The Beauty of Maths and the Number 27

astronomy, communication, personal, science

I sure love the magic and beauty of numbers. Everything is numbers! Maths is everywhere! Patterns appear in nature, in structures around the world and even in distant galaxies.

Bertrand Russell expressed his sense of mathematical beauty in these words:

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty — a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

Twenty-seven is a perfect cube, being 3^3 = 3x3x3 and is the result of adding together the integers from 2 to 7 (2+3+4+5+6+7=27). It is also the only positive integer that is 3 times the sum of its digits (3x(2+7)). And 27 is the number of bones in the human hand.

In astronomy, Messier 27 (M27) is the magnificent planetary nebula otherwise known as the ‘Dumbbell Nebula’ and was the first planetary nebula to be discovered; in 1764 by Charles Messier from whom the catalogue bears his name. (See Featured image. Credit: ESO)

ISS Expedition 27 mission patch

And finally 27 is the Expedition number which was Italian astronaut, Paolo Nespoli’s second spaceflight. I have had the great fortunate of meeting him several times, including a Mission X opening event, Farnborough International Airshow, International Space University and he even appeared in a video appearance for us for the UKSEDS 25th Anniversary conference last year. From Expedition 26/27 he filmed the majority of the footage for the documentary film First Orbit, filming the view Yuri Gagarin saw on his pioneering orbital space flight. Paolo also captured many beautiful images during his mission, named MagISStra.

So why the number 27? Well, today is my 27th birthday!

Of course, I’m not going to argue with the great Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory that the best number is in fact 73.

Hire me!

astronomy, BIS, communication, science, science communication, SGAC, space exploration, UKSEDS, UNAWE

Hello there!

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or my blog, you may already know a bit about me and my activities. I’m currently looking out for possible writing opportunities in science, physics and astronomy. If you’ve reached here and you’re someone looking for pitches, I’d be interested in the types of stories you have the most urgent need to fill!

My name is Ryan Laird, a science communicator from the UK and active #spacetweep. Since the start of January, I have been working as a Science Communication Intern at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) — the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. Based in Garching near Munich, Germany, I am working in ESO’s ePOD (education and Public Outreach Department) with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of ESO, European Space Agency (ESA)/Hubble Space Telescope and International Astronomical Union (IAU) news and photo releases, publications, web pages, video scripts, exhibition panels and other public communication products. In addition, I have been actively supporting communication regarding the ESO Ultra HD expedition and am a ghostwriter for the UHD blog. I’ve become used to the fast pace dynamic and accuracy as required in this role.

I am a recent Graduate of the International Space University (ISU)‘s Space Studies Programme 2013 (SSP13), where I received generous support from the UK Space Agency and ESA. I am also a graduate of the University of Leicester, UK where obtained the degree of Physics with Astrophysics MPhys (Hons).

I have cherished many different opportunities to apply my skills and knowledge in a variety of areas including UKSEDS, Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), Universe Awareness (UNAWE), ESO and the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009), among industry experts, university departments and other research organisations. I have also been actively involved in research and academia, having co-authored in the journal Nature — Snodgrass, C. et al., Nature, 467, 814-816 (2010), among others, gaining experience in the planetary sciences while researching Jupiter Family Comets.

I recently helped support the UNAWE International Office in Leiden, Netherlands where my main role was to expand the concept of Space Scoop (astronomy news for kids) to a diverse range of media platforms and syndicate the content. Here I investigated the best way to improve the syndication and distribution of science content produced for and by children to mainstream children’s media. I also wrote a number of Space Scoop articles and reviews of space content for kids.

Last year I also supported SGAC at their office in Vienna, Austria at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI). There I supported SGAC’s network of over 4000 members across more than 90 countries. In this capacity, I helped organise the Space Generation Fusion Forum, preparing and editing the SGAC Annual Report, supporting general operations, web content and administration.

I also regularly write for the British Interplanetary Society‘s magazine, Spaceflight and as Vice Chair (formerly Secretary), I prepare content for UKSEDS‘ media. In addition, I maintain my own website here at rjmlaird.co.uk where I write some of my own musings in a blog, along with some space news and is where you can find additional information about me and my work.

Together my experiences have provided a me with a great range of expertise, which I’d be keen to use in a capacity to further promote astronomy, space and physics to a much wider audience — subjects very close to my heart. To further acquaint you with the specifics of my background you can view my CV from my website here (also downloadable as a .pdf and viewable on LinkedIn), along with my activities and publications which show some of my writing samples.

Also View Ryan Laird's profile on LinkedIn is where you can see some recommendations on my work. Most recently my Head of Department  (ePOD) here at ESO, Lars Lindberg Christensen, wrote me a reference downloadable here as .pdf. I am happy to provide further references if needed.

Do please get in touch if you know of or have any opportunities available.

First Ring System Around Asteroid

astronomy, communication, science, science communication

After a media advisory announced yesterday that ESO would “announce a discovery in the outer solar system” the strict embargo has finally been lifted to announce the discovery of the first ring system around an asteroid — the minor planet Chariklo was discovered to have two rings. I co-wrote the ESOcast. Here’s the Nature paper from which it was based.

At ESO, I am really enjoying working with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of science news, press releases and video scripts, among other publication content. The following has been several weeks in the making.

I’m happy to have experienced the full process of seeing a research paper and the drafting of a science release, taking it to a video script. Over a month ago, I then got to travel to a small town, south of Munich called Tegernsee to see how these video casts are recorded behind a green screen.

Now, after lots of truly amazing work by our animation and graphics team and after helping bring the finishing touches (final editing, retrofitting the script and uploading to DotsUB for translations), the ESOcast I co-wrote has finally been released.

Here’s the announcement of the release of the ESOcast which can be viewed on YouTube, as seen below:

The ESOcast is a video podcast series dedicated to bringing you the latest news and research from ESO — the European Southern Observatory. Subscribe to the video podcast now to keep up with the latest news from ESO: the ESOcast is available via iTunes in HD and SD. It’s also available on YouTube ,Vimeo and dotSUB and is offered for download in several formats.

Featured image:  Artist’s impression of how the rings might look from close to the surface of Chariklo. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Life at ESO

astronomy, communication, science, science communication

I can’t quite believe I am fast approaching my fourth month at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). It has been an incredible experience here as I have got to work hands-on within the Education and Public Outreach Department (ePOD) – responsible for the organisation’s outreach activities.

ePOD is a fun and creative environment to work in and ESO Headquarters is an energetic place, rich with a number of enthusiastic staff and students from all over the world.

Here I am working with a team of professional science communicators for the preparation of ESO and ESA/Hubble news and photo releases, publications, web pages, video scripts, exhibition panels and other public communication products.

I find it is a great atmosphere here. Each morning I take the U-Bahn (underground train) to Garching Forschungszentrum – the stop for the “research centre”. With unlimited free coffee in the morning, it is a great fuel for the wonderful activities and challenges that come our way.

Later today I hope to show you an ESOcast I co-wrote. Stay tuned for an exciting announcement.

hq-entrancehall-hh2

A 360-degree panorama of the entrance hall at ESO Headquarters, in Garching, near Munich, Germany. Credit: ESO/H. Heyer

News board at ESO

News board at ESO

office_ESO

At my desk in ESO ePOD. Credit: Christoph Malin

Featured image – The ESO Headquarters in Garching near Munich, Germany. Credit: ESO