Science book reviews & recommendations

Bikeman (Heinz-Bernd Eggenstein)
Bikeman (Heinz-...
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Not a book but a research

Not a book but a research paper, but if you want to know about the scientific high level design of the current S5R5 E@H app, you should read The Hough transform search for continuous gravitational waves. Even tho it's from 2004, all the basic principles used in the current app are summarized in this paper (the section on the search with "demodulated data" matches the current app approach closest).

Mike Hewson
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I've just finished a

I've just finished a short-ish book called The Georgian Star : How William and Caroline Herschel Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Cosmos by Michael Lemonick. About 220 pages all up, hardback ~ $25 AUD.

It's long title is most appropriate as it reveals the sibling duo's activities over many decades ( Caroline outlived William ). Georgian refers to the contemporary King of England, the one who went 'a bit odd' later on. The star is Uranus which had been sighted, in retrospect, by many celestial observers prior to the Herschels. As George was somewhat of a sponsor of William by then, you'd understand the wisdom of the moniker. General tradition however demanded consistency in nomenclature ( ie. mythic gods ) so that is what stuck. Now it would seem the optics William used enabled the deduction that it was a disc upon magnification - a hallmark of a more nearby body, not a distant one. Actually William was outstanding in his production of quality optics ( with reference to the available technology then ), literally broke the mold, and supplied quite a few notable ( ie. rich ) scientists around at the time.

He started as an amateur astronomer as a sideline to his music career, and his obsessive characteristics tookover. He began/invented the idea of the cosmic survey where you look, look, look, look and look. All the while keeping good records. One might then deduce some pattern, hypothecate a mechanism, then go back and look again. Iterate.

So iterate he did. He was prolific in not only staring through a telescope night after ( often freezing ) night, but theorising and musing on big questions. Like the scale of the universe, the relations of things, the evolution of structure and appearance of bodies. An endless string of queries along the theme of 'why is it so?' He really leant on the idea that human endurance is a mere tiny fraction of the lifetimes of cosmic objects. Thus at any time we can only view a set of objects, each of which is in some specific phase of evolution that they all will/have undergo(ne). We can't follow a single one from birth to death, so he brought statistical ideas into play. Naturally he had a few bloopers, but he was the first to admit that it should be thus so. He always theorised with a view to some testable measure which would enhance or discard certain thinking ( string theorists take note ). This is the template of the methodology for virtually all subsequent astronomy research and, by the by, pretty well marked the divergence with astrology as well.

I think his best effort was deducing the 'proper motion' of the solar system ( ie. where are we headed? ), as he got the direction right to within about 10 degrees on the celestial sphere!

Now Caroline was a champion. Probably the first recorded paid female astronomer in history - a stipend from George. She assisted her brother for sure, but also was a first rank astronomer in her own right. She discovered a half dozen new comets and did nearly all the written work for her brother while he was peering through the eyepiece. For what it's worth, she got to sit inside by the fire, rugged up and warm, while he called the data through the window ( he was outside, rugged up and cold ). She cataloged, re-cataloged, revised and re-revised. Not only William's efforts but also those published by others. ( Indeed the New General Catalogue, an amalgam of sources, was initially produced by William's son John some years later. Sound familiar ...? ) She was welcomed into the fold of an otherwise exclusive male club, on her own merits, which is doubly significant as a woman had to be quite a lot better than a bloke then to be noticed.

So the book is biographical of the entire Herschel family and some friends too. Their lives also intersected with many well known historical figures other than George - Joseph Banks & Napoleon Boneparte, say. Overall a delightful book, well researched and full of interesting 'gossip' on the times too.

Let's inaugurate a rating system then, eh? :-)

**** - I'd give it four stars ( of five ), but marked down only because I like longer books. The quality is superb.

Cheers, Mike.

( edit ) and when I say telescopes, I mean the whole shebang. Back then you couldn't readily cast a large diameter mirror without it sagging afterwards ( still an issue today, see the design of the Keck ). So to ramp up magnification you had to go long focal length, some dozens of feet say, so the supporting frame for the apparatus was a project/challenge of itself. That then led to a small field of view and low luminosity at eyepiece, as the aperture is not wide, hence critical issues with aiming and vibration ..... all in all they were at the leading/bleeding edge of observatory development. In fact William found it easier to simply point in a fixed sense with respect to the local horizon, and sit quietly all night watching while the earth turned. This is dedication.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

tullio
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The Herschel scientific

The Herschel scientific satellite is being put aboard an Ariane 5 launcher together with the Planck satellite. Both are ESA projects. Launch should happen in a few days from Kourou.
Tullio

Ver Greeneyes
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According to this page it

According to this page it should launch on May 6, but I'm not sure if that's still up-to-date with the extra checks to the launcher they've decided to perform.

Mike Hewson
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I see the Herschel connection

I see the Herschel connection with the satellite now. One of his many hypotheses was that some 'nebulae' are clouds of gas which glow due to heating, and that stars may form from gravitationally contracting areas within. Quite a prescient fellow actually, even though he was sometimes right for the wrong reasons. With all of his theorising across the field of astronomy you could probably legitimately name half a dozen missions after him! :-)

The countdown is to 14th May 13:12 UTC now.

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

tullio
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The same launcher will also

The same launcher will also put in orbit the Planck satellite around the L2 Lagrange point. Here from ESA about its mission:

Planck will help provide answers to one of the most important sets of questions asked in modern science - how did the Universe begin, how did it evolve to the state we observe today, and how will it continue to evolve in the future? Planck's objective is to analyse, with the highest accuracy ever achieved, the remnants of the radiation that filled the Universe immediately after the Big Bang, which we observe today as the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Tullio

Mike Hewson
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Ah, another CMB map. Best

Ah, another CMB map. Best possible resolution etc. Be more than a few GR theorists looking forward to measuring amplitude of structures in Cosmic Microwave Background. If the imprint of gravitational waves can be discerned from density fluctuations that would be great. Naturally the biggest bang of them all ought to do that! :-)

Well that explains why they are in the same rocket - they're going to the same neighbourhood !! :-)

I must read some more of these missions, they look like ones to watch.

Cheers, Mike.

I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

tullio
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Ariane 5 is a big beast,

Ariane 5 is a big beast, built by the French, those no good people according to Bush. So is Airbus 380. France derives 70% of its electricity from nuclear power stations and sells some to Italy too. Very no good people.
Tullio

MAGIC Quantum Mechanic
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Neil deGrasse Tyson

Rod
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Currently reading The Spell

Currently reading The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram .. Although not science book but a sort of a Philosophy book that is not to hard to read.. . I believe all scientists both amateur and professional should have a well rounded reading list :-)

Review

There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot. - Aldo Leopold

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