Vote Discovery News for a Shorty Award…

…otherwise some Twilight fan site might win. And that would be bad.

I don’t really get the whole smoldering vampire craze that’s going on at the moment, but the movies New Moon and Twilight certainly have fans going nutty about fangs and moody teenagers. I actually saw Twilight the other day, and it was the first film I’ve ever seen acted through… awkward glances. I felt embarrassed watching it. Not because it was bad; it’s that you really feel the teenage angst ooze from the DVD. For that reason alone it was certainly well acted. Will I watch the sequel New Moon? Probably, if I tripped, fell and found myself in a theater with a jumbo bag of popcorn. Of course not! (Might do.)

Anyhow, this Twilight thing has gotten out of hand, and in the “Oscars of Twitter” (the Shorty Awards), a Twilight fan club is powering up the charts in the #news category. Yes, that’s #news (note the bold hashtag there).

As none of the mainstream news heavyweights appear to be in contention for the #news title, Team Discovery News has decided to dominate this category, aiming to at least catch up with the teeny vampire fan club. But it’s not going to be easy, they have 450 votes. We have… 16. But from small acorns, a Discovery News Shorty Award may grow! Plus we only started campaigning today, so anything could happen.

So, if you’re a fan of the sci-tech news we produce at Discovery News, and you’ve been following our informative, witty, awesome tweets, please consider voting for us by tweeting:

I nominate @Discovery_News for a Shorty Award in #news because [insert reason here]

For example: “I nominate @Discovery_News for a Shorty Award in #news because their science news rocks my cosmos,” or “I nominate @Discovery_News for a Shorty Award in #news because vampires suck cheese.” You get the picture.

Alternatively you can place your vote on the Shorty Awards page and keep track on how @Discovery_News is doing.

As always you can also follow my awesome tweeting action on @Discovery_Space and @astroengine. My pet rabbit has also taken to microblogging, so you might want to get the inside scoop from him too: @Barney_Bunny.

Thanks to our Discovery News sustainable tech writer Alyssa Danigelis for the tip-off!

A Bevvy of Doom

On the red carpet: John Cusack tells me what he'll be doing on Dec. 21st, 2012. Skiing (credit: Debra O'Neill/Discovery News)
On the red carpet: John Cusack tells me what he'll be doing on Dec. 21st, 2012. Skiing (credit: Debra O'Neill/Discovery News)

Currently sitting in the departure lounge in LAX before I fly out to Washington D.C. to meet up with the Discovery News crew ahead of the launch of our brand new site (keep an eye on Discovery Space, it will soon be integrated into the Discovery News redesign — the beta version looks awesome).

Before I fly, I just wanted to post the news that the Discovery Channel will be airing the documentary I was interviewed for by KPI Productions in August. According to my DVR, the show “Surviving 2012” will be showing on Sunday (Nov. 8th). I’m not certain when it will be showing internationally, but in the US it will be on at 9pm PDT — so check your local listings for any slight changes in schedule. I think it’s going to be a great show as science is the focus, not the hype (unlike the idiotic History Channel-esque Nostradamus nonsense). However, I think fellow interviewee Dr. Alex Young and myself arrived at a very interesting conclusion as to the realities of being hit by an aggressive solar storm. Although our conclusions are far from the rip-roaring, solar blowtorch popular in sci-fi, we do point out that solar physics research is horribly underfunded considering our dependence on vulnerable power and communications systems.

In other news, on Tuesday night I attended the 2012 premier red carpet event in Downtown Los Angeles. I met some bloke named John and another called Roland. Apparently they’re quite famous, but what would I know. For more on my A-list adventures, have a read of “What Will John Cusack be Doing on Dec. 21, 2012? Skiing.” and check out some of the photos from the event via my Facebook account.

Discovery Space Quiz: Dalek Mothership?


For my first Discovery Space Quiz, I was sent a selection of images from the Lowell Observatory StarTales Archive. On looking through the selection this week, one image grabbed my attention and I decided to use it in the monthly “What Is That?” quiz.

So what is it? The insides of a Dalek spaceship? A new hi-tech observatory? A washing machine drum?

Check out my space photo quiz on Discovery Space… you might be surprised by the answer…

Solar Email Rage, I Got Some


I’m no stranger to abusive emails, but I thought I’d share a run-in I had with a particularly angry reader during the week.

Now, why would I be receiving hate mail? You might think it has something to do with my campaign of 2012 smack-downs last year… perhaps it’s an angry author of a doomsday book? Or a prominent religious figure with an axe to grind? Perhaps it’s the guys who think the LHC is going to put a continental-sized divot into Europe?

No, no and nope (although the last one would have been fun, I haven’t heard from them for ages; it’s as if I’ve lost touch with an old friend).

Actually, this particular example of email rage came from a very rare subset of Internet critic, the determined-and-possibly-half-way-intelligent-troll. Not content with flinging abuse around in blog comment boxes, this type of individual will read something, and then come hell or high water, they will hunt the author down to give them a piece of their mind.

The reason why I think this guy is possibly-half-way-intelligent is because he can spell. And he doesn’t spout his alternative theory or type in all-caps. Plus, he uses few exclamation marks. His message was short, sweet and left me in no doubt of what he thought about me:

Subject: The sun is BORING!?

Next time you write about the sun, can you try not to sound like a 15 year old? And thanks for educating me on global warming, I’m sure the sun has a negligible effect on the Earth’s climate…

Actually, next time you write about the sun, DON’T.


Now Aaron, tell me how you really feel.

I hold my hands up in defence. Yes, I did say the Sun was being boring, but that’s not quite the same as me saying, “the Sun is boring!” now is it. I’m not going to throw down the ‘but I’m a solar physicist and I actually have a clue card’… oh, I think I just did.

Although I usually assign these kinds of messages to the trash (when I was in my 2012 prime, I was getting up to 10 of these types of email a day, only with f-bombs, and “!!!!!!1“s), I found this one curious.

It was obviously relating to the op-ed article I did for the Discovery Space Wide Angle this week, but this guy had to do his research to find and consequently use my email form. Is this a new mainstream breed of critic that I haven’t been exposed to before? Do people really have this much time on their hands?

So my conclusion is, I don’t think he liked my opinion about global warming, or he really does think I write like a 15 year old. Well, it takes one to know one. When you grow up to be a 16 year old Aaron, read my articles again will you? And yes, I do forgive you, it’s okay, consider this strike one.

A Wide Angle View of Our Nearest Star

A comparison of solar minimum and solar maximum in EUV wavelengths (SOHO/NASA)

In case you were wondering why Astroengine has been a little quiet of late, this is why. I’ve been working with my Discovery Space colleagues to produce a “Wide Angle” all about the current solar minimum, space weather and the influence of the Sun on our planet.

It’s been fun to do, but it’s also been a steep learning curve to get up to speed with my new duties as producer for Discovery. Currently getting through a tonne of training, but I’ll get there. When organized, Astroengine will be back to full capacity, pumping out the best space news and opinion.

But for now, have an explore of Discovery Space and enjoy the current Wide Angle: Solar Minimum.

Discovery Space Gets a Facelift


Having been a reader of Discovery Space for a while now, I was excited to hear from the Discovery’s ace producer Dave Mosher, that the site had undergone a fairly radical face-lift. The excited the web designer inside me couldn’t wait to see what had been done, but it was also a relief that the superb space science reporting hadn’t changed, it had been re-packaged to make it easier to navigate. Also, as Dave expertly steers the site through the ocean of space journalism, blogging and reporting, I am very pleased to see his space blog, Space Disco, has pride of place right at the top of the site.

All that is needed now are some funky social options (perhaps some Twitter, Facebook and Google gadgets–you know me, I love my gadgets!) and Discovery Space will really hit my cosmic funny bone. Great job Dave, your hard work and leadership is really shining through, like a GRB on a dark night! (Sorry, I had to think up a geeky analogy.)