You may notice that January is well on its way to completion. The first week of January I was otherwise detained, interviewing researchers at the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C. The astronomers I interviewed were exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful in contributing to my master's thesis, an essay-like consideration of advances in black hole astrophysics in the last 20 or so years. But more on that in upcoming publications.
Let me take you back to a bit of the AAS conference. Consider this a post-event blog, training for the future.
Monday, 4 January 2010
By now you've seen the headlines on Kepler's five exoplanet discoveries, which Bill Borucki announced at the AAS. I think I speak for many when I say that the approximately 4-Earth-radii exoplanet discovered is not nearly as intriguing as planet Kepler 7b (about 16.5-Earth-radii), which has the density of Styrofoam. As Borucki said in his presentation, it’s something for the theorists to chew on.
For those in the journalism business, however, the most memorable event at this meeting is doubtless the roast for former AAS press officer Steve Maran, now officially retired and “replaced” (Rick would demand the quotation marks) by Rick Feinberg. Maran has been press officer for . . . well, roughly as long as I’ve been alive — okay, that’s only a little less than a quarter century — and press releases just will not be the same without his name in the contact info byline. Few if anyone can remember a time without Maran; as Neil deGrasse Tyson said that evening, repeatedly with multiple variations and much bluster, "How old ARE you?!"
Journalists often talk about their duty to the public. Knowledge to the masses, and all that. (I’m not arguing with the professed duty, mind you.) Well, AAS Executive Office Kevin Marvel caught Maran on tape giving “some fishing advice,” i.e. a description of the mission statement of press officers, which, as he was so good as to share it with us, I thought I would share with you:
“If you’ve ever been fishing on Chesapeake Bay, you see — you can even actually see it from shore — a blue fish feeding frenzy. The blue fish discover some little fish . . ., and you see all this popping and bubbling on the surface. That’s what you want to create with the reporters and wire services”
—at which point the laughter cut out the rest of the recording.
May it be a lesson to all journalists, scientists, and those in-between.