Tag: Astronomy

Comet Lovejoy

Lovejoy: The New Year’s Comet


A new comet is appearing overhead just in time for the New Year. C/2014 Q2 is already visible to the naked eye, and will get brighter over the next few weeks:

This is the fifth comet discovered by Australian “amateur” astronomer Terry Lovejoy. In 2011, one of “his” comets made a spectacular pass through the sky. This one may not be quite so ostentatious, but its location and brightness make it a winner. On Jan. 7 it will pass about 70 million kilometers (44 million miles) from Earth, and it’s predicted to peak around 4th magnitude; easily visible from dark skies without optical aid.

The Tolerance of Intolerance


Germany Comet Landing ShirtMany of y’all have heard of the furor over the tacky — and I think, unprofessional — shirt worn by the Rosetta comet mission’s Project Scientist. Various feminists took offense at the cartoon women on the man’s shirt as being misogynistic and claimed that this kind of thing is what keeps women from going into the physical sciences as a career. The pile-on got so heavy that the man was nearly reduced to tears in an on-camera apology.

Yet even now, it hasn’t stopped. Among my fellow astronomers, there is a lot of talk about writing an official condemnation of Matt Taylor by the American Astronomical Society on the issue, as the Astronomical Society of Australia has done. While I think the shirt was in poor taste, the volume of ink being spilled talking about it is way out of proportion to the offense, and the claim that this is evidence of astronomers’ “misogyny” is ridiculous.

Now, a few days later, our biggest professional discussion group had someone post a link from Media Matters to a joke making fun of Fox News. While the joke is mildly funny and only made me roll my eyes a little, it demonstrates the comfort my fellow academics feel in making fun of those of different beliefs. In the discussion that followed, we were told that it’s actually justifiable for us professionals to openly make fun of people of particular political beliefs or religions. (For the record, this joke didn’t bother me; I’m really talking about much worse behavior I have seen in this crowd.)