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probably not the first thing that springs to mind when most people hear
the words — astronomy, astrophysics, astrochemistry; or even
After all, isn’t controversy the realm of politics and
Aside from an ongoing debate about the politics of climate change,
cloning, or stem cell research, mainstream science journalism, including
astronomical coverage, often tends to be cursory, devoid of real context,
much less scientific rancor.
Despite the recent uncharacteristically public and heated clash over the
new planet classifications, most astronomy news flies well below the
What the general public often doesn’t realize is that behind closed
doors, rancorous coffee klatsches are often a matter of course at any
given astronomical colloquium.
Politicians and policy wonks tend to air their differences in very
bellicose terms. Astronomers, in contrast, rarely find themselves
in shouting matches on the cable news channels. It’s not often that
they are given air time to vent their squabbles in public.
Besides, most astronomers prefer to keep their disputes below a low
murmur. Or they simply publicly ignore contrary theoretical points
of view until absolutely forced to confront them.
That may be an effective way to work at their given academic or research
institutions, but does it really serve astronomy as it relates to
There’s an old Hollywood axiom — there’s
no such thing as bad publicity. Would more raucous astronomical
debate also garner more ink? If so, could more funding in a field
that has always been historically strapped for cash be far behind?
In its own way, I hope that this website will allow a more open and
free-ranging debate about all things astronomical — from the formation of
our own moon to the formation of the first galaxies in the universe.
We literally are byproducts of stellar formation; “Starchildren” in our
own hippy dippy way. And although we sometimes choose to ignore it,
astronomy holds the keys to some of the toughest questions we face.
In the following weeks and months, it’s my hope that Cosmic
Controversy.com will become the internet’s most provocative,
scientifically-based astronomical forum.
Thanks for stopping by,
Bruce Dorminey is a science journalist and author who has covered
astronomy and astrophysics for the past decade. He is a former Hong
Kong bureau chief for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and a former
Paris-based technology correspondent for London’s Financial Times newspaper.
In nearly two
decades of print journalism, Dorminey has written for numerous magazines
and newspapers, including Astronomy, Discover, Geographical, Canada's
Globe and Mail, The International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, The
Toronto Star, and the Dallas Morning News. He was also a 1998
winner in the Royal Aeronautical Society's Aerospace
Journalist of the Year Awards (AJOYA) for a Financial Times article on
the European Space Agency’s HIPPARCOS mission. His SPACE TIMES
article entitled "Interstellar Wanderlust" was shortlisted for
Best Propulsion Submission in the 2004 AJOYA awards. His article on
the far future of astronomy from space for SPACE TIMES magazine, the
magazine of the American Astronautical Society, was shortlisted for Best
Space Submission in the 2005 AJOYA
magazine article on the planet Venus was shortlisted for Best Space
Submission in the
2006 AJOYA awards.
And his article on
the planet Mercury which ironically appeared in Mercury magazine was shortlisted for Best Space Submission in the
2007 AJOYA awards.
USA TODAY called his book, “Distant
Wanderers: the Search for Planets beyond the Solar System,”
(Springer 2001), “a short course in one of the most exciting areas of
currently a frequent contributor to ASTRONOMY magazine, and also writes
for MERCURY, the magazine of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Dr. Ken Rumstay is a prize-winning professor of astronomy at Georgia’s
Valdosta State University. With degrees in planetary science and
astronomy from MIT, Wesleyan University, and Ohio State University, Dr.
Rumstay’s research as an observational astronomer has allowed him to
study the long-term optical variability of highly energetic galactic
centers, known as Active Galactic Nuclei. His work has also given
him the opportunity to contribute to research involving extragalactic
star formation and in studies of the interstellar medium.
member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the Georgia Academy of
Science, the International Dark Sky Association, and the Council on
Undergraduate Research; Dr. Rumstay is a founding member of the
Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy (SARA), which operates
a 0.9-m telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.
Friday evenings during the university’s academic year, Dr. Rumstay dons
his hat as VSU Planetarium Director, where he is often found using his
keen sense of humor and knowledge of the sky to entertain and educate all
manner of audiences.