Posts Tagged space

STEM Tuesday — Planets and Stars — Interview with Author Rosemary Mosco

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Rosemary Mosco, author of Science Comics: Solar System: Our Place In Space. This hilarious STEM-filled graphic novel starts in the imagination of its two character, Sara and Jill who design the spaceship “Unbored.” It is crewed by their intrepid pets, Riley, Fortinbras, Pepper and Mr. Slithers. The science is both approachable and decodable for even the most reluctant reader. It’s a must-have for classrooms looking to expand their libraries.

“…Like having a Time Life Science Library in comic books. Which is awesome!” —Popular Science

 

Christine Taylor-Butler: Rosemary, you grew up in Ottawa, Canada surrounded by nature. I love that you say you can walk into the woods and find 20-30 hilarious things to use as comic prompts. But how does that work if the subjects are far away in the solar system?
 
Rosemary Mosco: That’s a good question. I’m trained as a naturalist and science writer, but not as an astronomer. At first, I was nervous about tackling this subject matter. But then I realized that my background made me a good choice for this book – I’m already so enthusiastic about science, and I’m trained to explain complicated concepts in simple terms. So, every fact and discovery I shared was something I took pains to fully understand, and something that I’d found honestly exciting as a layperson! The key is enthusiasm, I think, and the rest just follows.

CTB: The graphic novel is filled with fun but factual information about each planet as well as the sun. It might surprise readers to know there is as much science in this book as more traditional nonfiction for kids. How long did it take to do the research? Any fun fact left on the cutting room floor?
 
Rosemary: I can’t remember how long the research took me, but it was many months! I think I would have loved to dive deeper into the possibilities for life on other worlds. My background is in biology, so that’s what gets me really excited – where we might find life, and what it would look like! The recent discovery of possible life in the Venusian clouds just fired off my imagination in all sorts of ways.

illustrator: Jon Chad

CTB: You are known for your humorous field guides but for this book you collaborated with illustrator, Jon Chad. Was it hard to come to a meeting of the minds on the finished product?
 
Rosemary: Jon Chad is both a consummate professional and just an overall funny, nice person. We were friends right away. His attention to detail is incredible! I really felt like we built this book together, passing ideas back and forth. I think that’s the best way to make a comic book.
 
CTB: The two girls are named for two real life women scientists, Sara Seager an astrophysicist and Dr. Jill Tarter an astronomer. What lead you to those women as inspiration?
 

Dr. Sara Seager

Dr. Jill Tarter

Rosemary: There are so many amazing women scientists in the world, but most people can only name one or two scientists, and they tend to be men. I wanted to highlight these two remarkable people. Sara Seager spends her time discovering planets outside of the solar system. That’s her JOB. How amazing is that? Jill Tarter has spent her life tirelessly questing for intelligent life from other planets. Why don’t we give TV shows to these women?
 

CTB: One of the characters is a person of color. Was it a conscious decision to make the book more inclusive?
 
Rosemary: That’s a good question. Unless I’m specifically trying to convey a particular message, I leave elements like character design up to my artists. I like to give them as much freedom and creative space as possible, and I scan their art to try and figure out what they want to draw, so I can make the script just as much theirs as mine. Jon drew the character that way and I thought it was a great choice. Anyone can be a scientist. We need to break down the barriers that prevent everyone who wants to be a scientist from achieving that dream.
 

NASA

CTB: You’ve said that if you could go anywhere in space, you would travel to Jupiter’s Moon, Europa. Why that location?
 
Rosemary: That’s such a good question. The moons of our solar system are, in my opinion, so much more amazing than our planets! Europa is fantastic, with a front seat view of beautiful Jupiter. It’s the smoothest object in the whole solar system. It’s covered in a beautiful cracked crust of frozen water. Under that ice is, very probably, an ocean. I love to imagine what creatures swim beneath the ice.

Caño Cristales Photo by Moterocolombia

CTB: I think I’m in love with another of your books, Atlas Obscura, which was on the NYT’s bestseller list. It’s filled with wonderfully quirky facts about the world. Which of the locations surprised you most when researching?
 
Rosemary: It’s so hard to choose. I’d probably say Colombia’s Caño Cristales, this sun-soaked, rainbow river that’s colored red and green by plants found nowhere else. It’s beyond beautiful. I’ve never been to Colombia and I really, really want to visit this river someday.

CTB: In preparing for this interview I found myself distracted by the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Science Theory videos (BAHFest). They were hilarious. You were a judge in 2019. Was there a specific bad science theory that stood out?  What bad hypothesis would you love to present if you were a contestant. (Side note – I really REALLY want that trophy!)
 
Rosemary: There were so many good presentations at that event! I remember Jerry Wang’s proposal for a naval warship transported by chickens. It had so many sly jokes. This event is wonderfully ridiculous. If I could be a presenter, I’d probably want to present something about urban nature. Maybe I’d argue that pigeons distract city-dwellers from the overwhelming ennui of existence?

CTB: Your humor and art gives people so much joy. Any advice for budding artists in the classroom who might see your work and be inspired to create their own?
 
Rosemary: Do it! Find something funny, sketch out a comic, and make one! You have your own unique perspective, humor, and talent, and the world would love to see what you make. You can change the world without being serious all the time. There’s space for humor in activism and change.

CTB: Is there anything new coming out that we should keep our eyes out for?
 
Rosemary: I’ve got a picture book about butterflies coming out in April, 2021 through Tundra. It’s called Butterflies Are Pretty… Gross! and it’s a book about how butterflies are more than just pretty – they’re also ecologically fascinating and disgusting! I have a few other books on the horizon, too. Stay tuned!
 
 

Win a FREE copy of Science Comics: Solar System.

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

 
 
Rosemary Mosco makes books and cartoons that connect people with the natural world. Her Bird and Moon nature comics were the subject of an award-winning museum exhibit and are collected in a book that’s a 2019 ALA Great Graphic Novel for Teens. She speaks at birding festivals and writes for Audubon , Mental Floss and the PBS kids’ show Elinor Wonders Why. You can find her at www.RosemaryMosco.com  For fun facts and hilarious nature comics, follow @RosemaryMosco on Twitter.
 
Fun facts:
Rosemary once drew a poster showing every snake in North America. It took six months and the help of six herpetologists.

She credits her pet birds for helping her write by taking the keys off her keyboard and pooping on the floor.
 
I learned early on, if you attach a joke and you make it funny enough to pretty much any fact in the universe, people will share it just because of the joke, and then the facts will tag along and people will learn things….” Rosemary Mosco

 

Christine Taylor-ButlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and many other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the STEM inspired middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

STEM Tuesday — Planets and Stars — Writing Tips and Resources

Look Up

“We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” ― Carl Sagan

 

Orion Nebula, By NASA, JPL-Caltech, J. Stauffer (SSC/Caltech) – NASA JPL, Public Domain

Estimates calculate our speed traveling on Earth through the universe to be around 492,126 miles per hour. That’s fast! Under such conditions as our tiny planet races through the heavens, our very existence on Earth seems against all odds. We are improbable beings. Nevertheless, we exist. We occupy our tiny niche on our tiny planet revolving around a tiny star inside a tiny galaxy.

There are times, though, when our world seems to be spinning out of control. We drift farther away from each other at the very moment we need each other the most. At times like these, it’s good to step back, take a deep breath, and remember the gift of having our place in the universe. We need to remember humans are designed to explore, discover, create, and share. This holds true not just for STEM but across the spectrum of existence.  

We are improbable beings, yet here we are. Why not make the most of this improbable existence?

This STEM Tuesday Writing Tips & Resources post will seem a departure from the usual fabulous content delivered by Heather Montgomery and Kirsten Larson. The Writing Tips & Resources tip for this month’s Planets & Stars theme (and all year!) is simple and yet often forgotten.

Look up.

Be awed. Explore. 

Be curious. Discover.

Be inspired. Create. 

Be humbled. Share. 

Look up.

Creation. Sistine Chapel. Public Domain.

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

The Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) Files this month has its origins in my childhood fascination with space. It’s fueled by my recent STEM writer’s interest in electromagnetic waves which, in turn, led back to space and the study of our place in the universe. In short, all roads lead to the rabbit hole of curiosity and inquiry.

The Cosmos Series

This family of TV shows, originally by Carl Sagan and revived by Neil deGrasse Tyson, are some screen time I definitely need to catch up on and revisit.

Speaking of Neil deGrasse Tyson…

               

Starts With a Bang

I’ve been reading Ethan Siegel’s stuff for a few years on Medium and recently found out he has a podcast too. Highly recommended by me!

Down to Earth (Netflix)

To say I was skeptical about this Zac Ephron documentary series would be an understatement of galactic proportions. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and despite a bit of pseudosciencey stuff, I learned and/or realized a great deal about our interactions with the planet. It was also my first introduction to superfood guru, Darin Olien, which has been a good thing. My single favorite lightbulb moment was in Episode 2 about the changes Paris has made about their water supply and access to it. After years of water quality issues, followed by the years of generating mountains of plastic waste with the bottled water “solution”, Parisian officials did the most Occam’s Razor thing possible. Instead of continuing to create more problems by solving the basic problem of poor water quality, they simply invested the capital in producing and distributing better quality water. A touch of brilliance I discovered in the most unexpected of places…from the dude who starred in that Disney movie my kids used to love to watch.

I guess there’s a hidden lesson there also –> Look up/Pay attention.

Down to Earth with Zac Efron | Netflix Official Site


BOOK LIST FOR A BLACK HOLE

Black Hole Photo History

It’s been an exciting week for space enthusiasts, space fiction fans, rocket scientists, and computer scientists. For the first time ever, we have an idea of what the elusive, oft-written-about black hole looks like.

Beautiful, right? Incredible even. What’s amazing to me is that we took pictures of light in a place where light gets sucked in but never spit out again. I always imagined that we could never see anything once that big vacuum cleaner in the cosmos had swallowed it, not even if we built the world’s strongest computer with the most sophisticated brain.

Fortunately for all of us, I’m not an astrophysicist or a computer scientist. Even more fortunately for all of us, Dr. Katie Bouman is. Bouman is a computer scientist who was part of a team that created a set of algorithms that took the “sparse and noisy data” collected from telescopes and turned them into an image. According to TIME magazine, Bouman says what really makes her tick is “coming up with ways to see or measure things that are invisible.”

The MIT postdoctoral fellow shared this photo of herself “watching in disbelief as the first image I ever made of a black hole was in the process of being reconstructed.”

Encouraging More Women in Space and Science

What’s great about Dr. Bouman’s story is that in addition to raising the profile of all the brilliant women researchers in #STEM, we get a chance to talk again about books that focus on women in STEM, computer science, black holes, and the study of space. (And we get to say Event Horizon Telescope a lot, which is just plain fun.)

Unfortunately, the numbers on women researchers in STEM fields are still dismal, hovering somewhere around 30% by many estimates. Clearly, we’ve got a lot of work to do encouraging and supporting women in these fields–and it begins with our middle-grade readers.

Book List for a Black Hole Moment

Here’s a handful of books to help stir our girls’ imaginations and spur them to become the next Dr. Katie Bouman.

NON FICTION

A Black Hole is not a Hole, by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano

If a black hole is not a hole, then what is it? Find out what black holes are, what causes them, and how scientists first discovered them. Learn how astronomers find black holes, get to know our nearest black-hole neighbor, and take a journey that will literally s-t-r-e-t-c-h the mind.

 

Exoplanets, by Karen Latchana Kenney (Twenty-First Century Books TM)

Until the mid-1990s, scientists only guessed that the universe held exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. But using advanced physics and powerful telescopes, scientists have since identified more than three thousand exoplanets. This work has revealed fascinating worlds, including a planet that oozes lavalike fluids and a planet that glows bright pink.

Even more fascinating, scientists think that some exoplanets might contain life. Many orbit in the Goldilocks zone, the region around a star that’s not too hot or too cold for liquid water, a key ingredient for life. This book examines exoplanets, the possibilities for life beyond Earth, and the cutting-edge technologies scientists use to learn about distant worlds.

This book features astrophysicist Sara Seager.

 

Astronaut/Aquanaut, by Jennifer Swanson (National Geographic)

Margaret on the Moon, by Dean Robbins and Illustrated by Lucy Knisely (Knopf)A true story from one of the Women of NASA!

Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world.

Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8. Apollo 9. Apollo 10. Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed.

Dean Robbins and Lucy Knisley deliver a lovely portrayal of a pioneer in her field who never stopped reaching for the stars.

FICTION:

 

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux/Square FIsh)

Not a new entry, not even from this century, but I couldn’t resist reminding everyone that an early and definitive female character in a book about space was Meg Murray.

A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe. They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem — a wrinkle in time.

A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal.

 

 

 

Beep and Bob, by Jonathan Roth (Simon and Schuster)
In this adorable chapter book series that School Library Journal said is for “kids who love funny stories but may be too young for books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” space-school attendee Bob and his alien bestie Beep star in hilarious intergalactic adventures.
Does anyone have any other books that should make this list? Let us know in the comments. And in the meantime, let’s keep reading and encouraging our girls to reach for the stars.