What if we trained our airline pilots like we train our teachers?

Something really wonderful from an interview I did with a fellow blogger three years ago. Its always wonderful when you see your ideas and work influencing others.

Educate to Innovate with STEM

” If we trained airline pilots the way we train teachers, we’d give them a 2-year training program behind maybe a simulator, but most of it would be lecture. And then we would give them the hardest plane to fly! We wouldn’t give them an easy plane to fly, because the pilots with seniority get that plane. They would never get training again. Everything they would learn during their career, they would learn by happenstance. And if they can survive 30 years, then they can get the easy planes to fly. We don’t train doctors the way we train teachers, we don’t train lawyers the way we train teachers. We don’t train airline pilots this way. You would never think of [doing that]. We wouldn’t do this to any other profession, but somehow teaching is different.”

I love this analogy because it highlights how little we as a society value…

View original post 919 more words

Sometimes A Shirt Isn’t Just A Shirt

Sometimes a shirt also becomes an opportunity to have an honest look at the gender inequities that still exist in science.

Of course, I am talking about the unfortunate fashion choice made by Dr. Matt Taylor, Project Scientist, of the Rosetta Mission who appeared on a live internet stream donning a shirt featuring very buxom women in highly seductive poses.

Here it is in case you live under a rock on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and missed it:

x_lon_taylor_141114.nbcnews-fp-320-240  (NBC News)

After Dr. Taylor’s shirt ignited a firestorm of indignation, the British scientist did apologize for wearing it. It had been a birthday gift from a woman who is an artist and friend of Taylor’s. I don’t believe Taylor intended to insult hundreds of thousands of women, but wearing this shirt to publicly discuss one of the most significant achievements in aerospace engineering was thoughtless. Taylor’s own sister apparently described him to the British press as “brilliant, but lacking common sense.”

In the “shirt storm” that resulted, many (mostly men) declared that “feminists” were grossly over-reacting to what was just “cartoon images” printed on fabric. What harm can a few illustrations do to anyone?  Sadly, a lot of harm.

I am a woman, a feminist, and 55 years old. I was a college student studying astronomy during the decade following the Women’s Rights Movement and I certainly experienced my share of sexism.  When I attended professional science conferences, I could count the number of women scientists on one hand. I always felt out of place. Yet I was determined not to let the lack of role models defeat me. I felt that if I gave up on a career in science, there would be one less woman to be a role model for the next generation.

Eventually, I got a doctorate in science education largely because I wanted to understand how gender inequities in science might be addressed much earlier in a girl’s life. What I learned – and what most people know – is that images are immensely powerful in shaping a girl’s perception of herself. Young girls are bombarded with media messages all the time telling them that appearance is more important than intelligence; they are told that the size of their breasts is far more valuable to society than the size of their brains.

I am personally grateful that Dr. Taylor acknowledged the inappropriateness of his shirt and apologized. I hope he will also ind a way to apologize to impressionable young girls who watched the press conference because of their interest in science, saw the images on his shirt, and now question whether there is a place for them in astronomy.

Truthfully, as scientists we ALL bare a responsibility to ensure our actions don’t inadvertently imply there are barriers to engaging in science based on gender, gender preference, physical ability, age, ethnicity, religion, nationality, or beliefs. Each of us wears a “shirt” of some kind that sadly is not as obvious as the one Dr. Taylor wore. It’s up to all of us to look hard in the mirror every morning and make sure we aren’t leaving the house dressed inappropriately.

Partial Solar Eclipse – Coming To A Town Near You

We are now just ten days away from a partial solar eclipse of the Sun that should be visible to everyone in the US and Canada. Mark your calendar for October 23. It should be a pretty good one for San Francisco – good being measured by how much of the Sun’s face will be shielded from our view by the interloping Moon.  In San Francisco, the Moon will block a bit less than half of the Sun. Weather permitting, we’ll see maximum coverage of the Sun at 3:17 pm:  (http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/san-francisco):

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.45.27 PM

Here is some more helpful information for San Franciscan’s wondering what to expect:

Screen shot 2014-10-13 at 6.46.22 PMCanadians living in the west and far north will get the best view.  The Sun will be reduced to a mere sliver for them.  Here is a NASA annimation showing you what you might expect to see. The lighter shadow is the location of the Moon’s shadow as it passes across the Earth (the partial solar eclipse).  The darker shadow is night on Earth.

But no matter where you are, don’t look directly at the sun  Really – don’t.  DON’T!

It’s never a good idea to look directly at the Sun, but the problem with partial eclipses is you might think its safe to take a peek. After all, half the Sun’s face is covered up so it must be safe to look, right? WRONG.

Truth is, the Sun is so bright that even when you cover most of it, there is plenty of energy left to burn your retina and cause permanent eye damage.  SO DON’T LOOK DIRECTLY AT IT.

Good news.  There are lots of safe ways to look at the Sun during a partial solar eclipse.  Here are a few methods for looking at the Sun INDIRECTLY you can try on October 23.

1. Find A Tree:  This one is my favorite.  Find a tree with lush foliage and look at the ground in the shady areas just beneath the branches.  On any sunny day, you might seen the ground or a nearby wall sprinkled with round patches of light. Each of the round light spots is an individual image of the Sun made by the tiny spaces between the leaves that act like pinhole camera apertures. During a partial eclipse, you will see hundreds of images of the crescent Sun. It’s absolutely stunning!


Pinhole images of a partial eclipse under the leaves of a bamboo tree.

 2. Use Your Hands: Don’t have a tree nearby?  No problem. You can also use your hands and fingers to to make a “pinhole grid”. The holes between your fingers will act just like the spaces between the leaves of the tree.  Hold your hands high above your head and look on the ground. You should also see multiple images of the eclipsed Sun.

Solar eclipse May 20 6 30pm shadow game

Using the tiny spaces between your fingers to cast a pinhole image of the eclipse on a wall.

3. Put a Box on Your Head.  Find a cardboard box that is large enough to cover your head and allow you to comfortably look at a sheet of white paper that you will tape to the inside of one of the interior walls.  Cut a postage stamp size hole on the opposite side of the box an cover it in aluminum foil.  Using a push pin, make a hole in the foil.  Point the pinhole at the Sun and you should see an image of the eclipse on the sheet of white paper. If the image is too dim, try making the hole a little big bigger.


For other ways to observe the eclipse, see Sky and Telescope: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/partial-solar-eclipse-october-23-2014-10062014/.

October, and thoughts turn to baseball and astronomy day

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 4.13.32 PM

Giants play the Pirates in a one-game, all-or-nothing, wild card elimination game. The baseball playoff season is about to start in earnest.  Astronomy day is this Saturday.

To commemorate all of it, here is an edited excerpt from an article I’ve recently written for Mercury Magazine (an amazing publication of the ASP which will be digitally sent to our members shortly). Enjoy.


Every September, my attention focuses on baseball and the playoffs that are just a few weeks away and this year is no different. Allow me to confess to one of my late summer baseball fantasies: my dream is to lead an astronomy activity with 30,000 fans attending a night game at a major league stadium (it also happens to be a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, but that’s completely irrelevant I suppose).

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 4.15.04 PM

In my fantasy, everyone attending the game has received a set of binoculars as a promotional gift. It’s the seventh inning stretch and the stadium announcer says, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to welcome Linda Shore of the Astronomical Society of Pacific, who will lead us all in some stargazing. Please take your seats and get out your binoculars as we turn off the stadium lights.” Once 500,000 watts of ballpark lights are extinguished, some of the brighter stars would become visible, and maybe the fans would be able spot a planet or two. Had this opportunity been possible this summer, I would have taken advantage of “International Observe the Moon Night” on September 6th. I would have instructed fans to take a close look at the terminator line along the lower portion of the Moon’s disk. The binoculars would have afforded the fans with an astounding view of some of the Moon’s surface features that are much easier to appreciate near the transition between lunar day and night. I would have helped fans locate the Kepler and Tycho Craters and their spectacular dandelion rays of ejected material that extend for hundreds of kilometers.  I would have pointed out the huge, dark patches of hardened basalt, once molten and filled lunar basins, that we see as the facial features of “The Man In The Moon.”

While I may have missed my opportunity to bring “International Observe The Moon Night” to a major league stadium in 2014, as we often say in baseball, “there’s always next year.”

Welcome. You’ve Been Warned


Many people have asked me to write a blog. I have no idea why and have mixed feelings about exposing my thoughts to an audience of potentially billions. So naturally I decided to try it.

Sure, I have lots of opinions about a lot of things and some people say I’m funny.

But isn’t this whole Blog thing a little self indulgent? I feel like I have just joined some not-so-secret society of intellectual hedonists.

The epidemic of posting everything you feel, eat, think, and experience on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is depressing. Too many of us spend our precious time describing completely insignificant events in our lives. Shouldn’t we be using this time and energy to do important things in the world?  I don’t really need to know that you just returned from Whole Foods with a bag of fresh strawberries that you plan to turn into a shortcake. I would like to know that you took that shortcake to a homeless shelter, though. That would be an awesome post.

Selfies annoy me too. Isn’t there anything compelling happening on the other side of your camera? Sure, I admit it. I’ve taken and posted selfies on my Facebook page, but unless something about my face has fundamentally changed, I try to keep my self portraits to myself.

So why am I bothering to write a Blog? Does anyone really need this? Are you going to be reading it?

Let’s find out.