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Famed astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell visits A&M-Commerce

By Caleb Slinkard
On March 9, 2011

Renowned astrophysicist Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell gave a series of lectures at Texas A&M University-Commerce last week. Burnell, who according to some made one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the 20th century when she discovered radio pulsars, spoke to more than 100 A&M-Commerce students, faculy and Commerce community members Wednesday, March 2, about the common speculation that the world will end in 2012.

According to astronomy professor and Planetarium Director Dr. Kent Montgomery, Burnell's presence at A&M-Commerce was truly special.

"We're very happy with the response [from students]," he said. "We're excited to get someone this famous to A&M-Commerce. If you look at any introductory astronomy textbook, her name will be in there."

Burnell's trip to A&M-Commerce was her first time in Texas.

"This is my first visit," she said. "Great weather, great hospitality, friendly people; it's an interesting place to be. I'm having a great time. I've enjoyed it enormously. I've met a very great range of students, which is wonderful, and had some very good questions and a wonderful time working with them, as well as the faculty."

Following her lecture on 2012, the floor was opened for questioning.

"I'm not sure if we hand any real believers in the audience," she said. "Judging by the questions, there really wasn't anybody I was offending, so I don't think there were any real believers. I think they were maybe just a little bit curious."

The nature of the myths surrounding the end of the world complicated Burnell's research.

"This was quite difficult, because a lot of the ideas aren't very clearly articulated," Burnell said. "So, you're having to work quite hard to understand what they're actually suggesting will happen before you can say ‘will this happen?'"

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