Friday, September 09, 2005

This Blog: Style, Substance, & Sources

by Mr. Colarusso

The style and substance of student postings found here exhibit a range of talent and rigor. Some of my students are aspiring authors, others non-native speakers. It is my hope, however, that all postings share a commitment to the clear presentation of factual material. The reader should note that I do not have the means nor time to carefully edit or fact check every article. I try to prevent blatant scientific errors from making their way to post. However, I can't catch everything.

Students are asked to provide independent sources along with their article, and when possible these are included as links. If you happen upon a posting which you feel too closely resembles some un-cited source, or if you do find a blatant factual error, please let me know <>.

This Blog and Science Writing

by Mr. Colarusso

This Blog is a collection of student-written science articles geared towards a general audience. As assignments, they are opportunities for my students to engage with science on their own terms. More importantly, they address a skill often neglected by traditional science instruction--the presentation of complex scientific ideas to non-specialists with economy, clarity, and context. Consequently, they serve both the laymen and future scientists among my students.

This is actually my second incarnation of the Starry Messenger, named for Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius. The first incarnation coincided with the creation of my astronomy class two years ago. Since then, it has expanded to include extra-credit submissions from my physics students on any number of science and technology topics.

This assignment was inspired by a course for perspective astronomy majors I took in college--Astronomy 233: Topics in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Basically it was a writing class for astronomers. We wrote a number of short articles on current issues in astronomy and astrophysics, tailoring our writing for the general public.

Astronomy occupies a peculiar place in today's funding environment. It is the oldest of all sciences and though one day necessary for the pursuit of agriculture, navigation, and time keeping it is hard pressed to find "practical" application in today's world. It is not a science with potentially large financial payoffs. Additionally, as we probe deeper into the mysteries of the cosmos the sophistication and cost of our tools increase. As such, today's astronomers need not only be practitioners but spokespersons. They must explain complicated nuanced problems to financiers who often have no specialized background, while also articulating the very real scientific need for such investigation. One of the best ways to make this job possible is to work for a general public conversant in the topics of modern astronomy. To that end, the Messenger exist, not because I expect it to have world-wide readership but because the best way to become informed on a topic is to set about explaining it to someone else. Hopefully, that's some of what happens when these articles are written. Anywho, it's fun. I hope you enjoy the product, and here's wishing you clear skies.