Category Archives: Presentations

Getting ready for three Japanese eclipses in the next 18 months…

“OK, so if the earth is here…”

In 2019 Japan will experience two partial solar eclipses. The first comes at the start of the year, on the morning of Sunday 6 January 2019. The second comes at the end of year, on the afternoon of Thursday 26 December 2019. Six months after that, on 21 June 2020, Japan will witness its third partial eclipse within 18 months — but it will then have to wait ten years until the next one…

This week I gave a presentation about the eclipses at a study camp organised by Omikyodaisha, an amazingly inspiring high school in the city of Omihachiman. We had fun thinking about how big — and how far away — the moon and sun would be if the earth was 10 centimetres in diameter. We also asked ourselves: if the moon goes round the earth every 29.5 days, why isn’t there an eclipse every month…?

The school funded 200 pairs of eclipse glasses to give to its students. Thank you to Takeshi Taniguchi, Noriko Nishimura, and the fabulous students at Omikyodaisha for a hugely enjoyable session!

IMPORTANT: NEVER look at the sun with the naked eye.

On awareness and understanding of different cultures

Image: Takobou/Wikimedia Commons

The dynamic Keisuke Tabata, of Kobe Shinwa Women’s University, will be talking about our recent Japan-Indonesia-China-Vietnam project at the annual convention of the Japan Association for Educational Media Study in November. The convention is being held at Kagoshima University on the island of Kyushu.

Our project involved an online movie read-through with university and high-school students. It also featured a workshop on cultural differences, including a discussion of the Lewis Model of communication.

Image: Richard Lewis/CrossCulture

A paper will also be published in the Bulletin of the International Education Research Center at Kobe Shinwa Women’s University. Thank you to Keisuke Tabata and his wonderful students, Ritsuko Anzai (formerly at Amagasaki Kita High School), and the fabulous team at Tadulako University in Palu, Indonesia.

Join us for live coverage of the August 21st total solar eclipse, the world’s most popular time zone-related website, will be broadcasting a live stream of the total solar eclipse across the United States on August 21st.

I’ll be joining the team at their HQ in Stavanger, Norway, to present live coverage of events in the sky and on the ground. Our coverage will include:

  • Live telescope feeds from our friends at Slooh
  • Live maps and animations showing the progress of the eclipse
  • Live reports and updates from our correspondents across North America
  • The best photos and videos from social media and the community

Theo Wellington, a NASA ambassador and eclipse evangelist, will be bringing us updates and interviews from an exciting schools’ event being held in a football stadium at Western Kentucky University. “It’s not a science thing; it is a human thing,” says Richard Gelderman, a professor of physics and astronomy at the university.

Image: Western Kentucky University

The August 21st eclipse begins in the Pacific Ocean at 15:46 UTC, and ends in the Atlantic Ocean at 21:04 UTC. We will cover the entire event on’s live page:

Just for fun, we’ll be trying a live ‘experiment’ on the day… Just before sunset, the edge of the moon’s shadow reaches the edge of western Europe. In Stavanger there will be a 0.5% partial eclipse (in other words, half of one per cent of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon). With the the sun hanging just above the horizon, will this extremely tiny ‘nick’ be visible in our telescope at’s HQ…?

By the way, have you seen’s new tool showing the Distance, Brightness, and Size of Planets? (Which body is closest to us right now: Venus, Mercury or the Sun? What will happen over the next few weeks?)


Six days to go…

… until the African annular eclipse of September 1st 2016.

Image: Thephatphilmz, via Wikimedia Commons

Our multi-talented team of students at the University of Mahajanga in Madagascar will be doing a show about the eclipse for RUM (Radio Université de Mahajanga) on August 31st. (For anyone in the local area: the show starts at 3pm on 89.00 Mhz.) We’re also running an eclipse webinar for students on August 30th.

In the meantime, Keisuke Tabata (Kobe Shinwa Women’s University) and I have had a paper published in “Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Media in Education 2016” about our ongoing collaboration the students in Mahajanga.


Our project began back in January with a “Global Communication and Science” workshop in Kobe; this was to help the Kobe Shinwa students prepare for a partial eclipse in Japan on March 9th. As we wrote in our paper:

The aim of the workshop, which was conducted in English, was to give students a better understanding and appreciation of the science behind solar eclipses. Practical exercises included constructing a scale model of the earth-moon-sun system, and demonstrating Einstein’s general theory of relativity using a tablecloth and some heavy objects. (Note: in 1919, the astronomer Arthur Eddington travelled to the equatorial island of Príncipe and used a total solar eclipse to prove Einstein’s prediction that starlight would be bent by the mass of the sun. This was an important event both in terms of science, and in terms of global collaboration: it was an English astronomer proving the theory of a German physicist, just a few months after the end of the First World War.)


There is just one uncertainty when it comes to eclipses: the weather. Unfortunately, there was thick cloud across the whole of Japan on March 9th…

Looking ahead to September 1st, the weather forecast for Mahajanga is looking good. So, fingers crossed!

Related link

Got it.


How do you know if you’re watching a Wes Anderson movie? And what is our whack-bat challenge?

We’ve just had an end-of-semester* “Fantastic Mr. Fox” movie night at the University of Shiga Prefecture, which included a brief introduction to the world of Wes Anderson movies: perfectly centred shots, overhead shots, use of colour, Bill Murray, etc.

Also: fast, complicated monologues – which is the basis of our whack-bat challenge… With the (optional) help of a glass of beer (or two), students (and teachers) read Coach Skip’s high-speed explanation of the rules of whack-bat on page 28 of the script.


As always, we’re hugely and enormously grateful to Wes Anderson for giving us the script of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to use as part of our SkypeRead project.

* Actually, it wasn’t really an end-of-semester movie night – it was more of a ‘welcome back’ to Martin Stack, our former colleague (and my SkypeRead collaborator) who’s now based in the US, but is currently back in Japan for a few weeks :-)

What will happen to our body in space? And other great questions at 6am…


Our second collaboration between Alma College (in the US) and Omi Brotherhood High School (in Japan) came to an end last week with some thought-provoking presentations.

We met on Skype – at 6am here in Japan, which was 5pm the previous day in Alma – for an intensive 90 minutes of cross-border discussion.

The Japanese students presented a series of questions related to the movie “Europa Report” (which we used for a ‘SkypeRead’ teambuilding exercise at the beginning of the programme). Our picture shows some of the slides from Group C’s presentation: “What will happen to our body in space?”

The American students talked about their work for Alma’s e-STEM Cooperative Research Experience (CORE), a one-month academic camp for high-school students and teachers; the students shared the results of their high-level studies on everything from flavonoids in strawberry preserves to influenza.

A very big ‘thank you’ to everyone who made this collaboration possible!

The one thing your students have to believe


One of the key takeaway messages at last year’s FAB8 neuroELT conference came from the brilliant Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa:

“Students have to believe that YOU believe that they can do it.”


Last month Simon Burgess, a professor of economics at Bristol University, published a paper on the dramatic effect that Michelle Obama had on pupils’ GCSE results at a secondary school in London.

The First Lady visited the school in 2009, invited pupils to meet her in Oxford in 2011, and brought 12 pupils to visit her at the White House in 2012. The result was a sharp increase in the number of A*, A or B grades at the school, relative to the rest of London.

Professor Burgess writes (I added the bold):

Having Michelle Obama visit your school would be exciting enough even if she simply waved and gave a general speech. But she didn’t; she talked about how the pupils of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School had the capacity to do as she did, to use education to really get on in life. In general terms: “I did this; you could too”, which can be a very powerful message if delivered by the ‘right’ person. When she invited the pupils up to meet her in the hall of Christ Church Oxford, she said: “it’s important that you know this – all of us believe that you belong here.”

Photo: beanworks (Morguefile)

Building a sense of community in a digital society


ICoME 2016 – the International Conference for Media in Education – will take place in Kyoto, Japan, on August 18th, 19th and 20th. The theme of the conference is “Building relationships and a sense of community in a digital society”.


I’m going to be presenting a paper with Keisuke Tabata from Kobe Shinwa Women’s University about our “Global Communication and Science” collaboration with the University of Mahajanga in Madagascar (abstract below). As always, we’re hugely grateful to Eriky Haritsaratiaray and his amazing team in Mahajanga for helping to make this project possible!

Global Communication and Science: a Madagascar-Japan collaboration

Astronomy and English were the themes of a “Global Communication and Science” project involving students from the University of Mahajanga (Madagascar) and Kobe Shinwa Women’s University (Japan).

Kobe Shinwa students took part in an English-language science workshop to prepare for a partial solar eclipse in Japan (March 9th 2016). They then connected online with Mahajanga students, who were preparing for an annular solar eclipse in Madagascar (September 1st 2016).

As an intercultural team-building exercise, the students met on Skype and did a read-through of the script for “Europa Report” (2013), a science-fiction movie about an international mission to one of Jupiter’s moons. (The script was kindly provided by Start Motion Pictures LLC.) The collaboration continued in a closed Facebook group, where discussion topics ranged from the principle of women-only universities, to typical breakfasts in Madagascar and Japan.

The students deepened their understanding of science, cross-border teamwork, and the language and cultural differences between non-native English speakers across the globe. One of the Mahajanga students said: “Language comes through culture, and culture comes through language. Either way, there were real differences in how people thought about what they wanted to express, and how they expressed it.”

Photo: kconnors (Morguefile)

“Solar eclipses as an opportunity for public engagement with science”

Thank you to Tadulako University (UNTAD) for inviting me to speak at an international seminar on March 8th to mark the 2016 Indonesian total solar eclipse. The title of my presentation will be “Solar eclipses as an opportunity for public engagement with science”.

The keynote speaker is Richard Gelderman from Western Kentucky University (WKU) in the US, who will talk about “The Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment for 2017”.


I’ve been working with Professor Gelderman over the past three months, helping to facilitate an exciting cross-border collaboration between students at WKU and UNTAD. During the eclipse on March 9th, our group will be gathering results for the CATE experiment, plus another project called GLOBE, which is run by NASA’s Earth Science Division.

The UNTAD seminar also features Miquel Serra-Ricart, from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in Spain. Dr Serra-Ricart is the president of Shelios, which promotes and broadcasts scientific expeditions around the world.

The Shelios team will be broadcasting the eclipse from Palu in Spanish and English. First contact (the beginning of the partial phase of the eclipse) will be between 23:25 and 23:30 Universal Time on March 8th; second and third contacts (marking the beginning and end of totality) come one hour later, between 00:32 and 00:42 Universal Time on March 9th.

Completing the line-up for the UNTAD seminar is a team from BMKG in Jakarta. BMKG – Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi dan Geofisika, or the Council for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics – will also be live-streaming the eclipse.


My trip to Indonesia is being generously sponsored by Garuda Indonesia.

UPDATE (3 March 2016)
Prof Dr Thomas Djamaluddin, the chairman of LAPAN, will also be presenting at the seminar. LAPAN (Lembaga Penerbangan dan Antariksa Nasional) is the Indonesian space agency.

Our first Global Communication and Science workshop

A HUGE thank you to Keisuke Tabata and his BRILLIANT students at Kobe Shinwa Women’s University, who took part in our first Global Communication and Science workshop on solar eclipses (below).


(Just for info, that’s not a green tablecloth – it’s about to become spacetime. Also, that’s not a mandarin orange – it’s a celestial body that is about to pass near the sun… This is all connected to a discussion about Arthur Eddington’s 1919 experiment, where he used a total eclipse to prove Einstein’s general theory of relativity.)

Later this month, the Kobe Shinwa students will be collaborating remotely with students at Mahajanga University in Madagascar, starting with an online read-through of the science-fiction movie “Europa Report”.

Our Global Communication and Science workshops are sponsored by Garuda Indoneisa.