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Scientific Arguments

May 13, 2008 on 11:04 am | In Blog info | 11 Comments

Sometimes, I publish things on this website that are not entirely correct (and when I do, I’ll own up to it). Sometimes other people do on theirs. There are bad ways and good ways to argue these points, ranging from name-calling to explicitly explaining where the flaws are in one’s arguments, and what the corrections are.

And I had no idea how I was going to articulate this. But then Lucas pointed this chart out to me, and it does a better job of explaining it than I ever could.

You know who could explain this? Captain Picard. Imagine you got to be a Starfleet officer. Here’s what he has to say about searching for the truth:

The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based! If you can’t find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don’t deserve to wear that uniform!

And at the end of the day, that’s what we’re after. If you disagree with what I’ve written (or anyone else, ever, for that matter), try to do it in a way that brings us closer to the truth. I’ll continue to do my absolute best to respect all of you in the same exact way.

Carnival Of Space: Movie Edition

May 1, 2008 on 5:28 am | In Blog info | 3 Comments

The one-year anniversary edition of the Carnival of Space is up at Why Homeschool? If only more homeschoolers were into space, Astronomy, and science in general, the United States would be a far superior place, I’m sure!

Thanks to Henry Cate for starting the Carnival and coming back to host it one year later! My post on a black hole getting kicked out of our galaxy is up there; check it out and find out what’s going on in outer space!

Video Killed the Radio Star!

April 10, 2008 on 11:46 pm | In Blog info | 2 Comments

In my mind, and in my car,
we can’t rewind, we’ve gone too far,
pictures came and broke your heart,
put the blame on VTR.

And for those of you who are under the age of 25, VTR stands for Video Tape Recorder. This was the Buggles, who made the first music video that ever appeared on MTV, back when MTV played music videos. (I wonder what the last music video on MTV was? My guess is California Love by Tupac and Dre back in 1996. At least, that’s probably the last music video that I’ve ever seen on MTV.)

But why all this? Because I wanted to tell you about my appearance on The Space Show this past Tuesday! That’s right, I made it to the radio airwaves! Dr. David Livingston, the host, was really good to me, and even wrote this neat synopsis of me. But I didn’t know what the show would actually be like. So here’s my overview (of what I remember).

He was really nice in prepping me, telling me how it was going to go, and that he was going to start off by asking me what the difference was between astrophysics and cosmology. So I had time to think of that while he started his show and introduced me. (It was a very nice introduction.) Then I talked with him for a bit, and he asked me about astrophysics and cosmology, so I told him what I had thought up in that time: that astrophysics is about how all the stuff that we see in the sky works, but cosmology is about what it is that’s out there, and how it got to be that way. (Also, that nobody thinks you do hair, nails and makeup if you say you’re an astrophysicist.)

And then he started taking calls. I was a little perplexed, because I got a lot of calls about global warming, and as my friend Brian says, I had to put on my “scientist” hat instead of my “astrophysicist” hat. Really, I had to put on my “I’m an informed amateur” hat, as opposed to my “I’m really an expert professional” hat. But I did my best, and thought I did pretty well. And then came the roughest question of the night: I was asked to comment on the “fact” that the Earth is 6000 years old. The questioner was sure to let me know that he was a religious New York Jew.

Well, for those of you who don’t know from my bio page where it says I’m from New York, and from my last name, Siegel, I, too, am a New York Jew. And let me tell you, I am in some pretty esteemed company here… people who’ve accomplished great things… men like Carl Sagan, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Downey, Jr.

So I told him one way that we know the Universe has to be at least billions of years old; from the fact that we see light from objects that are billions of light-years away. And over the course of the 90 minutes, we got a lot of interesting questions, including one which really made me think, about the famous gamma-ray burst that we were able to see with our naked eyes, even though it went off 7.5 billion light years away!

And so all in all it was a good time, even though I had my rough spots, like when he asked me for a parting thought! (Oops! Next time, I’ll know to have one in advance.) But he told me he’d love to have me back, and I’d love the chance to do it again. If you’re a fan of his show or a fan of this site, make sure to send your questions in to him the next time I’m going to be on, and see if your question can make it to us live on the air! Thanks to everyone who listened, and, of course, a big thanks to David Livingston (not the one you presume), the host of the space show!

This is a very old picture of him; it’s amazing what you can find on the internet! Thanks David! And, as a renowned cosmologist, I’d like to talk to you about that hairdo…

Ethan on the Radio Tonight!

April 8, 2008 on 2:05 am | In Blog info | 3 Comments

Tonight, from 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM Pacific Time, I will be Dr. David Livingston’s guest on his radio program, The Space Show! I have no idea how it’s going to go or if I’ll be able to communicate clearly on an audio-only format, as I’ve never tried before, but I’m really looking forward to the experience.

You can listen live via internet radio by going to at the appropriate time, or by heading to the RSS feed afterwards and downloading the episode. Don’t forget to leave your comments if you listen to it!

The right job for Ethan?

April 4, 2008 on 11:04 am | In Blog info | 6 Comments

First things first: this week’s Carnival of Space is up at Brian Wang’s site, Next Big Future. You can find my post on Mars or Arizona? up there.

Now, what comes next for me, since I don’t like it here in Arizona? Well, the Dangerman audition didn’t work out (I never heard back), and I’ve been scoping out the Portland, OR area, which could work out well. But I got an email earlier this week about a job vacancy at ESO (the European Southern Observatories). They are looking for someone to take on the role of being head of the ESO public outreach office! Really, this would be a wonderful job for me, and I would be a great fit for it. Consider that this is what they’re looking for:

Education: A University degree in science, preferably in astronomy/astrophysics combined with public outreach training or equivalent.

Experience: The candidate should have a proven record in scientific public outreach work and be well acquainted with astronomy. A familiarity with, and an aptitude to use effectively, modern communication techniques are expected. A very good knowledge of - and particularly an ability to write - English is required. Knowledge of another language, especially German or Spanish would be an advantage.

Key Competences:

  • Provides clear, concise and timely oral and written communications, identifying the key issues, examining options and proposing way ahead.
  • Is able to speak to colleagues at all levels, external contacts and the public and can explain a complex and technical subject in terms the non-specialist can understand.
  • Sets clear performance standards for staff and makes it clear what is expected of them, both
    as team and as individuals.
  • Understands the dynamics of team relationships and is able to bring out the best of teams (sic) members.

Well, what do I have to offer?

  • Education: A Ph.D. in Astrophysics while working presently on a Masters in Education in Science Outreach.
  • Experience: A proven scientific track record in research, a proven record as an educator at the University and high school levels, and experience doing public outreach, including giving public lectures, networking with educators, and, oh, writing and running this website! English is my mother tongue and I’m also fairly proficient in Spanish.
  • Key Competences: Clear and concise communications? Check. Ability to communicate with people of all levels effectively (including about things as esoteric and complicated as, say, theoretical cosmology)? Check. As for the leadership and managerial skills? Oh, I have them, no problem; anyone who’s met me or worked with me can attest to that.

The only weakness on my application is that I don’t have demonstrated on-the-job managerial experience, unless you count managing over 100 students per semester. It’s hard reaching for a job like this at such a young age. Well, that, and I’m an American, and the US is not a member nation of ESO.

And what would I tell people I’m doing? “Yeah, I’m the head of public outreach for all of the European Observatories in the Southern Hemisphere. No big deal.” I sent in my application already, even though they aren’t due until May 31st. Here’s hoping it works out well; wish me luck!

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