Category: Q & BA

Q&BA: Getting kids into science

By Phil Plait | January 30, 2012 2:24 pm

A few years ago, I started doing a weekly video question-and-answer session I called "Q & BA". It was a series of short videos that were a lot of fun to make. Unfortunately, the overhead got to be too high — it took all day to edit them! — and I had to stop.

But now, Google+ has changed that: Hangouts On Air is a feature that allows me to go on camera and broadcast a live video chat session to an unlimited audience. I take questions via Twitter and G+, and it’s a lot of fun. It lasts about an hour, and I put the whole session on YouTube. But some of the answers stand alone, and it’s easy to extract them out, package ‘em up, and post ‘em by themselves.

So I’m very pleased to announce I’m starting the series again! The first Q&BA is a great question: "What’s the best way to get kids into science and skepticism?" — what better way to get the series going again? Enjoy.

I’ll be posting more of these, maybe even one per day as time allows. If you like them, please give them a thumbs-up on YouTube, and drop by the Q&BA Hangout when I do them live! I announce them on Twitter and G+, so follow me there and stay up-to-date. Also, I have an archive with links to all the videos. Thanks!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Q & BA, Science, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: Q&BA

Q and BA Episode 7.5: Suspended Animation

By Phil Plait | March 25, 2007 4:36 pm

I hate to have to do this, but Q & BA is going on hiatus for a while. My schedule is out of control, with many projects coming to a head, and I simply don’t have the time to devote to these videos. It’s killing me, but the decision had to be made.

I’m not cancelling it or stopping altogether; I’m just putting it on hold for a few months until things calm down. I’m hoping to restart it this summer if I can.

I apologize for having to do this, but… well, I’ll just say that some of the projects I’m working on will be very cool, and well worth the effort. You’ll see. :)

Viewing options:

Watch it on YouTube.

Download it directly from LibSyn.

Download the audio only version from LibSyn.

NOTE: If you are already a subscriber through iTunes, you may be getting both the video and the audio-only versions in your feed. This is because both versions were in one feed until last week. If you want to get only one or want to download both separately, then unsubscribe first and then click on the link(s) below.

Subscribe to AUDIO ONLY VERSION via iTunes.

Subscribe to VIDEO VERSION via iTunes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Q & BA, Video Blog

Q and BA Episode 7: By Any Other Name

By Phil Plait | March 18, 2007 7:46 am

Due to my travel schedule, I am posting this one early. I hope no one minds.

Astronomical objects have a bewildering array of names. Is it M1, or The Crab Nebula, or NGC 1952, or what? Why are there so many weird names for these things?

Find out in this week’s episode of Q & BA: By Any Other Name.

Viewing options:

Watch it right here, right now!

Watch it on YouTube.

Watch it on Google video.

Download it directly from LibSyn.

Download the audio only version from LibSyn.

NOTE: If you are already a subscriber through iTunes, you may be getting both the video and the audio-only versions in your feed. This is because both versions were in one feed until last week. If you want to get only one or want to download both separately, then unsubscribe first and then click on the link(s) below.

Subscribe to AUDIO ONLY VERSION via iTunes.

Subscribe to VIDEO VERSION via iTunes.

Show notes

The Question:

The question was sent in by Teri Bootelaydi:

What is the rational behind the naming and numbering of astornomical objects?!?!

I have shelves full of astronomy books and magazines, and close to a thousand sites and ‘papers’ in my Bookmarks — and not one — NOT A SINGLE ONE — explains the logic behind these labels. It’s a nightmare for an amateur to learn.

It’s as if the IAU gets together behind closed doors and laughs at us.

Images and Links

The image of Charles Messier is from the French version of Wikipedia.

The Comet SWAN picture is from makelessnoise’s Flickr collection (usage is under the Creative Commons license). That’s a meteor streak next to it! Pretty cool shot.

The Orion Nebula image is from Space Ritual’s Flickr collection (again, Creative Commons).

The image of Sirius is from Hubble.

All the myriad names for Sirius are from SIMBAD, an astronomical database.

The Crab Nebula is from the Subaru Telescope.

Q and BA Episode 6: I Am Your Density

By Phil Plait | March 11, 2007 8:17 pm

Space is a vacuum, right?

Well, not exactly. It’s all pretty empty on a cubic centimeter by cubic centimeter basis, but how empty is it?

Find out in this week’s episode of Q & BA: I Am Your Density.

Viewing options:

Watch it right here, right now!

Watch it on YouTube.

Watch it on Google video.

Download it directly from LibSyn.

Download the audio only version from LibSyn.

Subscribe to AUDIO ONLY VERSION via iTunes.

Subscribe to VIDEO VERSION via iTunes.

Show notes

The Question:

The question was sent in by Walter L. Williams:

When we talk of the vacuum of space, is it a total vacuum or "pretty much" a vacuum? Could you elaborate, perhaps telling us how much matter might be in say a "liter of space"?

Images and Links

The Orion Nebula and Carina cloud images are courtesy of NASA/Hubble/AURA

Barnard 68 is from the European Southern Observatory.

The marshmallow came from my baking drawer. When I was done, I ate it.

Q & BA Episode 5: Spin Doctor

By Phil Plait | March 4, 2007 8:27 pm

Hey, let’s take the Moon out for a spin… but we’re too late! It already does spin!

And I can prove it. Just watch Q & BA Episode 5: Spin Doctor and you’ll see how.

Viewing options:

Watch it right here, right now!

Watch it on YouTube.

Watch it on Google video.

Download it directly from LibSyn.

Download the audio only version from LibSyn.

Once again, I’m trying something new. I’ve been asked to have two separate feeds; one for audio and one for video. Let’s see if this works!

Subscribe to AUDIO ONLY VERSION via iTunes.

Subscribe to VIDEO VERSION via iTunes.

Show notes

The Question:

The question was sent in by Mark Tillotson, of Emmaus, PA:

What would we experience if the moon was not ‘locked’ in it’s rotational period with the earth?

Would we see anything different on Earth? Would the tides be different? Would the lunar recession be different (moving away from Earth faster or slower)?

Images and Links

The essay I wrote about tides, the Moon’s rotation/revolution lock, and its recession can be found on my Misconceptions page.

The lunar phases image is from the amazing Lunar and Planetary Observation and CCD imaging website of Antònio Cidadão; specifically, his animations page.

The far side of the Moon image is courtesy NASA and the Galileo probe.

I bookmarked the site with the revolver image so I could link it here, but I appear to have lost it (it was a public site, like from a museum or government). Oh well. Don’t shoot me.

Q & BA Episode 4: The Gravity of the Situation

By Phil Plait | February 25, 2007 9:43 pm

Ah, is there anything more wonderful than being locked in the warm embrace of someone you love? The emotion, the beauty of the moment, the attraction you feel… but wait! Is that pull you feel really from your Significant Other, or is it due to… the Moon?

Just how strong is the gravity from the Moon compared to someone right next to you?

Well, listen to Q & BA Episode 4: "The Gravity of the Situation" and find out!

Viewing options:

Watch it right here, right now!

Watch it on YouTube.

Watch it on Google video.

Download it directly from LibSyn.

Download the audio only version from LibSyn.

Subscribe via iTunes.

Show notes

The Question:

The question was sent in by Jesse C. of Doylestown, PA: "Does a person standing beside you have a greater gravitational pull on you than the Moon? I recently heard someone mention it. It sounds like a bunch of malarkey… but is it true?"

If you want to the calculations for yourself, then start with

where lower case m is your mass, upper case M is the mass of the object (the Moon, the other person, etc.), R is the distance between the two of you, and G is a constant. When you divide the force from the Moon by the force from the person, your mass and the constant divide out (your mass divided by your mass = 1). For the masses of the planets and such, go to The Nine Planets.

Images:

Mu Cephei is from Davide De Martin’s Sky Factory

Eta Carinae is from NASA/Hubble/AURA.

The Sun and Earth are from NASA (the Earth shot is from the fantabulous MESSENGER Earth flyby).

The pictures of the Flatiron/Rocky Mountains and of me fishing in Kansas are courtesy of, um, me.

And since I know people will ask: The T-shirt is available from the FSM website.

… and one more link. Guess why?

Q & BA Episode 3: The Farthest Star

By Phil Plait | February 18, 2007 11:51 pm

When you look up at the sky at night, the velvet vault seems peppered with thousands of stars. But how much of the Galaxy are we really seeing? Just how far away is the farthest star you can see? What about the farthest object?

Q & BA Episode 3: "The Farthest Star" is now online. Here are your viewing options:

  • Watch it here as an embedded YouTube video. (Note: I originally had this as a Gooogle video, but the audio and video weren’t synched for some reason. In the file I uploaded they were fine. I tried to re-upload a different file, and the same thing happened, so I have replaced the Google embed with the YouTube one). [Later note: I uploaded a new video to Google and it's fine now. There is a link to it below].
  • Go to Google video to watch it (note: updated with a new version where the audio and video match)
  • Go to YouTube (Another note: It took YouTube over 12 hours to get the video processed, and that was only after I had to upload it twice! YouTube is teh suck.
  • LibSyn (video)
  • LibSyn (audio)

I am also trying something new. The ITPC protocol supposedly lets you automatically subscribe to a podcast via iTunes. Here is that link. It worked for me when I tried it, but your mileage kilometerage may vary. If you click on it, tell me in the comments what happened. Unless your machine melts. Then it’s Apple’s fault.

Show notes

The question asked was, "How much of the Milky Way Galaxy do we see with the naked eye?", asked by Richard Saunders. Full disclosure: Richard is a dear friend, but his question was so good I decided to use it despite any possible accusations of cronyism.

For more info about stars, get yerself over to Jim Kaler’s site. He’s one of the nicest guys in astronomy, and his site is pretty cool.

Image pedigrees:

Deneb and Mu Cephei from Davide De Martin’s Sky Factory

Small star next to Sun: NASA/Walt Feimer

Star sizes (for giants): Wikipedia

Keck Observatory: JPL/NASA

GRB 990123: NASA/STScI/Andy Fruchter

M81: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Jupiter orbit: I did that one myself, using The Sky planetarium software.

Orion/Rigel: I had that image lying around at work for an educational activity we developed, and I had permission from the photographer, but danged if I can find it now. Pretty though, isn’t it?

Minties: the best candy lolly in the whole wide world. Yummy. Those are courtesy of many Aussie friends who keep me supplied. Thanks!

Q & BA Episode 2: Journey to the Center of the Sun

By Phil Plait | February 11, 2007 8:47 pm

Q & BA Episode 2 is now online! It’s called "Journey to the Center of the Sun", and I talk about the density at the center of the Sun, comparing it to water and iron. I also talk about how the Sun makes energy, and marvel at the numbers. At several points marshmallows are involved.

Caveat emptor — I made a mistake in the video. I don’t mean the five hydrogen atoms; I mean something else. Anyone catch it? It wasn’t important enough for me to edit out or anything, but to be honest I’m admitting it (sortof) here. Post a comment if you think you know what it is.

You can also see this video on YouTube, on LibSyn (with much better resolution), or get it through iTunes (you need to follow the instructions I posted here).

Incidentally, after a few requests, I have made audio-only versions of the podcasts too. I’ll post them on LibSyn simultaneously with the vidcast, and they’ll have the same episode number as the vidcast, but with an "a" after them. Here is Episode 1a (galaxies), and Episode 2a (the current one about the Sun).

Don’t forget to keep those questions coming!

Q & BA now on iTunes!

By Phil Plait | February 8, 2007 3:28 pm

OK, so I’m new to all this high-falutin’ tech stuff, but I’m working on it.

As far as I can tell, "Q & BA" is now up on iTunes! Sortof. If I search on "astronomy" it’s in the list of podcasts (#39 at the moment, FWIW). Cool. Ditto for "bad astronomy" (though ironically it’s #3 out of 5; those darn Slackers beat me at my own game for interviewing me). But when I go to the "Science and Medicine" category — where I should be listed — nada. Zippo. I’m not sure why, but iTunes confuses and frightens me. I’m willing to listen to advice.

Anyway, if you dare, you can simply drop the RSS URL (http://badastronomy.libsyn.com/rss) into the Advanced –> Subscribe to Podcast option and get it that way.

I’m toying with switching from LibSyn to blip.tv after a commenter mentioned it… or maybe doing both. Comments? Suggestions? I’m new to this, and my ultimate desire is to be king of all media (once I bump off Howard Stern) or at least the Online Astronomy Guru.

One more thing: I know you can’t force viral stuff, but if you like what you see here, please Digg it! There’s a link at the bottom of every post to help you. Digg.com is very cool, and I check it all the time to see what’s hot in the cyberrealms of science. Join up, (it’s free, yadda yadda) and you can digg my posts and get me that one crucial step closer to being lord of all I survey.

Oh yeah– send more questions! There’s a lot of astronomy out there. Surely you must wanna know more about it!

Q & BA Episode 1: Galaxies

By Phil Plait | February 4, 2007 7:43 pm

Introducing Q and BA!

It took all weekend, several software and hardware crashes, two PC swaps, and a lot of advice on the movie maker forum, but I finally got out Episode 1 of "Q and BA"! I received more than 75 questions to my call, and so many were on galaxies that I thought it would make a nice splashy first entry. So here you go: Episode 1, "Galaxies".

Note: YouTube’s resolution is pretty junky for the nice images I’m using, so I’m also storing hi-res versions of these videocasts on LibSyn.com, a podcasting site. My videoblog page there is http://badastronomy.libsyn.com/ (this current episode it not there yet). I’m also working on getting these uploaded to iTunes! I submitted Episode 0 (the intro) but as of this writing iTunes does not have "Q and BA" listed in their science podcasts. I’m working on it!

The images I found for the video are public domain. They are from Hubble, CFHT, Spitzer, and one I couldn’t find a pedigree for so I assume it’s free (the wide angle Milky Way shot).

For more information, there are several good places to go. Those links above are a great place to start! Also, Tom Michalik, a Physics professor at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia has a really nice page with images describing our Galaxy and others. You can also try searching this blog for the words "galaxy" and "galaxies" to find lots of other entries I’ve made about them.

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