Monday, March 5, 2012

Our Coy Mistress (WW102)

Tonight's guest on Western Worlds is Paul Delaney. This time around, I had the pleasure of speaking with Paul in person. He and I go back a fair ways to the summer of 2009 when I was working at Environment Canada. At the time I didn't know if I would ever work in Planetary Science or Astronomy again, and I was beginning to lose my connection to the field in which I was trained. So, I decided to see if there was some way in which I could use my PhD to engage with the public and rekindle my own passion for planetary. 

I emailed around to various departments, planetaria and observatories to see if there was some way I could be of use. As you might expect, most chose not to reply while others told me that they were doing well and needed no help. But Paul got back to me, invited me out to the observatory and the rest is history. Today I have a very fruitful collaboration with the York University Observatory that is almost three years old.

It was also Paul that gave me my introduction to the world of AFM. I started out as a guest on "Live from York U" (the precursor to "York Universe"). When that went well, I was asked to become a regular co-host on the program. But with the move to Western, it was time for me to strike out on my own. Again, I had the full support of Paul and he midwifed the pitch that Alyssa and I made to AFM that was ultimately accepted as "Western Worlds."

The title above for this particular episode is fitting for several reasons. As a dear friend of the show, we mean to evoke Paul's quiet contribution. But the title is also meant to pay homage to my WEaT speaking tour on which Paul got me started last year. That was an especially successful endeavor in which I learned that I could really enjoy sharing my enthusiasm and expertise with the public. The closing words of each show will continue this tradition.

So won't you join us tonight? I'll be there at 10 PM ET, 3 AM UTC on along with a friend who helped to make it all possible. You can find the text of my intro is behind the cut.

Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime. You’re listening to Western Worlds!

Hello and welcome back for another conversation here on Western Worlds, an AFM*Original show heard right here on My name is Dr. John and I’m coming to you this week as every week from the
Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University nestled deep within the forest city of London, Ontario, Canada.

Tonight we started our show with the first two lines of Andrew Marvel’s famous poem “To His Coy Mistress.” Marvel’s poem urges its readers to seize the day for neither time nor space is infinite for us. But, like Marvel’s mistress the planets themselves have been reticent to give up their secrets easily. While the planets are
amongst the brightest objects visible from the ground, even the most powerful telescope on the surface of the earth does not posses the resolution to answer some of our most basic questions about how these eight objects came to be and are evolving today. And so much about the planets remained a mystery until we could send out spacecraft to look down upon other worlds from nearby and to touch their surfaces.

The accompanying music tonight is “Jupiter” from Gustav Holst’s incomparable symphonic suite “The Planets” as performed by the Australian Youth Orchestra. This well known composition is a favourite of Youth Orchestras the world over and I can still remember listening to it performed by the Newfoundland Symphony Youth orchestra when I as younger. But the reason I chose an Australian interpretation was for our Guest tonight and friend of the show, Paul Delaney. Paul began his academic career in Australia and has been working his way east ever since. Since 1986 he has been a professor at York University and is currently the coordinator of the York Observatory. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Paul in his Toronto office.

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