Category Archives: General Information

Knight Science Journalism Tracker Recognition for Kepler Coverage

Knight Science Journalism Tracker kindly provided “special kudos” for my Nature News article about the known problems facing Kepler:

SPECIAL KUDOS to this one — Nature News – Ron Cowen: The wheels come off Kepler / Space telescope’s mission to find planets outside the Solar System is probably over ; Great hed, better content with an inquisitor’s tone. First however, it’s gotta be a tad weird being an American writer for Nature. One wonders if Ron, or one of the editors, made sure that the phrase familiar in American English as “checkered history” was rendered into the Brit-speak (ie real English) “chequered history.” But one or the other is what these reaction wheels have, he reports, and attributes it to Borucki who surely wasn’t thinking of the ..’qu..’ version when he said it. This should be the kick-off point for the upcoming and inevitable inquiry and search for lessons learned that may be underway already. Cowen’s list of missions whose engineers went without this kind of reaction wheel, deeming them too unreliable, is long enough to make one wonder. What were they thinking? The answer, to translate Cowen, is that they were thinking they’d better keep their fingers crossed. By the time they recognized the risks the spacecraft was already buttoned up and nearly ready for transport to the launch site.

American Astronomical Society’s Popular Science Writing Award

I just heard that I earned a 2012 Popular Science Writing Award given annually by the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division. The award was given for an article I wrote in Science News last year about why the sun remains unusually quiet, even near the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. The award’s citation reads:

This review by Mr. Cowen of an ongoing scientific debate about possible underlying causes of fluctuations in solar cycles is accurate and informative while remaining succinct and educational.

Off to Harvard for a Stay as Visiting Journalist at the Center for Astrophysics

Ron is a visiting journalist at Harvard from April 23 to May 18, 2012. He’ll be a guest at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Institute for Theory and Computation, attending seminars and lectures and chatting with scientists at both Harvard and MIT. Hope to come back with several cool stories so stay tuned!