Podcasting Workshop

[This was originally posted on yorkuniverse.com, and copied here for posterity’s sake. It is authored by both myself and Lianne Manzer]
On May 24th, 2014, York Universe hosts Lianne Manzer and Jesse Rogerson travelled to Montreal to present at the Genomes To/Aux Biomes Special Workshop on Science Communication. It was a half day workshop prior to the beginning of the Genomes To/Aux Biomes conference (a biology conference). With years of experience as radio hosts on York Universe, Lianne and Jesse were invited to create a hands on workshop that teaches the development of scientific podcasts for the attendees of the biology conference. Here is the title slide to the presentation:

The title slide to the podcasting workshop. Note the dropbox link. By following that link (click here), you can access some of the resources Lianne and Jesse used during the workshop.

The title slide to the podcasting workshop. Note the dropbox link. By following that link (click here), you can access some of the resources Lianne and Jesse used during the workshop.

The workshop was designed in three parts:
1. A formal presentation by Lianne and Jesse
2. Building a script, recording your voice
3. Editing with Audacity.
The first part was designed to give the participants some insight into how they should be thinking when building a podcast, i.e., researching, writing a script, story telling, documentation, communication with listeners. The second and third parts were designed to get the participants to actually attempt to build their own recording and edit it in the workshop.

Lianne and Jesse laughing at the front of the room while the attendees record their podcasts.

Lianne and Jesse laughing at the front of the room while the attendees record their podcasts.

Jesse helping an attendee work with Audacity.

Jesse helping an attendee work with Audacity.

The workshop was a huge success, as was the rest of the Science Communication Workshop; this included panel discussions and another break away group on blogging and social media.

Why teach scientists about public outreach?
There are a lot of good reasons for designing a workshop like this. Communication is an important part of ANY field, in whatever form it takes. In academia, people are constant drawn upon to write about, present about, or animate their results so that others in the research community can learn what you have done, and incorporate it accordingly in their own work. Science is built on the open source concept wherein you reach into the grab bag of work that has already been done, add your own experiment/twist/look at it, then send it back for others to do the same. It’s a wonderful system that requires good communication skills. By working to find the most important facts of your work and making it palatable for the public, you are also honing your ability to clearly and concisely communicate your work to the academic world as well. Therefore, by participating in public outreach, you are training yourself to better communicate with the layperson AND your peers.
It is also important to note that scientists have a duty to inform the public of what it is working on, because basic science has a huge impact on engineering, development, and future social connections. The public has a right to the knowledge scientists develop as it is funded by public dollars (for the most part).
Finally, public outreach is fun. It is a wonderful feeling to have someone excited about your field to talk to.

Hosts of York Universe

Recently, York Universe (the online astronomy radio program I co-host) celebrated its 200th episode. This video was put together by hosts Shah and Jen as part of the celebration. It introduces you to some us who work on York Universe, and also makes a pitiful attempt to embarrass us with trivia questions… it worked. Enjoy.

Science Slam: The Extreme Universe

[This post is co-written by Jesse Rogerson and Lianne Manzer.]

The Ontario Science Centre holds four or five star parties each year, in collaboration with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Toronto Faction). These are always free events, and are great for both newcomers to the world of astronomy, and also to seasoned vets interested in doing a little outreach. Included in a Science Centre Star Party is a chance to see through some great telescopes (thanks to RASC), participate in various small science experiments/demonstrations, and watch some experts give presentations on various astronomy topics. On 12 July 2013, the Science Centre added a new element to the Star Party equation: the Science Slam. The structure of a Science Slam is, rather than having 1 presenter give a public talk, multiple presenters compete for the most entertaining presentation (by audience applause). The Science Slam structure is growing in popularity (mostly overseas, watch this EinsteinSlam out of Germany). This format of public outreach forces presenters to think of what is not JUST educational, but also entertaining.

The theme of the Ontario Science Centre’s Summer Star Party & Science Slam was the ‘Extreme Universe’ (happily in accordance with their new planetarium show launching this fall). There were four presentations for the slam: Extreme Distances presented by Randy Attwood (of SpaceRef), Finding Exosolar Planets presented by Lisa Esteves, Globular Clusters presented by Ryan Marciniak (of Astronomy in Action), and finally, Gravity in the Extreme, presented by Lianne Manzer and Jesse Rogerson. Here’s the promotional poster for the event:

This is an advertising poster for the July 12th Star Party and Science Slam at the Ontario Science Centre

This is an advertising poster for the July 12th Star Party and Science Slam at the Ontario Science Centre

Both of us (Lianne and Jesse) do research in the field of Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) (you can read Jesse’s Research Blog, or check his work here); AGN are powered by super massive black holes, which possess the most extreme gravitational fields possible. Since the the theme of the science slam was the ‘Extreme Universe,’ we decided gravity was a fun topic to cover. The presentation we designed was created to step people up from the gravity they know (Earth’s gravity), to the most extreme gravity possible (a black hole’s) by using simple demos and analogies.

The Presentation

We started by demonstrating Earth’s gravity (1g) by simply dropping two objects of similar size, but different mass, and explaining how gravity accelerates objects of different mass equally (check out the most ultimate version of this test here). We then compared Earth’s 1g to Kepler 22b‘s (roughly) 2g by creating what we called the Gravity Sim 22000; GS22000 was just ankle/wrist weights and two backpacks full of textbooks desgined to make someone of roughly 100lbs feel as if they were 200lbs. Our volunteer loved it! The next step was the Sun’s gravity (30g), and then on to a White Dwarf’s gravitational field, which is 10 000g. In order to demonstrate the difference in magnitude between 1g and 10 000g, we compared the difference in magnitude of a burning match, to the explosion of a hydrogen balloon. A Hydrogen balloon explosion gives off about 10 000x more energy than a match, which is the same difference in magnitude of the gravity of Earth compared to the gravity on a White Dwarf. Here’s a pic of me exploding the balloon:

Exploding a balloon full of hydrogen gas for onlookers at the Ontario Science Centre's Star Party & Science Slam. Photo Credit: Frankie Yau

Exploding a balloon full of hydrogen gas for onlookers at the Ontario Science Centre’s Star Party & Science Slam. Photo Credit: Frankie Yau

Finally, we finished up our presentation by comparing Earth’s 1g to a black hole’s 1E16g (that’s 100 00 000 000 000 000g). That’d be the same difference in magnitude of a match compared to an atom bomb!

Why we do it

I loved the format of the Science Slam, because not only do I get to have a lot of fun with topics I find VERY interesting, but the audience has a bunch of fun as well. We all get excited about different things: some love movies, some love comics, some enjoy drawing, some like making models, some enjoy exercising, or hiking, or exploring, or geocaching…. I could go on. Everybody has SOMEthing. And what’s better than sharing that experience with others? It makes your own interests that much better when other people are enjoying it with you. That’s why we like talking about what happened in TV shows, or books…it’s why we have friends. This is exactly why I like presenting science to people. When I present, I’m telling people why I find astronomy so interesting. Hopefully, they will find it just as interesting as I do!

After the Science Slam, and after I got home, I tweeted this pic of all the cool stuff I got for presenting

After the Science Slam, and after I got home, I tweeted this pic of all the cool stuff I got for presenting

Public Talk: A Tour of the Solar System

The title slide to my talk at the Pickering Naturalists club, 05 June 2014 @ 7:30pm. Click the picture, or here, for a PDF of the slides.

The title slide to my talk at the Pickering Naturalists club, 05 June 2014 @ 7:30pm. Click the picture, or here, for a PDF of the slides.

Bok Walk and IRAF Art

Using IRAF to make art

Weird output in IRAF. We use a program called IRAF to monitor the observing as we go. We use it mostly to check the shape of stars while we focus. If you look at this image, you’ll see what shape a star should look like in the above plot (i.e., round). But every once in a while, IRAF spits out some weird things, like the above image. It’s fun to hold on to.

On the Bok Walk

A shot of me on the Bok Walk, an balcony with a great view!.