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Watch Men save the planet March 17, 2009

Posted by Sarah in random, women.
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I saw the film Watchmen last week, the adaption of a classic in the graphic novel genre with the same title by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It’s pretty enjoyable, especially if you’re in the mood for some great visual effects and gore. Lots of blood and bone-crunching. I’ve never been a big comic or graphic novel fan but I decided to read the book and in fact it’s really good! The drawings are beautiful and the writing is very imaginative with lots of depth. So if you want to know what the hype is all about but aren’t a fan of severed limbs and arteries then I recommend the book. I do want to say something about the female characters though.


Women and Science December 10, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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This article appeared in today’s Guardian, about the reasons why women leave science careers after their PhDs. I take this problem very much to heart and can often relate to the reasons why women quit science – and like most people, male or female, I’ve often considered it myself. But I get so …. tired … with the whole argument. Let’s look at this article more closely.

It’s now a month since Bhatti, 27, took her PhD viva and turned her back on lab work. She has instead moved into science policy and spends her days meeting with politicians and scientists, and drafting submissions for government consultations on anything from biofuels to genetically modified crops.


The costs of science December 4, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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On the back of today’s news conference at NASA, Bad Astronomer Phil Plait wrote a pretty scathing post on NASA record of cost overruns. I didn’t see this bit of the conference, but apparently NASA big boss Mike Griffin tried to convince the gathered press, and unsuccessfully I gather, that the James Webb Space Telescope project is *not* suffering overruns at a current cost of $4.5 billion. Its original estimated cost was $900 million. Interesting…


McCain vs. The Astronomers October 9, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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I think we astronomers are generally a gentle bunch. We fight hard for money from our governments for our pet projects, fully aware that our work ranks somewhere below fighting wars, drilling for oil, trying to prevent global financial meltdown, curing cancer and the like in the list of priorities for the national budgets.

But when a candidate in the US presidential elections, and in probably the most important elections the US has seen in almost half a century, singles out astronomy as a wasteful way to spend money, hey, that really pisses us off. That’s precisely what John McCain has done, not just once, not just twice, but THREE times, including twice on US national television, in the 2nd presidential debate that took place on Tuesday night.

What makes things worse, so much worse, is that he didn’t pick on Obama’s support for some obscure and esoteric observing project, but he criticised Obama’s $3m earmark for a new projector for the world-renowned Adler Planetarium in Chicago. I mean, it’s a planetarium! We all love those, and they play an absolutely fundamental role in getting people excited about science and the Universe. Furthermore, the projection technology used in planetaria (if they can pay for it!) is really state of the art – hardly an “overhead projector” as McCain charmingly called it.

Anyway I’ll stick to this short rant for today, but do follow these jumps to read more from Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, Jules Siegel on the Huffington Post, Alan Boyle on MSNBC’s Cosmic Log (with lots more links) and Julianne Dalcanton on Cosmic Variance.

UPDATE: The Adler Planetarium has issued a statement in response to Senator McCain’s comments. Read it here! (in PDF format)

Maybe an Exoplanet, but Hold Your Horses September 16, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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I was just about to publish a long post about this story that has appeared on various news websites (also here) and blogs (here). But then I read to the end of the press release and decided to have a look at the paper which was posted to the preprint server astro-ph – as astronomers usually do with new publications.

It says ‘Submitted to ApJ Letters‘. Ha.