Heads Up!

Dara O’Brien and Brian Cox dealt us fun tonight as BBC’s Stargazing Live hit primetime. An unusual combo, I admit, but there is much to pay attention to. The series kicks off with humour and facts… lots of facts. It’s nice to be told about the principal moons of Jupiter and I really like the details about each. they are personalities. Anyway… I’m going to think about the best bits and how these feed our ability to teach properly.

He speaks the truth when Dara admits to feeling like an eight year old when looking down the telescope for the first time of the night. Who doesn’t. We all feel so much better when it’s our turn to do something.

Some awesome pictures used in this episode too. Let’s not get scared over the technology. They are just pictures and we can all get the best pictures we can when we ask the right people. Splendid to see that many of the pictures were very recent, whether from Mars or South America. Pull in those contacts and make the most of how we got these. If you took pains to get them, make sure people know about it.

Same goes for theĀ  lovely models used to demonstrate conjuction. It only works when you see it from the right point of view. Easy to do if you have the camera and so easy to replicate with a webcam in the classroom. And talking about webcams… We know we can take photos of the night sky but you tell me how many people have just Googled ‘free webcam stacking software’ tonight after seeing how cool the pictures look after the noise is removed. A great demonstration of averaging used on any dataset.

But for me, I’m afraid it’s the stories that make the science come alive. I’m currently reading about the metaphysics of time travel drawn from science (some of it fiction). It’s stuff that I’m familiar with so it was great to see the debunking of science fiction done in such a delicate way, drawing on the examples we’ve held sacred forever, the way the Millennium Falcon banks and swerves in Star Wars, Star Trek’s warp speed, Sunshine and spaceship sounds. Although, I disagree with Brian about the latter. The last Star Trek movie made a great show of silence in space without it looking cheap. Anyway, these are the things we relate our science to. We should use them to teach with.

When we actually look at science, it’s the history of it we should be most familiar with but we’ve let it pass us by. Yes, the 1972 Apollo images of Earth look great but how many of the other probes that were mentioned are people actually familiar with? They all have stories to tell from the people that made them for whatever reason to their journey through the Solar System. I want those stories told and context for each.