various cities like Chicago. Use the comment portion of the facebook page to ask for a ride. If you have trouble finding a ride, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org and I’ll help you out.

Pets and children welcome! Last year we even had people bring a motor home. If you have any questions about what you can and cannot bring, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org

Want to come, but not really into the camping thing? McIntyre Resorts has two fully equipped cabins and a heated loft. The cabins cost $125/night and I’m not sure of the price for the loft. The cabins and loft are right where we are camping so you won’t be left out of any activities. For questions on the cabins and loft or to book them, call McIntyre Resorts at 262-728-9313 and tell them you are calling for the Women Thinking Free Foundation event. They are first come first serve.

There also will be some electrical outlets. We’ll have to share them, but just know that there will be ways to charge your phone (we’ll be camping but we at least want to be humane about it).

RSVP’ing on this facebook page does not get you into the event. You must buy a ticket at the following link: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e4ytf2y520f4f802&llr=ewyi8mfab

If you have any other questions, email jamie@womenthinkingfree.org or message Jamie Bernstein on facebook.

Posted in cryptozoology, skeptical community, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More High Resolution Images of the Apollo Moon Landing Sites

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 7, 2011

We’ve been here before, and I’m sure we’ll be here again, folks.  NASA has just released a set of even higher resolution images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the Apollo 17 landing site (see my previous blog entry on earlier images here), which shows – yet again – more evidence that human beings really did go to the Moon!  Here are the images…

Clearly visible are equipment left on the Moon’s surface (such as the base of the lander which is casting a clear shadow) and numerous tracks left by the astronauts’ footprints in the lunar regolith.  And here is a magnified version of the above image, centering on the base of the lunar lander itself:

Image credit: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera

[**Aside: Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has an excellent analysis and specific breakdown of these newest images here.]

Sadly, this probably won’t stop conspiracy-minded Moon hoax theorists from spinning their usual nonsense denying the fact that we sent humans to the Moon (see this excellent analysis by Bad Astronomy of the Moon hoaxer claims).  That’s because, no matter what evidence is provided (even including high-resolution images of the landing sites and human footprints on the Moon), these conspiracy theorists will attempt to rationalize it away, such as by invoking the all-powerful Conspiracy (i.e., all the images are faked, except – of course – the very images the hoaxers use to claim the Moon landings didn’t happen).  Case in point, just today I received the following comment on an earlier blog post on this matter:

Haha – your photo’s prove the fake – look closely at the image of the Apollo 14 landing site and you can see the the LM has no height profile compararive to it’s shadow – thankyou for the proof – hahahaha. Also the eagle landing module has a shadow the shape of a christmas tree. Why would that be?

Of course, one can see clearly in the higher resolution photos above of the Apollo 17 landing site that there is an obvious height profile compared to the shadow of the lander base.  As for the Eagle lander having a “shadow the shape of a christmas tree”, one should note that what was left behind on the Moon was the base of the lander, not the entire lander structure with the descent module attached (because, duh, that part brought the astronauts back).  It’s details like this the conspiracy theorists overlook in their zealous attempts to simultaneously deny reality and spin some kind of fantasy world where they are clued in to what’s really going on.

I’m content to allow these whackjobs to continue spinning their tall tales that fly in the face of mountains of evidence, including their utterly abyssmal understanding of physics (see the Bad Astronomy link for more on that).  Meanwhile, the rest of us can sit back and enjoy the fact that we still have the right stuff :)

Posted in conspiracy theories, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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