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6 May 2022

Book report

Underfoot: A Geologic Guide to the Appalachian Trail, by V. Collins Chew Published in 1988 by the Appalachian Trail Conference, this volume is a very AT-focused look at east coast geology. It’s also out of date, and a little hand-wringing when it comes to making clear conclusive statements about the arc of geologic history. The summary of geologic events is written for the beginner, not the professional. There’s lots of …

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18 January 2022

The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by Katie Mack

Katie Mack is the incoming Hawking Chair in Cosmology and Science Communication at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. She has written an excellent book about the end of the universe, The End of Everything. In it, she explains with wit and insight, four different ways the universe could die. I read it a year after I took an introductory astronomy course, and found that it both covered similar terrain …

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6 July 2019

It’s Not Easy Finding The Shadow of the Moon

When the Moon blocks the sun during a solar eclipse, there isn’t a big difference between 70 and 90%, but the difference between 99 and 100% is jaw-dropping! It’s something you remember for the rest of your life. I’ve now seen it twice. My first was two years ago near the Wyoming/Nebraska border, and number two was this past Tuesday near La Serena in Chile. I traveled to Santiago to …

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13 May 2018

A Most Improbable Journey, by Walter Alvarez

As mentioned the week before last, Walter Alvarez has a new book out. I’ve read it. It’s good. It’s Alvarez’s take on what he calls “Big History” – the story that spans the cosmos, the Earth, life, and humanity. It’s pretty great for the reasons that Alvarez’s other books are excellent – his voice is calm, appreciative, and patient. His language is accessible and appropriate (though I will grouse that …

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17 July 2017

We Have No Idea, by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson

Jorge Cham will likely be known to most of the folks who read this blog as the cartoonist behind the spot-on examination of grad school called Piled Higher and Deeper / PhD Comics. If you’ve read this comic, you’ll know that Cham’s visual style is simple and engaging, and his sense of humor is terrific. In a new book about the unknown territory of physics that we still need to …

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25 April 2017

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

I haven’t yet seen the blockbuster movie Hidden Figures, but I’ve heard great things about it. This post is about the book it’s based on, also called Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly. It chronicles the work of numerous African-American women at NASA and its predecessor organization, NACA, through the middle of the last century. The book is a robust documentation of these women’s childhoods, educations, motivations, and lives. It …

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13 February 2017

Q&A, episode 2

A new edition of “science and nature question and answer.” This week: why Massanutten Mountain isn’t longer, and why you’re never going to walk on the Sun.

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31 January 2017

Three kids’ books

Cosmology, evolution, and ethics for the four-year old set? It can be done! Join Callan for a brief review of three excellent books for children.

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21 December 2015

Monday Geology Picture: Namibian Night Sky

My husband and I spent some time doing field work in the Sperrgebiet region of Namibia earlier this year. We camped out in the desert for a few days. We spent our days looking at some fantastic geology, and we spent our nights looking at some fantastic views of the night sky. We were quite far from any towns, so we had very little light pollution and could see many …

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23 November 2015

Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson

At first, I thought the titular Seveneves referred to fragments of the Moon. It blows up on the first page of the novel – or disaggregates anyhow, into seven big chunks. But these start knocking into one another, breaking off smaller pieces, and these bang into each other, making more pieces. Soon, there are a lot of pieces. Spoilers galore follow, as I feel obligated to outline the scope of …

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19 October 2015

The Martian, by Andy Weir

There’s a lot of talk about this book lately, since they just made it into what I’m told is a very good movie. I heard the scuttlebutt and watched the preview for the film, and when the protagonist/narrator said “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” I knew this was probably a story for me. I was lucky to score a copy of the audiobook from …

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18 November 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part VII – Scenes from the Cape Fold Belt

At long last, I’m finishing up my series of posts about my October 2013 visit to the small town of Sutherland in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Sutherland is home to a South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station that contains many telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). You can read Part I of this series here, Part II of this series here, Part III of this series here, Part IV of this series here, Part V of this series here, …

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25 September 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part VI – Dwyka Diamictite

At long last, I’m finishing up my series of posts about my October 2013 visit to the small town of Sutherland in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Sutherland is home to a South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station that contains many telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). You can read Part I of this series here, Part II of this series here, Part III of this series here, Part IV of this series here, and Part V of this …

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23 April 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part V

Today I’m continuing with my series of posts about my October 2013 visit to the small town of Sutherland in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Sutherland is home to a South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station that contains many telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). You can read Part I of this series here, Part II of this series here, Part III of this series here, and Part IV of this series here. In my last post, …

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22 April 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part IV

Today I’m continuing with my series of posts about my October 2013 visit to the small town of Sutherland in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Sutherland is home to a South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station that contains many telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). You can read Part I of this series here, Part II of this series here, and Part III of this series here. Today I’m sharing some pictures of SALT, the most …

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13 April 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part III

Today I’m continuing with my series of posts about my October 2013 visit to the small town of Sutherland in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Sutherland is home to a South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station that contains many telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). You can read Part I of this series here and Part II of this series here. Today I’m going to share some pictures from our visit to the SAAO Visitor …

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10 March 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part II

Today I’m continuing with my series of posts about my October 2013 visit to the small town of Sutherland in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Sutherland is home to a South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station that contains many telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). You can read Part I of this series here. Today I am sharing a few more pictures of the town of Sutherland. …

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5 March 2014

Sutherland Sky: Part I

This is the first in what will be a series of posts about my recent visit to Sutherland, a small town in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. In October 2013 my husband Jackie and I visited Sutherland for a long weekend. Sutherland is famous because it is home to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) research station, which has a number of telescopes that are used for astronomical and astrophysical research. …

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5 February 2011

Five Awesome Things about the James Webb Space Telescope

Today I received an email from my adviser containing this – dare I say – awesome video about the James Webb Space Telescope. It also has a surprisingly well-put answer to the age-old question of “Why spend money on NASA when we have so many problems here on earth?” The answer: To make the world a better place you not only have to decrease the suck, you also have to increase the awesome.

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20 January 2011

The Winds of Saturn are Blowing

Wow! That’s a big storm! And it’s even more dramatic to see a storm like this on Saturn, which is usually pretty uniform in color. This thing is really stirring up the atmosphere.

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