Log in

No account? Create an account

Boskone Schedule

Brother Guy's Schedule for Boskone 52

The Cutting Edge

Friday 14:00 - 14:50, Harbor II (Westin)

Panelists discuss scientific and engineering developments that are new or emerging, and then venture into the realm of those that may be just a short step from development. What ideas are within our reach that recently seemed like pure science fiction? And what direction will technology likely take in the future?

Tom Easton (M), Guy Consolmagno, Justine Graykin, Mark L. Olson, Karl Schroeder

Losing True Dark

Friday 16:00 - 16:50, Harbor III (Westin)

With the growth of modern cities, the star-swept sky is vanishing, hidden behind the ever-spreading glare of nighttime light pollution. Has the absence of true dark skewed the impact of the nighttime skies? If so, how might this alter the human imagination? What does it mean for our outlook on the supernatural, our observation of outer space, or even our basic desire to discover what lies beyond our own planet? Has this changed our perception of humanity's place within The Universe?

David L. Clements (M) , James Cambias , James Patrick Kelly, Donna L. Young, Guy Consolmagno

Tall Technical Tales

Friday 18:00 - 18:50, Harbor I (Westin)

What stories do scientists tell when they’ve inhaled too much ethanol? Could they involve exploding particle accelerators or “oops” moments with virulent viruses? Perhaps they’ll explain why you should never operate a centrifuge while under the influence. Find out when our panel of loose-lipped lab rats tells true stories about their work. Oh, and bring your own nerdy narratives for our open mic.

David L. Clements (M), Guy Consolmagno, Jordin T. Kare, Joan Slonczewski

From the Earth to the Moon — and Beyond!

Saturday 10:00 - 10:50, Burroughs (Westin)

A hundred and fifty years ago, Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon surveyed the difficulties of building a giant space gun to propel three people to Luna. Fast-forward to today, when NASA is shooting to land people on Mars by 2035. Panelists discuss the challenging realities of space exploration — from getting off the ground to getting there to getting home.

Jordin T. Kare (M), Guy Consolmagno, Jeff Hecht, Walter H. Hunt, Ian Randal Strock

Reading: Guy Consolmagno

Saturday 12:30 - 12:55, Independence (Westin)

Kaffeeklatsch: Guy Consolmagno

Saturday 14:00 - 14:50, Galleria-Kaffeeklatsch 1 (Westin)

The Year in Physics and Astronomy

Sunday 13:00 - 13:50, Marina 4 (Westin)

An annual roundup of the latest research and discoveries in physics and astronomy. Our experts will talk about what's new and interesting, cutting-edge and speculative: the Higgs boson, solar and extrasolar planets, dark energy, and much more besides.

Jeff Hecht (M), Guy Consolmagno, Mark L. Olson , David L. Clements

Rant to journalists

I started out life as a journailst, so I have some sympathy for them. Doing really good journalism is very, very difficult. That is why it is so rare.

But between the Sagan medal, and the new book coming out, and some newsworthy science that I presented last month, I have been getting a spate of requests for interviews. Some have been great, others were... well...

So here are some helpful hints that I am sure no journalist will read, but which let me rant for a minute, to improve the odds that I will be a cooperative subject and that you might get a useful story.

1. Spell my name right... in the email asking for the interview, and of course in the story itself.

2. Presumably you are interviewing me because of my position. So get that position correct. I am a brother, not a priest. If I were a Father then maybe I would have written a book called "Father Astronomer" and maybe would I have an email address that starts with "fatherguy". But I didn't. Wonder why?

3. Do your homework. I have the world's easiest name to Google, so please at least read the Wikipedia article that someone posted about me... and then, ask me if the details there are correct. (Some of them are not. This is Wikipedia, remember?) Find out, before you ask, the things that anyone could find out without reading your article, so that you can write an article with things have not yet been found out.

4. Realize that I can Google you, too. And I will. If I find anything on your page that relates to UFOs, the interview is off. Period.

5. Before asking me about my book, or about any of the topics I cover in my book, read my book. You might even ask my publisher to send you a copy.

Journalists are targets for all kinds of abuse nowadays, often by people who don't want their doings exposed in the public press. Please, we need good journalists and good journalism. Don't enable the abusers by making yourself an easy target for mockery.

Book Day!

The book is officially released today: Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

As I mentioned on Twitter, it's easy to get a signed copy. First, go to your local bookstore and buy a copy. In fact, buy two, in case of accidents. If they don't have it in stock, you can make it worth their while to special order it by ordering 20 or so. Once you have a copy, then open it up to the title page, take out your favorite pen, and sign your name in it.
(I didn't specify whose signature, after all!)

We've gotten a lot of nice publicity about it; we even made local TV...


I have a book coming out Real Soon Now, and a co-author attached to that book who up to now has lived a peaceful life of relative anonymnity. But he's starting to get the kinds of weird emails that I have been living with for a while now. Seeing that, has made me reflect on the rules of thumb I have invented for myself over the years.

Every stranger who writes to me (and I have the world's easiest name to Google, there's no hiding) deserves one polite answer. This assumes, of course, that they are actually writing to me, not just including me on a spam list. (It's pretty easy to tell the difference.)

After one reply, I simply cannot reply any further except in exceptional cases, because I could not possibly handle the volume of the correspondence. Mind you, one or two such letters a day is all I get -- I am no Scalzi -- but I don't have the personality type to be able to handle, emotionally, talking to more strangers than once or twice a month -- I am no Scalzi.

Furthermore, let me make clear to everyone who writes:

1. No, it is not a meteorite. There are many good sites online to help you see why it is not a meteorite. If you can't figure out how to find them with Google, you can't figure out for yourself that it's not a meteorite.

2. I do not do spiritual direction by email. That's because, first of all, I do not do spiritual direction at all, not even face to face; that's not where my talents and training lie. But in fact, no one can do spiritual direction by email. It takes face-to-face contact to be able to read voice inflections and body language; and it takes living in the same community to be able to understand the subtext of what's being said, in both directions.

3. It wasn't a UFO. If you saw a UFO (and especially if your friend whom you really trust saw a UFO) I don't want to know about it. Yes, I know, some day someone will make contact with the Nebulons from Planet 10 and the human race will never be the same. I do not want to be that person. I suspect, if you thought it through, you would realize that you wouldn't want to be that person, either. If you don't know what I mean, read the book of the prophet Jeremiah.

4. I will not read your manuscript. Join a local writer's group. I will not recommend you to my publisher/agent/editor, either. That's Not My Job. Getting published is a crapshoot. There is no trick or logic. Having a successful book, ditto. There are plenty of sites on line with advice, good or bad, about how to accomplish it. Whatever you do, you won't be able to do what I did (join the Jesuits, get assigned to the Vatican) so I really have no useful experience to pass on to you, in any event.

5. If you send me, unsolicited, a copy of your book I will immediately send it to recycling. Likewise a copy of your video. I will never click on a link you send me, ever. My time is limited, and it's already paid for by other people; you have no right to it.

6. There is no rule six.

(I thank pnh for teaching me the term "microcelebrity")

Busy, busy, busy

I arrived in Tucson on August 20, nearly a month ago, and hit the ground running. Since then I have gotten a crash course on my new duties and then taken over as the President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation (I'll let you keep your first million, but I am after your second million...).

In a practical sense, this meant a lot of moving. I moved into a new office. (I still have lots of stuff back in the lab in Rome, as I will be going back there on occasion.) The first task was buying a new computer, always fun! I spent a day decorating the office, hanging the sorts of photos -- mostly images from our telescope -- to decorate it the way that might impress visiting donors, should any actually visit. Now I am just trying to remember where I put everything.

I moved into a new room in the community. It's much bigger and nicer than where I had been living; something else new to get used to. There was even a big TV in the room -- I have never had a TV, not even back in the days before I was a Jesuit, and it's a little odd. I don't care for anything that is on broadcast TV, but I did buy an Apple TV device and a subscription to Netflix. Mostly in the evenings I have been watching odd foreign films. I also went out to buy a cover for the duvet; and discovered that they are more expensive than the Apple TV!

Biggest expense of all... we traded in two cars that were registered to the Foundation, to buy one new car for me. First car I have "owned" (it's not mine, it's the Foundation's, but I am responsible for it) in about thirty years. Cars are different than they used to be; they're more like computers on wheels. Very odd. I bought a Detroit product; Chrysler fed me all during my childhood growing up in Detroit and put me through college, and I am just used to the way their products feel.

Meanwhile, I have a book coming out next month, so there's lots of prep work for speaking and tours associated with that (including getting a contract for the audio version signed by my coauthor in Rome, mailed here for me to sign, and then sent on to our agent in New York.) Many other small writing tasks. And, oh yeah, science. I am supposed to be a scientist.

The biggest event in fact is that while all this was going on, I finished a paper, passed it by my coauthors (who are in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Japan, and Greece), and submitted it to Icarus. It is going to be very, very controversial; we are suggesting that the Dawn team have seriously misinterpreted their own results about Vesta. They aren't going to be happy. In fact, they aren't happy; they've already attacked our results in their public talks. Great fun! Maybe even some truth will emerge at the end of the day.

So, this week, I have fled Tucson to go to Washington DC. I'll speak about my Vesta results at an physics colloquium at Catholic University on Wednesday. Then on Friday it's something completely different... extraterrestrials at the Library of Congress.

When form letters go awry...

So, last month I got a wonderful letter offering me a special membership for a fabulous conference that the organizers would love to have me attend, apparently because I am so special and fabulous and wonderful, myself. The second paragraph shows just how much they value my unique background: "In recognition of your current work and the significant contribution you would make, Registration Fees would be waived for you..." (so far so good) "...and your accompanying immediate family including college-age or younger sons and daughters."

Oh, well.

In fact, the letter is addressed to "Father Consolmagno" which indicates failure on two different directions: one, with such a title they might have suspected I don't have accompanying sons or daughters, which shows how paragraph two doesn't know what paragraph one is saying; and two, I am a Brother and not a Father, which shows how carefully they researched my background.

Where is Br Guy?

Today I am in London, tomorrow the Lake District. I'll be hiking about there, in the rain no doubt, for a week; then it's on to North Yorkshire and Ampleforth, where I'll be visiting friends and with luck visiting Durham as well.

On Tuesday, August 12, I return to London. I hear there some sort of science fiction convention happening later that week? Maybe I'll show up...

If anyone on this list is likely to be crossing paths with me during this time, let me know.

(My schedule for LonCon can be found here...)

Also in the news... I am interviewed on this new site by Kirsty McClusky, whom I first met via the excellent book review site, Vulpis LIbris.

LonCon Schedule for Br Guy

While waiting for my Skype session to Detcon I to start, I figured I would post this:

The Fermi Paradox in Light of the Kepler Mission

Thursday 19:00 - 20:00, Capital Suite 15 (ExCeL)

The Kepler Mission has been hugely successful in searching for exoplanets. It's results have been used as the basis of claims that Earthlike planets lie in the habitable zones of 20% of stars in the galaxy. This would mean that the nearest habitable planet s just 12 light years away. If habitable planets are so common why have we seen no sign of intelligent life spreading from star to star? Does this mean that we really are alone in the universe? The panel considers Kepler and other results and try to come up with more informed answers to Fermi's infamous question: "Where are they?"

Gerry Webb (M), Guy Consolmagno SJ , Dr Helen Fraser, Dr Jane Greaves, G. David Nordley , Charles Stross

Scientists Without Borders

Friday 13:30 - 15:00, Capital Suite 15 (ExCeL)

Science may strive for objectivity, but all scientific communities are grounded in their host cultures. The panellists talk about working in different scientific cultures, working in multinational teams or transporting a team or project elsewhere.

Guy Consolmagno SJ (M) , Katie Mack, Leah-Nani Alconcel , Sharon Reamer, Rachel Berkson

Saturday 11:00 - 12:00, London Suite 4 (ExCeL)
Guy Consolmagno SJ , Juliet E McKenna

SF and Space Travel: pragmatism or pessimism?

Monday 12:00 - 13:30, Capital Suite 11 (ExCeL)

Charlie Stross has said the idea of space travel happening any time soon in real life is complete nonsense. Not everyone has agreed with him, but does the discussion he started highlight something about the proliferation of near term science fiction? Does the dearth of spaceships on TV, and the glut of climate-change thrillers on paper, indicate that we have lost faith in the idea that humans will travel among the stars? Or should we be engaging with issues much closer to home anyway?

Guy Consolmagno SJ (M), Rohan Shah , Anna Davour , Ben Bova, Tsana Dolichva

Reading: Guy Consolmagno SJ

Monday 15:30 - 16:00, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Guy Consolmagno SJ

In which I win a Prize

In particular, the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society, Division for Planetary Sciences.

The citation can be found here...

They get the name of one of my books wrong, it is Turn LEFT at Orion, but then you shouldn't believe half of the nice things they say about me, either...

I am embarrassed to admit how pleased I am!

The next two months...

... look to be intense but fun.

I am presently in London, having just finished a two day conference on the 400th anniversary of Heythrop College. I gave a talk about the Jesuits and Science, which went 20 minutes overtime (even though I cut 20 minutes out of the talk). I feel bad about that. Lots of people said they enjoyed it, but I won't let them rob me of my well-earned guilt!

I should be back in Rome by this evening. (I leave for the airport as soon as I finish writing this up.) This will be our last week of our biennial summer school, which has been fun but busy. Thursday we're supposed to head into the Vatican to give the Pope a chance to meet up with us!

Saturday next, I fly back to the UK and head to Buckfast Abbey for an event put on there by the diocese of Plymouth. I will be talking about Extraterrestrials. Then on Monday I fly to Helsinki for the triennial Asteroics-Comets-Meteors meeting. Tuesday I give a paper which, if I do it right, will be very controversial and cause lots of people to hate me! I plan to show that a long-held assumption about Vesta, dating back to 1977, is actually rubbish. Since I was the one who came up with that assumption back then, I need to rubbish it myself before someone else gets to it! I also have a poster there.

On July 5, I head to Zurich, and the next day down to Bern for another meeting at the International Space Science Institute. Then back in Zurich on the 14th for a talk at ETH (about Vesta). Finally, home to Rome.

That gives me two weeks in Rome to pack up my room for my move to Tucson. On August 1 I fly back to London, spend a week in the Lake District, a weekend at Ampleforth, and then head to London for Loncon. On August 20, two months from now, I should arrive in Tucson.