Astronomer Andrew Fraknoi and the All American Eclipse

On August 21, for the first time in forty years, 500 million people across the United States can witness a spectacular total solar eclipse. Known as the All American Eclipse, this extraordinary event is expected to attract visitors from around the world.

Our client, celebrated astronomer and eclipse expert Andrew Fraknoi, is part of the Eclipse Task Force that’s helping government officials prepare for extreme gridlock and necessary porta-potties, water, and food supplies. In addition, he recently helped persuade Google and the Moore Foundation to donate 2 million eclipse glasses to public libraries across the United States.

His latest book, When the Sun Goes Dark, is a fun, beautifully illustrated guide that helps families teach their children about the eclipse, and was recently featured on Space.com. In a fascinating interview, he stressed the importance of training “intermediary educators,” or members of the public who can go on to teach other members of the public, in making scientific knowledge more widespread:

“We’ve spent quite a bit of time over our careers in astronomy education training intermediaries,” Fraknoi said. “We’ve always thought about who exactly it is that does education and how we can get to [them].”

It’s important to reach grandparents and other informal educators because, according to Fraknoi, they have resources available to them, such as time, to learn about the science. “When the Sun Goes Dark” offers examples of ways to explain solar eclipse science, which informal educators can then use themselves to teach family and friends, Fraknoi said.

He goes on to explain that the upcoming eclipse will provide the perfect opportunity to get young astronomers started on a lifetime of learning:

“If you want kids at an early age to be thinking about astronomy, the most accessible object in the night sky is, of course, the moon, [because] it is dramatic.”

Stargazers have a lot to look forward on August 21st. Be sure to check out Fraknoi’s free booklet describing the eclipse in everyday language.

This interview is part of our comprehensive publicity campaign for When the Sun Goes Dark. Are you an expert looking for a publicist, a publicity firm for nonprofits, a PR firm for small business, or an independent book publicist? Carney & Associates specializes in science pr and sustainability topics. Please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

The Atlantic Features “Fake Silk”

In The Atlantic, James Hamblin recently wrote a fascinating feature about FAKE SILK: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon by Paul David Blanc, M.D.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Buried Story of Male Hysteria: When men actually began to be diagnosed as ‘hysterics,’ doctors searched for a cause. They found a chemical that may be on the rise again today.”

When a raving 27-year-old man was committed to Hudson River State Hospital for the Insane in April of 1887, no one thought much of it.

But 12 days later, another man arrived at the door in much the same incoherent condition. When the men regained awareness and could be interrogated, it turned out that they worked in the same nearby rubber factory.

That summer, a third man was brought to the hospital, where he was described as “in a condition of great mental excitement, disturbing the neighborhood by loud noises and violent praying.” He, too, turned out to be a co-worker.

The chief of the Nervous Department at New York’s College of Physicians and Surgeons at the time was Frederick Peterson. He knew these three cases couldn’t be a coincidence, so he set out interrogating the workers on the nature of their jobs. As he suspected, the men had all inhaled a chemical in the factory’s air: carbon disulfide.

Peterson had heard of carbon-disulfide insanity in Europe, so he alerted his colleagues in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal (now known as The New England Journal of Medicine) that the problem had come to America. In England, the new term “gassed” had arisen, defined in the Liverpool Daily Post as “the term used in the India rubber business, and it meant dazed.” The British physician Thomas Oliver had recalled watching as people working in rubber factories left after their shifts and “simply staggered home,” apart from themselves. The effect could be deadly. “Some of them have become the victims of acute insanity,” Oliver wrote, “and in their frenzy have precipitated themselves from the top rooms of the factory to the ground.”

This article is part of our comprehensive publicity campaign for Fake Silk. Are you looking for a publicist, a publicity firm for nonprofits, a PR firm for small business, or an independent book publicist? Carney & Associates specializes in science pr and sustainability topics. Please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.