Elizabeth Tasker

Want to talk science?

 
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I love writing and talking about science to really any audience. My articles have been published by a wide range of magazines and news sites, including Scientific American, Astronomy Magazine, ROOM space journal, Nautilus, space.com and the Conversation. I most often write about exoplanets and space missions, but I've also covered earthquakes, star tables in ancient Egypt, bear hibernation, and tactical voting, among other topics! 

My magnum opus is my popular science book on exoplanets and planet formation, the Planet Factory, which was in published September 2017 (November in the USA) and out in paperback in 2019. More details about the book can be found over here

I am a writer for the NASA NExSS 'Many Worlds' blog and at JAXA I created Cosmos; a research blog covering different missions and activities at the Japan space agency, as well as helping to support our various missions.

I also frequently give public talks, including at the Royal Institute in London, European AstroFest, TEDxHokkaidoU, ELSI Origins (public event focussed on origins of life), casual pub talks such as Astronomy on Tap, Tokyo's Space Cafe and NerdNite, as well as at local schools.

A full bibliography of articles, along with a list of previous and upcoming public events can be found on my personal page: [Articles] / [Events].

ELSI Origins I: Space Dust to Sentience. "Life Beyond Our Planet" by Dr. Elizabeth Tasker.

In 2015, I gave a talk at TEDxHokkaidoU on the search for the origins of life with JAXA's Hayabusa2 mission. The audience were mainly Japanese and there was a simultaneous translation of my talk. As a result, I speak slightly slower than normal!

Debunking:

People, we have not found Earth 2.0!

 

A frequent topic I write and speak about concerns the discovery of Earth-sized exoplanets. Media reports frequently over-reach our current knowledge, claiming these new worlds are Earth's twin or Earth 2.0. Unfortunately, our current knowledge does not allow us to make this claim!

For the vast majority of exoplanets, we only know planet's size; typically the radius, sometimes the minimum mass, and occasionally, both. We are not yet able to probe the surface conditions of the planet, so have no way of knowing if its surface is potentially habitable, or even if it has a solid surface at all.

Such claims that we can find Earth-like planets have serious consequences. Firstly it's untrue and insults our audience. It also risks jeopardising the creditability of the field and threatens funding for future missions. Why would plans for an instrument to detect habitable environments be supported if it is believed we have already found these planets? Most importantly, what we have learned so far incredible and there is zero need to hype. A few of the articles I’ve penned on this topic can be found on the right.

I talked about two great exoplanet finds in Astrophiz podcasts. Talking with host, Brendan O’Brien, we look at our nearest exoplanet, Proxima-b, and the seven planets around TRAPPIST-1 to ask what we really know about these systems:

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Outreach:

Why do… any of this?

While journal papers transfer information between specialists in the same field, the detailed and technical style is not designed to be accessible to a broad audience. This imposes multiple limitations on both the scientist and the science. The scientist misses out on credit for their ideas, since circulation is confined to a small audience. Their institute also suffers, since the lack of accessible information on research activities makes it difficult to promote programs to prospective students and faculty members. It also throttles scientific progress, since information can not cross easily between disciplines if publication is only in field-specific journals heavy in jargon. With today's most challenging scientific problems requiring interdisciplinary research, we need a better circulatory system for ideas.   

To tackle this issue, I have often helped to created blogs at the institutes where I belong to cover highlight different topics in (hopefully!) an accessible fashion for other researchers, writers for the media and anyone who is interested in what we do.

These include the ‘Cosmos’ blog at ISAS JAXA, which covers a range of activities at ISAS, a blog for specifically for the Martian Moon eXploration mission (MMX) at JAXA and Hokkaido University’s ‘Spotlight on Research’ blog which I began while I was a faculty member at the university, and has been continued by other writers (now renamed ‘Research highlights’). In 2016, we also produced a brochure for Hokkaido featuring 10 Spotlight on Research articles to share at the AAAS international meeting as a portfolio of research at the university (this has also been continued by different writers).