This Tuesday from 3pm until sunset (Pacific time) Venus will transit (eclipse) the face of the Sun as viewed from the Earth. This is similar to when the moon blocks the sun, but Venus appears much smaller and will therefore appear as a tiny black dot moving across the face of the Sun. The last transit was in 2004. The next one won't occur until we've all passed away, in 2117. The C altech Astronomy Department will host a viewing event Tuesday afternoon at the Cahill Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics. We'll have many fun ways of viewing the event safely (don't stare at the sun!) and there will be a series of public lectures in Hameetman Auditorium (and one by yours truly at 3:15pm). Come on by and experience the event of a lifetime!
Sometimes it takes a comic strip to make a point clearer than it could be made with words alone. I've long felt frustrated with the "teach-the-controversy" idea. If I and a couple other scientists stop believing in electrons because we can't see them and no one has ever seen one, is there now a controversy that should be taught in high school physics? How about a flat Earth. These people still believe the Earth is flat, so do we have a controversy? This crazy celebrity believes that vaccines cause autism. These politicians over here believe that there is no global warming. These Japanese fishermen believe that killing endangered dolphins whales is a good idea. How about the face on Mars? Unicorns? The Loch Ness monster? When does it stop? And when can teachers get back to teaching basic biology?