Rhys Taylor's home page
Science, Art and Data Visualisation

Outreach

Outreach is something I very much enjoy, both for the graphic design elements and the chance to present to and interact with the interested public. I try to do as much as I can, though this is limited by being in primarily non-English speaking countries. Since my sometime hobby of CGI art mainly involves space-related stuff, what I've chosen to include here is a little bit arbitrary. I've decided that the main criteria should be things I've been officially (or semi-officially) employed to create, though I haven't been overly-strict about this. For a more complete listing of my CGI work, wait for the Art section to be restored.


In brief, my outreach content has been used by many academic institutions, other outreach sites, and even appeared on television, as well as in less reputable sources like the Daily Mail and the Sun. I've been involved in a music video, written articles for popular science magazines, been a guest on podcasts, given numerous public talks, helped design an escape room and photographed a potato. My YouTube channel has 1200 subscribers and over 500,000 hits.




"Heavy Metal Astronomy : Galaxy Hunting in a Noisy Sky" article for the popular Czech science journal VESMIR (May 2023). Co-authored with and translated by Anežka Kabátová. A brief look at how the various sources of interference cause problems when extracting signals from radio astronomy data sets.


Virtual Reality Arecibo in Steam Environments (March 2023). Exported from Blender into Steam's own engine, this is a publicly available way (VR only, but works on any headset) to freely explore the Arecibo Observatory as it appeared c.2012. Users can teleport around the whole of the platform, opening info panels which explain the major features, and throw giant medieval helmets and Roman columns on to the dish below. Don't ask why anyone would want to do that. Of course they would want to do that.


Virtual reality experiences for the ASU open day (November 2022). Visitors could fly around the Virgo Cluster and explore a primitive version of the Arecibo Observatory, using Blender's built-in virtual reality engine shown on an Oculus Quest. Approximately 100 people of all ages visited over the course of the day. I both created the experiences and supervised people using the displays.


Graphic design for the Wheel of Star Formation conference (September 2022), belatedly – due to the pandemic – celebrating the birthday of Jan Palouš. This included the conference logo which was used on ID badges, T-shirts and socks.


Assistance with an interactive webpage "Arecibo Stories", created by Mat Allen and Chris North (Cardiff University, March 2021). Users explore the virtual model telescope I originally created for the glass cube, now considerably improved, with audio narration by myself and other Arecibo users from Cardiff.


"Farewell, Arecibo !" article for the popular Czech science journal VESMIR (February 2021). A personal tribute/summary of the telescope's amazing accomplishments over the decades, translated by Jan Palouš.


Guest on the "Pythagorean Astronomy" podcast of Cardiff University, November 2020, on account of the telescope's collapse.


"The Hunt for Dark Galaxies" article in popular Czech science journal Astropis, issue 123, October 2020), translated by Václav Pavlík. A look at galaxies, dark matter, and how we can detect dark galaxies using radio telescopes, illustrated with my own data visualisations of numerical simulations and radio data cubes.


Still images and 3D/VR movies for a SOFIA press release about the "dragon of Orion" (January 2019). From the right angle and in the CII line, it turns out the famous Orion Nebula really does look a lot like the Welsh dragon. My own post on this is here; press releases can be found here and here.


Escape room design (with colleagues) for the ASU open days, used annually from November 2018 onwards (pandemic restrictions permitting). Victims – sorry, participants – have to solve a series of astronomy-themed puzzles to unlock a computer password and discover the secrets of the Universe. This involved a small element of graphic design as well as the overall concept, construction, testing and modification.


Invited public talk for the Czech Astronomy Olympiad, June 2017 : "The Hunt for Missing Galaxies : Batman, Explosions and Jodie Foster Impressions". A general talk about radio astronomy and galaxy evolution through the medium of silly jokes and data visualisations (including 3D glasses mainly so I can get the audience to wear silly glasses). I repeated this talk in August 2019 at the Prague Planetarium for the "Praga Astronomica" geocaching event.


Open day talk "Why the night sky is really boring and how to fix it", ASU, November 2014, repeated November 2018. The talk is a quick, 30 minute introduction to radio astronomy, comparing how much objectively better the sky looks when you can see radio wavelengths instead of optical. Presented by me and translated into Czech by my unfortunate colleagues.


Guest on the Weekly Space Hangout, the Universe Today podcast of Fraser Cain (which ran until 2023), May 2015, talking about my own research and whatever it was that happened to be topical at the time. I'm not sure if I ever appeared in any other WSHs; it was fun to do but the scheduling awkward with the US time zone difference.


Moderating and later co-running the Google Plus "Space" Community, created by Fraser Cain (Universe Today), from 2015 until the platform's closure in 2019. At its peak we had over 800,000 members. Administrative duties included flagging (and in extreme cases reporting) inappropriate content, blocking irritating "Electric Universe" nutters and Flat Earthers, having protracted discussions with lunatics... but also, by and large, helping to educate the interested lay-public in the truth behind overstated press releases. 


Graphic design and narration for an interpretative dance/play "Star Formation Wars", a bizarre way to celebrate the 65th birthday of Jan Palouš. Featuring exploding balloons, dry ice and hairdryers.

I'm not sure this counts as outreach, but what the hell else anyone could could call it is beyond me.


Press release “Astronomers find stream of gas 2.6 million light years long” for the Royal Astronomical Society (2014). This included co-authoring the text and producing the image.


Animation produced for the Arecibo Observatory’s 50th Anniversary scientific symposium, October 2013.


Graphic design for the Arecibo booth at the AAS Meeting in Long Beach, California, 2013. I produced a series of bookmarks illustrating stellar evolution, designed as a public outreach activity aimed at younger schoolchildren visiting the exhibition section. The idea was that they'd tie on beads of different colours and sizes, to show how stars of different masses evolve in different ways. Even though we didn't have as many children as we were expecting – and some of them were way too old but surprisingly enthusiastic – we still managed to get rid of almost all of the 900 we produced. We even had teachers take them in bulk as classroom props.


Creation of a digital Arecibo model laser-etched in glass (2013) by Crystal Proteins. More than 400 were eventually produced (how many in total I'm not sure), at a cost in excess of $15,000. These were given to staff scientists and sold commercially at the Arecibo visitor centre. The model has had many subsequent uses, see above.


Visualisations of the asteroid 1988QE2 to show how it compared to the QE2 ocean liner. Arecibo was studying it at the time (May 2013) so I thought it would be fun to show the asteroid in the form of its equivalent mass in ocean liners in space. And you know what ? It was. The following year I found out the asteroid would float, which also made me very happy.


Officially paid by NASA to photograph a potato. Well, a NASA grant anyway. I used photogrammetry to turn the sweet potato into a 3D mesh and then textured it in Blender (May 2013) to show how it looked like a contact binary asteroid. Why, you ask ? Why the hell not ?


Galaxy size comparisons charts. Which went properly viral. Like the Project Orion video, I got lucky and happened to realise that no such charts existed – at least not at the popular level, with Google search results being dominated by pictures of Samsung smartphones. This series of charts, produced very quickly in April 2013, completely changed the image results. I still use them today for introductory-level talks.


Data visualisations for the Arecibo booth at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Anchorage, June 2012. This involved simple 3D visualisations of galaxy clusters and early attempts at importing FITS files into Blender. I also helped man the Arecibo booth, answering general questions from hapless astronomers wandering aimlessly.


Songwriting, dancing, and generally looking extremely silly for the "Arecibo Anthem" music video produced by the REU students in summer 2011. You have been warned. If I say something is all-singing, all-dancing, I probably mean it literally.


Graphic design for and direct participation in a Herschel/Planck exhibition at the Royal Society, London (July 2009) for Cardiff University. Participation consisted of talking with members of the general public who were interested in astronomy. I designed a "timeline of the Universe" which was printed as a large floor display. This same image has been used in presentations by none other than Stephen Hawking, a fact of which I am extremely proud.

Subsequently I was commissioned to make an improved version, printed as a 6 m wall display by the Mira public observatory in Belgium.


Simulation visualisations for the Cardiff University website. This was in my very early days of experimenting with Blender for visualising astronomical data, when I was still learning the basics of programming in Python.


Cover image for the I.A.U. Symposium 244 Proceedings (2007), my first conference.