Later this month the Japanese publisher CosmoPier is bringing out a special magazine on foreign TV dramas that can help people learn English. I was asked to write a piece about the BBC comedy The Office.
How can The Office help learners improve their English skills? I quoted the show’s creators, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
SM: The difference between our show and other sitcoms that are in an office is that they always seem to be too full of incident. There’s people doing one-liners and being zany, which is not what the experience of being in an office is like at all. It is just about monotony, occasionally interspersed with someone making a joke. So we wanted lots of sequences of people just working.
RG: Drama is life with the boring bits taken out. But we left some of them in. Because they can be the funniest bits.
The boring bits can also be the most useful bits for English learners. Many students say that the most challenging part of learning a foreign language is not ‘the big stuff’, like giving a presentation. Instead, it is ‘the little stuff’: things like small talk, chit-chat and banter.
My latest piece for Physics World is a travel guide to the seven total solar eclipses of the 2020s.
Luxor, on the banks of the River Nile in Egypt, will enjoy 6 minutes 22 seconds of totality on 2 August 2027. (Image: Mahmoud Algazzar)
At around 8am on Friday morning (Japan time), Hayabusa2 will attempt to grab a sample from the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. My latest piece for Physics World is an interview with mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa.
This week’s total lunar eclipse featured a dramatic bonus: shortly after the start of totality, a space rock hit the moon and vaporised in a flash of light. My latest piece for Physics World tells the story…
Can you spot the lunar flash…?
Here is a link to the moment of impact on our timeanddate.com broadcast. It’s on the left edge of the moon, just below the 10 o’clock position, at 04:41:43 UTC.
Our favourite astronomy professor Richard Gelderman (Western Kentucky University) and I have produced two stories for EarthSky about astronomers who are exploring the universe through hearing and touch.
In Listening to the patterns of the universe, Richard talks to Wanda Díaz Merced (International Astronomical Union) about using ‘sonification’ to find signals hidden in large data sets; in Astronomy beyond sight, Amelia Ortiz-Gil (University of Valencia) tells me how she uses tactile models to bring people into contact with the constellations, moon and planets.
How important is the science in science fiction? I talked to three big thinkers – physicist and philosopher David Deutsch, film-maker Olga Osorio, and scientist turned novelist Gianfranco D’Anna – for a piece in Physics World.
As part of the build-up to the July 27th/28th total lunar eclipse, Sky & Telescope have published an interview I did with Noah Petro, Project Scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission.
My latest article for Sky & Telescope begins 2,500 years ago in ancient Babylon, and ends with next week’s total lunar eclipse.
There are 100 days to go until the next eclipse… On January 31st 2018 a total lunar eclipse will produce a red full moon for people in parts of Asia, Australia and the Pacific, and North America.
Image: Juan Carlos Casado
Why does the moon turn red? The earth – a rocky planet about 13,000 km across – moves between the sun and the moon. This blocks the sun’s rays from reaching the moon directly.
But the earth has an atmosphere – a layer of air about 100 km thick. The atmosphere bends some of the sun’s rays around the earth (this is called refraction; it’s why a straw looks bent when you see it in a glass of water). The atmosphere also filters out the blue colour from the sun’s rays (this is called scattering; it’s why the sky looks blue).
So the sun’s rays that eventually reach the moon – after having travelled around the earth, through the atmosphere – are red. This is what gives the moon its awe-inspiring change of colour.
If you miss the red moon in January – because of weather, geography or some other reason – you might get another chance six months later. On July 27th/28th 2018 there will be a total lunar eclipse across Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. And six months after that – on January 20th/21st 2019 – there will be another total lunar eclipse across North America, South America, Europe and parts of Africa.
Thank you to the brilliant Science Learning Hub for the pages on refraction and scattering.