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Podcast: Making Data Beautiful

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To kick off our special summer series about data, we interviewed 2006 Nobel Laureate John Mather about the importance of imagery in communicating science and sharing data with the public.  More than just “pretty pictures,” data can be used to tell a story and explain the mysteries of the cosmos.  Not every piece of data would be considered a work of art, but the information contained is at the very heart of NASA science.  

Working with COBE and the James Webb Space Telescope, Dr. Mather is no stranger to the power of data and the importance of scientific imagery.  We got the scoop on how data is used in communication and why every bit of data is beautiful in its own way.  

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Transcript (Text, PDF)

John Mather, COBE, and JWST

Dr. John Mather was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize (in conjunction with Dr. George Smoot) in Physics for his work on cosmology with the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite.  He is currently the project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.  To learn more about Dr. Mather and his projects, visit:


Beautiful Data

We promised you some pretty pictures, and we plan to deliver!  Here are some of the images discussed in this episode:

  • COBE Science Results – This page displays and explains the cosmic microwave background data detected by COBE instruments. It may look like pop art, but those swirling colors are a “baby picture” of the Universe’s early years.
  • The Hubble Deep Field revealed thousands of galaxies and other objects in a patch of seemingly blank sky. You can watch a brief movie about the Deep Field at that link, or download pretty pictures from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field observations.
  • JWST will build upon Hubble’s Deep Field observations. Here are simulated images of what we hope to see with JWST.



Host Sara Mitchell
Interviewers Maggie Masetti
Sara Mitchell
Editors Maggie Masetti
Sara Mitchell
Guest John Mather
Theme Music Naked Singularity
Transcript Maggie Masetti
Website Support Meredith Gibb
Maggie Masetti
Producer Sara Mitchell
Executive Producer Anita Krishnamurthi
Responsible NASA Official Kim Weaver

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