How we Perceive Racial Demographics

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Last year I conducted a short online survey to (attempt to) answer a simple question:
How accurately do people know the racial demographics of their neighborhood?

This was prompted by overhearing a great many generalizations about the racial composition of Seattle, and the UW in particular. The survey was straight forward: simply provide your guesses for the % of each race in your neighborhood, as well as a few details about yourself (age, gender, race, and most importantly ZIP code in the USA). The ZIP code was used to compare the user-estimated %'s to data from the US 2010 census.

I'd like to share a bit of what I learned...

1. Respondents, or, The Kindness of Strangers

Cubehelix, or How I Learned to Love Black & White Printers


Anyone who's chatted with me about figure design (at least in Astronomy) in the last two years has probably heard my rantings and ravings about some strange color pallet called cubehelix (not to be confused with timecube). I flat out love this color scheme, and I think it could work for you! Here's why:

1. It Works Better for YOU

The most notable feature about CUBEHELIX (or "cubehelix" if you prefer) is that it prints equally well in color and black & white! This is a great time saver when making figures for publications where color is only available online (if like in Astronomy you still use journals with print copies). CUBHELIX accomplishes this by cycling through the RGB cube, while constantly increasing the saturation (black to white). I like this figure, which explains how CUBEHLIX works and its name:

Keck: A 10-m Paintbrush

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My friend Sebastian shared this awesome image with me today, and was kind enough to let me post it here:
"Focusing Keck" by Sebastian Pineda (Caltech)

This is a screenshot taken from one of the guider cameras on Keck, one of the largest optical telescopes in the world. Each hexagonal cluster of points is actually a single star being focused by each of the mirror segments! The dots are small since each segment is essentially in focus, and Keck has tremendously good "seeing"

Normally each segment of the primary mirror would focus to the exact same location. However the mirrors are slightly (and intentionally) misaligned, allowing the operators to see the focus for each of the 36 primary mirror segments. For comparison, here's one of the Keck primary mirrors in its full glory:

(Copyright W. M. Keck Observatory)

Of course Keck routinely produces stunning images of the cosmos (check some out here!) but I thought this simple black/white image above was amazing. In one image it captures the simplicity and beauty of observational astronomy, while reminding us of the engineering marvel that allowed its creation. It reminds me of the million little things that must go right each night to make astronomy happen.

Science in action! Clear skies, Sebastian!