Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tweeting about the Space Shuttle and ISS

Amazing to see the space shuttle, the International Space Station, the moon and Jupiter all at once over Dublin today (Wednesday, 25 November 2009).

It was such a spectacular sight that as soon as I got back into the (warm) office I went on Twitter to see how other people were reacting - and it was equally amazing to see immediately what people in Strasbourg and London thought of the whole thing too. One person had even posted a photo they'd just taken (see above from "barnybug").

With people in the US only getting ready to view it, it was nice for Europe to be ahead of the game in space science for once!

It'd be really interesting as a visualisation to see a mash up of the tweets combined with geographic location of the people who were tweeting - maybe layered onto Google Earth. It'd be a bit like the "green wave" of Spring travelling across Europe, only you'd see a "space wave" of people tweeting as they saw the ISS and shuttle from across the globe.

Although some people were tweeting about seeing the ISS, the most surprising thing to me was how few people were actually doing it - I would've thought that this kind of event was perfect for tweeting. Plus when you search Twitter for "ISS" it's mostly people who've spelt the word "is" wrong that come up. There's a lesson for us all in there somewhere.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Space science in Irish schools

I'm just back from the launch of the ESA / Discover Science & Engineering "European Space Education Resource Office" in Ireland by Minister Conor Lenihan. It was familiar territory for the minister seeing as he was once a student in the school himself - and he did confess to having done a few unorthodox "flame thrower" experiments with the bunsen burner gas in the labs as a student! It was a really interesting event and there was even a snazzy scale model of the Herschel Space Observatory on show.

The aim of the European Space Education Resource Office is to use student's interest in space as a way to encourage them to study science in school - and to pursue science careers too. Talking to the students in Belvedere College themselves afterwards, it was very interesting to hear that the science message was being heard and that they knew they needed to do at least one science subject to get into many third level university courses.

Science in Schools
It's been a busy couple of days when it comes science education in Ireland - with the Science in Schools event yesterday in Engineers Ireland being really interesting too. And the lively discussion afterwards showed that there's no lack of passion in the whole area of science education. A couple of the "take home" messages from the discussion that struck me were:

(a) we need to coordinate the science activities that are directed at schools so that students and teachers aren't overwhelmed every September


(b) we should focus energy on the basics of scientific literacy and content knowledge among both students and teachers

What do you think of these suggestions? Are you involved with science education? E-mail me at or comment on this post to let me know...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Big changes due in BBC science

BBC science programming has always been impressive and there'll be big changes next year with these staff changes reported in Broadcast today - it'll be interesting to see how this effects the commissioned programming especially on BBC 3...

BBC head of science John Lynch is to step down at the end of this year, and will leave the BBC altogether in 2010 after delivering a major landmark series about the history of science.

Horizon editor Andrew Cohen will take over Lynch’s role and is looking to beef up BBC3 science in particular.

Lynch, who has headed the science unit for nearly a decade, has yet to decide his next move, but is likely to mix “passion projects” for television with writing books and other roles that “bring media and science to a better mutual understanding”.

He will remain with the BBC into the spring to executive produce the 6 x 60-minute BBC2 series Science Story.

“It looks at the great questions we’ve always asked - Who are we? Where do we come from? What’s out there? - and our changing attempts to answer them,” he said.

The series will air later in 2010 as part of the BBC’s ‘Year of Science’ and was ordered by science and natural history commissioner Kim Shillinglaw. Aiden Lafferty is the executive producer.

About his departure, Lynch added: “I feel like I have achieved a hell of a lot, but there comes a time when you have to say, ‘Ok, I’ve done my stint’. I feel that this is the right time for me to hand over the reins of a revitalised unit. Andrew has a clear, strategic vision for its future.”

Lynch’s tenure spanned the launch of CGI science formats such as Walking With Dinosaurs and the revival of the Tomorrow’s World-style science magazine show with Bang Goes The Theory.

Cohen has edited Horizon since 2005 and is credited with making the science strand more “relevant” to a mainstream audience and forging closer links between the BBC and the UK science community.

He told Broadcast he wants the unit’s output for BBC3 to match its provision for the other BBC channels, and to bring medicine “back to the main channels”. He also wants more physics and cosmology.

During 14 years in the science unit, Cohen has worked across Tomorrow’s World and blue chip landmarks such as Brain Story.