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Placing Ourselves in the Universe

Placing Ourselves in the Universe
Liz McCormack (Physics)

Where are we in the grand scheme of things?

Learning From the Familiar
Examples of Conceptual Mapping
The thoughts that overwhelmed Anne during Liz's presentation:
  • if the fabric of space-time is expanding, is the measurement of a light-year changing?
  • collecting light coming in from the universe, we can make a map of how things are
  • but different parts of the map represent different times; the physical map has a 'time-tag' to it
  • "unreachable": this marks the edge of the VISIBLE universe00there hasn't been enough time for the light from the rest of it to come to us


Anne Dalke's picture

a map of the world created by all the people in the world

There's a great article in today's NYTimes: "With Tools on Web, Amateurs Reshape Mapmaking":

'In aggregate, these maps are similar to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, in that they reflect the collective knowledge of millions of contributors. “What is happening is the creation of this extremely detailed map of the world that is being created by all the people in the world,” said John V. Hanke, director of Google Maps and Google Earth. “The end result is that there will be a much richer description of the earth.”'

How's THAT for a description of a new kind of science!?!

Rosemary Krygowski's picture

The Place Called Science

This week we have been studying various ways to look at a sense of place. Today's class took us to a place where I am the most comfortable, the place called science.This morning we looked at our place in the vast universe and really could see just how small our world is.I found it interesting to look at the numbers that give us a sense of comparison.The fact that the map of the universe is not a map of how things are now but how things were at some point of time really makes one ponder the essence of reality. The lesson on microwaves was a perfect lesson. Liz captured my attention from the the minute she made me hypothesize. Her questions made me think, how hot would the water get, how hot would the oil get(I was disappointed that we didn't have a thermometer)?She really explained how microwaves worked in a very simplistic manner. Ending with the concept maps gave us a chance to try to recall the lesson and helped us get clarifications that we needed.For me today's journey was perfect.
Patricia Mundy's picture

Place in the Universe

I am not a science teacher and at times I feel a little intimidated with some of the terminology. Today I embraced the stars, galaxies, universe and satellites. The microwave demonstration was useful and will be utilized in the classroom. I will bring this information to the science teacher.
Mary Ellen McGinnity's picture

Placing ourselves in the universe

Today's discussions were interesting, although somewhat above my level. Using a beach ball to demonstrate the galactic coordinates was very effective; I kept thinking of my years teaching latitude and longitude in 3rd grade and how students assimilate concepts more easily when familiar objects are used in lessons. I wish we had spent more time talking about GPS and the various satellites that are transmitting so many types of information. That would seem to me to clearly relate to Jeff's historical overview because it's the present and future of our use and sense of place. I enjoyed the microwave experiements but wouldn't have been able to remember/understand much of what we discussed without the concept maps that we created in small groups. Interacting with each other at different times throughout these sessions is one of the reasons I'm really enjoying this Institute.
RecycleJack Marine's picture

We are but tiny grains of sand..

I once heard that we are nothing but tiny grains of sand, but in the scheme of things I am positive that I really matter to the universe. Liz reminded me of how vast the universe is, and where we fit into it isn't as important a fact as the fact that our planet apparently has the only environment condusive for sustainable life! In the future someone may locate other life forms outward to those far away places not yet seen by humans, and it is hard to believe that many of the stars we see in the night sky are glowing from many years ago, when we actually see them. I felt relieved that the in class exercise I completed was not as difficult as I imagined that it was going to be: I found out how to use the M13 website well enough to find out which was the brightest star in our galaxy(Deneb). This was an accomplishment as last year I was feeling frustrated so I guess an old dog can be retaught new tricks!
joycetheriot's picture

Galactic Views

Great session today! Loved the models introduced to help my students visualize difficult concepts. I found a site that has semi-clear beach balls for cosmic mapping and I'll put that up on resources. I was able to formulate so many ideas about how I'll use my classroom set of laptops, most especially using "Where is M-13". I'm going to e-mail my district's technology admin and request a site license for the software. The lightbulb in the MW was very interesting but I "hear" the parents' comlaints before it even happens. I may need to think of an alternate method of showing the same thing.
Syreeta Bennett's picture

Science in the Universe

I am not normally interested in astrononmy and physics but I did find this session one of the best so far. I am not a lecturer as a teacher or a computer geek so I can get easily bored. However despite the content I wasn't bored. I like the "Where is M13?" because we had questions to work from so they help me navigate the website. I also enjoyed the demos with the microwaves and the conversation that was generated. I also enjoed the group work and talking to my colleagues. I always base a good seminar on how can I use this in my classroom and I'm not sure how but I definitely want to.
Victoria Brown's picture

Thursday's Comment

Great morning very interactive, I liked that!!! Prior to today's lecture I found the unit on radiation boring. Now, I can't wait to bring in my microwave and do the demo's that we did today!!!
Rita Stevens's picture

Place in the Universe/Things that are familiar

Looking at our place in the universe in regards to the Milky Way was interesting and even somewhat fascinating. I wasn't that crazy about the physics of it. I just like to locate and look at the universe and space. I don't need to know the size, the distant, the depth or whatever. Then this afternoon, the microwave lesson eliminated a lot of myths that have been stated about microwaves. Good job Liz.
Diane OFee-Powers's picture


My comment is for all the sessions: I would appreciate if there was a handout for each talk, so we can concentrate on listening to the lecture and we would have it for future reference. I really did appreciate Liz's handouts and her experiments that we can turn around & use in the classroom. The M13 program can be utilized in many different applications in the classroom and I really appreciate being introduced to it.
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Visit at Goddard

Good morning fellow students. I am going to share with you about what I have learned at Goddard so far. I will send you some stories that explain how the scientists at NASA tell their stories. For the younger student K-4, "Wavetown" is an interactive learning place that teaches about wavelenght.  The web site for this is and can be used with google earth, the NEO section here you get images as old as 5minutes that you can study changes in the entire world. I hope this helps! 


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