Dave Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine and science popularizer, brings you thoughts about astronomy, cosmology, nature, the hobby of astronomy, the sometimes disturbingly pseudoscientific culture we live in, and more.
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Bad science alert: Your planet’s plants, good and bad

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
All right, yesterday I ranted at ya a bit over the nonsense energy drink phenomenon that is making lots of marketing groups and beverage companies super rich as you swill their heavily caffeinated water. Today I’m gonna report on an equally bogus misrepresentation that has been going on for many years, completely unsupported by science. For longer than any of us can remember, the alternative herbal medication industry has been another racket. A huge laundry list of herbs such as black coho...
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Bad science alert: Astronomers and energy — and what they drink

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You wanna know one thing that really grates on me? B.S. ads that misrepresent science at the most basic level and the consumers who willingly and enthusiastically slurp up the products without having any idea they are being hustled. One such enormous scam that’s in full bloom, preying on the collective ignorance of civilization, is the so-called energy drink business. Everywhere you look, people are apparently in need of energy. They seek it from drinks like 5-hour Energy, Monster, No Fear...
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Judging DISCOVER and ASTRONOMY’s ArduSat Contest!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You may have read about this in one of Karri Ferron’s blog posts two weeks ago: our sister publication, Discover, conducted a contest that will allow a winner to win funding for his or her own space experiment! The contest is now closed, but I’ve been asked to help judge the winner by Discover’s Editor-in-Chief Corey Powell and Contributing Editor (and Science Cheerleader) Darlene Cavalier. Let me repeat part of Karri‘s last post here: NanoSatisfi, a company of aerospace...
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Join me on a Civil War riverboat cruise!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
You may not know this about me, but for some years I’ve been heavily into the Civil War. It all started when I was given some artifacts and documents of a great-great grandfather, Darius Wetzel, who fought in the west under Grant and Sherman. That led to a fascination — something to do away from astronomy — and eventually writing eight books on the subject, including The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War (Simon & Schuster), Dixie Betrayed: How the...
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Tom and Jennifer Polakis visit Astro!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
This morning, members of Astronomy’s staff had the great pleasure of seeing Tom Polakis, our longtime contributing editor, as he and his wife, Jennifer, made their way through Michigan and Wisconsin visiting family. Tom has contributed numerous articles to Astronomy over the years, including the extensive series of deep-sky observing pieces collectively known as the "Celestial Portraits" series, which covered the whole sky and ran for several years. It’s always a delight to see Tom a...
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Major new astronomy show planned for Tucson

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A couple weeks ago, Alan Traino, the driving force behind the Northeast Astronomy Forum in New York, announced he was planning a significant astronomy and telescope expo for Tucson, Arizona. Slated for November 10–11, 2012, the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo will feature commercial exhibits; the availability for visitors to purchase telescopes and related astronomy products from around the world; lectures by astronomers, astronauts, and television personalities; and many other activiti...
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Your theory, my theory . . .

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Today, I’m presenting a new video that addresses a point of scientific confusion — most people get the meanings of the words theory, hypothesis, and law, as they’re used in the world of science, completely wrong. Stop that! You should know what these words mean and how to use them, and so I’m presenting this video as a public service . . . In all seriousness, the word hypothesis comes from the Greek word for “to put under,” or “to suppose.&rdqu...
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On the road: ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 7, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Well, the big day finally came. After practicing for six months and packing an enormous amount of gear, driving 120 to 200 miles, and preparing specially selected sets, the Astronomy Magazine Blues Band was ready for our debut. It would come on the last day of ALCon 2012 in Chicago, the annual meeting of the Astronomical League, which took place at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort in northwest suburban Chicago, Illinois. Following three straight days of incredibly busy activities, Saturday turne...
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On the road, ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 6, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
A short blog today about yesterday, Friday, July 6, because this is going to be another monstrously busy day. Yesterday was too — the pace of this ALCon Chicago meeting is frenetic and filled with numerous, nonstop action! Yesterday, the talks started out with me delivering my talk on the latest advances in astronomy, planetary science, and cosmology, “Astronomy’s new frontier,” to a large crowd that had graciously arrived early after a short night of sleep the night befo...
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On the road: ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 5, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
The Longest Day was a great movie, a little dated now but a good WWII film. It was also the summary of yesterday at ALCon, which was all good and executed well but literally the longest day I’ve ever experienced at an amateur astronomy meeting. Our group of some 300 people here at ALCon, the annual meeting of the Astronomical League, began with talks at 8:30 a.m. and returned to our hotel at 1 a.m. I joked that the whole thing was a cover for a University of Chicago sleep deprivation ...
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On the road: ALCon 2012, Chicago, July 4, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Very early in the morning of July 4, 2012, I replaced the usual routine of spending a fistful of cash on cheap fireworks and instead packed up my drums and left Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bound for Chicago, Illinois. The annual meeting of the Astronomical League, ALCon, kicked off at 8 a.m. that morning, despite the national holiday, and welcomed 330 amateur astronomers registered to attend from all over the country. I packed up my drums because in addition to covering this meeting for Astronomy maga...
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On the road: ALCon in Chicago

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Tomorrow very early, I’ll be leaving for the Astronomical League meeting in Chicago, Illinois, ALCon 2012. Astronomy Senior Editor Michael Bakich will kick off the meeting with a talk about the last 150 years of amateur astronomy. I will participate as a speaker, too, and also the Astronomy Magazine Blues Band will be playing, bringing a rock and roll band to a national astronomy meeting for the first time. I’ll be blogging about the meeting each day from Chicago.Every year, the Astr...
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My talk "Astronomy's new frontier" — part 5

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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My talk “Astronomy’s new frontier” — part 4

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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My talk “Astronomy’s new frontier” — part 3

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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My talk "Astronomy's new frontier" — part 2

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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Robert Powell named Astronomy Foundation treasurer

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Today, the board of directors of the Astronomy Foundation appointed Robert Powell, of Mequon, Wisconsin, treasurer, effective immediately. Rob is an active amateur astronomer and corporate fundraiser who graduated from Connecticut College in 1978 with a B.A. in zoology. In 1996, he earned his M.B.A., graduating magna cum laude from Concordia University in Wisconsin.In 2002, Rob joined the Northern Cross Science Foundation (NCSF), an amateur astronomy club in southeastern Wisconsin.  He serv...
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My talk "Astronomy's new frontier" — part 1

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
One of the talks I give these days is an overview of the many areas of current astronomical research. The field is very exciting right now because many of the “big questions” — the size, shape, age, and fate of the cosmos, for example — are either being answered or within reach. Quite a few of you who attended this talk of mine at the Northeast Astronomy Forum, in Hawaii, or in Pennsylvania asked about making a video of the talk so astronomy clubs around th...
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Sunset in Hawaii on Venus transit day

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the fourth of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. You saw those videos over the past few days. Now, I present the third and final of a few vid...
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Major new astronomy exhibition opens at National Museum of African Art

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Wednesday of this week a unique exhibition about astronomy opened in Washington, D.C. that should not be missed by anyone near the capital city who loves the stars. “African Cosmos: Stellar Arts” will run through early December and features an incredible collection of art and artifacts like nothing that has ever been shown before. I present below the press release from the Smithsonian Institution, and I thank Edward Burke and Christine Mullen Kreamer of the National Museum of Afri...
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Sheldon Reynolds to perform at SETICon II

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
This is really very cool — our good friend Sheldon Reynolds to perform at the gala honoring SETI scientist Jill Tarter on her retirement at SETICon II. What a fantastic event, this Saturday, June 23, 2012, and I only wish I could attend. That will be an historic party!...
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Our Hawaii transit of Venus video — Part II

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the third of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. You saw those videos over the past couple days. Now, I present the second of a few videos sho...
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Our Hawaii transit of Venus video — Part I

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the second of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. You saw those videos over the past couple days. Now, I present the first of a few videos sho...
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Behind the scenes at Keck I — Part Two!

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Yesterday, I shared with you the first of a number of videos I shot on our Hawaiian transit of Venus trip two weeks ago. Among other activities, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a well-known user of the Kecks, Alex Filippenko from the University of California, Berkeley, and he gave us an insider’s tour. The file sizes for movies are so huge they must be carried back home and processed rather tha...
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Guest blog: Cherry Springs Star Party 2012, by Chuck Jennings

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
As I mentioned earlier today, I just returned from the 2012 Cherry Springs Star Party near Coudersport, Pennsylvania. I was privileged to speak there and spend some time observing with a variety of friends, including the Jennings family of Townsend, Delaware — Chuck, Karen, Gabe, and Nate. They are an amazing astronomy outreach family: Chuck is an accomplished observer and telescope builder, Karen is the vice president of the Astronomy Foundation, and the boys were full of fun. I&rsqu...
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Behind the scenes at Keck I

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
OK, this morning I feel like I’m caught in a time warp — I just got back from one trip, and I’m still talking about another. (I’ll be reporting on the Cherry Springs Star Party in northern Pennsylvania, which just took place this weekend, a little later today.) Two weeks ago, I was in Hawaii for the transit of Venus, and, among other things, our group of about 100 travelers trekked up to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the 10-meter Keck I Telescope. We had as our guide a w...
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Celebrate ALCon 2012 in Chicago

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Every year, the Astronomical League holds an annual meeting that is loads of fun. The league is the world’s oldest federation of astronomical societies, an umbrella organization that promotes interest in astronomy and backyard skygazing and has more than 200 local astronomy clubs as members. The 2012 meeting, called ALCon, will take place near Chicago July 4–7 at the Lincolnshire Marriott in Lincolnshire, Illinois, about 32 miles northwest of the city center. Although the meeting is...
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Don Parker's amazing Mars

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Oooh! Life is too busy. Since returning from Hawaii and preparing to go to Pennsylvania, things are crazy and good but amazingly hectic at Astronomy magazine. There’s no time today but to share an incredible image of Mars taken by Florida astroimaging legend Don Parker. Don‘s image, taken June 12, 2012, shows the Red Planet with incredible details: bright clouds over Tharsis and Candor, and clouds scattered over Tempe, Arcadia, and Chryse. Check out these incredible details. This is ...
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On the road: Party in Pennsylvania

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
Now that I’m back in the office from a wonderful trip to Hawaii to see the transit of Venus, I’m leaving again on Friday. This time for a short duration, though, having been invited to speak at the Cherry Springs Star Party (CSSP) in northern Pennsylvania. The annual event is put on by the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg and takes place at Cherry Springs State Park, near Coudersport, south of Buffalo and Rochester, New York. Each year, several hundred people get together there for...
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On the road: Hawaii Venus Transit, June 8, 2012

Posted 6 years ago by David Eicher
On Friday, June 8, 2012, Astronomy magazine’s second travel group of Hawaiian tourists enjoyed our last day in paradise. We commenced by listening to Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, describe the procedure of going to the summit of Mauna Kea, the largest complex of telescopes in the Northern Hemisphere. Our group then traveled to the summit, first stopping at the 9,000-foot visitor center for an hour to allow our bodies to adjust to the low levels of oxygen we wou...

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