The pump of curiosity

The summer 2020 issue of I-M Intelligent Magazine… … includes “an exercise in fun speculation” by me on a potential link between solar eclipses and the Fermi paradox. According to the Copernican principle, there is nothing special about the earth’s place in the universe. Except for the awkward fact that — on current evidence —Continue reading “The pump of curiosity”

Ephemeral moments with two planets, the moon, and the sun

A little ephemeral moment will play out over the evenings of 21 and 22 May: the two innermost planets — Mercury and Venus — will be close together on the western horizon. Image: EarthSky Venus (which, as you may have noticed, has been spectacularly bright recently) will come into view about 20 minutes after sunset;Continue reading “Ephemeral moments with two planets, the moon, and the sun”

Can you solve this logical-thinking puzzle?

Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute For anyone locked down and in need of some mental exercise, here’s a quick Japanese challenge. If you only speak English, the puzzle is impossible to solve. If, however, you speak Spanish — or one of a number of other languages, including French, Welsh or Hindi — it becomes an exerciseContinue reading “Can you solve this logical-thinking puzzle?”

The deeper purpose of education

The 2020 Annual National Convention of TESOL-SPAIN took place last week at the University of Salamanca. Image: Fernando Vázquez Yáñez/Creative Commons My personal highlight was a talk on “Positive Language Education” by Sarah Mercer, head of English Language Teaching at the University of Graz in Austria. She began by posing two questions that formed partContinue reading “The deeper purpose of education”

Breaking barriers within education

Next month the University of Salamanca will host the TESOL-SPAIN 43rd Annual National Convention. The theme of the convention — Breaking barriers: make it happen, make it matter! — “invites us to reflect on the powerful forces that contribute to modern life, including the emergence of Artificial Intelligence with its unforeseeable impact on our lives.Continue reading “Breaking barriers within education”

Eclipse waiting: a project for the 2020s

Worldwide, the 2020s will bring us 22 solar eclipses: seven total, seven annular and eight partial. (An annular eclipse occurs when the moon is too far away to cover the sun completely — the sun becomes a ‘ring of fire’ surrounding the black disk of the moon.) Image: Jordan Lye The most high-profile spectacles includeContinue reading “Eclipse waiting: a project for the 2020s”

Helping African children become radio astronomers, and other stories

Image: NASA/EOS/GSFC I’ve written a piece for EarthSky about last month’s International Astronomical Union Symposium on Astronomy for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: https://earthsky.org/human-world/iau-symposium-diversity-inclusion-astronomy The article focusses on two stories from two continents. Ikechukwu Anthony Obi — from the Center for Basic Space Science at Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency — is finding cleverContinue reading “Helping African children become radio astronomers, and other stories”