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Laura Faye Tenenbaum

Laura Faye Tenenbaum is a science communicator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and teaches oceanography at Glendale Community College.

Where on Earth?
Guess the mystery location
February 26, 2012
posted by Dr. Amber Jenkins
16:00 PST

Every quarter, we post a new mystery image quiz in collaboration with the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) mission team here at JPL. The quiz, "Where on Earth?", is designed to test your geographical wits. The images show various locations on the planet, as seen by the MISR instrument from space. Here is this month's quiz. A link to the answers is given below.

MIR mystery image

This image was taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), and represents an area of about 327 kilometers by 375 kilometers. Please note that North is not necessarily at the top of the page. These questions refer to a country that fills most of the area within the image. Please answer the questions below and tell us where on Earth you think the location is. You may use any reference materials you like to answer the quiz.

1. Within this country is a picturesque desert, located at the bottom right side of the image. This desert was home to a group of enigmatic, ancient people, who were known for their skill and resourcefulness. Their capital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Name the Desert and the given name of the people.

2. The striking wavy lines that cross the middle of the image are natural geologic features that often carry descriptive names of their location. What is the native word used to call and accurately describe these features?

3. The name of the body of water partially shown at the bottom of the image is actually a misnomer. The nearby hills that protect the landscape from weather pressure fronts, also enable a “rain shadow”, thus contributing to the surrounding aridity. What is the name the body of water?

4. At the bottom left of the image, small city developments are visible, of which one city came in to development during the beginning of the 20th century. It now accounts for 50% of the industrial work of the country. Name the city.

5. The striking landscape dominating most of the image is an extension of a much larger, natural feature. This feature is home to a very limited floristic diversity, and to a number of critical and endangered species, where there are no formally protected areas. Name this feature.

6. Name the country that fills most of the area in this Image.

Check your answers here.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team Text acknowledgement: Amber Jenkins and Karen Yuen, JPL.

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Teacher in the trenches
On the front lines of science education
February 21, 2012
posted by Dr. Amber Jenkins
16:00 PST

Laura Faye Tenenbaum.

By Laura Faye Tenenbaum, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Glendale Community College

I watch as each and every student in the classroom nods their head "uh huh." It's the first day of class and I just asked if they knew that they're called the Slacker Generation. Of course they know; they hear it all the time.

It’s my 21st semester teaching introductory Earth science courses to non-science majors, and I typically start the semester with a spiel about the desperate need for, colossal significance of, and the dearth of science literacy in our society. It’s so easy to name athletes, artists and even business leaders, but how easy is it to make a list of scientists, even though their contributions to our society are huge? Misconceptions and stereotypes about science and scientists abound.

Laura Faye Tenenbaum in the classroom at Glendale Community College, Pasadena, California. Laura Faye Tenenbaum in the classroom at Glendale Community College, Glendale, California.

Like many of us, I have strong opinions regarding the education battle being waged in our country today, especially in the sciences. I too want to make an impact, change it up, inspire and innovate. But in order to get my message across, I believe that, first, I have to step back, hesitate and listen. Why should I expect the students in front of me to pay any attention whatsoever, or care, or absorb anything that I have to impart, if I haven’t taken hold of where they are, what they feel, and what ideas are spinning around in their own heads first?

The initial step, therefore, is to find out how much they understand and what they come to the table with, rather than just talking at them as if the process of education isn't an interaction.

So, in order to acknowledge their intellectual value, and to give respect to what they actually think, on the first day of class I ask them to write about their preconceptions about science and scientists. The following are excerpts from their answers. Judge them as you will, but in your horror as well as your delight, please also remember that these students have delivered up both honesty and candor. That in itself is something worthwhile.

  • "I always believed that scientists were boring people who isolated themselves in their labs, only wore white lab coats their entire lives, and had no social life. I guess the movies we watch stereotype scientists to be nerdy-looking people with glasses or weird messy hair, who talk using long words that nobody understands. I also thought of science as being a hard subject that I could never learn since it did not click into my brain in high school."

  • "I have never been able to relate it to my daily activities ... Although I think scientists and science are parts of this life that I cannot fully understand, I strongly believe that science is the foundation to our society and it is the most important and valuable concept that everyone should grasp to some extent."

  • “I've always thought about science as an interesting but confusing subject. I despise how scientists use HUGE words to define what they're trying to explain.“

  • "Usually the first thing that comes into my mind when I hear the word 'science' is mixing chemicals and computing data; basically a stereotype."

  • “Scientists look strange ... but I believe that it’s a part of their job, because to be able to find out many new details they should be able to think far and in extraordinary ways.”

  • "Science to me is dull and I feel it's very black and white … I don't think there is any creativity in science or from scientists … there is no thinking outside the box."

  • "Another misconception is that you don't need science in your everyday life. However, I believe that's false because everything revolves around science and without science we would not have answers to many things."

  • “The teachers had a huge role … I think a science class all depends on how the information is delivered.”


I think these answers are a good representation of what society really thinks about science and scientists. I’ve got the whole semester to try to turn these students into science-literate citizens — and to make them want to gobble up science.


Laura Faye Tenenbaum teaches in the physical science department at Glendale Community College and works as an education specialist in Earth science communications and for this website at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Earth in high-def
Amazing new images from NASA's newest Earth-observing satellite
February 5, 2012
posted by Dr. Amber Jenkins
16:00 PST
Earth in high-def

A 'Blue Marble' image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA's most recently launched Earth-observing satellite - Suomi NPP. (Image credit: NASA/NOAA/GSFC/Suomi NPP/VIIRS/Norman Kuring)

By Dr. Amber Jenkins, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Cross-posted from weather.com

NASA released the spectacular view of Earth below on January 25, 2012 from its newest Earth-observing satellite, "Suomi NPP." It is the first of a new generation of satellites that will observe many facets of our changing Earth.

This composite image above uses a number of swaths of the Earth's surface taken on January 4, 2012. NASA has renamed this newest Earth-observing satellite in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin who is recognized widely as "the father of satellite meteorology."

A 'true-color' image of the Eastern United States taken on January 19, 2012. This image was taken between 5:57 pm USA EST and 6:04 pm USA EST. (Image credit: NASA/Suomi NPP/Atmosphere PEATE/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/Liam Gumley) A 'true-color' image of the Eastern United States taken on January 19, 2012. This image was taken between 5:57 pm USA EST and 6:04 pm USA EST. (Image credit: NASA/Suomi NPP/Atmosphere PEATE/Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison/Liam Gumley)

From its vantage 512 miles above Earth, the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the new Earth-observing satellite gets a complete view of our planet every day. This image from November 24, 2011, is the first complete global image. Rising from the south and setting in the north on the daylight side of Earth, VIIRS images the surface in long wedges measuring1,900 miles across. The swaths from each successive orbit overlap one another, so that at the end of the day, the sensor has a complete view of the globe. The Arctic is missing because it is too dark to view in visible light during the winter. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory) From its vantage 512 miles above Earth, the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the new Earth-observing satellite gets a complete view of our planet every day. This image from November 24, 2011, is the first complete global image. Rising from the south and setting in the north on the daylight side of Earth, VIIRS images the surface in long wedges measuring1,900 miles across. The swaths from each successive orbit overlap one another, so that at the end of the day, the sensor has a complete view of the globe. The Arctic is missing because it is too dark to view in visible light during the winter. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

A Delta II rocket launches the new satellite from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. This is the first NASA satellite mission to address the challenge of acquiring a wide range of land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science while simultaneously preparing to address operational requirements for weather forecasting. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls) A Delta II rocket launches the new satellite from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. This is the first NASA satellite mission to address the challenge of acquiring a wide range of land, ocean, and atmospheric measurements for Earth system science while simultaneously preparing to address operational requirements for weather forecasting. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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