On the shoulders of giants

20161119_193757From November 18-20, the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium hosted their third weekend of programming for the 2016-17 school year titled, “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  The weekend was dedicated to the most notable astronomers in the 20th Century, and their contributions to science.  As per usual the weekend featured a stellar lineup of digital shows in addition to an interactive panel discussion highlighting scientists and astronomers who laid the groundwork for modern astronomy and space exploration. 

On Friday November 18, there were viewings of the full dome shows Two Small Pieces of Glass and Cosmos: Harmony of Worlds.  On Saturday November 19, there was a viewing of the full dome show Natural Selection followed by a panel discussion titled, “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  On Sunday November 20, there were showings of the full dome shows Astronaut, and Accidental Astronauts.

Saturday’s discussion featured three very notable and knowledgeable speakers in the world of astronomy.  The discussion was started by Dr. Seth-Ann Howard who previously gave a talk at a Friends’ weekend titled, “4000 Years of Women in Science”.  She was followed by retired NASA scientist Steven Dick, and David DaVorkin who serves as a curator at the Smithsonian National Air & Space museum.  The panel’s discussion involved a host of visual images and simulations and was a “Who’s Who” of the astronomy world highlighting its most notable pioneers and their contributions to the field.  Some of the names included:

·         Cecelia Payne- Discovered what stars are comprised of in terms of chemistry;

·         Bertil Linblad- Discovered how the Milky Way rotates;

·         Karly Jansky- Detected radio signals from the Milky Way;

·         Joceylyn Bell- Discovered Pulsars;

·         Percival Lowell- Discovered the canals on Mars and;

·         George Elory Hale- Built the largest telescopes of his time.

20161119_210154Some of the more well-known names often used in entertainment world’s references to science were also mentioned.  Albert Einstein is frequently referred to in Science Fiction media for his Law of Relativity, and has been portrayed in various TV shows and movies.  Edwin Hubble had a telescope named after him.  Carl Sagan who is most known the TV series Cosmos, was also a writer (Contact which was adapted into a film), in addition to his research in astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics and astrobiology.  The interactive discussion was followed by a question and answer session from the audience.

The Friends will host special events at the David M. Brown Planetarium one weekend every month until the end of the school year. Each weekend will be geared towards increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education/awareness for all ages and will feature a specific theme.  For more information, visit the Friends’ website.  The theme for December’s weekend will be, “Finding the Christmas Star”.


Author: anwaryusef

Anwar Y. Dunbar is a Regulatory Scientist. Being a naturally curious person, he is also a student of all things. He earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan and his Bachelor’s Degree in General Biology from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU). Prior to starting the Big Words Blog Site, Anwar published and contributed to numerous research articles in competitive scientific journals reporting on his research from graduate school and postdoctoral years. After falling in love with writing, he contributed to the now defunct Examiner.com, and the Edvocate where he regularly wrote about: Education-related stories/topics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Financial Literacy; as well as conducted interviews with notable individuals such as actor and author Hill Harper. Having many influences, one of his most notable heroes is author, intellectual and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, author of books including Outliers and David and Goliath. Anwar has his hands in many, many activities. In addition to writing, Anwar actively mentors youth, works to spread awareness of STEM careers, serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, serves as Treasurer for the JCSU Washington, DC Alumni Chapter, and is active in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church. He also tutors in the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics. Along with his multi-talented older brother Amahl Dunbar (designer of the Big Words logos, inventor and a plethora of other things), Anwar is a “Fanboy” and really enjoys Science-Fiction and Superhero movies including but not restricted to Captain America Civil War, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Prometheus. He is a proud native of Buffalo, NY.

2 thoughts on “On the shoulders of giants”

  1. While all the shows last weekend were captivating, educational, and entertaining, the three speakers mentioned above were especially so. I learned a lot about 20th century astronomy and the scientists who achieved its great leaps forward.

    Note: the December Friends’ weekend is not the usual third weekend, it’s the second: December 9th – 11th. Visit the web site: https://friendsoftheplanetarium.org/ for details.

    1. Hello Steve. First off thank you for stopping by and commenting. I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said. Having a background in the biological sciences, I always learn so much when I attend one of the Friends’ weekends. The panel discussion was particularly informative. And thank you for your reminder that December’s events will be the second weekend instead of the third.

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