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Forward from Stuart Atkinson

>Hi List,
>Apologies for the long posting but I thought some of you might like to know
>how Monica's lecture went yesterday evening? I know Monica will read this
>eventually, so Monica, apologies if this makes you blush, but it really
>this good..!
>Some background: The lecture itself was the final "attraction" of a day of
>astronomical and spaceflight related activities at a large community centre
>here in my home town of Cockermouth, which I co-organised (well, I say "co-
>organised", the guy who was meant to be helping me was about as much help
as a
>porcupine in a spacesuit, but never mind!). The main attraction was an
>exhibition of artwork, crafts and work produced by the pupils of local
>schools (that's ages 5 - 11) on the theme of "Aliens", although that theme
>became rather diluted and became "Space". Anyway, the schools had 4 months
>prepare, and filled the large main exhibition room with a wonderful variety
>paintings, drawings, sketches, models, collages, mosaics and models of the
>Solar System, the Moon, rockets... you name it, it was there, and the
>exhibition was on view for the previous week. We had a table covered in
>Mars rovers (I bet there's not a single cotton reel or elastic band left
>miles!) and a huge ten foot by 9 foot painting of the Solar system, with
>planets all lined up, the product of a whole class of enthusiastic six year
>olds... stunning! NASA's PR people could learn a lot from kids I think...
>hmmm, maybe we could too... :-)
>The "scientific" content was provided by myself - a wall covered in
>information about SETI and the possibility of finding life in our Solar
>- and, yesterday, to expand the exhibition for one final day, by members of
>the two other astronomical societies from my county who set out displays of
>photos and ran astro-software on computers. One PC was linked up to the net
>allow visitors to browse NASA's pages.
>Oh, and my humble meteorite collection was put on display in a spot-lit
>cabinet, little more than a warm up act really for the meteorites which I'd
>been told would accompany Monica's lecture...
>Anyway, between 10.00am and 2.00pm we must have had almost 100 people
>the door, and the comments recorded in the Visitors Book showed they had
>enjoyed it. Comments like "fascinating!" and "very interesting!" were
>But the highlight of the day was obviously Monica's lecture, and I'm
>to say that on an evening when there were three competing events on in town
>(Cockermouth has a "Festival" every July, and there are always several
>on every evening) we had over 60 people for the lecture, and for an hour
and a
>half almost everyone was treated to a wonderful and very educational
>My job was to don my suit, work the projector for her and to be "MC" for
>evening... which was a pleasure, but I have to admit I was very distracted
>the specimens she set out on a small table at the front of the room... they
>were very impressive indeed (and I was amazed and very grafeul that Monica
>brought them with her, carrying them in a bag on a long train trip! I guess
>bag snatcher would have had a helluva surprise if he'd tried to wrestle
>bag from her!!) even the smallest was bigger than my largest...!
>The lecture was a joy from start to finish, very easy to follow and
>and, if you'll pardon the pun, Monica brought the subject "down to Earth"
>right from the start. Monica began by explaining what meteorites were,
>some fine slides to illustrate, and then gradully moved on to the
>of martian meteorites, ending with a detailed examination of the ALH84001
>studies and a peek into the future exploration of Mars with ESA's proposed
>MARS EXPRESS mission.  It might embarrass her me saying this, but Monica is
>the *best* kind of lecturer, someone who talks to and not *down to* her
>audience, and I sneaked a look over my shoulder at several points, and saw
>people nodding in appreciation, with that "Oh, *now* I understand...!"
>expression lighting up their faces. Dropping in moments of humour now and
>then, carefully explaining the science and making sure that nothing was
>unexplained or taken for granted, she guided everyone through the ALH
>controversy, and made the lack of agreement about the meteorite's "fossils"
>just as exciting as the meteorite's own discovery.
>At the end of the lecture Monica was thanked with a generous and very well
>deserved round of applause... and then, predictably, almost everyone surged
>forwards to take a look at the meteorites laid out on the table beside her!
>There were wonders on view there, most impressive of all being a beautiful
>pallasite slice, and a truly huge piece of Barwell, with impressive patches
>fusion crust on two surfaces, which I swear was big enough to build a
>lighthouse on... Again, this will probably embarrass her, but Monica
>all the questions patiently and warmly, making sure no-one went away
>about anything, and the looks on the faces of the kids who held those
>meteorites - or "moved" them, because the largest ones were just too much
of a
>challenge for some of them! - were so wonderful I wish I could share them
>everyone reading this now. (After seeing Monica's specimens many people
>back downstairs to view mine, and although my little etched slice of
>my SIkhote Alin and Canyon Diablo couldn't compare with Monica's millstone
>Barwell, I did have some Zagami... well, I say "some"... imagine the amount
>dust you'd find in one of NASA's satellite clean rooms... I have less
>dust than that, in a bag, in a display box, inside *another* display box...
>but it's mine, it's *MY* dust, and I love it... and the people who got to
>the bag-in-the-box-in-the-box and peer at the dust were very impressed...!)
>Gradually the crowd thinned, and Monica was allowed to pack up, and I
>got a chance to thank her. Of course, she was very modest, but the truth is
>that last night she was representing us all, every one of us reading this
>posting, she was our Front Line. Now a whole theatre full of people know
>meteorites are so important scientifically - why they're so rare and
>and also how beautiful they are, because they got to hold some, and feel
>weight of them in their hands and watch the stage lights reflecting off
>them... I saw a young girl holding one and swooping it through the air, no
>doubt imagining it tumbling through space before reaching Earth... I saw an
>old man smiling at his wife as he touched the surface of the Barwell,
>her "I never thought I'd get to touch one of these..."
>So, on behalf of everyone on the List I'd like to thank Monica for being
>a wonderful ambassador for us all last night.
>We can't all give such wonderful lectures, I know. We can't all fill
>and do a big Show And Tell like that. But we can have the same attitide and
>satisfy people's curiosity. Maybe it's time there was some sort of joint
>educational effort, a collaboration between active List members to draw up
>educational package or something similar, I don't know, I'm really just
>thinking on my feet here. All I know is that last night I saw the two sides
>meteorites, Science, and Wonder. And, you know, as interesting and as
>important as the science is, you can't escape the simple fact guys...
>Damn... we own rocks from outer space....!!!!
>Stuart Atkinson

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