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Swimming In The (astro) Pacific

As a newly minted, 1 year old professor, this is the deep end of the astronomy edu cation pool...

The Phantom Of The Laboratory

We are fortune here at Science20 to have come across an early work by Gaston Leroux.  This...

Engineering Roleplaying

Hey, you got simulation in my roleplay! Hey, you got roleplay in my simulation! Wait, it's two...

Stars That Ring Like Bells

Time to ring in a new year with pressure waves.  We can see, but not, hear true sonic waves...

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Alex "Sandy" AntunesRSS Feed of this column.

Read more about the strange modern world of a day laborer in astronomy, plus extra space science-y goodness.... Read More »

NASA watch seems to have been first in noticing the way-cool Star-Trek Style NASA poster, cheerfully shown here in all its glory.  Yes, this is not your parent's NASA... no, wait, it is.  Star Trek also dates from the 60s.

NASA/Trek poster

It's a well-done poster, with great poses all around.  That's the crew for shuttle Expedition 21.  Until we build Star Fleet, I figure these people qualify.
Many people will write columns, fiction, games, et cetera for the joy of doing it.  But that leads me to an important distinction between writing versus publishing.  Writers-- good and bad-- will write for free.  History tells us that.  But a good editor won't, and publishing great works requires great editors.

In all the Web2.0 talk of removing barriers between creators and audience, the role of 'publisher' is often considered a dark ages legacy, fit to be abolished.  But the role of editor rarely is invoked, and I think that's a mistake.  Yes, the editor is the bane to writers, but they are a hidden blessing to readers.  
Not all job rejections are equal. Being turned down from the 'Wally the Whale' fish sandwich stop at age 17, for example, was probably a blessing in disguise. Also humorous, as it was my first 'overqualified' experience-- I'd had 2 year's work at a seafood market prior.

That said, some jobs you just want more than others. I'm only a few weeks into my attempt at transitioning to a salaried science writing/web gig. So far the news is mixed. And mixed, as all job-hunters know, means either 'indetermined' or 'bad'.

Having just gotten the 'call of doom' from the first off my "really want" job list, though, I must say there are many bright sides to this. Here's my top 5 list on why job hunting rocks!
Can you fly a house with balloons?  The recent Pixar movie "Up" does, but it's animated.  In the "Up" production notes, Steve May, the film's supervising technical director, writes

"It was important to the film to have fairly realistic balloon simulations.  The balloons behave in a realistic way, although the notion of being able to fly a hosue with balloons is pretty preposterous.  We're not physicists but one of our technical directors calculated that it would take on the order of 20 to 30 million balloons to actually life Carl's house.  We ended up using [...] 20,622 when it actually lifts off."
I've often talked about how amateurs still can make contributions in modern astronomy, making us unique among the sciences.  Well, 14-year old Caroline Moore became the youngest person to discover a supernova, through diligence and drive.  The story of her find of  SN2008ha is both a great character piece, and an example of what a motivated and skilled person can accomplish in 8 months. 
At parties, some people are intimidated when I say I'm an astronomer (or, worse, astrophysicist).  They assume I'm a haughty ivory tower genius who laughs at little people like them.  It's so hard to reassure them that, no, I don't laugh, I merely chuckle.  But I do feel it's my duty to help make life easier for the non-astrophysicists out there.

So, say you're at a party and you meet a famous astronomer.  It doesn't matter which one, we're all famous (or at least published).  Here are 6 things not to say.
  1. I'm an Aquarius, can you tell me my future?
  2. I'm angry because Pluto isn't a planet anymore!
  3. What will happen in 2012 when the Earth, sun and the center of our galaxy line up?