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NSBP Members Participate in SciFest Africa March 22, 2009

Posted by HPE Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), History, Policy and Education (HPE) , add a comment

NSBP members, Charles McGruder and Hakeem Oluseyi, are participating in SciFest Africa this week as special representatives of the United States.

Held annually in late March as South Africa’s national science festival,  SciFest Africa is a fun-filled event specially styled to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics accessible to and of interest to every-day people. Each year SciFest Africa offers over 550 events and activities, including exhibitions, educational theatre, lectures, hands-on workshops, excursions, a soap box derby, laser-shows, quizzes, Science Olympics,and whiz-bang science shows.  It is the biggest science festival in sub-Saharan Africa.  The 2008 Festival was attended by no less than 58,000 people.

Dr. McGruder, a former president of NSBP, will be giving two public lectures, one on the STARBASE project and another on the search for extra-solar planets.  In a separate event  Dr. Oluseyi will be lecturing on how dark matter and dark energy help explain the motion of galaxies.

Dr. McGruder is the director of NSBP’s program to build capacity in astronomy in Southern Africa.  While in South Africa he will also be meeting will government officials about South Africa’s bid for the SKA telescope.   Dr. Oluseyi has been a faculty member in NSBP’s program, having taught classes in astrophysics in the National Astrophysics and Space Science Program at the University of Cape Town.     Their participation in SciFest Africa is sponsored by the US State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

IYA2009 Galileoscope Now Available to Order March 21, 2009

Posted by HPE Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), History, Policy and Education (HPE) , 2comments

The Galileoscope — a high quality, easy-to-assemble and easy-to-use
telescope at an unprecedentedly low price — is now available to order. A
Cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009),
the Galileoscope was developed by a team of leading astronomers, optical
engineers and science educators to make the wonders of the night sky more
accessible to everyone. Orders can now be placed through
www.galileoscope.org for delivery beginning in late April.

By encouraging the experience of personally seeing celestial objects, the
Galileoscope project aims to facilitate a main goal of IYA2009: promoting
widespread access to new knowledge and observing opportunities. Observing
through a telescope for the first time is an experience that shapes our
view of the sky and the Universe. It prompts people to think about the
importance of astronomy, and for many it’s a life-changing experience.
Galileoscopes will open up a whole new world for their users and are an
excellent means of pursuing an interest in astronomy during IYA2009 and

Galileoscopes are available at the incredibly low price of US$15 per kit.
Discounts are available for group purchases of 100 or more, bringing the
price down even lower, to US$12.50 each, reducing costs for schools,
colleges, astronomical societies, or even parties of interested
individuals. Never before has such a high quality and professionally
endorsed scientific instrument been available for this price.

To further this aim, the Galileoscope Cornerstone project has initiated
the “Give a Galileoscope” programme. Participants may buy Galileoscopes
for themselves, their families, or their friends at the regular $15 or
$12.50 price (depending on quantity) plus shipping, and/or donate as many
telescopes as they’d like for $12.50 each, with no shipping charges.
Donated Galileoscopes will go to less advantaged schools and other
organisations worldwide, especially in developing countries. This will
help bring a modern education to students in poor schools and empower them
to pursue science and technology knowledge. Donating Galileoscopes
increases the project’s global impact and gives people who might otherwise
never have the opportunity to look through a telescope the chance to join
millions of skywatchers worldwide in a shared experience of astronomical

The Galileoscope is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei,
who first observed the heavens through a telescope 400 years ago. His
observations were nothing short of revolutionary and changed our view of
the world forever. The Galileoscope is optimised to provide views of the
very same objects that inspired Galileo all those years ago— including
craters and mountains on the Moon, the rings of Saturn, the phases of
Venus, a variety of star clusters, and moons orbiting the planet Jupiter.
Sights such as these astounded Galileo and they are all visible, along
with countless other objects, through the Galileoscope. Although, with its
21st-century optics, it will provide a much better observing experience
than Galileo had!

Galileoscopes are also invaluable educational tools, tying in with topics
such as mathematics, physics, history and philosophy. As practical
instruments they can be used to demonstrate basic optical theory in a
real-world scenario, a technique often praised by educators and pupils
themselves. Free educational guides are available on the project’s
website, providing further information to teachers, students and
enthusiasts. Experience has shown that the “Wow!”-factor that kids get
from assembling their own fully functional, high quality Galileoscope is

“The ability to experiment with lenses while building the telescope offers
a much more powerful learning experience than receiving a preassembled
telescope,” says Rick Fienberg, Editor Emeritus of Sky & Telescope
magazine and Chair of the IYA2009 Cornerstone  project. “Users will learn
many aspects of optics and even have a chance to construct two types of
telescopes — a modern one and a more primitive one similar to Galileo’s,”
adds Stephen Pompea, US IYA2009 Project Director and member of the IYA2009
Cornerstone project. “Building and using a Galileoscope gives kids the
feeling that science is fun.”

Galileoscopes are easy to use, sturdy, reliable and well-designed windows
to the Universe. Orders are now being taken through the official website,
www.galileoscope.org. Build one and the stars will be within your reach!

Worldwide observing projects with small telescopes are a key part of the
Galileoscope Cornerstone. The “You Are Galileo!” project, organised by the
IYA2009 Japan National Committee, uses classroom telescopes along with
worksheets and manuals to form part of a year-long observation programme.
These are designed for children and certificates are available for
participants who send records of their observations to the “You Are
Galileo!” team.

Notes for Editors
The Galileoscope is a high quality 50-mm f/10 telescope, with a glass
doublet achromatic objective. A 20-mm Plössl-like eyepiece with twin
plastic doublet achromatic lenses gives a magnification of 25x across a
1.5-degree field, and a 2x Barlow lens (also a plastic doublet achromat)
gives a magnification of 50x. The Barlow lens can also be used as a
Galilean eyepiece to give a magnification of 17x and a very narrow field
of view to simulate the “Galileo experience”. The standard 1.25-inch
focuser accepts commercial accessories, and the standard 1/4-20 tripod
adapter works with any standard photo tripod (not included).

In addition to the IAU, UNESCO, the IYA2009 Global Sponsors and the
IYA2009 Organisational Associates, principal sponsors of the Galileoscope
project include the American Astronomical Society, the National Optical
Astronomy Observatory, the National Science Foundation, the Astronomical
Society of the Pacific, Carthage College, Merit Models, Photon
Engineering, Sky & Telescope, and Galileo’s Place, home of Galileo-brand

IYA2009 marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first
astronomical observations through a telescope. It is a worldwide
celebration, promoting astronomy and its contribution to society and
culture, with events at regional, national, and global levels.

·    Galileoscope website: www.galileoscope.org
·    IYA2009 website: www.astronomy2009.org
·    You Are Galileo! web site: www-irc.mtk.nao.ac.jp/~webadm/Galileo-E/

For more information:

Dr. Richard Tresch Fienberg
IYA2009 Galileoscope Cornerstone Project Chair
Andover, USA
Tel: +1 978 749 4753
E-mail: rfienberg@galileoscope.org

Dr. Stephen M. Pompea
US IYA2009 Project Director/Chair, US Telescope Kits Working Group
National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, USA
Tel:+1 520.318.8285
Cellular: +1 520.907.2493
E-mail: spompea@noao.edu

Dr. Kazuhiro Sekiguchi
National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Tokyo
Tel: +81 42 234 3955
E-mail: galileoscope@astronomy2009.jp

Further contacts

Pedro Russo
IAU IYA2009 Coordinator
ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 195
Cellular: +49 176 6110 0211
E-mail: prusso@eso.org

Yolanda Berenguer
UNESCO Focal Point for the International Year of Astronomy 2009
UNESCO HQ, Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 45684171
E-mail: y.berenguer@unesco.org

Dr. Karel A. van der Hucht
General Secretary, International Astronomical Union
IAU Secretariat, Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 25 83 58
E-mail: K.A.van.der.Hucht@sron.nl

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cellular: +49 173 3872 621
E-mail: lars@eso.org

Related video available at:

See Steve Pompea talk about the Galileoscope at the 2009 Joint Annual Conference of the National Society of Black Physicists and the National Society of Hispanic Physicists

Governor Nominates Former NSBP President to the State Board of Education March 21, 2009

Posted by HPE Section Chair in : History, Policy and Education (HPE) , add a comment

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has nominated Dr. Sylvester (Jiim)  Gates for a seat on the Maryland State Board of Education.

In making these appointment Governor O’Malley remarked, “I am especially proud to make a number of appointments to fill key leadership positions on our State Board of Education, the University System Board of Regents and the Community Colleges Boards of Trustees to continue the progress we have made in building the No. 1 ranked school system in America, and making college more affordable for our families.”

“Getting our members in position to take on key public policy positions like this one has been a key initiative of the National Society of Black Physicists,” says Dr. Charles McGruder, who was the president of the organization when the initiative started.    Jim Gates was the first chair of NSBP’s Public Policy Committee.    Since the initiative began several years ago NSBP has conducted several policy briefings on Capitol Hill and at its annual conference.

One particular policy issue that NSBP has been discussing is the opportunity for all students to take a physics class when in high school.   High school physics is a gateway course for post-secondary study in science, medicine, and engineering, as well as an essential component in the formation of students’ scientific literacy.  Yet, despite reports to the contrary, the availability of physics as a course for high school students is not equitably distributed throughout the United States.

“I intend to bring to my State Board of Education a commitment that a solid science education course, including physics, should be available to all
members of the diverse student population in Maryland,” says Gates.

“We are very excited about Dr. Gates’s appointment, says Dr. Peter Delfyett, current President of NSBP.    “NSBP stands by to help him, the Board of Education and the Governor make sure that every child in Maryland has access to a first-class science education.”

The Maryland State Board  of Education  is a 12-member body appointed by the Governor. Members bring to their task a wide range of professional and civic experiences. Members serve staggered four-year terms and may serve two full terms.

Dr. Gates is a noted theoretical physicist. He  has been featured on NOVA PBS programs on physics, most notably “The Elegant Universe” in 2003. He is currently the John S. Toll Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Gates received both his Bachelor of Science and PhD degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His doctoral thesis was the first thesis at MIT to deal with supersymmetry, and is known for his work on supersymmetry, supergravity, and superstring theory. He was President of the National Society of Black Physicists from 1993-1995.

The Nature of Time March 14, 2009

Posted by CGR Section Chair in : Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASTRO), Cosmology, Gravitation, and Relativity (CGR), Nuclear and Particle Physics (NPP) , add a comment

Arguably one of the greatest and most fundamental problems in cosmology (alright, alright, all of physics) is trying to understand time. What is it? Why does the arrow of time only point in one direction? Because these questions exist and so do physicists, the study of time is an active field of research. It is a multidisciplinary field, with both physicists and philosophers contributing to it. Because the research is esoteric, finding funding for it is sometimes difficult, which is where organizations like FQXi step in.

FQXi is a vaguely controversial organization funded by the Templeton Foundation (but run by very well-respected physicists) that gives money to scientists who do research on fundamental questions in physics. Recently they had an essay contest, and the topic was the nature of time.

The winning essay is by Julian Barbour, a physicist and philosopher in Oxford, UK. The essay jury commended his essay:

The jury panel admired this essay for its crystal-clear and engaging presentation of a problem in classical dynamics, namely to find a measure for duration or the size of a time interval. The paper argues lucidly, and in a historically well-informed manner, that an appropriate choice for such a measure is not to be found in Newton’s pre-existing absolute notion of time, but rather emerges, in the form of ephemeris time, from the observable motions and the assumption of energy conservation. The paper also suggests how this emergence of duration might be relevant to problems in quantum gravity.

All of the winning essays can be found on the fqxi website. You can also read all of the submissions, including the ones that did not receive prizes. I strongly encourage all physicists, from undergrads to professors emeriti to have a look at the latest in the study of time!