BAN #39: Following Sophia, India’s crew, Talking exoplanets in Pennsylvania

August 27, 2018 Issue #39

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Follow o’ the Letter

Someone you should follow on social media

I met Sophia Nasr when I was giving a talk in Canada, and she’s one of those people who you just immediately know has a big future ahead. She was an undergrad at the time, and went on to study dark matter before she even had her degree. Now she’s working toward her PhD at UC Irvine, investigating dark matter in terms of particle physics and cosmology — the very small and the very big.

She has a passion for public outreach, which is cool because she’s good at it. On Twitter she commonly launches into threads about dark matter, and she has a talent for processing spacecraft images of planets. She also frequents Instagram with pix of her hamsters, which she named after subatomic particles, because of course.

[Sophia Nasr and Alisen Down on the set of “12 Monkeys”. Credit: Sophia Nasr]

I’m not above stating that I’m a little jealous, too: She consulted on the fourth and final season of the brilliant science fiction TV show “12 Monkeys”, helping out with some of the concepts of space and time (and the lack thereof) that were crucial to the plot in the last arc of the show.

On top of all that, another reason I dig her is that she’s a strong voice advocating for women in science and in general. In today’s culture that takes a fortitude that a lot of the men attacking women clearly don’t have. She suffers fools not at all, making sure the message of equality stands out.

All this, and she’s still just starting out. She’s part of a new generation of young women speaking up, speaking out, and doing so while still pursuing cutting-edge science. So give her a follow, and see where she’ll take you.

Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news that may be too short for the blog, too long for Twitter, but just right (and cool enough to talk about) for here.

This came as a surprise to me: India has announced they want to send a human to space by the end of 2022. That’s soon! But it turns out they’ve been working on this for a while, so it’s not like they’re starting from scratch. Sandya Hamesh has the details over at The Planetary Society Blog.

I’ll note I wasn’t the only one surprised by this: So were folks at ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation, their national space agency! You’d think that’s the kind of thing the Prime Minister would want to talk over with the experts before announcing, but perhaps he’s taking a lesson from Trump (and yegads, I certainly hope not). Apparently the chair of ISRO rolled with it, so good on him, but wow. I’ll be curious to see how this pans out.

Upcoming Appearances

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

If you’re in or near or will be traveling to Pennsylvania on September 12, I’ll be at Misericordia University giving a talk on exoplanets called “Strange New Worlds: Is Earth Special?” This is my newest talk, where I go over what we know about alien planets, and the potential for finding life elsewhere. The talk is at 7:30 p.m. in Lemmond Theater in Walsh Hall, and hey, it’s free!

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI 

This was an unusually good week for cool news and awsome photos.

Monday, August 20, 2018: Hubble goes deep and finds thousands of galaxies assembling when the Universe was young

Tuesday, August 21, 2018: CONFIRMED: Water ice on the Moon! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018: Weighing an alien exoplanet by watching it throw around its star

Thursday, August 23, 2018: Clair de Lune: Watch a lush music video of lunar highlights

Friday, August 24, 2018: Another Hubble stunner as it paves the way for JWST

Et alia 

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