The Center’s staff researchers have given thousands of presentations to diverse audiences—students, families, teachers (at conferences and workshops), and the general public. The hallmark is audience participation, and the topics addressed span the Earth and space sciences. The central objective is to develop conceptual understanding of the universe around us by building bridges to the familiar—using the power of models.
Provided below are descriptions of presentations by our staff which were developed for Family Science Night at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and for Journey through the Universe. Presentations are available for communities nationally through To Earth and Beyond. Read comments from attendees of our programs.
In addition, presentations in classrooms by the Journey through the Universe Visiting Researchers—a National Team of scientists and engineers from research organizations across the nation—provide a personal view of scientific research, and are crafted by the presenters to dovetail with the local curriculum.
Sample descriptions of presentations by the Center’s staff—
Public and Family Programs; Keynote Addresses for Professional Development Events; and Keynote/Featured Addresses at Conferences
A Voyage that will Forever Change Your Perspective of Home
When we venture beyond our home and explore a greater landscape—whether it’s the town beyond our house, or a planet beyond the Earth—we gain a deeper sense of our own existence. It’s a fundamental principle of exploration. To truly know and appreciate our home, we must leave it. So to truly know and appreciate a place called Earth, we must venture beyond it, and recognize the breadth and majesty of a greater universe.
From another vantage point—we are integrally connected to the universe, and it to us—so to know the universe is to know ourselves. And while we may seem small in its shadow, beauty has nothing to do with size—for the universe is revealed with something the size of the human mind.
You’re invited to the story of our existence—a race of explorers, 6 billion tiny souls strong. It is a story that ignites wonder about the universe, and a sense of pride in our ability to reveal its nature through both human imagination and ingenuity. It is a story that humbles us, and brings a sense of humility to our lives. It is a voyage that will forever change your perspective of home.
Focus: inspiration to young and old—a wonderful family program; understanding the nature of our existence using the power of models
Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Present, and Inspiring the Future
We live in a moment in time. It’s the place where the accomplishments of those that came before us meet up with what will be undertaken by future generations. It’s a great place to be, especially if you’re part of the future generation. By learning about the past both in terms of what we know and how we’ve come to know it, and talking to those that work on the frontiers right now, you can choose to shape the future. It’s pretty powerful stuff. You are the link between the past and the future.
Focus: inspiration for students; scientists and engineers as heroes and role models
Human Exploration—the Journey Continues
A wondrous look at who we are as a species and what drives us to the great frontiers.
Throughout history, humans have been space explorers. For thousands of generations we have looked to the sky and wondered about our place in the cosmos. Yet it was only 400 years ago that we first improved our view with telescopes. And only within the last 50 years have we become true spacefarers, able to travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere with robots and humans.
Standing on the shoulders of past generations, we have done remarkable things in our time. On July 20, 1969 we walked on the Moon. Today, peoples of the world are working together to build a space station—a research laboratory placed 200 miles above the surface of our world. Through the eyes of robots we’ve seen sunset on Mars, volcanoes erupting on a moon of Jupiter, and the awesome majesty of Saturn’s rings. With telescopes on the ground and in space we have seen the birth of other suns, found solar systems beyond our own, and have traveled back in time to see the universe as it was billions of years ago. We humans have even sent four spacecraft beyond Pluto en route to the stars with greetings from Earth aboard. Look what we have done!
Journey to the frontiers of flight in air and space to see how far we’ve come and what awaits the next generation!
Focus: the nature of human exploration; history of space exploration
The Art of Science (for educator conferences)
Science is an art, and researchers are artists. Fundamental to science research is the explorer’s ability to ask questions, frame a pathway to an answer, and interpret what they find. It requires a deep understanding of core knowledge, which includes both core factual information and key concepts. It also requires an artists approach to critical thinking, where finely honed skills over time allow you to see a possible pathway from question to answer through the complex noise of the universe around us. This describes a process by which we can explore. It is the application of this process by the scientist or engineer that is the art.
Absolutely fundamental to an understanding of: core factual information and key concepts; the means to frame a possible pathway to an answer; and interpreting what one has found—the new knowledge, is finding ways to relate all of this to what is familiar. That is the function of models, and there are many different flavors of them. Put another way—models are arguably the most powerful tools in an explorer’s toolbox.
Focus: the process of scientific inquiry; the power of models.
Presentations for Schools and School Districts
A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
Did you ever wonder how a camera creates a photograph? Did you ever stop to think about the enormous amount of information a single photograph contains? For instance, the sizes, shapes, and colors of an object in an image can tell us a lot about its composition, even its origin. We can even take pictures in flavors of light that our eyes cannot see! We explore our entire universe through images. We’ve even sent cameras to other planets. Let’s use images of the planets through history to explore what we can learn through imaging science.
Focus: imaging technology used for scientific research
How Big is Big?
It’s a big, often intimidating universe out there. How do we even begin to fathom objects and distances that dwarf anything we’ve ever experienced? Earth’s place in space is knowable. The secret is placing the universe in a context that is familiar. Take a magical journey from spaceship Earth to points unknown.
Focus: understanding the universe using models
Asteroids and Comets!
Look up in the sky–it’s a bird, it’s a plane–why no it’s a rock. A big rock! And wasn’t that a snowball the size of city that just flew by? Visit some of the asteroids and comets in the Solar System, and see how these objects have affected life on Earth.
Focus: small bodies of the Solar System
Fifty of Your Very Own
Look up on a starry night far from city lights. What you’re seeing is but a tiny portion of the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Our Milky Way is a vast and swirling mass of 300,000,000,000 suns, enough to give 50 to every person on Earth! Come explore the different neighborhoods of the Milky Way, and gain an understanding of our home world’s place among the stars.
Focus: the universe beyond the Solar System.
Saying Hi to E.T. on a Planet Far, Far Away
Wouldn’t it be cool to talk to an alien? It’s not as far out as you might think. Right now a ‘hello’ from E.T. may be passing through your body as a radio signal! We might just need to point an antenna in the right direction, tune to the right channel, and listen in! That’s exactly what’s we’re doing around the world.
Focus: astrobiology, communication
An Expedition to the Top of the World
See what it’s like to be a scientist on a research expedition to the top of the world in the pacific. It’s about an expedition to one of the largest telescopes on Earth, atop 14,000 ft Mauna Kea, on the island of Hawaii. The mission: measure winds on other worlds!
Focus: the nature of scientific research