Jocelyn Bell Burnell
The co-discoverer of Pulsars


Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell is the co-discoverer of Pulsars - rotating Neutron Stars which emit beams of electromagnetic radiation - described as one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century.

Dr. Bell Burnell has a long and distinguished career, including work at the University of Southampton, at University College London, at the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, as Professor of Physics at the Open University, as visiting professor at Princeton University, as Dean of Science at the University of Bath, as President of the Royal Astronomical Society, as Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Mansfield College, plus two years as the President of the Institute of Physics. She has also received many awards and honorary degrees.1 -2 -3 Dr. Bell Burnell is a Christian, belonging to the Quaker denomination. She has been cited as an example of how a person can comfortably combine distinction in the world of science with a strong religious faith.

Lectures dispelling astronomical fears

When lecturing on astronomy, particularly in the United States, Dr. Bell Burnell received many questions from the audience regarding end of the world scenarios. As the year 2012 approached these questions were becoming more frequent, regardless of what the actual lecture was about, so she decided to do something about it.

The result was a lecture entitled "Will the world end in 2012? The Astronomical Evidence".

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Also her lecture at the Royal Society, London;
"The end of the world in 2012? Science communication and science scares."

The lectures are also discussed here:

The contents of these lectures are still very relevant beyond 2012.

Here is a brief list of the topics covered:

Lecture Part 1

The Sun's magnetic field / Solar storms / Earth's magnetic field reversals / There is no evidence for the Earth's spin ever reversing / There is no evidence for mass extinctions occurring at the times of magnetic field reversals.

Planetary alignments / If the Moon's gravitational pull is 1, then the Sun's is 100, and ALL of the planets gravitational pulls combined are only 0.017 / For tidal forces, if the Moon is 1, then the Sun is 0.2, and ALL of the planets tidal forces added together is only 0.00005

Planetary alignment can not do anything "other than provide interesting spectacles in the night sky" / "There is NO ALIGNMENT of the planets in 2012, and even if there was, there would be NO CONSEQUENCES" / a discussion about impacts from comets, asteroids, or Nibiru.

Lecture Part 2

The incredibly accurate timings of pulsars have enabled us to determine the masses of the planets in the Solar System to ten decimal places / pulsar astronomers would have found any object in the inner solar system, or "hiding behind the sun" / If Nibiru existed it would have destabilized all of the planets orbits / discussion about the Near Earth Object Monitoring Program / using solar sails to divert asteroids.

Our galaxy / the black hole at the center / how stars orbit the black hole in ellipses / application of Kepler's Laws / the Black Hole does not affect us because it is 250,000 million million miles distant / the gravity from our Sun is 100 thousand million times the gravity we feel from the black hole.

Galactic alignment / "ONCE A YEAR, we on Earth see the Sun in front of the central regions of the galaxy, this happens to be around 21st December" / the closest alignment has already happened in 1988.

Some quotes;

"A lot of misinformation is being put about"
"Why - who benefits?"
"Because some publicity seeking individuals gets a buzz from it?"
"In order to sell a movie? Or survival stuff?"

"It often starts with a correct nugget of science, but that's then elaborated or twisted a). to be scary and b). to be wrong. Why? Why is anybody bothering to do this? Who benefits? I honestly dont know".

"My main conclusion - [it is] scary that many of us don't know enough science to recognise that much of what is being said is scientifically rubbish"

Dr. Bell Burnell kindly gave a recommendation for (now

Lecture Part 3

Questions from the audience included:

Cosmic rays / mutations / supernovas / how Jupiter protects us / how Jupiter is hit with a lot of the things that might otherwise hit us.

An audience member who had given talks on astronomy to schools offered the following;

"It's quite surprising how many schoolchildren have come to me about 2012. I think there is a big duty on us, as you have alluded to, to get communication out there, because children, as we know, are easily influenced. A couple of them appeared to be actually quite scared about this, which I think is a terrible reflection on the conspiracy theorists who are quite willing to spread these scary stories around. Certainly all the science communicators need to just get some information out there, as you are doing"

Dr. Bell Burnell replied; "I think you can't regulate the web, and I think we've got to live with that. What we've got to teach kids, from quite a young age, is how to discriminate between crazy websites and sensible websites."

Scientific papers:

Hewish, Antony; S J Bell, J D H Pilkington, P F Scott, R A Collins (24 February 1968). "Observation of a Rapidly Pulsating Radio Source".

J D H Pilkington, J. D. H.; A Hewish, S J Bell, T W Cole (13 April 1968). "Observations of some further Pulsed Radio Sources". Nature 218 (5137):


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