A fascinating chunk of space junk: thanks and farewell Alice Gorman

Archaeologist and space studies researcher Alice Gorman (@drspacejunk) took the reins of Real Scientists from June 14-20. Whilst at first glance archaeology and space science might seem like strange bedfellows, Alice shared with us the fascinating intersection of these two fields.

We also learned that like all professions, archaeologists have certain rites of passage to go through in their careers…

… and that there are degrees of junky-ness when it comes to space junk…

Uh, moving on from that, Alice was kind enough to share with us her thoughts about the week.

In general terms, how did you find your week as a curator?

It was a fantastic opportunity to talk to a whole bunch of people I don’t normally interact with. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t bother to give a backstory for on my own account, assuming people are familiar with it. On @realscientists, I had to think more about what the key messages were: which dots needed to be in place to make the lines join up. Most of all, I just really enjoyed having the company of people who have a passion for science.

It can be a shock talking to so many. Did you find the sudden rush of interactions (good and bad) daunting?

At a few points interactions were coming in far faster than I was able to process them – it took a while to get used to that!

What were the highlights? Were there any lowlights?

On June 16, we celebrated the anniversary of Valentina Tereshkova’s historic orbit of the Earth in 1963. It was lovely to know that tweeps were raising glasses to her across the globe.

I’m really interested in how people feel about space hardware, so I asked everyone what their favourite spacecraft were. It was a really diverse mix, including obvious ones like the International Space Station, Space Shuttle, Sputnik 1, Cassini-Huygens, Hubble, and the Voyagers, but also less well-known spacecraft like the Veneras, AMSAT Oscar 9, Giotto and a few fictional ones!

This could be either a highlight or a lowlight: one evening we did space jokes. Once some of the punsters started, it was hard to stop them, so we were alternatively groaning and chuckling. Just as sample: @IJohnson_TNF: why do space scientists give lots of money to charity? because they’re Philae-nthropists. Well, I think you had to be there….

Is there anything you wanted to get out of / do on the RS account that you didn’t manage to fit in?

I still had so much I wanted to say. I felt I was just getting a handle on it, settling into the community and finding my voice, and it was over too soon. It’s given me some ideas for my own account though.

If I hadn’t had to work as well, I think I would have augmented some of the tweeting with additional material on my blog.

Something I didn’t plan for was how to finish: as the minutes counted down to midnight on Saturday, I wished I’d thought to look for a profound and witty quote to say farewell with.

Did you have a plan? If so, did you stick to it?

I started with a list of talking points – topics I was keen to discuss, and others where I wanted to know what others thought. But in the end I didn’t really follow it. I found it more interesting to let the topics of conversation unfold organically, to follow threads and thoughts as they arose.

Do you have any tips or advice for future RS curators?

Think about how you want to start it, and about how you want to end it, and let the middle take care of itself. Don’t try to do too much. Be prepared for bombardment.

What other people or accounts should people follow if they enjoyed your tweets this week?


Thank you Alice, from all of us here at Real Scientists for wonderful week of tweets. If you missed anything you can see the collated tweets at this link, and continue to follow Alice on twitter, @drspacejunk.

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