Dr. Todd Young

Host of Science Around Us

Dr. Todd Young hails from Minnesota and received his undergraduate degree in Physics & English from the University of Minnesota – Morris, his Master’s degree in Physics from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in Astrophysics.  He has worked at Wayne State College since receiving his doctorate in 1998 and is currently a full professor of physics and astronomy.  He teaches a variety of courses at Wayne State College, including university physics, astronomy, general education science, and astrophysics.  

In 2008, he became the director of the Fred G. Dale Planetarium, which has been a passion since that appointment.  The planetarium is currently one of the most technologically advanced and educationally versatile in the state, and was recent noted by the Omaha World Herald as one of the top 50 places to visit in Nebraska.  He has provided over a thousand of planetarium shows and astronomy lessons to tens of thousands of people over the years.  In 2010, he brought the Nebraska Science Bowl competitions to Wayne State College to help make sure that opportunities like the science bowl continue in order attract young people to science and mathematics; and as Todd is both a fan of trivia contests and a "certified" science nerd, it was a perfect fit.  He is currently the coordinator of the Rural Health Opportunities Program which guides students from rural Nebraska to a career as a health provider, like doctor, dentist, pharmacist, and nurse, in order to return to serve rural Nebraska.  This program has been a collaborative effort with the University of Nebraska Medical Center since 1990.  He also continues to be active with the Nebraska Junior Academy of Science - Northeast Regional competition, including being the lead coordinator of the event for a few years.

In 2008 he received the George Rebensdorf Teaching Excellence Award for the Nebraska State College System.  In the supporting materials for his nomination, it was noted that Dr. Young "constantly stresses the importance of physics as a tool for learning about the world around us" and continuously explores and investigates methods to better educate his students.  He also receives great reviews from his students regarding the rigor of his classes and his commitment to their success.

His scholarship and research interests include astronomy education, contributing content to numerous astronomy textbooks, RR Lyrae variable stars and the instability strip, and interactive astronomy lessons in the planetarium.  He also loves to bring physics and astronomy to the community with annual star parties and other similar events.  In his spare time he enjoys crosswords puzzles, watching movies, reading good science fiction, playing board games with his family, and, of course, observing the night sky.  He lives in Concord, Nebraska with his wife of 15 years Jamie, sons Carlyle and Dean, and daughter Josalynn.

The Scale of Space

Mar 15, 2018

I find that when I talk to people about astronomy and space, one of the hardest concepts to understand is the actual scale of things in our Solar System, galaxy, and universe. But this is not wholly unexpected because just every astronomical picture found in the media is depicted with a scale that is either incorrect or not understandable by the viewer. So let's go ahead and talk about the scale of things. First, let's start with the Earth.

The Equinox

Mar 8, 2018

You may have noticed that it is getting more and more difficult to drive east in the morning and west in the evening. The reason is because we are approaching what is called the spring, or vernal, equinox. This year the vernal equinox is March 20th. On the calendar, this is noted as the first day of spring, but this day is special because of what is going on astronomically. As the Earth orbits the Sun in a near perfect circle, it also rotates. This rotation of the Earth is what provides us with day and night, and the time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun is our year.

I have many things that fascinate me (as I hope you do too), and one of them is the study and measurement of time, known as horology.  Previously we’ve discussed the origin of the days of the week and a bit about the history of the calendar, but today I’d like to focus on something we all reference every day – a.m. and p.m.

I give a lot of planetarium shows to kindergartners and at the end of each program, I like to ask them if they have any questions about space and astronomy.  Most questions I receive are usually not questions and more about how they want to be an astronaut, which is fun. But, occasionally, someone asks a really good question.

Recently in the news there was an announcement that astronomers had discovered planets orbiting stars in other galaxies.  This is both expected and amazing at the same time.  Last week we discussed how it was expected because it is part of the star formation process that planets also form around the star.  What is amazing about this discovery is how it was discovered. 

Recently in the news, there was an announcement that astronomers had planets orbiting stars in other galaxies. This is both expected and amazing at the same time. First lets talk about how it's expected, it is expected because of our current understanding of how stars are formed. Star formation begins with a huge cloud of gas and dust called a nebula gravitationally collapsing in on itself. This causes the center of the nebula to slowly increase in pressure and temperature.

The other day, I woke up and I saw a spectacular total eclipse of the moon. I've seen many, but it's always stunning for me. This total lunar eclipse was even more special because of three different things happening for this eclipse of the moon, and as such it was called a "Super Blue Blood Moon." Here's why:

Star Wars Science

Jan 25, 2018

I'm a movie buff, and I've seen my fair share of science fiction movies, and while I try my best not to get overly frustrated, it sometimes boggles my mind why these big budget movies can't hire a scientist to get some consultation for basic science. For example, the Star Wars movies are incredibly fun for all ages but they are full of scientific inaccuracies. One of the biggest ones for me are the massive explosions of the death stars. First of all, since space is essentially a vacuum, sound cannot propagate. So instead of that "boom," you hear nothing.

Time Keeping: Part 2

Jan 18, 2018

This week, let's continue discussing how we keep track of time. To summarize last week's discussion, the year is based upon the annual motion of the Earth around the sun, and the month is based on the moon's orbit around the Earth. The week is actually based upon the seven objects you can see in the sky that are moving differently that the stars. Specifically, the moon, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. A few days of the week are obvious: Monday for the Moon, Sunday for the Sun, and Saturday for Saturn.

Time Keeping

Jan 11, 2018

Given that we all just entered a new year, I thought we could talk today about the calendar and time keeping. The calendar we use today is called the Gregorian calendar proposed by Pope Gregory in 1582 to replace the previous Julian calendar set by Julius Caesar about 1600 years earlier. Both calendars were fundamentally created to track the annual cycles of the skies, specifically focusing on the location of constellations in the night sky, and or when the sun will be at certain altitudes during the day.