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NASA renames telescope after 'Mother of Hubble' Nancy Grace Roman
The Roman Space Telescope will study the expansion of the universe and search for distant planets.
Announced earlier today, NASA has renamed the Wide Field Survey Telescope (WFIRST) in honor of Dr. Nancy Grace Roman, who helped make space-based telescopes a reality as the agency's first female executive.
The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (or Roman Space Telescope, for short) will help scientists study dark energy, search for and image distant exoplanets, measure cosmic acceleration and generate massive panoramas of the universe. It's set to launch in the mid-2020s.
"It is fitting that as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, NASA has announced the name of their new WFIRST telescope in honor of Dr. Nancy Roman, the Mother of Hubble – well deserved," said Former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who worked with NASA on the Hubble and WFIRST space telescopes. "It recognizes the incredible achievements of women in science and moves us even closer to no more hidden figures and no more hidden galaxies."
I'm proud to announce that we've renamed our WFIRST mission to the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. Her leadership enabled NASA to become a pioneer in astrophysics. This mission will honor its namesake by transforming our view of the cosmos: https://t.co/qqPKD46PY3 pic.twitter.com/tYJmpoDtIo— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 20, 2020
"Nancy Grace Roman was a leader and advocate whose dedication contributed to NASA seriously pursuing the field of astrophysics and taking it to new heights," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science. "Her name deserves a place in the heavens she studied and opened for so many."
Who was Nancy Grace Roman?
Roman was born in Nashville in 1925 and died on December 25, 2018.
In a draft of her memoir, she recalled taking a liking to astronomy at an early age. When she was four, her favorite thing to draw was the Moon, and between the fifth and sixth grades she started an astronomy club with her friends. But she wasn't quite sure how she first got interested in the cosmos. One possible explanation:
"The northern Michigan town had a dark sky," she wrote. "There, my mother showed me the constellations and the Northern Lights that were fairly bright in those years."
But not all adults supported her interests.
"As a girl, I was strongly discouraged from a career in science. Although it was not the first time I was informed of the foolishness of a career in science for a woman, I remember vividly the reaction of my high school guidance counselor when I asked for permission to take a second year of algebra instead of a fifth year of Latin. She looked down her nose at me and sneered, "What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?" Thanks to Pearl Harbor, the issue became moot. I substituted a summer of chemistry for my senior year and started college a year before I had planned."
In 1946, Roman earned a bachelor's degree in astronomy from Swarthmore, and several years later a doctorate from the University of Chicago. Throughout the 1950s, Roman made a name for herself in the astronomical community by publishing several important discoveries about the composition of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The star that "changed her life," as she wrote in her memoir, was AG Draconis.
Roman had noticed that this star's emission spectrum had unexpectedly changed compared to earlier observations, and so she published a two-page note detailing her observation. What she didn't know was that she happened to observe the star during a very rare state.
"Parenthetically, we now know that the star that changed my life is in the unusual state in which I found it for only about 100 days every 10 or 15 years or so," she wrote. "Finding it was a stroke of luck. But equally important was that I recognized that it was interesting, and that I took advantage of the opportunities that my stroke of luck brought my way."
In 1959, NASA recruited Roman as Chief of Astronomy in the Office of Space Science, where her main focus was managing astronomy-related grants. She was the agency's first female executive.
"I knew that taking on this responsibility would mean that I could no longer do research, but the challenge of formulating a program from scratch that I believed would influence astronomy for decades to come was too great to resist," she said in a NASA interview.
She began "planning a program of satellites and rockets with the advice of a wide sample of the nation's astronomical community," as she described to NASA. Roman said the space agency was a great place to work in the its first years.
"Most of the professional staff in Headquarters was composed of the cream of engineers from the NACA. Everyone was gung ho. There was no bureaucracy. Furthermore, the priority of the Apollo program made money less tight. Once, I wanted to do something unusual. I no longer remember what it was, but I called someone in the grants office to find out if I could do it. The reply was memorable: "Don't ask me what you can do. Tell me what you want to do. It is up to me to find a way."
Roman Space Telescope
Roman was instrumental in ushering in the era of space-based telescopes. Between 1966 and 1972, NASA launched four Orbiting Astronomical Observatories into space, two of which were successful. These missions helped pave the way for Roman's biggest contribution to her field: making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality. Ed Weiler, Hubble's chief scientist until 1998, called Roman "the mother of the Hubble Space Telescope."
Roman said that gender discrimination existed in government, but she wasn't affected by it personally.
"I may have run into a glass ceiling, but I am not sure I had the diplomatic skills for higher office. Robert Zimmerman, in his book about the Hubble Space Telescope, titled The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It, states with reference to me: 'Her hard-nosed and realistic manner of approving or denying research projects had made her disliked by many in the astronomical community.' However, I would not have gotten as far as I did if I had not been stubborn. I recognized early that I was not a good diplomat. I tend to state things as I see them without softening my comments. I try to treat everyone equally without attention to prestige or political power."
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.