Busing in astronomy

By Phil Plait | January 6, 2009 7:00 am

If you live in Toronto, you may notice something the next time you take the bus: someone’s trying to teach you astronomy.

That someone is Ray Jayawardhana, who has coordinated a public outreach campaign called Cool Cosmos to get the public interested in astronomy. Along with the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics he has created a series of five posters that will go on buses, subways, and streetcars. They’re cute, simple, and feature a basic but cool fact. I like this one best:

Cool Cosmos: Long Day

It says, "Having a long day? It will only get longer. Tides caused by the Moon are slowing down the Earth’s spin, making each day a tiny bit longer than the one before."

How cool is that? The others are good too. This is a very clever campaign, and I think at the very least it’ll get people thinking about nifty ideas about the Universe. This is being done as a way to celebrate IYA 2009, too, and it’s an excellent endeavor.

My one complaint: they should’ve talked to the folks at Spitzer first about the name. D’oh!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, IYA

Comments (23)

  1. Sharkey

    Speaking of IYA2009, I just read about the Galileoscope from the Nerd Girl’s blog (http://www.globecampus.ca/blogs/nerd-girl/). Already planning on getting a couple for my niece and nephew…

  2. Nathan

    Very cool! I can’t help but wonder that some people will take up a campaign against the moon to stop the tides though….

  3. Slowing the earth down. Meh. Didn’t Joshua stop the sun and the moon already?

    Cool promo though.

  4. Michelle

    “Want to see the big bang? Tune into static on your old TV. A small fraction of that static is caused by the microwave afterglow from the origin of the universe.”

    Serious? That’s SO cool. I had no idea.

    I think that’s my favorite ad.

  5. Fleegman

    http://www.di.utoronto.ca/coolcosmos/index.php?ad=3

    You said the very same thing as part of “Hubble’s Final Frontier” on Nat Geo HD (UK) last night. Very cool documentary, I thought. I was like “Hey, I know that guy!” ;o)

    I’ve always wondered. When they get experts such as yourself to talk on these things, how much do they record, compared to what amounts to a minute or two at most in the final cut?

  6. Nuu! Don’t make me learn things on the way to work!

  7. kuhnigget

    “Busing in astronomy…” At first I thought this was going to be a story about white dwarfs and black holes.

    I’m sorry.

  8. Two things. I think the neutrino one will cause some ignorant govt official to waste time discussing the “neutrino problem”.

    And if the stars died billions of years ago to make calcium and stuff, do they mean billions of years in a metaphorical sense? I mean since the Earth is only 12,000 yrs old or so?

  9. Dambgummint! Why didn’t I think of that first!
    Super idea! I wonder if he’d let us print up copies and mount them in buses here?
    Hmmmmmmm………

  10. Wonderful idea. Great work.

  11. CW

    Sunlight reflected by the Earth into space contains imprints of life on our planet …

    At the risk of sounding stupid, because I am probably missing something obvious … could someone please elaborate on the above?

    The big bang and time of day captions are my two favorites.

  12. It’s a great campaign for International Year of Astronomy too.

    On a vaguely related note, Industry Canada approved the use of special prefixes for Canadian amateur radio operators to celebrate the IYOA. So if you are are a radio amateur as well as a BABlogee, watch for CG3OIJ until the end of February!

  13. Speaking of Toronto and Astronomy, there is also going to be the RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) Toronto Astronomy Festival this friday at the Toronto Science Centre. It’s free, and there’s going to be loads of workshops and lectures and all kinds of cool things (I’m not involved in it so I don’t want anyone to think I’m shilling here).

    http://toronto.rasc.ca/content/TorontoAstroFestival09.shtml

    cheers!

  14. OtherRob

    The big bang/static one just blew me away. Wow…

  15. Todd

    Check out http://www.CoolCosmos.net to read about the science behind the ads and listen to podcasts on each topic.

  16. My home department at Stockholm University have done something similar. Their astronomy posters for the Stockholm metro/underground are available here:
    http://www.astro.su.se/pub/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=9773&a=49085
    They’re more visual than Ray’s but still (ok, I’m biased!) pretty cool I think.

  17. Will. M

    I think buses are fine, but capture a limited audience here in Carland America. I have a better idea: why not put a daily astronomy factioid in every newspaper in the country, right opposite the woo of the astrology du jour, perhaps? Even better, try to get the weather person at as many television stations in the country, to read a three or four line blurb about an astronomical event of the day/week. And these data bits should be attention-getting, too, to compete for the limited attention span much of the public seems to have. Perhaps in a year’s worth of exposure, albiet on a limited daily basis, more than a few folks could become interested in the sky above.
    I wonder how much free advertising the ISP’s might give to this idea, especially for the new internet phones, i-pods, blackberry devices and such. The daily astronomy data download: quick, terse and fascinating…

  18. @Sharkey: You will be able to place orders for the much delayed Galileoscope later this month on its website, but only a few 100,000 will become available worldwide during 2009 and only starting in summer, once could learn at a recent press conference. So the idea is now to have, say, a dozen students share one instrument – they are more teaching tools than actual astronomical instruments anyway – or have them “rotate” between schools.

  19. Leon

    My only concern with something like this is that someone in the public or the media (they’re both hopelessly astronomically illiterate) will take one look at such a sign and run with something like “The Earth is coming to a standstill!!”–and that that’s all we’ll hear about it for a while.

  20. Nemo

    This reminds me — there was something (uninformative) on the TV news last night about the possibility of abolishing the leap second. Phil, do you know anything about that?

  21. CW

    My only concern with something like this is that someone in the public or the media (they’re both hopelessly astronomically illiterate) will take one look at such a sign and run with something like “The Earth is coming to a standstill!!”–and that that’s all we’ll hear about it for a while.

    I’m not sure you need to be concerned about that, but rather, that most people will probably read that and think ‘who cares?’

  22. Brian

    Sunlight reflected by the Earth into space contains imprints of life on our planet …

    At the risk of sounding stupid, because I am probably missing something obvious … could someone please elaborate on the above?

    Our atmosphere is roughly 20% oxygen. There is pretty much no known stable inorganic system that could keep that much oxygen floating freely in the atmosphere. It’s been said that if we ever take a spectroscopic analysis of a planetary atmosphere and find it contains a significant amount of oxygen, that would be very strong evidence for life on that planet.

  23. Sharkey

    @Daniel Fischer: Thanks for the details. I’ve signed up for the Galileoscope updates, but I may have to look at something a little more traditional for the kids…

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