### Why Don't You Care?

This guest post is contributed by a UC Berkeley student who requested anonymity, not for fear of the faculty in their department, but because of fear of reprisal from her fellow students. This fear needs to be grappled with: How is it that a community that prides itself in critical thinking, free expression, curiosity and problem-solving can so quickly come together to stifle debate on a matter as important as racism in our community, the colonialist history behind the TMT, and the needed reform in our science community? Well, the answer is simple: Those who benefit from the status quo have much to lose, and what they stand to lose was taken from (or denied to) others. But as this brave, young student demonstrates, there is a revolution underway. Change is coming. It's time for people to decide which side of history they want to end up on. Today's guest author took up my call for white allies to stand up, speak out and take an active role against racism in our scientific community. Remember: a passive stance in this struggle is an active support of the status quo. Anti-racism (and other anti-*ism) guest posts are always welcome!
 Image from Nashville: The People’s Anti Racism UnConference
When I first read the e-mail authored by Dr. Sandy Faber and sent out by Professor Alex Filippenko regarding the TMT protests, which described protesters as "a horde of native Hawaiians who are lying," my heart sank. Within seconds, I was cycling through anger, sadness, and disbelief. After the initial emotional reaction, I backtracked. Wait, I am not a native Hawaiian. In fact, I do not belong to any Native group. I am a white, cis-gender woman. Yet, that e-mail affected me. It enraged me. It motivated me to speak out publicly in front of several senior faculty members, including Filippenko, as an undergraduate. Why?

When an instance of offensive language, oppression, and marginalization like this occurs, it reflects a greater problem in our community. It affects the marginalized people who are directly targeted most strongly, certainly, but it also affects us all. With every statement like the one in that e-mail, the dysfunctional aspects of the culture of astronomy are communicated and reinforced.
 The infamous email

Although both Filippenko and Faber issued apologies, their sentiments were lacking in many key ways. In the words of Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, "the apologies themselves were problematic, at points reproducing some of the discourse that made such a comment seem perfectly normative in the first place" (cf Dr. Jessica Kirkpatrick's essay on proper apologies). The authors seemed to apologize for letting racist sentiments slip through into the public sphere instead of apologizing for holding those sentiments in the first place. They also failed to directly address those who experienced the most harm as a result of their actions. Furthermore, none of the apologies acknowledged that the mistake of writing and forwarding this e-mail was more than just a singularity, but rather a result of systematic faults in the culture of astronomy.

As a white woman, I read that e-mail and thought, "This is language that my superior, the professor I admire, a brilliant lecturer, researcher, and astronomer, condones?" I thought, "This is not something I want to be a part of." I read that e-mail as an exposition of views held by some people in power: historically ignorant, racist, condescending views. I doubted my place in this field, a field that all too often excludes, oppresses, and silences others. I expected each and every one of my peer undergraduates and my higher-ups to react similarly. I expected us to agree unanimously that a racist characterization was used, that the e-mail should not have been sent to the department mailing list, and that it did not express attitude we wanted for UC Berkeley Astronomy or for astronomy at large. This was quite far from what I found to be true.

 UC Berkeley: Colonialist stronghold or bastion of academic freedom?
Why is it that so few members of the astronomy department attended the meeting that followed this e-mail, which included white astronomers, Native people, and, notably, Native astronomers? Why is it that when discussion about this thread broke out among undergrads, there was so much support and defense of the statement, and criticisms of those who were hurt by it? Why is it that some were more concerned about protecting Faber and Filippenko than they were about protecting the people who their words attempted to crush? Why is it that the entire community did not feel what I felt: shock, disappointment, and a desire to change the culture of astronomy?

The astronomy community needs self-reflection, and a recognition that our normative culture is not conducive to an inclusive pursuit of knowledge. The culture of astronomy needs to change. We need to come to the consensus that it is absolutely unacceptable for any group of people to be systematically put down, silenced, or hurt. We need for all of us to agree on that, in each and every instance. And that consensus is not just among those of us who most identify with the people being harmed; it needs to include white people, too. Until we reach that point, astronomy will continue to exclude, isolate, and push away people who are not a part of, or refuse to participate in the culture we repeatedly display and reinforce. Until then, we continue to miss out on opportunities for greater talent and brilliance in our field.

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…