Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Milky J is back

In the next installment, Milky J, the Hubble-obsessed rapper from the Jimmy Fallon show, learns about the James Webb Space Telescope and what it can do that Hubble can't, by visiting the cleanrooms at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  NASA was tickled to have him.  Two behind the scenes rundowns, the former with links to Milky J's other Hubble episodes.

I like the Milky J saga in part because it wasn't NASA's idea.  G(enerally anything with "NASA" and "rap" in the title will be a cringe-worthy attempt by a mission's PR department.)  But this emerged organically, and NASA is embracing it after the fact by letting them film on location.

Also, I was pleased to see two women among the NASA engineers whom Milky J meets.  It's not commented on in the piece -- they're just astrogeeks doing their job, trying to convince Milky J that JWST beats HST by spouting sensitivity limits and science cases.  But I noticed it for the following reason.

Last month, two of my colleagues visited an inner-city summer program for African-American elementary school kids.  As you would expect, the kids drowned these "real live astronomers" in questions about black holes, planets, aliens, the works.  Several of the kids were truly incredulous that women can be scientists, and blown away to meet a real-life woman scientist.  So for the sequel (they have so many more questions!) we're sending two women astronomers, one of them me. I can't wait -- I love that kind of spontaneous Q&A with kids.  (Last week at friends' house, their older kid asked me, "So, what is space inside of?"  I mean, that's GR right there.)

I would have thought that pathologists-in-labcoats TV shows would have gotten kids used to women as scientists.  But then I go to classrooms, and one of the many things that the kids are blown away by is that I'm a woman.  There's a standard classroom activity for young kids, where you ask them to draw a scientist.  Without any prompting they draw a bearded white man in a labcoat.  Which is a jumping-off point to talk about what scientists do, what clothing they wear to do science, famous women and minority scientists, etc.

1 comment:

Cap'n Dyke said...

Beggin' Yer Fine Pardon, Me AstroDyke, but Th' Cap'n be changin' Her Port.


Th' Cap'n LOVES Her some AstroDyke!