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Can tweets recap a new media space workshop?

Posted by Jason Davis

24-07-2012 10:01 CDT

Topics: about science writing

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a new media workshop at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado. The concept: round up a couple dozen space and science journalists and bloggers, present some lectures by leading planetary scientists and academics, and foster a discussion on how to better educate the public about science.

Many of the attendees, including myself, live-tweeted the two-day event using the hashtag #LASPnewmedia. Hashtags and live tweets are powerful tools that, when leveraged properly, allow Twitter users to discuss a shared experience and broadcast it to the outside world. But in the 140-character, real-time, blink-and-you'll-miss-it firmament of Twitter, what happens to the collective consciousness of a group of individuals once an event has come and gone? Moreover, is it possible to accurately reconstruct an event with a previously-used hashtag?

I thought it would be interesting to recap the LASP new media workshop using attendees' Tweets, and see how well they capture the gist of the lectures and discussions. I searched all tweets with the #LASPnewmedia hashtag, and selected a representative set to tell the story of each topic discussed at the workshop (the hashtag has been removed from most tweets for readability). After you browse the topics, what do you think about the ability of tweets to collectively tell a story? If you weren't at the conference, did the tweets enable you to adequately follow the discussion, or do they suffer from a lack of context?

Note: OSIRIS-REx Deputy Principal Investigator Edward Beshore from the University of Arizona gave a great talk during the opening dinner on Friday. Sadly, for the most part everyone was too busy enjoying their food while listening to tweet!

Speaker profiles:

Hal Levison discusses his view that Pluto is not a planet, with Alan Stern occasionally interjecting

@sciencegoddess Hal Levison recapping the decision to demote Pluto and how the discovery of Eris played into that.
@kmbecker Tweeting from #LASPnewmedia today. Hal Levison on the Pluto debate: “The answer is not as interesting as the sociological implications.”
@DrMRFrancis Levison: showing the additions to the trans-Neptunian region since 1992. So many iceballs!
@DrMRFrancis Levison: Pluto and Eris are part of an obvious well-defined group based on location and dynamics.
@DrMRFrancis Levison: dynamical view is more historical. Also, go from 9 planets to 8, instead of 9 to >1000.
@DrMRFrancis Levison: roughly 860 ID'd objects bigger than Mimas, smallest known spherical body.
@jeff_foust Levinson: a log-log plot of solar system object diameter vs distance shows there are "8 impt objects" & lots of smaller ones.
@astrosaur_us Here's Hal Levison's chart that shows why Pluto shouldn't be a planet: (click the graph twice)
@astrosaur_us The 'Star Trek' way of defining planethood: orbit it, look at it, make the most obvious call. Hal Levison disagrees.
@astrosaur_us And now, we're getting some back and forth between Hal Levison and Alan Stern about Pluto.
@DrMRFrancis Alan Stern has already challenged Levison. "I don't care what people thought in the 20th century!"
@jeff_foust Levison: KBOs may not be planets, but they are more interesting to me, as they tell us how our solar system changed over time.
@astrosaur_us Hal Levison: "This is why I'm a theorist. I hate data!" Alan Stern: "I hope someone tweeted that."

Alan Stern presents his counterpoint to Levison's Pluto argument

@astrosaur_us Nice to see Alan Stern is opening with kind words for Hal Levison. They disagree on Pluto, but there's mutual respect.
@jeff_foust Alan Stern: discovery of Kuiper Belt resulted in 3 revolutions in planetary science: expanded geography of solar system…
@jeff_foust …creating an "open and shut case" that planets migrated, and finding that the solar system very good at making small planets.
@DrMRFrancis Stern: how do we organize? How do we classify? And who decides? That last point is really a good question.
@DrMRFrancis Stern: coincidental that Kuiper Belt discovery and exoplanet discovery occurred in same decade; both changed our view.
@KevinBaird Alan Stern: we have a lot of new data since 1930. @ LASP
@astrosaur_us Alan Stern would like us to set the record straight that "dwarf planets" are anything but in comparison to most asteroids.
@jeff_foust Stern: misconception that Pluto and large KBOs are tiny. They're not: circumference of Pluto = distance from NYC to Moscow.
@astrosaur_us Random fact from Alan Stern: Triton was wandering on its own until it was captured by Neptune's gravity.
@astrosaur_us Exoplanet TrES-4b is 84% the mass of Jupiter but with an average density of balsa wood.
@DrMRFrancis .@AlanStern Dynamical definition ("clearing of orbit") biases against outer Solar System. Harder to clear orbits.
@MarsTravel For some, too many planets are a problem. Why? They don't want to memorize many new names - @AlanStern
@MarsTravel Objects classified as planets in inner solar systems wouldn't classify same in outer solar systems by IAU def - @AlanStern
@jeff_foust Stern taking on the "cleared the neighborhood" criterion of the IAU planet definition; bias against young and distant planets.
@DrMRFrancis .@AlanStern If you moved Earth to outer Solar System, it wouldn't clear its orbit. No longer a planet by IAU.
@DrMRFrancis MT @blakestacey: @AlanStern If you moved Earth to outer Solar System, we'd have more to worry about than IAU definitions.
@jeff_foust Stern offers his geophysically-based planet definition: big enough for hydrostatic equlib, small enough not to sustain fusion.
@DrMRFrancis .@AlanStern : GPD is simple! Objects are either planets or not without respect to location or dynamics.
@sciencecomedian RT @blakestacey People who contemplate moving Earth to Kuiper belt: 1. Astronomers; 2. Supervillains @DrMRFrancis @AlanStern #LASPnewmedia
@jeff_foust Levison on planet definition debate: this is not a scientific argument, it is a semantic argument.
@MarsTravel In Hal Levison v. @AlanStern debate on def on planet, they both agree IAU definition is horrible.
@astrosaur_us Hal Levison reminds us that at one point, Ceres and Pallas were labeled as planets. This is a very old debate.
@jeff_foust Stern: embarrassing, if not concerning, if planetary science can't define the central object of the field.
@jeff_foust Stern: if IAU vote on planet definition took place in mid-90s, don't think we would have won funding for New Horizons mission.
@astrosaur_us Levison and Stern stress that the Pluto debate occupies a tiny fraction of their time.
@astrosaur_us Alan Stern believes this photo did quite a bit of damage to science:

Alan Stern

Kevin Baird

Alan Stern
Former NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate Alan Stern presents at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics new media workshop on July 21, 2012.

Hal Levison talks about planetary formation models

@DrMRFrancis Levison: what this tells us about planet formation. Going from tiny grains to big planets is hard to understand.
@DrMRFrancis Levison: turbulence between particle layer and gas layer in protoplanetary disk. This may solve the problem of formation.
@DrMRFrancis Levison: planetesimals were likely ~100 km scale, so comets and meteorites are fragments, not primordial.
@DrMRFrancis Levison: easy to get from planetesimals to protoplanets via collision and aggregation. Populations of Mars-size bodies.
@astrosaur_us Hal Levison says theorists were ready when 'Hot Jupiters' were discovered, despite media coverage that HJs were unexpected.
@DrMRFrancis Levison: Why isn't Jupiter hot? Saturn created a 3:2 orbital resonance. Gas moves in, Jupiter and Saturn move out.
@astrosaur_us Very cool new models showing Jupiter and Saturn migrated in to around 2AU, and then 'bounced' out to current positions.
@jeff_foust Discussion at #LASPnewmedia about the "Grand Tack" model of the formation and migration of the gas giants:
@jeff_foust Slides from Levison's #LASPnewmedia talk, "Recent Advancements in Solar System Formation", are here:

Ball Aerospace's Richard Dissly discusses near-Earth asteroids

@DrMRFrancis Dissly: Near-Earth objects (NEOs) are anything passing w/in 1.3 AUs of Earth; Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs) are obvious.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: Many NEOs come from the asteroid belt, as Jupiter kicks them into inner Solar System. Size range 100km down to grains.
@astrosaur_us Dissly says near-Earth asteroids are likely weakly-bound rubble piles.
@sciencecomedian Almost 9000 Near Earth Asteroids in current NASA database - expect that's just tip of the iceberg
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: thinking of sending human missions to NEOs. Big Qs: how long is mission? How much "braking" to land on it?
@jeff_foust Dissly: bias in observations against NEOs in Earth-like orbits. Break it with telescopes in orbits interior to the Earth.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: observatory in a Venus-like orbit would see a lot more NEOs than any Earth-based project.
@sciencegoddess The Sentinel Mission to survey near-Earth region to detect and determine orbits for 90% of all NEOs with di > 140 meters.
@astrosaur_us Beware of near-Earth jargon: delta-Vs, interior observatories, synodic periods.
@sciencegoddess Sentinel looking to launch in 2017 Nominal 5 year mission lifetime. Will help us discover viable targets for exploration.
@jeff_foust See here: RT @DrMRFrancis: I'm still waiting for him to show the orbit of Sentinel.
@astrosaur_us Here's some background on the Sentinel mission Dissly is talking about: Falcon 9 possible launch vehicle.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: Sentinel stats.: 0.5 meter IR telescope, 0.7 AU orbit size (roughly Venus orbit).
@jeff_foust Dissly: Ball submitted a fixed firm price contrac, for Sentinel to B612 Found.; B612 responsible for funding and launch.
@jeff_foust Dissly: Sentinel will do a "passive" Venus flyby to reach final orbit; no critical targeting needed, so no propulsive maneuver.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: Sentinel's precise orbit is not critical (v. interesting idea). Main idea is general location to spot many NEOs.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: don't send every pixel to Earth, just ID moving objects. Signal/noise of 5 before positive detection.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: most of what we know about NEOs is from static images. We want rotational data, maybe changes in shape.
@DrMRFrancis Dissly: maybe asteroids can crumble, like landslides. Need to know before trying to land humans on them.
@astrosaur_us Regolith on asteroids may have similar properties to bread flour. Hopefully OSIRIS-REx will shed light on that theory.
@MarsTravel Binary Asteroid In-Situ Explorer (BASIX) is proposed mission to explore/explain rubble-pile #asteroid structure & evolution.
@DrMRFrancis I doubt we'll land people on Didymos: rotational period is ~2 hours!
@BrokenCrown2012 Dissly: Dropping an item from 1km up on Mars is roughly equal to dropping from head height on Earth - no shocks needed!
@astrosaur_us Here's a near-Earth asteroid delta-V chart for spacecraft rendezvous (compare Moon trip at 6.0 km/s)
@jeff_foust .@NightSkyGuy: why isn't NASA funding NEO search missions? Dissly: needs to be more alignment between SMD and HEOMD objectives.
@jeff_foust Dissly: expect to get funding from B612 soon to start early-phase studies of the detector technology needed for Sentinel.
@jeff_foust Dissly: jury is still out if private approach to planetary missions better than NASA. Sentinel is a hybrid, w/some NASA role.
@astrosaur_us Dissly hesitantly estimates Sentinel's cost: cheaper than New Frontiers mission, more than Discovery mission.

LASP professor Mihály Horányi discusses dust on airless planetary objects

@sciencegoddess Can use this famous buggy video from Apollo 17 to study how particles behave in space!
@DrMRFrancis Horanyi: need to understand the dynamics of dusty plasma on Moon; carries over to asteroids.
@DrMRFrancis Horanyi: small-scale experiments are helpful. Vacuum chamber with strong magnetic field, ionize dust.
@astrosaur_us UV experiments: not cheap, according to Horányi. $100K for five lights.
@DrMRFrancis Horanyi: Showing plasmas made by UV light levitating above a pizza pan. Maybe moondust levitates as well?
@astrosaur_us Looks like @AstroBob_bk talked about the Surveyor 7 levitating dust in an old blog entry:
@kmbecker Electrostatic discharges on the moon could damage future astronauts' sensitive instruments, says Horanyi.
@KevinBaird Ever see lightning in the clouds of volcanic eruptions? Dust plasma is serious business.
@kgreene Dust physics is officially fascinating. Especially in space.
@DrMRFrancis Horanyi: we know more about ejecta on Jupiter's moons thanks to Galileo probe than we do about Earth's Moon!
@DrMRFrancis Horanyi: Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission to study these things directly.
@DrMRFrancis Horanyi: plasma studies could reveal a subsurface ocean even if the surface is completely dust covered.
@astrosaur_us LADEE can't fly close-proximity circular orbits due to uneven Moon mass; will fly elliptical, terminator-crossing orbits.
@DrMRFrancis .@kgreene asks: how important is the shape of the dust grains? A: beautiful question! Surface properties do matter.
@astrosaur_us Horányi says LADEE will fly in September '13. NASA's site seems to be a bit outdated:

CCLDAS dust accelerator

Kevin Baird

CCLDAS dust accelerator
Mihály Horányi discusses the finer points of the dust acclerator at the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies.

Mihály Horányi gives dust accelerator tour, shows off lunar sample

@jeff_foust Mihály Horányi shows off the CU lunar dust accelerator #LASPnewmedia
@astVintageSpace Touching lunar dust simulate. Awesome..
@astrosaur_us The dust accelerator from above.
@MarsTravel Me holding mock lunar dust at #LASPNewMedia conference
@astrosaur_us Dude. I just held part of the moon in my hands. Apollo 17 moon dust.
@KevinBaird Moon Dust from Apollo 17. @ LASP

Apollo 17 lunar dust sample

Kevin Baird

Apollo 17 lunar dust sample
A lunar dust sample returned by the crew of Apollo 17, stored at the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies.

Planetary Scientist Dan Britt talks Mars moons and rover bloopers

@DrMRFrancis Britt: speaking about the Mars Pathfinder rover. First problem: driving over deflated airbags from landing.
@astrosaur_us Britt says Mars Pathfinder tried to snap an awesome pretty pic of an Earthrise, but it turns out Mars mornings can be cloudy.
@KevinBaird Dan Britt says Mars Pathfinder rover was hit by average of 2 dust devils per sol (Martian day).
@astrosaur_us Sojourner outtakes: would see its own shadow and halt, was very good at climbing rocks and could get itself into trouble.
@astrosaur_us Pathfinder rock naming standards: easy to remember, not derogatory, no personal names, easy to spell. Hence Yogi, Scooby-Doo.
@DrMRFrancis I think Dan Britt needs to write a @mary_roach -style book about adventures in robotic exploration.
@kmbecker Spacecraft construction tips from Dan Britt: "Moving parts are the kiss of death in a spacecraft.”
@jeff_foust Britt: living on Martian hours (1 sol ~ 24 hrs 40 mins) "makes you weird over time".
@astrosaur_us Phobos and Deimos factoid: An albedo of 7% is roughly equivalent to that of copier toner.
@astrosaur_us The nice thing about being loosely-packed and porous is being able to absorb big impacts. See: huge crater on Phobos.
@MarsTravel #Phobos has some very interesting features, including numerous fracture patterns and flat floored craters. - Britt
@astrosaur_us Britt offers 3 Phobos/Deimos origin stories: captured asteroid, formed from ejecta (leading theory), accreted in place.
@DrMRFrancis Britt: Deimos is much smaller and smoother. Fewer craters, terrain is very flat! Comparing to Eros, asteroid w/ similar size.
@DrMRFrancis Britt: all three models have significant problems, relating to albedo and/or dynamics. Need a sampling mission!
@DrMRFrancis Britt: going to Phobos & Deimos is easier than landing on Mars AND can help you land on Mars later.
@DrMRFrancis Britt: ejecta from Mars accumulates on the moons. Good samples of early Martian environment - preserved in pristine condition.
@jeff_foust Britt on need for sample return: trying to automate the functions of even a badly-trained student is difficult and expensive.
@astrosaur_us The first thing Neil Armstrong did on the lunar surface was grab a quick "contingency sample" in case of emergency exit.
@jeff_foust Britt: proposed Phobos-Deimos sample return 3 times under Discovery & Mars Scout programs; fell through gaps despite low risk.
@jeff_foust Britt: typically during a Discovery mission you can afford three instruments and one miracle.
@astrosaur_usDan Britt's proposed Deimos sample return size is about 2kg. He prefers less experiments on craft b/c you bring the soil home.

Alan Stern discusses commercial spaceflight

@DrMRFrancis Including @NewHorizons2015 and Rosetta! RT @sciencecomedian: Alan Stern has worked on 26 NASA missions.
@dcoulter Apollo ended not because we ran out of things to do, but because we ran out of the will to do it, says Alan Stern.
@astrosaur_us Alan Stern on US space progress: ironic that in beating the Soviets, we ended up with a space program very Soviet-like.
@MarsTravel Commercial #space companies will be flying at least once a day from numerous sites around the globe - @AlanStern
@astrosaur_us Stern says XCOR will fly four times a day when they are fully operational. That's a bold goal.
@astrosaur_us Stern on SwRI's suborbital science program: "You know it's real because we have a mission patch." Patch:
@KevinBaird Ashtronauts: people whose ashes have been flown into space.
@sciencegoddess Already sold out first mission to land on the moon @Moon_Ex #LASPnewmedia Also going to put a telescope on the moon!
@jeff_foust Stern: comm'l spaceflt has risks—companies will fail and people will die—but will eventually lead to comm'l space exploration.

See other posts from July 2012


Or read more blog entries about: about science writing


Plutogirl: 07/25/2012 11:09 CDT

Is this an annual conference? As a journalist and blogger, I would have liked to attend this and would like to know about future conferences. Is there an email list where I can sign up for information? I answered a lot of these tweets, including one that pointed out Pluto and Eris are not iceballs, given that Pluto is estimated to be 70 percen rock, and Eris, being even denser, is likely more rocky.

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