Sweaty in the Stars


Pretty astronomy pictures are not why we do astronomy, but they sure are a lovely side product of our scientific research. Even for the professionals, the beauty of the cosmos never really gets old. Producing beautiful images and making them available to a wide audience is a great way of introducing the rest of the world to science, and inspiring them to find out more about the stuff that’s around us, beyond planet Earth.

I’ve written and talked before about some of the unexpected and innovative way astronomical imagery can enter popular culture, and the high fashion designs of Christopher Kane‘s popular Galaxy line are a great example of that. This autumn, British sportsgear brand Sweaty Betty has produced its own take on the astro theme, with a whole series of running, yoga and swimming clothes sporting images from NASA’s archive. I had an exchange with the company’s twitter feed and they directed me to a page on their site explaining the background of the line:

It all began with a visit to the Chabot Science Museum at 10,000 Skyline Boulevard, San Francisco. I was fascinated by the exhibit featuring 1970s astronauts. To keep their muscles from deteriorating without gravity, they had to run marathons on treadmills in heavy compression suits.

As I left the museum, the pioneering female astronaut making her way in a male-dominated world seeped into my thoughts. She became, in a way, our role model and muse for the AW13 Collection, which you can see on the designers’ mood boards. The design of one compression suit in particular – Dave Newman’s revolutionary Biosuit – inspired the reflective patterns on the Adrenaline Galaxy Capris. Ski has yet to hit the shop floor, but compression suits are strong design influences – watch this space!

For the Dance and Yoga ranges, we looked at supernatural wonders of the world, like galaxies and the Northern Lights. Our designers contacted NASA to see if we could use some of their incredible photography and they were very obliging. I especially love the print used on the Sirsha Yoga Vest. The NASA photography can be seen further across run and yoga statement ranges.

Further inspiration for the AW13 collection came from the Northern Lights.

I particularly like that they’ve posted the backstory to the designs, getting inspiration from female pioneers in space exploration and the wonders of the world. Beautiful clothes with a story I can relate to certainly get my stamp of approval, as an astronomer and a runner. While we don’t do astronomy to make pretty clothes, it shows how our work, and crucially making it publicly available and showcasing it in museums, can lead to unexpected creativity and economic benefit.

My only comment to Sweaty Betty is that they needn’t have gone all the way to NASA: European astronomers too produce beautiful science, and are happy to share it.

Astronomy impact in unexpected places

Everywhere I look a the moment I see astronomy in unexpected places. First, I spotted this post:

from moby.com

No, not a blogging astronomer, but super cool Moby professing his nerdiness and love for astronomy on his blog. But ok, an electronic music artist loves science – maybe that’s not so very surprising.

Today I was alerted by the Daily Mail that über-of-the-moment British designer Christopher Kane’s latest collection is inspired by the Universe, in a very literal sense:

Kane's collection on Net-A-Porter.com

These clothes have recently been worn (I’m told) by Alexa Chung and Carey Mulligan – it don’t get much hipper than that right now. I think I have a few old conference t-shirts like this in my wardrobe that I’ve never felt quite geeky enough to wear . Maybe now’s the time to break them out? Of course, it’s ironic that the people who actually built the telescopes and produced these images would never be able to afford to wear the clothes. Is there at least an image credit on the label? Some citations to interesting papers?

Note that one of the celebs in a Kane skirt is Samantha Cameron – that’s definitely one to put on a banner next time the UK budget gets cut.

I think we should really enjoy this moment in the flashbulbs. How often do we get the opportunity to teach our subject using Samatha Cameron’s bottom, or Carey Mulligan’s midriff? And if you’re busy writing a proposal right now, you may want to add these images to illustrate the potential legacy and economic impact of your data.

Tuesday Observations

1. Why are the Lorentz Center advertising for Viktor & Rolf? Are they sponsoring this workshop? That would be awesome. But unlikely.

2. There is no need for high-heeled clogs. Ever. If you are in any doubt as to how hideous these things are, watch the fashion show here (although having lighting rigs mounted on their shoulders can’t have helped with the models’ comfort).