The Fault, and Our Stars

“forest” by Zest-pk, used under cc CC Lincense


This week we celebrate Astronomy Week across Pasadena, and Thursday, 10/20, we’ll be practicing “Drop, Cover and Hold On” as part of the Great California ShakeOut 2016. The stars and planets above our heads, and the (sometimes shaky) ground beneath our feet, are part of the natural world. Big topics, astronomy and geology–if you are interested in learning more, try one of the titles below, or browse the Astronomy (call number 520) or Geology (call number 550) section for more. Happy Reading!

The Skies Above

While any of the titles here are worth a read, be sure to get out and attend some of the great events and visit the institutions welcoming visitors during Astronomy Week (10/16-10/22). Learn more by visiting the City of Astronomy website.

Urban Astronomy: Stargazing from Towns & Suburbs by Robin Scagell

cover-image-urban-astronomyThe ideal introduction to astronomy in the city.
These days, skywatchers do not have to live close to a city or town center to suffer from the effects of light pollution. According to the National Park Service, city lights as far as 200 miles away diminish views of night skies. So even in a remote field, the sky above may be part of the “sky glow” of the surrounding city or town. Weather might be an issue too, as it is for all skywatchers. Nevertheless, there are many celestial delights to be seen.
Urban Astronomy shows that nighttime lighting and the resultant brightening of the sky can be combatted and demonstrates how to make the best of poor conditions. Although the unaided eye may be able to pick out only a few hundred stars, binoculars or a small telescope will reveal many times that number.
A little optical aid can also give you good views of every type of major astronomical object, including star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. For example, there are special filters that let through the light from distant nebulae while blocking out wavelengths infested by unwanted stray light from streetlights. Modern CCDs allow modest amateur telescopes to penetrate the urban sky glow and reveal sights that would have taxed larger instruments 30 years ago.
The book also covers:
-How weather and pollution affect observing
-Specific tips to combat urban streetlighting
-The best objects to observe from cities and towns
-Deep-sky objects visible from urban locations in both the northern and southern hemispheres
-The range of telescopes and accessories for light-polluted skies
-CCDs and the rebirth of astronomy from cities and towns
-How to find dark skies.

The New York Times Book of Physics and Astronomy: More Than 100 Years of Covering the Expanding Universe, edited by Cornelia Dean; foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson

cover-image-ny-times-book-of-physics-and-astronomyFrom the discovery of distant galaxies and black holes to the tiny interstices of the atom, here is the very best on physics and astronomy from the New York Times. The newspaper of record has always prided itself on its award-winning science coverage, and these 125 articles from its archives are the very best, covering more than a century of breakthroughs, setbacks, and mysteries. Selected by former science editor Cornelia Dean, they feature such esteemed and Pulitzer Prize-winning writers as Malcolm W. Browne on teleporting, antimatter atoms, and the physics of traffic jams; James Glanz on string theory; George Johnson on quantum physics; William L. Laurence on Bohr and Einstein; Dennis Overbye on the recent discovery of the Higgs boson; Walter Sullivan on the colliding beam machine; and more.

Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts About the Universe by Carolyn Collins  Petersen

cover-image-astronomy-101Explore the curiosities of our galaxy!

Too often, textbooks obscure the beauty and wonder of outer space with tedious discourse that even Galileo would oppose.Astronomy 101 cuts out the boring details and lengthy explanations, and instead, gives you a lesson in astronomy that keeps you engaged as you discover what’s hidden beyond our starry sky.

From the Big Bang and nebulae to the Milky Way and Sir Isaac Newton, this celestial primer is packed with hundreds of entertaining astronomy facts, charts, and photographs you won’t be able to get anywhere else.

So whether you’re looking to unravel the mystery behind black holes, or just want to learn more about your favorite planets,Astronomy 101 has all the answers–even the ones you didn’t know you were looking for.

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel

cover-image-glass-universe#1 New York Times bestselling author Dava Sobel returns with the captivating, little-known true story of a group of women whose remarkable contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations made via telescope by their male counterparts each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but by the 1880s the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates. The “glass universe” of half a million plates that Harvard amassed in this period—thanks in part to the early financial support of another woman, Mrs. Anna Draper, whose late husband pioneered the technique of stellar photography—enabled the women to make extraordinary discoveries that attracted worldwide acclaim. They helped discern what stars were made of, divided the stars into meaningful categories for further research, and found a way to measure distances across space by starlight. Their ranks included Williamina Fleming, a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars, Annie Jump Cannon, who designed a stellar classification system that was adopted by astronomers the world over and is still in use, and Dr. Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin, who in 1956 became the first ever woman professor of astronomy at Harvard—and Harvard’s first female department chair. Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of a group of remarkable women who, through their hard work and groundbreaking discoveries, disproved the commonly held belief that the gentler sex had little to contribute to human knowledge.

Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott

cover-image-welcome-to-the-universeWelcome to the Universe is a personal guided tour of the cosmos by three of today’s leading astrophysicists. Inspired by the enormously popular introductory astronomy course that Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott taught together at Princeton, this book covers it all–from planets, stars, and galaxies to black holes, wormholes, and time travel.

Describing the latest discoveries in astrophysics, the informative and entertaining narrative propels you from our home solar system to the outermost frontiers of space. How do stars live and die? Why did Pluto lose its planetary status? What are the prospects for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? How did the universe begin? Why is it expanding and why is its expansion accelerating? Is our universe alone or part of an infinite multiverse? Answering these and many other questions, the authors open your eyes to the wonders of the cosmos, sharing their knowledge of how the universe works.
Breathtaking in scope and stunningly illustrated throughout, Welcome to the Universe is for those who hunger for insights into our evolving universe that only world-class astrophysicists can provide.

The Earth Below

Join us at any of the 10 Pasadena Public Library locations on Thursday, 10/20 at 10:20 for the annual Great California ShakeOut! We’ll practice the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” recommended for survival and quick recovery in the event of a large-magnitude earthquake. Learn more at the Great California ShakeOut website. Meanwhile, here are a few titles to consider about geology.

Why Geology Matters: Decoding the Past, Anticipating the Future by Doug Macdougall

cover-image-why-geology-mattersVolcanic dust, climate change, tsunamis, earthquakes–geoscience explores phenomena that profoundly affect our lives. But more than that, as Doug Macdougall makes clear, the science also provides important clues to the future of the planet. In an entertaining and accessibly written narrative, Macdougall gives an overview of Earth’s astonishing history based on information extracted from rocks, ice cores, and other natural archives. He explores such questions as: What is the risk of an asteroid striking Earth? Why does the temperature of the ocean millions of years ago matter today? How are efforts to predict earthquakes progressing? Macdougall also explains the legacy of greenhouse gases from Earth’s past and shows how that legacy shapes our understanding of today’s human-caused climate change. We find that geoscience in fact illuminates many of today’s most pressing issues–the availability of energy, access to fresh water, sustainable agriculture, maintaining biodiversity–and we discover how, by applying new technologies and ideas, we can use it to prepare for the future.

Earth, the Inside Story: The Geology of Our Planet from Core to Crust to Atmosphere,  (DVD) by Earth Images Foundation; writer, Doug Prose; producers and directors, Doug Prose and Diane Lamacchia

dvd-cover-image-earth-the-inside-storyEarthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and extreme weather. Has Earth always been this way? Featuring footage of the world’s geographic hotspots, the film traces the story of the 4.5 billion year old Earth.






Into the Heart of Our World: A Journey to the Center of the Earth: A Remarkable Voyage of Scientific Discovery by David Whitehouse

cover-image-into-the-heart-of-our-worldThe journey to the center of the earth is a voyage like no other we can imagine. Over 3000 km below the earth’s surface, an extraordinary inner world the size of Mars awaits us. Dive through the molten iron of the outer core and eventually you will reach a solid sphere —an iron-clad world held within a metal sea and unattached to anything above. At the earth’s core is the history of our planet written in temperature and pressure, crystals and minerals …Our planet appears tranquil from outer space. And yet the arcs of volcanoes, the earthquake zones, and the auroral glow rippling above our heads are testimony to the remarkable happenings within the earth’s core. For thousands of years these phenomena were explained in legend and myth. Only in recent times has the brave new science of seismology emerged. One hundred and fifty years after the extraordinary, imaginative feat of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, David Whitehouse embarks on a voyage of scientific discovery into the heart of our world.Seismologists today reveal a planet astonishingly buried within a planet. We watch as supercomputers convert signals from the ground into three-dimensional scans of subterranean continents.  We will visit laboratories where scientists attempt to reproduce the intense conditions at the center of the Earth, travel down the throat of a volcano, look into the deepest hole ever drilled, and imagine a voyage through enormous crystals of iron…all at the center of our incredible Earth.

Four Revoloutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth by James Lawrence Powell

cover-image-four-revolutions-in-the-earth-sciencesOver the course of the twentieth century, scientists came to accept four counterintuitive yet fundamental facts about the Earth: deep time, continental drift, meteorite impact, and global warming. When first suggested, each proposition violated scientific orthodoxy and was quickly denounced as scientific–and sometimes religious–heresy. Nevertheless, after decades of rejection, scientists came to accept each theory.

The stories behind these four discoveries reflect more than the fascinating push and pull of scientific work. They reveal the provocative nature of science and how it raises profound and sometimes uncomfortable truths as it advances. For example, counter to common sense, the Earth and the solar system are older than all of human existence; the interactions among the moving plates and the continents they carry account for nearly all of the Earth’s surface features; and nearly every important feature of our solar system results from the chance collision of objects in space. Most surprising of all, we humans have altered the climate of an entire planet and now threaten the future of civilization. This absorbing scientific history is the only book to describe the evolution of these four ideas from heresy to truth, showing how science works in practice and how it inevitably corrects the mistakes of its practitioners. Scientists can be wrong, but they do not stay wrong. In the process, astonishing ideas are born, tested, and over time take root.

Field Guide to the San Andreas Fault by David K. Lynch

cover-image-field-guide-to-the-san-andreas-faultThe Field Guide to the San Andreas Fault allows one to get up close and personal to the San Andreas Fault. See and touch the world’s most famous fault on one of twelve easy day trips between Cape Mendocino and the Mexican Border. The book includes over 200 full-color photographs and illustrations, mile-by-mile road logs, GPS coordinates for hundreds of fault features, accurate fault coordinates to within 100 feet, complete geologic explanations, and a glossary. Many of the annotated routes have side trips to seldom visited locales. The day trips are designed to be relaxing, leading to uncrowded areas with spectacular scenery, perfect for family getaways. No off-road vehicle is needed.