Saturday, April 30, 2011

Victor Ambartsumyan's legacy and my trip to Byurakan Observatory

I have already told about my passion for astronomy in my blog more than 2 years ago. This April 16 has been a very remarkable day for me. I had a tour in the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory. It was a press trip organized by the Armenian Astronomical Society (ArAS); a step for promoting science and journalists came for help :) [note: i'm not a journalist currently, but how could i resist not to go there, with the excuse that i work for a news organization... and am a blogger? :)]
here i'm actually outside (on the balcony) the biggest (2.6 m) telescope
The trip included several presentations about the Obeservatory and Victor Ambartsumyan, contemporary issues of astronomy, science journalism and more. They were held by Areg Mickaelian - the man who organized the trip (co-president of the ArAS) and Hayk Harutyunyan - the director of Byurakan Observatory.

We learnt some amazing facts (Gayane Mirzoyan has outlined some of them in her blog (Russian) about the observatory, the telescopes etc. Here's my pick:

  • When first installed in 1976, the 2.6m telescope was the 7th in the world, now it's 45th... 
  • Couple of years ago a small observatory was set up for educational purposes in Stepanakert, Artsakh Republic.
  • A number of international astronomic conferences were held in Armenia throughout these years, 
  • In 1964 and 1971 conferences on extraterrestrial civilizations were held in Byurakan Observatory. The meeting of 1971 was the first international symposium on the problem of Extraterrestrial Civilizations and Communication with Them.  Many prominent scientists, including astronomers, physicists, chemists, biologists, philosophers, and specialists of other related fields participated in the symposium.
  • Victor Ambartsumyan has been promoting Armenian language within the science academy institutions and in his will he even wrote that "everybody, regardless the percentage of Armenian genes in their blood, should study and master the Armenian language" (source in Armenian).
Areg Mickaelian, Leading Scientist and Head of research group at the  BAO
Hayk Harutyunyan, director of the BAO
There were also talks about astronomy and astrology (turns out even some journalists didn't know the difference!).. For those who don't know me well -- I absolutely hate everything connected with astrology and get frustrated to hear people confusing it with astronomy! 

Here are some pics from the Ambartsumyan's worplace: 

Victor Ambartsumyan's desk

the amazing portrait by my former colleague William
After the presentations we had a tour in Ambartsumyan's house, which is now a museum. Then we went to see the pride of the observatory - the 2.6m telescope. I've been there couple of times by night and never seen it in the daylight. Turns out it was possible to get out to the balcony.
2.6m telescope. pride of the observatory

here is it - the largest telescope of the observatory
the control panel of the telescope
me and Gayane, to whom I am grateful for learning about the press tour

the group of the press tour
This week I watched The Contact again. I have almost forgotten how I loved that movie. And the next day I read in the news that SETI suspends its search for alien life :(

.. and I just finished translating the first Armenian TED speaker - Garik Israelian's talk about the spectroscopy and search for extraterrestrial life. Soon the Armenian subtitles will be published here. Here's the talk:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Organizing the Foursquare day meetup in Yerevan #4sqday

When writing this post about a year ago, I could never imagine that I'll become one of the "ambassadors" of Foursquare in Armenia. Being an early adopter and a geek willing to try everything new, I'm somehow influential in the tech-related things among my friends and they often consult with me for new services and gadgets (like Kindle, Android phones, apps, tablets, geolocation services, etc).
Throughout last year, I made a presentation on Geolocation services and Foursquare during the BarCamp Yerevan 2010, appeared on promoting Foursquare, and Banadzev production's Interactive program, then my own PanARMENIAN.Net interviewed me about the meetup.

It somehow happened that I became the organizer of the annual Foursquare Day meetup in Yerevan (4sq Day).
Celebrated on April 16 of each year, Foursquare Day (4sqDay /4 squared = 16, hence 4/16!) is a chance to get out and connect with others in your neighborhood and around the world. 
I began following the official 4sqDay twitter, read the blog and howto's for organizers to make the most out of the meetup. I created a Facebook event, since it was easier to promote than the meetup page, in our case. I submitted the information about our meetup in the local meetups database. I also set up a Twitter account for coordination of our Foursquare activities in Yerevan - @4sqYerevan.
I also filled a form to request a swag from Foursquare, even though in order to receive it, we had to have 50 confirmed participants on the page by April 4.
Couple of days ago parents called me in the afternoon to say that I've got a package delivery home from Fedex. Turns out it was full of Foursquare goodness! A huge banner, stickers, badges as buttons and other stuff.

By the way, Foursquare has been encouraging the meetup organizers to approach our city mayors and ask them to proclaim the April 16 an official Foursquare Day in our cities.
Today we learned that mayor Bloomberg Proclaims 4/16 as Foursquare Day in NYC!
Somehow we thought that it won't be possible in our case.. and could take forever to reach our mayor, but maybe we should try next year? ;)

In case you are interested to learn more about the Foursquare, there's no better chance than coming to the meetup on Saturday, April 16, 19:00 near Cascade.
71 people are already "Attending" according to the FB event and 38 people confirmed participation on Meetup page.

If at least 50 people check in at the same place around the same time, everybody will get the "Swarm" badge for the first time in Armenia! and of course, the special 4sq day 2011 badge too.

there were 2 "4SQ Day" t-shirts in the package and i reserved one for myself:) who wants the 2nd one?