Category Archives: Second Life Events

The Higgs Boson: a talk in Second Life tomorrow morning (April 6)

It’s been a year since I’ve given a public outreach physics and astronomy talk in Second Life. I used to do these things fairly regularly as a part of MICA (the Meta-Institute of Computational Astronomy). However, the MICA project has completed, its island in Second Life has gone online, its Second Life groups have been disbanded, and MICA no longer really exists. (Its website is still up, and should stay up for at least a little while. If I were smart, I’d probably make sure to download and archive elsewhere all of the audio recordings of my own talks….) A write-up of what MICA did and was all about is available at, and was published in the conference proceedings of a SLActions conference on virtual worlds

I’ve always meant to find other venues for continuing to do popular talks in virtual worlds. Someday, I’d like to escape from Second Life’s walled garden and start doing these talks in an OpenSim grid, and even did the first steps for trying to get set up to do them in my own region on OSGrid. However, of course, the audience in Second Life for now is still far bigger.

Fortunately, the Exploratorium, the excellent science museum in San Francisco, has a presence in Second Life. This Saturday (tomorrow, 2013 April 6) at 10AM pacific time (17:00 UT) I’ll be giving a talk about the Higgs boson in the Exploratorium region in Second Life. Remember, basic Second Life accounts are free. Drop by if you’re interested.

“Whence Supernovae” : online talk on Saturday March 3

At 10AM PST (18:00 UT), I will be giving a talk in Second Life entitled “Whence Supernovae?” This is an update to a talk I gave with the same title back in September 2010. I’ll go over some of the same groundwork, but will also share some of the latest results that have only come out in papers in the last couple of months.

The topic is Type Ia supernovae. These are the type of supernovae that were used to discover that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating. However, even now, we aren’t completely sure just where these supernovae come from. We know a lot, and indeed just within the last half year we’ve come to know a lot more, but some questions remain.

Remember that a Second Life account is free! For more information about the talk (including the location in Second Life), visit the MICA website, and particularly the Upcoming Public Events page.

Online Talk Tomorrow (12-03) About FTL Neutrinos

Tomorrow morning, December 3, at 10:00AM pacific time (18:00 UT), I’ll be giving the MICA public outreach talk about the faster-than-light neutrino results from CERN and Grand Sasso. The talk will include an overview of the OPERA experiment that has led to the result, a summary of the result, my own headscratching about whether or not it’s real, and some notes about what this does (and, more importantly, does not) imply about our confidence in the theory of Relativity.

The talk will be at the MICA Large Ampitheater, and all are welcome. Remember, a Second Life account is free!

Online Talk, 10AM Pacific Time : SpaceTime Diagrams

As a part of MICA, the Meta-Institute of Computational Astrophysics, I will be giving a public talk tomorrow morning entitled “Understanding Relativity with SpaceTime Diagrams”.

Einstein’s theory of Relativity completely changed our notions of reality in the early 20th century. Time, it turns out, is not absolute, but rather mixes with space in a particular way that depends on how fast a clock (or other time measuring device) is moving relative to whoever is asking questions about it. Spacetime diagrams are a great tool for understanding Special Relativity. In this talk I’ll introduce a few of the startling results of Special Relativity, and show how they can be described using spacetime diagrams. In next week’s talk (September 17), we’ll use SpaceTime diagrams as a tool to help us describe the geometry near black holes.

The talk will be at the MICA Large Ampitheater in Second Life. Remember that Second Life accounts are free, so register today!

“Galaxies in Collision” : public online talk today at 10:00AM PDT

As of this writing, in just over an hour I’ll be giving a talk in Second Life on the topic “Galaxies in Collision”.

Second Life is an online virtual world. Basic accounts in Second Life are free. I regularly give these talks as a part of MICA, the Meta-Institution of Computational Astronomy. Most Saturday mornings at 10AM pacific time (17:00 UT if we’re during Daylight Savings), MICA has a public outreach astronomy talk. (However, like many academic institutions, we tend to slow down and get spotty over the summer.)

This talk will be at the MICA Large Amphitheater.

Internet Astrophysics Celebs Carroll & Gay to Speak in Second Life

For those of you who haven’t been following my blog or watching my twitter or facebook updates, you may not realize that there are regular public-outreach astronomy talks in Second Life. These are designed for the general public, and are open to anybody. Indeed, because a Second Life account is free, they really are open to anybody. These talks are on Saturdays at 10 AM pacific time / 1 PM eastern time, are sponsored by the Meta-Institute of Computational Astrophysics, and are held in MICA Large Amphitheater of the StellaNova region in Second Life.

This series has historically been called “Dr. Knop Talks Astronomy”, because through the end of 2009 I have given the lion’s share of the talks. Indeed, I was thinking about it the other day. The last semester before I left Vanderbilt, I was contacted by the people who make the CD series called “The Great Courses”. These are CDs with lectures from university professors on their topics of expertise. Based on some podcasts of mine that were online from several years ago, they contacted me and asked me to come audition. The idea was that if I passed it, they might well produce a course from me. However, when I left Vanderbilt, and could no longer call myself a “Professor of Physics and Astronomy”, they were no longer interested in me.

It occurs to me that given the number of talks I’ve presented so far, those who have come to most or all of my talks have effective received the equivalent of one of these CD series on “hot topics in astronomy.” Indeed, it was more than that, for not only were there visuals (i.e. my slides), but it was interactive. You could ask questions, and also discuss the talk with the others present.

If you look at our schedule for this coming semester, you’ll see that we’re starting to mix things up some more. I’m still giving more of the talks than any other single person, but we’ve got a larger range of guest speakers. You can see who’s coming up soon by looking at the Upcoming Public Events page.

Last week, we had Nobel Prize winner John Mather speaking about the history of the whole Universe, and of hopes and plans for the upcoming Webb Space Telescope. In the next two weeks, we’ll have two “Internet Celebrities” talking. Sean Carroll, one of the authors of the popular physics blog Cosmic Variance, will be talking about his recently released book on the nature of time, From Eternity to Here. Then, Pamela Gay, host of 365 Days of Astronomy and a member of Astronomy Cast, will be speaking in two weeks.

Drop by and hear us. These talks can be very good… and, while you shouldn’t believe me if I tell you my own talks are good, others have told me that they are. The immersive environment of virtual worlds means that you really feel you are there— John Mather was commenting on this just last week after giving his talk.

AAS Astronomy Events Live Streamed into Second Life

I’m at the annual big meeting of the American Astronomical Society this week in Washington, DC. Lots of stuff going on, and I’m already overwhelmed by the sheer number of people here. (And, also, depressed by the number of young people here in comparison to the number of entries on this list.

Several of the bigger events— press conferences, invited talks— are going to be live streamed into Second Life. Drop by the Astronomy 2009 island to hear the talks, including the Wednesday at 8AM Eastern / 5AM Pacific talk by astronaut and Hubble Mechanic John Grunsfeld. These events are hosted by Astronomy 2009 and by the Astrosphere New Media (Pamela Gay’s and others’ new venture). A full schedule is here.

Remember that a Second Life account is free! Drop by and check it out. And, once you’ve got a Second Life account, nothing will be stopping you from coming to hear my public astronomy talks that I frequently give.

“Dr. Knop Talks Astronomy” — archived on the web

drknoptalksastro_logo_300x250I give regular talks in a series entitled “Dr. Knop Talks Astronomy” as part of MICA’s public events. These talks are in Second Life, so people from all over the place can come to them.

if you’ve missed them, and want to catch up on them, at the site above slides from most of my talks are archived, as well as MP3 files of the audio in many cases. However, there are now three of the talks online that have been recorded fully in video. Of course, it’s not the same as being there, since you can’t ask questions and interact, but it might give you a sense of what goes on at these things.

The first one is a talk about how we know that Dark Matter exists that I gave several months ago; this talk is online at PookyMedia.

More recently, Geo Meek has recorded my most two recent talks, and there is now a Dr. Knop Talks Astronomy channel at livestream. The two talks online there are one all about redshift (the Doppler shift, gravitational redshift, cosmological redshift), and my talk a few days ago about black hole misconceptions. Special thanks to Spike McPhee (aka Paradox Olbers) for supporting this latter effort!

Joe Bob Says Check It Out!

(Update: it looks like the black hole talk is not online at livestream yet, as of 2009-12-15 13:40. However, I believe it will be before too long.)

The REAL Christmas Story— ART Production Dec 11-13

Come by and see Avatar Repertory Theater‘s 2009 Christmas production, entitled The REAL Christmas Story. This production includes three short plays written by members of the troupe.


In The Christmas I Met Santa, we find out how one Christmas changed everything for one little boy. In that show, I have a non-speaking role, and others have lines… but I say more than anybody with lines. How can this be? Come and find out! In He Remembers It Well, a reporter sent on a banal Christmas assignment finds out that even the silliest of assignments can be quite interesting. In And It Was Christmas Day, YADF (Your Average Dysfunctional Family) provides the sort of catharsis you need in order to face your own family during the holidays….

The productions will be in Second Life at the George C. Dove Theater in Rockcliffe University’s region. Productions are on Friday at 5pm PST, Saturday at 3pm PST, and Sunday at 2pm PST. Remember that a Second Life account is free!

Howard Barker’s 13 Objects — global performance October 20 and 21

Howard Barker is a celebrated British playwright. On October 21st, there will be an international celebration of his works entitled 21 for 21. Participating in this celebration will be Avatar Repertory Theater, the virtual theater company of which I am a part. We’ll be putting up a production of his play 13 Objects: Studies in Servitude.

This is one of those things that makes it very clear that virtual worlds are not just computer games. These 13 short plays are all interesting and challenging, and vary all over the place in tone. Some of them are funny, some of them are grim, some of them are surreal, and all of them give you various different things to think about. It’s being directed by Joff Chafer, a faculty member at Coventry University. The cast is a sundry group of people from all of the USA, the UK, Austrailia, and New Zealand. It includes at least three former professors (two of whom were English professors, one of whom was perversely a professor of physics & astronomy…), a former Opera singer, and a couple of people who have performed and continue to perform professional theater in real life.

The design of the sets for all 13 plays follows a run-down, semi-post-apocalyptic theme. The objects in the sets were all constructed by famed former Second Life builder Arcadia Asylum, famous for her “hobo” type builds. Near the stage, there will also be “installations” for each of the 13 short plays, present through October 20 and 21 (and probably available even before then). You’ll see the sets, and hear recordings of the voices of the actors who will be performing on those sets.

This play will be free to attend. If you have a Second Life account, drop by; the show will at this spot in the Coventry University sim, at 4PM PDT (23:00 UT) on Tuesday October 20, and 2PM PDT (21:00 UT) on Wednesday, October 21. If you don’t have a Second Life account, consider getting one! They’re free; visit, ignore the gratuitously flash-heavy front page, and click on the big orange “Join Now” button to create an account.