Fall 2011:

Oct. 14, 2011, "Why People Believe Weird Things", Dr. Terry D. Oswalt, Head of the Physics and Space Sciences Department and Associate Provost for Research at Florida Institute of Technology

Description:

Alien abductions, astrology, UFOs, ghosts, Big Foot, mind-reading, the Loch Ness Monster—the list of extraordinary things people firmly believe is amazingly long. Is any of it true? Is there really any way to tell? How does one separate fact from fiction? Galileo is credited with an approach that seems to work. Using some everyday examples, Dr. Oswalt will explore why it is easy to be misled - purposefully or unintentionally. He will also discuss how to use what the well-known astronomer Carl Sagan called the "Baloney Detection Kit" to get at the truth.




Dr. Terry D. Oswalt
Head of the Physics and Space Sciences Department and Associate Provost for Research
Florida Institute of Technology


Dr. Terry D. Oswalt, an astronomer, is Head of the Physics and Space Sciences Department and Associate Provost for Research at Florida Institute of Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in Astronomy at The Ohio State University specializing in studies of binary star systems, late stages of stellar evolution, minor planets, and comets. Since coming to Florida Tech in 1982, Dr. Oswalt has taught astronomy and physics, while continuing his primary research interest in studies of collapsed stars called white dwarfs. Oswalt is the founding Chairman of the Southeast Association for Research in Astronomy, a consortium of 12 universities that operates an automated 1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona. SARA will soon open a similar facility at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile. He also has been director of the SARA summer internship program, which brings undergraduate students from around the U.S. to do research at the SARA facility at Kitt Peak each summer. He has served as program officer for Stellar Astronomy & Astrophysics at the National Science Foundation and editor of the I.A.P.P.P. Communications, an international journal for advanced amateurs, students, teachers and professionals who collaborate on research and educational projects in astronomy. Dr. Oswalt has written over 130 scientific articles and has edited three astronomy books. He is currently editing a six-volume series of astronomy reference books.