Presenting at the ROM

On 17 June 2013, I had the fortunate pleasure to give a presentation at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). I was approached by a friend of mine, Julie, who works at the ROM in the education department. She also organizes and oversees a program called OWLS (Opening Windows for Learning ). This is group of people who volunteer their time every monday on the floor of the ROM. They show the children various artifacts as part of the floor presence. After the OWLS have finished volunteering for the day, they then attend a talk given by various guest speakers. I was invited to be the guest speaker for the, so I put together a talk on the exploits of one Commander Chris Hadfield. Below you can see the title slide for the talk.

This is the title slide to the presentation I gave at the Royal Ontario Museum

This is the title slide to the presentation I gave at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The name of the talk, ‘Ground Control to Commander Chris,’ I actually stole from the show title of one of the recent York Universe** podcasts I helped put together (check out the episode here).

I had a great time presenting to the OWLS volunteers. My entire presentation was mostly based on the twitter of Hadfield’s (which you can follow here: @Cmdr_Hadfield). At the time of the presentation, Hadfield had tweeted just over 5000 tweets in total. In preparation for this presentation I downloaded and combed through all 5000 tweets looking for the best pictures I could find. That’s right….all 5000. It took hours. But this was worth it, because now I have a great 30 min presentation on (what I think are) the best tweets from space. These include pictures of Earth from the ISS, images of science experiments, sleeping quarters, and more. Seeing through the eyes of Hadfield has been a wild ride. I think we can all agree.

Here's a shot of me presenting for the OWLS at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Here’s a shot of me presenting for the OWLS at the Royal Ontario Museum. This slide is showing Hadfield’s profile page for his twitter account. The presentation was mostly built on the tweets/pics/videos from Hadfiel’s last 5.5 months in space. Image Credit: Judy Batay.

I like the way I’m pointing in this shot!

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** York Universe is a radio show I co-host/co-write. It is streamed live by www.astronomy.fm every monday night 9pm local Toronto time. You should definitely listen. More information at yorkuniverse.com

Music Monday with Chris Hadfield

Music Monday, a program run by The Coalition for Music Education, designed to use the power of music to highlight the role of music in children’s education, and to create a sense of community and unity in Canada. This year, Music Monday was held on 6 May 2013 and harnessed the celebrity nature of Commander Chris Hadfield, the Canadian Astronaut who is currently orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station (he is slated to de-orbit 14 May 2013). Apart from being a very accomplished academic, pilot, and astronaut, Hadfield is ALSO an accomplished and gifted musician. Before heading to orbit in December 2012, Hadfield co-wrote a song with Ed Robertson (of the Bare Naked Ladies). The song was called I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing); check out the youtube video. In that video, the song is actually recorded WHILE Hadfield is in space. Amazing.

For Music Monday, schools and science centres across Canada learned the lyrics to I.S.S. in preparation for a country-wide Earth to Space sing-along. The event was hosted by the Ontario Science Centre, where a live link to the International Space Station was set up. From there the event was also webcast for the rest of Canada (and the world) to participate. Here is an image from the Great Hall at the Ontario Science Centre.

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Near to 1000 people packed the room to see presentations from local schools, glee clubs, and of course the nation-wide sing-along. At 12:30pm EDT Chris Hadfield himself joined the festivities, seen here on the big screen (with his floating guitar).

2013-05-06 12.31.24Then for a brief 4 minutes just after 12:30pmEDT on 6 May 2013, Canada sang in unison (sorry about the bad video):

So much fun.

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Book Review: A Man on the Moon

A Man on the Moon, written by Andrew Chaikin, is the definitive recounting of the amazing journey the United Sates took From the Earth to the Moon.** I was given this book for my birthday by a good buddy. I’m very happy to have gotten it. I could not put it down.

Chaikin takes you on a trip through history beginning with the famous speech by John F. Kennedy where he commits the nation to ‘put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth before the decade is out,’ and ending with the final Apollo mission, Apollo 17. The book is a vivid recounting of each major mission in the apollo program. But Chaikin doesn’t just focus on the missions, but on the people who flew them, and the people who organized them. You get to learn about the kind of people the astronauts were, what their past was like, and how they delt with their trips to the moon.

What’s amazing is how Chaikin wrote this book. He interviewed 23 of the 24 men who were lucky enough to travel to and from the moon. Apparently each interview was hours upon hours. Chaikin used these interviews, along with many other texts/references to bring us back to humanity’s giant leap: how we did it, why we did it, what it was like, and how we’ve delt with it since.

In reading this book, it honestly felt like I was right there, back in the 60’s glued to a television screen as Armstrong took his first steps, as Lovell commanded Apollo 13 through its trials, as Conrad bounced around merrily, and as Scott dropped the Feather and the Hammer. This may have been because Chaikin wrote it much like a story, he includes dialogue, from the real missions. It’s as if you’re listening to the transmissions as you read.

This book inspired the HBO series ‘From the Earth to the Moon,’ produced by Tom Hanks. As Hanks was researching for his role as Jim Lovell in the film Apollo 13, he read Chaikin’s book. After completeing Apollo 13, Hanks moved forward with telling the rest of the Apollo story, basing the series almost entirely on this book.

I can’t say enough good things about it. I was completely hooked on reading it, and learned so much about a space age I never knew. Highly recommend reading.

Now I’m off to watch the HBO series!

Happy reading!

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** From the Earth to the Moon: the title of one of Jules Verne’s books, as well as the title of the HBO miniseries produced by Tom Hanks, based on the book of which this blog post is about.

The Future of Space Exploration

My latest video at the Ontario Science Centre (@OntScienceCtr) covers the new exhibit ‘Beyond Planet Earth: The future of space exploration.’ It’s a fantastic exhibit!

Space Food

mmmm dehydrated ice cream..