PDA

View Full Version : The Look Up Project



histronaut
2012-Jan-28, 05:54 PM
As my first post, I wanted to share with all of you an idea I had for my first study after graduating from the University of Illinois in May of 2011 with a degree in history. I'm excited to be a member of the forum, and look forward to corresponding with all of you.

Below is the project's description:

Over the course of human history, our daily interaction with the cosmos has had a profound affect both positively and negatively on the condition of our society. The most positive examples are seen throughout history, as ancient civilizations were fascinated by the stars and planets and…with limited known technology, developed an intense knowledge and appreciation for the universe that they could perceive. To modern humans, who have pushed the envelope in terms of “out of this world” pursuits, and have had their names immortalized with their accomplishments. Names like Aldrin and Armstrong, Einstein and Sagan, Copernicus, Kepler and of course Galileo….are synonymous with the history of modern humanity’s quest to know more about the universe.

But there’s more to it then just those big names. What about the times you’ve been blown away when you’ve looked up at the stars. The times when you pulled the car over on a long road trip just to appreciate a dark area in the countryside that gave you a glimpse at the Milky Way…..or a kiss under a shooting star perhaps?

When our view of the cosmos has been plentiful, when we’ve been able to be fascinated by the stars, and really contemplate our place in existence, I believe we are at our best.The negative affect comes when we are disconnected from the cosmos, due to the heavy levels of light pollution in our cities. Over time, the beauty of space is forgotten and ignored. We seem to lose our deeper understanding of the universe, our place within it, and its connection to everyday we do, when we don’t embrace it. I want to change that.

As a writer interested in understanding the history of humanity’s fascination with the universe, I will spend a lot of time researching past civilizations, scientists, and events in the years to come. However, for my first project, I want to focus on the present state of human interaction with the cosmos, and its effect on our own view of our place in everything.

I want to better understand the role space plays in our daily lives. I believe that urbanization has left many of us feeling disconnected and apathetic towards our own place in the universe.

Over the next year, I want to give fifty individuals the opportunity to look through a telescope for the first time, and document their experiences, thoughts, and questions in a detailed study. I will travel all over my home state of Illinois, and within reason out of state, to complete thorough research.

Each individual will be interviewed beforehand, and then the participant will proceed to look through the telescope for however long they are able (and interested) to do so. It could be 10 minutes, it could be 2 hours, whatever the participant and I agree upon will be the time we set aside. After that time, we will re-interview the individual, as they reflect on their experience. The data will be recorded through a mix of audio and visual documentation.

If this project is successful, and it yields a wealth of information and volunteers to participate, I would love to expand the project to include more people into the study if possible.

This project will test my hypothesis that even a brief experience learning more about the universe can alter one’s relationship with the night sky.

I would have just linked you guys to either the sites website, or its fundraising page, but I don't want to be guilty of solicitation in any way, shape, or form. Just wondering what you guys thought about such an idea? I think it would be a great way to really see what the average person thinks about the cosmos......but also......possibly, it will be a chance to observe some of these individuals transform their opinion of the night sky.

I've always loved looking at the night sky, but it doesn't seem like a lot of us take the time to really comprehend what the heck is going on above our heads. There could be a lot of reasons for that, and maybe this project will shed light on that too.

I'm just rambling now, thanks for your interest if you took the time to read this.

Rich
2012-Jan-29, 04:58 AM
Histro:
I had typed a big long reply and found that the system here had logged me out.

The short and sweet is: Why do you want to do this project? I think we all know what the result is going to be, namely everybody will see the universe differently after being exposed to it. Your interview questionnaire may well put some people off as an annoyance. You'll have to help them at the eyepiece or they'll get bored looking at one thing for too long.

It might be better to just set up your scope (you -DO- have a scope don't you?) on a well-travelled sidewalk and do some sidewalk astronomy. You could get an app for your smartphone (I use SkySafari on my iPhone) and tell people the name of Jupiter's moons and how many light-minutes away it is.

Then there's Halloween and kids looking through a scope for the first time. I do this every year that it's clear.
Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum

histronaut
2012-Jan-29, 04:58 PM
Histro:
I had typed a big long reply and found that the system here had logged me out.

The short and sweet is: Why do you want to do this project? I think we all know what the result is going to be, namely everybody will see the universe differently after being exposed to it. Your interview questionnaire may well put some people off as an annoyance. You'll have to help them at the eyepiece or they'll get bored looking at one thing for too long.

It might be better to just set up your scope (you -DO- have a scope don't you?) on a well-travelled sidewalk and do some sidewalk astronomy. You could get an app for your smartphone (I use SkySafari on my iPhone) and tell people the name of Jupiter's moons and how many light-minutes away it is.

Then there's Halloween and kids looking through a scope for the first time. I do this every year that it's clear.
Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum

I appreciate the reply Rich. I'm a bit more optimistic of what the experience could yield. I find the opportunity to discuss the night sky with individuals who haven't examined it before to be very exciting, whether this project is able to happen or not. I know when I was young I was fascinated by space, and during adolescence I had a lot of distractions that shifted my focus elsewhere. It wasn't until recently where I really began to appreciate the cosmos again. I find stories like that to be rich with perspective, and I'm sure there are plenty that vary from my experience. I would love to be able to speak with those people, and record my findings.

I currently don't have a telescope, and was looking to raise enough funds to purchase a high quality (yet portable) telescope, along with gas money so I could travel around the Midwest for this project. What I didn't want to do is buy a cheap, and poor quality telescope, and rush into this project. I'm currently saving up funds should this project not move forward at this time.

Should the project not receive funding, an equally rewarding opportunity would be to collaborate with local Astronomical societies. I could join an organization and learn a lot in the process, and also interview individuals both young and old in terms of experience with the night sky.

Thanks for your thoughts, I hope you have a great day!

Catalyst23
2012-Feb-11, 04:23 PM
Hi Histronaut,

I've been thinking about your idea. It's definitely an intriguing idea, to document the change experienced when first looking through a telescope. It just seems hard find 50 people who haven't looked through a 'scope who you could contact before they look through a scope. Rich's idea above seems really good, but slow. If however, there was a list of a few simple questions to ask, then a large number of amastros (amateur astronomers) could be be utilized. Each time one of those amastros (as might be found here) runs across someone who wants to look through a scope, they could ask those questions. Alternatively, or maybe concurrently, you could organize a star watching party one night, in conjunction with a college and a local astro club. Colleges are rife with people trying to get you to participate in studies, astro clubs have telescopes, and such an activity may well work as a good public outreach event.

I think both might work well together. It would be difficult to get a large sample size of people directly interviewed by you, but the astro club idea would help with that. And while the questionnaire idea may not be as comprehensive as an in person interview, it would provide a large sample size. But however you end up making this work, I wish you all the best!

mswhin63
2012-Feb-11, 11:31 PM
I am also a member of an amateur astronomical society and part of there organisation roles is to host star parties usually organised by teacher of schools. They maybe a bit young for your studies but maybe they can assist you with managing your studies. I feel during my time assisting with the events the children talked about the experience a lot but in your case, follow ups are needed to see if the event has long lasting impact.

From my experience, my wife being profoundly deaf has an extreme visual aspect on life but as a result finds the event boring or more accurately low stimulation to what is being taught. My children though have not spent much time with me, maybe because I am the dad or they have not made a connection to the cosmos. My eldest son though came with me to a dark sky observing session and that is where the experience changes. He now spends a lot more time with me on these sessions compared to the back yard and he doesn't always need a scope to enjoy what is seen.