Science

19769305Two things I would say will help dictate whether you are likely to enjoy the book “The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era” by Craig Nelson. The first and most obvious is whether you have interest in the subject matter of learning about the sweeping history of the atom, radiation and nuclear weapons, power, and medicine. The second reason is if you like the style of historical writing that is used by author Craig Nelson. The style that Nelson uses and which is not unique to him is to make liberal use of quotes normally from people involved or who lived through the events described.  Nelson likes to construct his story with a smaller mixture of his telling of events and then more weighted towards his  use of quotes. If you like hearing more directly from the people involved then you will be more inclined to like this book given that is the style it uses.

The book covers a larger span of time than you might imagine for this topic. It covers the discovery of x-Rays in 1895 to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. If you are looking for a heavy dose of science and how exactly things work, that is not what you will find with this book. Nelson gives you a moderate understanding of the scientific principles in play when talking about x-Rays, radiation, the splitting of the atom, nuclear energy and weapons among other topics talked about. While at certain times I wish I had gotten a bit more detailed scientific information than I did get, I can see the balance that Nelson likely had to walk in giving you enough information on the science behind the topics discussed but at the same time not getting bogged down in the details so that it would not become inaccessible to your average reader.  In that sense I think Nelson has done a good job of giving you enough of a taste of the scientific underpinnings of the story he is telling to allow you to understand the topics discussed. Nelson also gives you a good idea of the large and varied group of people that you encounter over the course of the history of this topic and the politics and personal stories that are prevalent with in this subject.

If you are looking for a good but not extremely technical look at radiation and nuclear based devices this book is certainly worth a look in my estimation.


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interstellar-posterThere are several reasons I am excited about Christopher Nolan’s newest film coming out in November of this year. The first few are easy to describe. I have generally liked the movies Nolan has done, so I am interested to see what he has made next. I am a big fan of science fiction and this movie easily falls into that category.  It has a good cast attached to it that I have enjoyed in the past with Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, and Matt Damon among the people in it. The major reason I am excited about the movie is the idea of space exploration that is at the heart of the movie from what I can tell from the two trailers I have seen so far. To me space exploration is the last frontier for human exploration to a certain degree and throughout our history humans have always been explorers of the unknown.  I think this idea is beautifully put in the voice over from Matthew McConaughey in the teaser trailer that was released at the end of 2013:

We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments, these moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Perhaps we’ve just forgotten… that we are still pioneers, that we’ve barely begun, and that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us. Because our destiny lies above us. 

To me it is a shame that NASA retired the space shuttle and we are now reliant on the Russians to travel to the International Space Station. I wish our country could rekindle that sense of dreaming and be pioneers again with a return to the Moon or even Mars, which is something that I would love to see.

The first trailer if you have not seen it is below the cut. [click to continue…]


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New Promo for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

by Matt Pollari on February 1, 2014

in Quick Post, Science, TV

ku-xlargeThe new promo for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey certainly makes me excited to see this show.  With it hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson, who I have enjoyed  for awhile when I have seen him on TV, it should hopefully be a good adventure. The FOX network is certainly not the kind of network I would have expected to air this type of TV show, but from the previews I have seen it seems likes they might be on the right track so far.

 


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Crazy Volcano Eruption

by Matt Pollari on June 10, 2011

in Photography, Science

Quite the picture from a volcanic eruption in Chile.

 

Volcan-Oh No! | TPM Galleries


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Image: Beauty of Earth & Sunrise

by Matt Pollari on May 24, 2011

in Photography, Quick Post, Science


ohscience:

The Expedition 27 crew photographed this sunset over western South America from aboard the International Space Station. The station crew sees, on average, sixteen sunrises and sunsets during a 24-hour orbital period.

Such a great picture of the Earth and such beauty.


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Amazing time lapse of aurora borealis.

by Matt Pollari on March 24, 2011

in Photography, Science

A simply amazing video time lapse of the aurora borealis in Norway.  There is some breath taking video in it.  I wish I could see the aurora borealis more often, one year they drifted far enough south that I could see them I think in winter of 2004-2005. It is great to see them in person.

 

I spent a week capturing one of the biggest aurora borealis shows in recent years.  Shot in and around Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia, at 70 degree north and 30 degrees east. Temperatures around -25 Celsius. Good fun.  Music is Gladiator soundtrack “Now we are free”

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Via Neatorama


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Lunar Eclipse 2010 time lapse

by Matt Pollari on December 22, 2010

in Quick Post, Science

A great time lapse video of the lunar eclipse from late monday/early tuesday  morning.  It was a shame that it was so cloudy here in Minnesota that I could not really see it at all.  Also an interesting fact that for the first time since at least 1638 that a lunar eclipse and the winter solstice have coincided.

More videos and pictures: Lunar Eclipse 2010 LIVE Recap: Photos, Video & Tweets.


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An astronauts wondrous view of Earth

by Matt Pollari on November 17, 2010

in Quick Post, Science

A great picture of Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson taking a moment to look down at Earth from the International Space Station. The space station orbits Earth from 217 miles above.  Pictures like these just amazingly help to bring across the wonder and the beauty that we can get from space exploration among other reasons to continue it.

via Image of the Day: an astronauts view of Earth | DVICE. For a bigger version of the picture click on the link.


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Neptune & its First Orbit Since Discovery.

by Matt Pollari on August 21, 2010

in History, Life, Science

I came across the article talking about how Neptune is now just about under a year from completing its first full orbit since it was discovered by humans, that is 164 years to go around the sun once.  Pretty amazing amount of time, and learning that it takes the outer planets that long to travel around the sun really puts into perspective as to how huge just our own solar system is.  I know the solar system is huge but just did not quite understand how big, since when you hear a planet is so many billion miles or kilometers away from Earth it is sometimes hard to get a true sense of scale.  That is where the time it takes to travel around the sun really helps to put it into perspective.

As Neptune is located so far away from the sun (approximately 4.5 billion kilometers, 30 Astronomical Units (AU), or 30-times the sun-Earth distance), it takes over 164 Earth years to complete one full orbit around our star.

As the first direct observation of the blue-green gas giant was made on Sept. 23, 1846, Neptune will arrive back in approximately the same spot as where it was first spotted on July 12, 2011.

via When Will Neptune Complete Its First Orbit Since Discovery? : Discovery News.

For comparison sake it takes Uranus 84 years to make a complete circuit, first discovered in 1781 and first one completed 1865.  For Pluto it is even longer than Neptune taking 248 years for each rotation, first discovered in 1930, won’t make a complete rotation until 2178.


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Image Source

Radioactive Boars on the rise in Germany

by Matt Pollari on August 4, 2010

in Europe, Odd, Science

This is an interesting legacy from the Chernobyl disaster where the wild boars in Germany are eating food that has high levels of radioactivity.

As Germany’s wild boar population has skyrocketed in recent years, so too has the number of animals contaminated by radioactivity left over from the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown.

via A Quarter Century after Chernobyl: Radioactive Boar on the Rise in Germany – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International.

Apparently, mushrooms and truffles, which the hogs like to eat, are “particularly efficient at absorbing radioactivity.”

via Nearly 25 Years After Chernobyl Disaster, Germany Beset By Radioactive Boars : The Two-Way : NPR.

From the first article link it appears that the wild boars in general are a problem with the article noting some of the recent headlines.

Stories of marauding pigs hit the headlines with startling regularity: Ten days ago, a wild boar attacked a wheelchair-bound man in a park in Berlin; in early July, a pack of almost two dozen of the animals repeatedly marched into the eastern German town of Eisenach, frightening residents and keeping police busy; and on Friday morning, a German highway was closed for hours after 10 wild boar broke through a fence and waltzed onto the road.

Ah the fun of wild animals, boars are at least a little more interesting, here in Minnesota the most common road nuisance is Deer. I was most amused and hope the man is alright by the headline from the Berlin park.

Image from NPR piece, Timm Schamberger/AFP/Getty Images

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