BAN #181: New season of "How the Universe Works" is on now, Take a science vacation

06 January 2020   Issue #181

[Spiral Galaxy M81 image credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona]


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Note: I decided to extend the 20% discount for an annual subscription to the newsletter by a day, so I could give y’all one more chance to sign up. It goes back to the regular price tomorrow!


Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

Hey nerds! I’m quite pleased to let y’all know that Season 8 of How the Universe Works is now airing on The Science Channel! The first episode, a two-parter about asteroid impacts, aired last week, but we have plenty more coming. As usual, you’ll see my big lumpy head jabbering on about one aspect or another about the cosmos, and our attempts to understand it scientifically.

I’m also quite pleased about the asteroid episode, because this time I was more than just a talking head: I contributed to writing it! This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Although I hosted and ad-libbed a lot on Phil Plait’s Bad Universe (based on my book “Death from the Skies!”), I wasn’t technically a writer on it. I was credited for Bill Nye Saves the World, though (I was the Head Science Writer for season 1; weirdly IMDB has me listed for only 1 episode and I’m not sure how to fix that). I also wrote and hosted Crash Course Astronomy, and wrote and did the narration for the ALMA Top Ten Countdown which just completed last week, though.

I like writing for video, especially for TV. It’s fun, and — not to be too crass — it sometimes pays well. I’ve done consulting work on some movies and TV, too (like Arrival, Salvation, and a big movie coming up I can’t say anything about… yet), and while that’s fun, and I want to do a ton more of it, there’s something about actually creating the content in the first place that’s a little more special.

… especially when it’s an astronomy show like HtUW. I’m thrilled they let me do some work on the structure and writing of the asteroid show. It reminds me that writing for TV is tough but rewarding, especially given the challenges of the medium. And there is nothing like seeing someone saying the words you wrote, channeling your own viewpoint on the screen. That’s a thrill I’ll never tire of.

So please watch the show — check your local listings for air times. Thanks!


Upcoming Appearances/Shameless Self-Promotion

Where I’ll be doing things you can watch and listen to or read about

My wife and I run a company called Science Getaways, where we organize vacations with a twist: We add science to them! We try to make these trips ones you’d want to take anyway, but with a ton of science on top of them.

We’re holding the next Getaway on 16 – 22 August 2020 at the Bar Lazy J Ranch in Parshall, Colorado. This is a guest ranch, what’s also called a dude ranch — it’s literally on the banks of the Colorado River, a beautifully scenic and bucolic area. Besides the usual outdoorsy ranch activities (listed in detail on the Science Getaways site) I’ll be giving astronomy talks during the days and taking out my ‘scope at night to show you the planets, nebulae, and galaxies up at that time of year. We also have my friend Dr. Holly Brunkal, a geologist who will be taking you on hikes to look at the local geology — we have a lot of that on Colorado — and also giving talks about her field. She’s aces, and a perennial expert on these trips.

[Credit: Bar Lazy J ranch]

You can get all the details on the SG page. I want to add that I know it seems, well, odd, to have a science vacation at a dude ranch. Trust me, I had to be talked into it when we first started these! But these places are magic. The food, the air, the scenery, the science… but most of all it’s the people who come that make these trips so great. I cannot stress that enough: The folks who attend change these trips from just another vacation into one that’s just really special. We’ve had strangers become lifelong friends at these events. It’s just like that.

We also keep the number of attendees to around 30 or so, so everyone gets a chance to meet everyone and keep it personal. But that also means space is limited, so if this sounds like something you want to do, I hope to hear from you soon!


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[Is this the start of a new decade or not? Spoiler: It is. Details in Tuesday’s post. Credit: Phil Plait ]

Monday 30 December, 2019: The trail of Phaethon

Tuesday 31 December, 2019: 2010s or 2020s? Some decadent thinking.

Wednesday 01 January, 2019: A globular cluster for the new year: M22

Thursday 02 January, 2019: Fireworks for the New Year: The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks tomorrow!

Friday 03 January, 2019: NGC 4455: A nearby galaxy that’s the stepping stone to the Universe


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!