Story Preservation Initiative®

Preserving the Stories of Our Lives by capturing the voices, words, and meanderings of artists, scientists, writers, poets, musicians, and eyewitnesses to history. Listen, learn, and be amazed! WEB: www.storypreservation.org

Posts from the ‘Space’ category

Meet the Harvard Computers

1466268_1428800040666481_1159123551_nWhen I met with Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, one thing that we talked about was the history of the Harvard observatory.  Jonathan explained to me that there was a lot of work involved in mapping the night sky.  I guess!  So, Edward Charles Pickering, the director of the observatory (1877 – 1919) decided to use “computers” for analysis.  Meet the Harvard Computers, pictured above, circa 1913.

To listen to Jonathan talk about the Women Computers, click on the link below.  I’ve also included an edited transcription.

Click here:

 

To listen to Jonathan’s full recording, go to: https://storypreservation.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/we-are-all-stardust/

 

The [Harvard] Observatory was founded in the 1840s. There had been astronomy at Harvard since very early times – maybe the 1700s – but they just had a few small telescopes on the roof. … There was a big comet in the early 1840s that got a lot of the public interested in astronomy. Astronomers in Cincinnati, which at that time was pretty much Wild West, had a big observatory. The upshot was that the New England elite were a little embarrassed that they didn’t have anything to match. And so one of these guys decided that they really needed to have something to be a premiere astronomical institution and he should raise some money. His name was John Quincy Adams. So he was able to raise the money in [something] like two weeks, or something ridiculous. So the great refractor was born on Observatory Hill – or what became Observatory Hill. … It was one of the biggest refractors in the world. … On this great refractor telescope the Harvard astronomers did the first experiments with photography. They took some of the first daguerreotype of the moon and other objects. … An important development was the systematic photography of the sky where [they] took lots of photographic plates of parts of the sky and stored them – and we still have them. And so we have 100 years – or more than 100 years – of archive photographic plates. …

This was a lot of work though and more than the astronomy professor at Harvard could do. So, he did the observations for the most part – but he hired computers to do the analysis. And these were not digital computers, they were human beings and, for the most part, they were women. And the tradition at that time in observatories and other laboratories was that for mathematical calculation and for data reduction kind of work, it was a good opportunity to hire women who didn’t require the same pay scale as men at the time and were thought to be reliable and good at detailed work. So they were just meant to catalogue these stars … but just do rote work, not really think about it too much, not make discoveries. But, of course, that kind of job attracted women who were smart and wanted an intellectual challenge – and they did make discoveries. Instead of taking the discovery credit for himself, the observatory director actually recorded who made the discoveries and gave them credit. And so we know the names of these women. So we know that Annie Cannon is the person who catalogued a quarter-of-a-million stars and made the distinctions we still use today between an O-star, which is a blue star and an M-star, which is a red dwarf star. …

Copyright 2013 Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

Rounding out the learning … with images, lesson plans, and more

As we upload material to the Learning Lab website, we’re including images and documents that correspond with the audio, as well as info graphics, lesson plans and links of interest.

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Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist, Jonathan McDowell’s narrative allows us … and the students who will be listening to the recording … to delve into the rich collections of photographs available on NASA websites.  

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Audio Up! on our Conversation with Space Shuttle Neurolab Researcher⎥ Jay Buckey

Dr. Jay Buckey was a crew member and Bio-lab researcher on the Space Shuttle Columbia’s …

16-day Neurolab mission from April 17 to May 3, 1998. The 7-member crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system. The STS-90 flight orbited the Earth 256 times, covered 6.3 million miles, and logged over 381 hours in space.

Neurolab, a NASA research mission dedicated to the study of the neurosciences, focused on the most complex and least understood part of the human body – the nervous system. This joint NASA-NIH sponsored mission explored five key areas affected by weightlessness: blood pressure control, balance, sleep, nervous system development and the blending of vision with balance and position sense.

Jay is the author of Space Physiology (Oxford Press: 2006), that tells about the effects of weightlessness on the body.

He holds a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University (1977) and an M.D. from Cornell in 1981, interning at New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center and completing his residence at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Currently, Jay is a Professor of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School.  He was also a flight surgeon with the US Air Force Reserve for 8 years.

To hear Jay’s story, click on the links below:

Jay Buckey_Track 01_Intro

Jay Buckey_Track 02

Jay Buckey_Track 03

Jay Buckey_Track 04

Jay Buckey_Track 05

Jay Buckey_Track 06

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.

 

Story Preservation plus TED-Ed equals Great Learning!

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The latest SPI / Ted-Ed Video:

Gravity and the Human Body 

Jay Buckey Ted-Ed

Our bodies function necessarily under the presence of gravity; how blood pumps, a sense of balance and bone growth are all due to life in a world where gravity is an inescapable reality. Armed with experiments from neuroscientists David Hubel and Torten Wiesel, astronaut Jay Buckey presents a thought experiment: How would our bodies work without the force of gravity?

To view Gravity and the Human Body, go to: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/gravity-and-the-human-body-jay-buckey

The first SPI/ TED-Ed video to roll off the production line was  Jerry Carr’s Life of an Astronaut, in which Jerry talks about astronaut training and his life during the Apollo years.  This short, animated educational video was created for students and teachers.  The animation is by Academy-award nominated animator Sharon Colman.

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To view Jerry Carr’s link to: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/life-of-an-astronaut-jerry-carr

SPI oral histories teamed with TED-Ed animated lessons for teachers and students is a great vehicle for learning!

From the TED / TED-Ed folks   … 

“What if you could capture that one brilliant lesson, amplify it and put it in a place where teachers and students can use it all over the world?”    TED’s Chris Anderson

“TED-Ed has the potential to take a lesson that might normally reach just 20 students and extend it to the world. The topics we can cover are endless, and the more teachers and animators who contribute their lessons and talents, the more impactful this resource becomes.”               TED-Ed’s Logan Smalley

A Conversation With Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell

Jonathan McDowell

What follows is taken from Jonathan’s self-described “Stuffy Biographical Summary.”

Dr. Jonathan McDowell is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA. A staff member of the Chandra X-ray Center, he studies black holes, quasars and X-ray sources in galaxies, as well as developing data analysis software for the X-ray astronomy community. Dr. McDowell has a B.A in Mathematics (1981) and a Ph.D in Astrophysics (1986) from the University of Cambridge, England, and has previously worked at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, the Jodrell Bank radio observatory and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

The asteroid (4589) McDowell was named after him in 1993.

In our upcoming conversation, Jonathan will guide me (with a great deal of patience, I might add) and, ultimately you, through subjects that skirt the outer boundaries of human understanding.  Such things as what we have recently come to know about the universe, what these findings mean, and what we are seeking to discover.

We will touch on various subjects ranging from the history – and future – of the space program, to the search for black holes and understanding why we all are, in fact, made of stardust.

Jonathan will kindly walk me through the paces at the Harvard Observatory and I will have the distinct pleasure of viewing an exhibit of Jonathan’s photos of deep space.

Take a look “Behind the Science” 

http://www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/evolving-universe/science/prism.html

To listen to Jonathan, click on links below: 

https://storypreservation.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/01-track-01-intro-to-recording.mp3

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative 2012.  All rights reserved.

 

To inquire about Story Preservation Initiative Oral Histories in the Classroom, email us at: edu@storypreservation.net

Orion – A Star is Born, photo courtesy The Evolving Universe / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

The Observable Universe

The Observable Universe – photo courtesy The Evolving Universe / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

The Helix Nebula, Star Death - photo courtesy The Evolving Universe / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
The Helix Nebula, Star Death – photo courtesy The Evolving Universe / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

The Layout of the Galaxy - photo courtesy The Evolving Universe / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
The Layout of the Galaxy – photo courtesy The Evolving Universe / Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

A Conversation with Astronaut Jerry Carr


To listen to the full 56:00 minute recording, click on the links below. 

Colonel Carr was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crews and as CAPCOM for the Apollo 8 and 12 flights, and was involved in the development and testing of the lunar roving vehicle which was used on the lunar surface by Apollo flight crews.

Carr was commander of Skylab 4 (third and final manned visit to the Skylab Orbital Workshop) launched November 16, 1973, and concluded February 8, 1974. This was the longest manned flight (84 days, 1 hour, 15minutes) in the history of manned space exploration to date. He was accompanied on the record-setting 34.5-million-mile flight by Dr. Edward G. Gibson (science pilot) and William R. Pogue (pilot). The crew successfully completed 56 experiments, 26 science demonstrations, 15 subsystem-detailed objectives, and 13 student investigations during their 1,214 revolutions of the earth. They also acquired extensive earth resources observation data using hand-held cameras and Skylab’s Earth Resources Experiment Package camera and sensor array. They logged 338 hours of operations of the Apollo Telescope Mount, which made extensive observations of the sun’s solar processes.

From February 1974 until March 1978, Colonel Carr and his Skylab 4 teammates shared the world record for individual time in space: 2,017 hours 15 minutes 32 seconds, and Carr logged 15 hours and 48 minutes in three EVAs outside the Orbital Workshop.

In mid-1977 Carr was named head of the design support group, within the astronaut office, responsible for providing crew support to such activities as space transportation system design, simulations, testing, and safety assessment, and for development of man/machine interface requirements.

Carr was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.

SPI is making audio available to TED-Ed to create animated Lessons Worth Sharing.

The first to roll off the production line is Jerry Carr’s Life of an Astronaut, in which Jerry talks about astronaut training and his life during the Apollo years.  This short, animated educational video was created for students and teachers.  The animation is by Academy-award nominated animator Sharon Colman.

life-of-an-astronaut-jerry-carr

 

To view, link to: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/life-of-an-astronaut-jerry-carr

 

Pictured:  Astronauts Gerald Carr, Donald Slayton, Neil Armstrong (seated left to right), and Harrison Schmitt and Edwin Aldrin (standing) compare mosaics of Lunar Orbiter photographs with scenes televised from the moon to Mission Control by Apollo 8 crewmen.

Listen to Jerry talk about his NASA experience.  Run Time: 56:00

Intro to recording

Jerry Carr_Becoming an Astronaut_Track 02

Jerry Carr_Designing the Lunar Module_Track 03

Jerry Carr_Capsule Communicator_Track 04

Jerry Carr_Commander of SkyLab_Track 05

Jerry Carr_Space Shuttle Design_Track 06

Jerry Carr_Camus_Track 07

Jerry Carr_The Earth from Space_Track 08

Copyright Story Preservation Initiative.  All rights reserved.