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“So I have tasted the Moon”: Dava Sobel’s visit November 2, 2006

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics.
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Today was an interesting day. Dava Sobel, an award-winning science writer, author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, and former science reporter for the New York Times, visited our Department here at Wayne State. She apparently is on the promotion tour (WSU was her first stop!) for the paperback version of her latest book, The Planets.

So she visited our Department, listened to our short 40-min presentation of research directions (the idea was to talk about something related to astronomy/astrophysics, so five of us took turns talking about astrophysics, nuclear theory, particle theory — that was my stint, particle experiment, and … nanoscience). I guess it must have been overwhelming at times, but she said she had fun (look at the picture below taken in the room with a cool whiteboard). Moreover, the only equation in the whole presentation (which I tried to sneak into my Powerpoint slides) did not survive Windows > Mac conversion…

Then she proceeded to our Planetarium to give a short talk about her book, The Planets. I guess, our planetarium was the reason why she decided to start her book tour at WSU and not, say, Harvard – we have a “real thing,” not the digital impersonation that many Universities have. Well, really I don’t know why.

Her talk was quite entertaining. At one point she told us a story of her friend, whose boyfriend (who apparently worked for NASA) gave a bit of Moon dust, actual Moon dust brought from the Moon by one of the Apollo expeditions. “What would you do with that?” she asked the audience. I don’t know why, but I said “Eat it!” Maybe I just wanted to know how the Moon tastes – after all, “everybody knows the moon’s made of cheese”… To my surprise, that’s exactly what that lady did!!! Go figure…

It was intersting to know that she started her science-writing career in Ithaca, working with the great Carl Sagan at Cornell. It is interesting that he left a huge “imprint” on Ithaca with everyone knowing who he was. I was a postdoc at Cornell in 2000-2001, after his death, but people would still say “oh, physics department. yeah, I know Carl Sagan.” As it turned out, my landlady’s mother (or aunt) was his secretary. Hmm… It must have been great working with him…

What would you do with the Moon dust?

Update: our local University paper had an article about her visit. Check it out here.

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