26 August 2011

Hurricanes and Quakes are Inspirational Science Moments

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Every meteorologist I know can point to a big storm as the inspiration that led them into the field of atmospheric science (A blizzard in 1968 and the tornadoes of June 8,1974 for me), and this is true for other sciences as well. Neil de Grasse Tyson still has his certificate of accomplishment from the Hayden Planetarium that he now directs. The certificates are still given out and he signs each one personally.  Famous British Astronomer Brian Cox still has the book about the night sky written by Sir Patrick Moore of the BBC program The Sky At Night (It’s the longest running TV program with the same host in the world).

Suffice it to say, big storms, comets and earthquakes are inspirational and teaching moments to the next generation of Earth and space scientists. If you are a parent, do not let them go by! Everyone I know in science loves to share their particular field and even more so with students, so here are some suggestions for students and parents of same that just might spark a lifetime of fascination, and perhaps even a career.


The best popular science book ever written on hurricanes is Divine Wind by noted hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel. Just about every person who works in atmospheric science has it on their shelves, and it’s great for kids as young as 10 or 11 and higher. A close number two is Issac’s Storm; a fantastic book written about the greatest weather disaster in American history, the Galveston hurricane of 1900.


The folks at IRIS (Incorp. Research Inst. for Seismology) have produced a pdf file about the magnitude 5.8 Virginia quake last Tuesday. If you want to know some science behind the thing that left your books and dishes on the floor, this is for you. The IRIS transportable Array recorded the quake waves traveling across the country Tuesday (see my post on that earlier in the week).

From IRIS- a really cool pdf/slideshow about the Virginia earthquake Tuesday.

If you or someone you know has an interest in Astronomy, then the set of lectures by  Astronomer Alex Filippenko for the Teaching Company, while not cheap, are a must have (Look for a sale on it and get it at 70% off). I’ve mentioned them before and they are nothing less than superb; Probably best for 9th grade and up. Fillipenko was on the team that discovered that the expansion of the universe was not slowing down, but instead speeding-up, a finding that rocked the world of science in 1998. If you cannot afford the lectures, get his text-book.

I have mentioned Bob Henson’s books before but they are great for anyone wanting to know a bit more than what you get on the Weather Channel or the Weather Network (Canada). Another must have is the AMS Weather Book by Jack Williams (another one of those books on every weather geeks book shelf). The Rough Guide to Climate Change is also superb and by the time you finish it, you will feel sorry for some of the really silly statements that politicians make on the subject.