Weekly Challenge 4: You Want Me to Do What With a Bathroom Scale?

 Posted by DrJeff on June 29th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


For Post

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Teachable Moment in the News.


As I write, NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Center are working mightily on space shuttle Endeavour to repair a hydrogen leak that scrubbed the June 13, then June 17 launches. Endeavour is headed for the International Space Station. NASA reports that the next flight opportunity is July 11—WHICH MEANS I’ve got plenty of time to get ready for my way cool experiment.


I’ve heard a lot about weightlessness, and astronauts having a great time floating around. The shuttle flies at an altitude of 210 miles (340 km) when rendezvousing with Space Station. (For a cool take on this read my earlier post The Business Trip.) So I wanted to find out first hand what’s going on up there. Since they don’t have a spare seat, I looked far and wide to find an amazingly tall mountain whose peak rises to the shuttle’s orbital altitude. See my mountain in the picture? Mt. Everest is only 5.5 miles (8.8 km) high. MY mountain is 210 miles (340 km) high. It took me some time but I finally found it south of the Land of Make-Believe, down a not too well traveled path. Still, you’d think someone would have noticed it.


Read the rest of this entry »


SPECIAL POST: Where Were You During the Flight of Apollo 11? Remember and Share –

 Posted by DrJeff on June 26th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Countdown to History
Ensure your system clock is correct for countdown accuracy.
Launch of Apollo 11, Cape Kennedy: T-minus

Touchdown at Tranquility Base: T-minus


A Footprint on Another World: T-minus




This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.


We came in peace for all mankind

It was a moment that changed us. A moment that began a new chapter in the book of the human race. It was an achievement shared by all the peoples of the world … and in that moment—our differences were overwhelmed by the common bond of our humanity. And hear ye future generations—it was a testament to what we are collectively capable of achieving when we aim beyond the horizon.


Many of you reading this lived through it and were powerfully moved. Many of you were not yet born—but yearn to know what it was like.


I created this special post as a place where those that lived it could share the experience with those that did not.


If you were moved 40 years ago next month, please leave a comment below. Think about where you were, what it meant to you, and what it meant to the world. And we warmly invite you to put your thoughts to ‘paper’ here.


I’ll start it off with my own very personal experience in the recent post: The Launch of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Brought Back Memories of Apollo 11.


I have also assembled a list of resources below to help you celebrate with friends and family, and follow the flight—in real time—as it happened 40 years ago. I’ll be adding more to the list every few days.


With best wishes for great memories and wonderful sharing time,

Jeff Goldstein, Center Director, NCESSE



Please Tweet and Email the existence of this page far and wide, so we can remember together.

Return often to read new comments below with friends and family.



Feel the magic and the majesty—again.




Read the rest of this entry »


THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper?

 Posted by DrJeff on June 23rd, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Read Original Challenge HERE.


This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.

Last week on BotU, your challenge was to take an imaginary, truly humongous piece of xerox paper—but with normal xerox paper thickness—and figure out how many times you’d need to fold it in half so the folded thickness is the height of you, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Mount Everest. For those that really wanted to challenge themselves, I invited you to keep folding so it would be thick enough to reach the Moon, the Sun, the nearest star, and beyond.

How’d you do?

BUT WAIT! If you haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 3, DON’T LOOK AT THE SOLUTION HERE JUST YET! First read Weekly Challenge 3, or I’ll take back my paper.

First, a word from our sponsor—

You Want Me To Do What With a Bathroom Scale?

Weekly Challenge 4 to be posted Monday, June 29, 2009

Other Posts coming soon:

A Voyage in Corpus Christi

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, History Tells How Far You Are

Lessons of Earth

MESSENGER: Target Mercury

And now the answers—

Read the rest of this entry »


Yesterday’s Launch of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Brings Back Memories of Apollo 11

 Posted by DrJeff on June 19th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, is about to become the second human being to walk on the Moon. This picture was taken by Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, July 20, 1969.

Astronaut Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot, is about to become the second human being to walk on the Moon. This picture was taken by Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 commander, July 20, 1969.

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

Yesterday (Thursday, June 18) the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and will reach the Moon next Tuesday, June 23. LRO is a robotic mission that will pave the way for humans to return to the lunar surface. It’s also a timely teachable moment in the news for another reason—


July 20th is coming. I’m waiting for the emotions to wash over me again. It will be the 40th anniversary of the first human footprints on another world, and I lived it.


I remember it so vividly. It was July 16, 1969. At Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Apollo 11—a rocket as tall as a 36-story building—blasted off with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins aboard. The command module Columbia—with barely enough room for the three crew seats—was their home for the 3-day trip to the Moon, and by July 19th they were in orbit.


Read the rest of this entry »


Dr. Jeff Now Regularly on the Huffington Post

 Posted by DrJeff on June 19th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Hello sports fans (a shout out to Captain Herbst). I’m really excited that starting today I’ll be regularly posting at the Huffington Post. Most will be crossposts with Blog on the Universe, but I’ll also be writing original material for HuffPost.


On Huffington today, Dr. Jeff”s Let’s Ban English in School … Except in English Class which is a reworked version of the introduction to this Week’s Challenge What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper? It’s featured in the Comedy Section! (I wonder why.)



This is also a good opportunity for some site news:


IMPORTANT REQUEST: In light of the grave climate change report out of the White House three days ago on June 16, please help disseminate to folks far and wide the recent post A Day in the Life of the Earth, which was my best attempt to put the crisis in an understandable perspective. If you can, please Tweet, share on Facebook, and send out emails with the link to this post. You can use the shortened link: http://bit.ly/SUnZV



IF YOU LIKE Blog on the Universe, if you can take just 2 minutes to leave a comment on the post or page of your choice, that would be wonderful. It’s not just for other visitors to the site. It also helps me know that all these thoughts I’m putting into the aether are somehow meaningful.



Drew Roman, President and CEO at Decisive IT has been working hard to increase visibility for Blog on the Universe, and upgrade systems behind the scenes. Read my Thanks to Drew at Decisive IT page!  He may be able to work some magic for your site!



The Friends of Blog on the Universe page is now live. Take a look. It’s a place where we can provide reciprocal links to your organization. Contact me. Let’s grow the network!



Tom Grzadzielewski at WI Astronomy created a great new Blog on the Universe widget at Widgetbox.com that you can upload on your website. The link is in the resources section at the bottom of the Friends of the Blog page. Thanks Tom!



Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper?

 Posted by DrJeff on June 15th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog



This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


Math is the language of nature. If you yearn to know

how she operates, you must speak her language.


Before getting to the awesome challenge this week, I need to get something off my chest. It’s something very relevant to the challenge, but you might not think so at first—


My first language is English. I have very strong beliefs about how English should be taught in schools. I guess I’m a traditionalist. I also think that my views apply to how any language should be taught in schools around the world.


I think English belongs in English class. Period. You want to speak and read and write English, well do it in an English class. It doesn’t belong in a history class, or a science class, or for that matter a class on economics, art, sociology, psychology, or the law. Let’s keep English where it belongs. It’s just a language. So no English in those other classes. Just sit there and learn the concepts, nuances, big ideas, and emotional content of those subjects through …. osmosis. Think your thoughts toward other members of the class and share brain waves. And please, please … when you do this—DO NOT THINK YOUR THOUGHTS IN ENGLISH!


Read the rest of this entry »


A Day in the Life of the Earth: Understanding Human-Induced Climate Change

 Posted by DrJeff on June 13th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog




This post is a Driving with Jordi.

This is crossposted at Huffington Post HERE.


Note to reader: click on the links in the text for the real data. This is not a work of fiction.


From Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies concerning this post—

Public understanding of climate change depends on an understanding of time scales. Goldstein [Dr. Jeff] does a brilliant job of making clear the rapidity of the human-made intervention in the climate system, and the correlation of global warming with the appearance of technology powered by fossil fuels.


“Daddy, how long is a billion years?”


As soon as we got in the car this morning, and buckled up, I said “so Jordi, I need some help. I need more material for the blog.” “Daddy, what do you mean by ‘material’?”  “That’s what writers call the stuff they use to create stories”, said daddy.


It was a beautiful, sunny morning, so he started talking about … the Sun. He had lots of questions—where did it come from, what’s burning on it to make it so bright, how old is it, what will happen to Earth when it stops burning? The last one was particularly cool. I asked him if he thought the question “what will happen to the Earth when the Sun dies?” is something lots of kids might ask. He said “yes!!” I asked him who he thought was the first person to actually figure it out. He didn’t know. I told him it was me.


Read the rest of this entry »


Blog News June 9, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on June 9th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Blog on the Universe has now been up for 4 weeks. That’s enough time for me to now step back and see what needs to be tweaked based on visitor feedback and a good understanding of what it takes to generate content on a regular basis. So here is what’s new—



The Blog was originally designed for parents and teachers, but the feedback indicates a far broader appeal. I’ve therefore changed the description of the Blog to reflect that it’s for anyone but we still retain a special focus for teachers and parents. Read the new About this Blog page.


Flavors of Posts

Looking at the posts thus far, it’s clear they are heavily weighted on the side of Weekly Challenges. The main reason—each week the idea was to post the solution to the Challenge from the week before together with a new Challenge—that’s 2 posts per Challenge on the same day. It’s also pretty clear that the Weekly Challenges should not be a central focus of the Blog but just one of the multiple flavors of posts. So I’ve decided to post the Weekly Challenge every other Monday. That way a Challenge is posted, the solution is posted the following week, and the new Challenge is posted a week after that.  It makes for better flow.


Spreading the Word

For this Blog to be successful, we’ve got to grow the audience. I know it’s out there. There are likely 3 million teachers of science in the U.S. alone. (I’m pretty sure the number of  parents is a bit higher.) And then there’s the general public.


So please help us get word out about the Blog. If you have email distribution lists, a newsletter, or can just Tweet about the Blog, go for it! Let’s make this a successful resource together. I’ve also just created a Friends of Blog on the Universe page. It includes a description of the Blog that you can use for email dissemination, a 1-page PDF flyer, and a widget you can download to your website. This Friends page is a place where I’d love to post comments about this Blog from organizations and individuals, provide your organizational name and a short mission statement, and a link to your website. Take a look.  Let me know if you’d like to make use of it by contacting me.


With best wishes for a wonderful summer,

Dr. Jeff



THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 2: People People Everywhere

 Posted by DrJeff on June 9th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog


Read Original Challenge HERE.


This post is a solution to a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge.


Have you figured out how many new human beings will be on the planet a year from now? It was Weekly Challenge 2 that I posted last week. (Actually one week has already gone by.) I hope you’ve not been staring endlessly at the World Population Clock.


But if you haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 2, DON’T LOOK AT THE SOLUTION HERE JUST YET! First read Weekly Challenge 2, or I’ll deduct your existence from the World Population Clock (like that will make a difference.)


A word from our sponsor—

What Can I do with a Humongous Sheet of Xerox Paper?

Weekly Challenge 3 to be posted Monday, June 15, 2009


And now the answer—

Read the rest of this entry »


My Really Long Drive with Jordi

 Posted by DrJeff on June 6th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog




This post is a Driving with Jordi, and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.

“Daddy, how long would it take to drive around the Sun?”

So there we were on the Washington, DC, beltway heading for his elementary school. We were cruising at 60 mph—yes, on the beltway, I know!! (© Craig Ferguson, CBS).  Jordi said, “daddy, how far has this car gone since you and mommy got it?” I looked down at the odometer and read 249,000 and some odd miles. Cool! The ’95 Camry was doing just fine. Besides getting close to the 250,000-mile mark, the space guy in me knew that the Earth’s circumference is about 24,900 miles. “Jordi! This car could just have gone around the entire planet Earth 10 times!” He wasn’t expecting that answer. He thought that was … way cool. Cars aren’t supposed to be able to go around an entire planet are they?

But before we get to the rest of the story, first a detour at a Jeffism

Science Education is about conceptual understanding

at an emotional level.

Read the rest of this entry »