Talking about radio astronomy

McGill has a modest observatory on the roof, with a 14-inch (optical) telescope. It was installed quite some time ago, then left to molder for a few years. This annoyed me, just on principle, so I talked my way into rehabilitating it as best I could, with my radio astronomer's skills. Even with it working again, it was just used by the occasional grad student who wanted to take her friends up to see Jupiter, or the surface of the moon, or whatever. Fortunately, we recently acquired an enthusiastic and organized post-doc who pushed hard and set up a public outreach program. Typical nights start with a public lecture, then we take folks outside to two portable telescopes and the bigger one on the roof to look at the stars. Of course, we can't predict the weather, so we have a few demos we can do inside - comet-making, liquid nitrogen, a muon detector, but really the appeal is going out and looking up at the sky. But especially in the summer, we need to entertain the public until it gets dark. Since it's once a month, we have a perennial need for speakers. So I volunteered, to give a one-hour talk on radio astronomy for the general public. I had never given a one-hour talk before, and radio astronomy doesn't produce as many pretty pictures as I would like, but I think it came out pretty well. And we had a videographer who recorded the whole thing, so if you're curious, here it is.

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The book can be bought from Amazon
I recently finished reading Nate Silver's book "The Signal and The Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail But Some Don't". Nate Silver is currently somewhat famous because his election predictions - he runs the blog fivethirtyeight for the New York Times - his election predictions were basically spot on. The book, timed to come out shortly before the election (in what I think was a sort of gamble to capitalize on a successful prediction) is about prediction, generally defined. Structured as a sort of collection of case studies, the book talks about all the ways prediction can go wrong, and about what to do to try to get it right. There's no nice one-line answer, but I think he gives some pretty good advice.

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