Monthly Archives: December 2014

Arizona leads the way in Astronomy education

A couple of weeks ago, I came across Chris Impey’s excellent lecture series Essential Astronomy.  This week’s gem also comes from the state of Arizona – Pima Community College’s Spring 2014 AST102IN course by Katherine Follette and Maria Pereira.  25 superb episodes from the Daily Motions of celestial objects through the Fate of the Universe.   It’s all current, rigorous, and refreshingly free of the 1960s Batman sound effects that plague just about every other science documentary out there.

The Youtube channel is at:

Here’s Lecture 1 for a start:

Another part of the forest – the Cremona sound

Ten years ago this month I went on a three week vacation to Northern Italy. I was looking forward to the art, food, and performance of which I’d heard so much.

It was mostly a lackluster, overpriced failure on all fronts from Milan to Venice to Florence to Rome.

With one exception. I spent two days in Cremona between the Milan and Venice stops. I studied violin eons ago and had an interest in the construction of the things. Somewhere I still have a copy of Alberto Bachmann’s Encyclopedia of the Violin.

That little town had the wonderful Museo Civico ala Ponzone in addition to the better-known Stradivarius museum, walkable streets, and slightly less surly people. The museum, since supplanted by the Museo del Violino, displayed the materials and hand tools used to create the instruments that fetch an oligarch’s ransom these days. The docent was eager to talk and I was eager to listen but I spoke no Italian and she no English. “Che peccato! Che peccato!” she said and indeed it was a pity.

Aside: I saw a community chestnut roast being setup one morning and planned to attend. Later on I saw the banner announcing sponsorship by Lega Nord and thought better of it.

Now, Cremona is in the news all of a sudden. 60 Minutes featured the violins and NPR talks about sustainable farming of the forest from which the Amati, Guarneri, and Stradivari got their stock.