Afternoon InquisitionEventsScience

AI: Release The Science!

This Saturday, the fine people from Cosmo Quest (which includes our pals Noisy Astronomer and Pamela Gay) will be hosting a 24 hour (ok, technically 32 hour) live Google Hangout-a-thon. Why are they doing this? Do astronomers never sleep? Well, I am glad you asked! It seems that because of the government sequestration many NASA and EP programs are being suspended. *Insert very sad face here.* That means that a lot of the wonderful science programs that our friendly astronomers have been running over the years is getting the complete smack down unless they can find a way to fund these projects themselves. And you have to respect the dedication of the Cosmo Quest crew as they take it “old school” in an attempt to find the funding to carry on with the important outreach work that they do.

In Pamela’s words:

Faced with governmental funding cuts to science education and research, we have decided to go old school with a twist: On June 15-16, we are hosting a telethon using Google Hangout on Air – a Hangout-a-thon – to raise money to support public engagement in science.

The Hangout-a-thon will start on June 15 at noon Eastern (GMT – 5). Over the weekend, we will host numerous guests, ranging from scientists who will do science demos, creatives who can unite science and art/music, and researchers who will discuss citizen science and address science education from the perspective of research and metrics. Each segment will be released after the event as a stand-alone YouTube video on the AstrosphereVids channel, thus creating a library of content while raising money for future programs.

The CosmoQuest virtual research facility was conceived by Dr. Pamela L. Gay (SIUE / Astrosphere New Media) and Fraser Cain (publisher of Universe Today) as a place where everyday people can participate in modern research while enjoying the same facilities (in virtual form) that professional researchers have at top universities. Launched in January 2013 under the technological leadership of Cory Lehan (SIUE), this facility supports online citizen science programs, weekly seminars, virtual star parties, and educational programs for both kids and adults. According to, is the most trafficked astronomy related citizen science site on the internet.

Planning for this Hangout-a-thon was triggered by the cuts created by sequestration, and by the current White House plans to transition education out of NASA. If the President’s current budget is passed, all the funding programs CosmoQuest relies on for will be zeroed (see this “Death List” on NASA Watch) and the project will be defunded. Rather than accept that fate, CosmoQuest is working to raise the funds needed to keep our programs going, to build new citizen science programs for researchers that don’t otherwise have the means to accomplish their projects, and to contract, as we are able, extraordinary people laid off by these cuts at other institutions to keep doing great things through CosmoQuest.


Astronomy has been a huge muse in my years as an artists and I owe a lot of that inspiration directly to the fine people at Cosmo Quest, Astronomy Cast and Universe Today. I’m thrilled to be one of the creatives who will be a guest on the Hangout-a-thon. I will be doing a big jewelry giveaway during my hang out time as my way of saying thank you to the scientists, educators and fans. So just tune in and you may win some free Surly-Ramics!

A full list of artists, scientists, musicians and friends appearing on the Hangout-a-thon can be found here. I will be on doing the “Great Surly Giveaway of 2013” and hanging with my star-pals at 1:15 central on Saturday.

More info on the event can be found here.

Now, I want to hear from you!

What type of science do you find most inspiring? Has any particular outreach group made your life better or helped you to be more informed? What type of outreach do you think is most effective? Is it really up to us, the people, to take over science education to ensure a brighter future? Can you hangout with us this weekend?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. This is actually making my brain come full circle today. When I was working on a chemistry degree I was part of WISEST – Women in Scholarship Engineering Science and Technology based out of the University of Alberta. I volunteered to demonstrat to grade 9 girls simple chemistry techniques through very basic labs (colour chromatography is one that comes to mind). It still exists and as someone who switched from physical sciences to social science I always have found the way girls relate to science as fascinating. Especially the physical sciences. I hope that maybe at least on of those now women have a physical science degree.

  2. I love physical science and geology. I could look at my rock collection all day and then do it again the next day. The focus of my collection is in minerals. I love those repeating patterns.

    I think the outreach thing is so important in science because how do people even know what is out there. So much of our world is not intuitive. I grew up in a small town, I thought science and the scientific method was something scientists did and my definition of a scientist was marine biologist, something chemistry and rocket scientist and that was it. Additionally, I had no concept of the citizen scientist nor about using the scientific method in daily life. I had no idea and I wasn’t alone!

    “Is it really up to us, the people, to take over science education to ensure a brighter future?” To the question, I find the answer is yes. I volunteer at my daughter’s school. It makes a difference to be in the classroom and to ask the kids the right questions to get them to think and to be a good ‘inquisitive’ role model. Recently, I coordinated a donation to her school for ‘learning toys’. These may be small things, but if everyone did their part, things wouldn’t be so grim. Good luck to CosmoQuest! I hope they achieve their goals.

    As for the outreach program, I love PBS. NOVA was huge to me. It opened all kinds of doors.

  3. Really interesting Amy, thanks!
    ?Given your interest, I think that you (and the other readers here) would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across about crowds and citizen science.

    It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested:

    In my view it provides a powerful, yet simple model, getting to the heart of the matter. Enjoy!

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