Phil Plait holding a phaser

To Boldly Go

Contributed by
Feb 1, 2017

But this is one corner of one country on one continent on one planet that's a corner of a galaxy that's a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond, and there is so much, so much, to see. 

            -The Doctor

 

Hi, nerds!

Hmph. When I was a kid that was an insult. Now, though, it’s a welcome, an invitation, a greeting that says, “We love something unequivocally, and we want to share it with you.”

That’s how I feel about science. Especially astronomy. So, welcome to Bad Astronomy, my blog on Syfy Wire.

Don’t be fooled by the nickname — when I first started out (back in the 1990s holy wow even writing that makes me feel like I’m turning to dust), I wrote mostly about myths and misconceptions people had about astronomy. The name Bad Astronomy seemed appropriate, and it just sorta stuck.

I like it. But I don’t let it box me in. I write about good astronomy, too, and on lots of other topics.

A brief history: I’m an astronomer (I got my degree using Hubble Space Telescope observations of a supernova), a science communicator, a writer, an author and —perhaps most apropos here— a nerd. I love science fiction. When I was a kid, watching shows like Star Trek, Lost in Space and Space:1999 inspired me as much as reading books about asteroids and stars. Maybe watching hundreds of old monster movies on TV after school didn’t exactly teach me anything solid about physics, but those flicks certainly fueled the flames of my passion for science.

Together, science and science fiction helped me fall in love with the cosmos.

I was a research astronomer for a while working on a Hubble camera called STIS, but after a few years I discovered I liked talking about astronomy more. I started writing and giving talks, and over the years that’s expanded into a science communication career. I’ve written astronomy books (Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies!), co-authored a nerdy insult book with my friend Zach Weinersmith from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, made a TV show for Discovery Channel called Bad Universe, wrote and hosted a 46-part (!) astronomy web series called Crash Course Astronomy, and appeared as a talking head on a few TV shows (the latest, funnily enough: The Expanse Expanded).

I started the BA blog on my own in the early 2000s. Discover Magazine picked it up in 2008, and in 2012 I moved it to Slate. And now, I’m here!

The move is a natural one for me. Syfy is making Syfy Wire a one-stop destination for all genre info, and that includes science. They also want it to include all genre material, whether a show is on the Syfy channel or not.

I like that attitude. Humans love to self-assemble into tribes, and that can be pretty exclusionary. But in the sci-fi world that’s changing. When I was in high school and going to cons, it was easy to fall into an us-vs-them identity. Today it’s different, or it’s trying to be. In a now-famous video, my friend Wil Wheaton answers a young girl’s question about how he handled being called a nerd when he was a kid. His answer is wonderful: We all love different things, and we should try to understand that the important thing is that love, not necessarily the thing we love. And we can share that with others.

I love astronomy and science fiction. I love using my telescope to look at the Moon, and I love Doctor Who. I love Saturn, and Trek, and exoplanets, and Quatermass and the Pit, and collecting meteorites. I love the reality of the Universe, and the stories we create about it.  

If you’ve read my stuff before you probably know all this, and if you haven’t, well, you’ll find out.

So, hi, nerds! Come along. I have a whole Universe to show you.