There is a school of thought among science writers that writing about the scientists makes them seem more human and therefore their science more relevant. I don’t quite agree. What if the scientist is an asshole, like Tycho Brahe? There must be better ways to relate the significance of scientific achievements.
Anyway, that was the approach in Five Billion Years of Solitude by Lee Billings. Billings’ seems to rely on scientists who are willing to sit down and discuss with him at length so I got the sense I wasn’t getting the whole story. And he gets a little too personal at times. I wonder if the climate scientist he met for drink was embarrassed by how many times Billing mentioned he was sipping from his margarita. He devotes an entire chapter to an evening he spent prying into the personal life of a young female physicist. Maybe I was the only one creeped out by it.
His exploration of the search for extraterrestrial life revolves around the current boom in exoplanet discovery. The idea being that the more planets we find, the more we find an earth like one, the greater chance of discovering life. This hinges on the idea that life must exist only in earth like places: planets about our size and composition at an appropriate distance from its sun. Billing ignores that the planetary “habitable zone” might be controversial or unverified. He also says nothing about looking for signs life in our solar system (Mars, Europa, and Titan being the main candidates) and what it might tell us about the habitability of Earthlike planets.
The strongest part of the book deals with the technical challenges of terrestrial planet finding. It also captures the glum mood among astrophysicists in the face of reduced budgets, the lack of public interest in expensive space exploration, and the uncertain promise of private space exploration.
There are better books about the search for extraterrestrial life. Try The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies or What Does a Martian Look Like? by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart.
The weather this afternoon was just great, finally. We’re still about two weeks away from leaves on trees. In the meantime, Iowa remains in its mode of early spring bleakness: brown lawns, leafless trees, bare black soil. The fun thing about Iowa is that, around mid April, everything will green up at once. Which makes me wonder if there is a sudden boost to the oxygen content of the local atmosphere. My guess is the atmosphere mixes pretty well throughout the year. After all, we’re still breathing.
Observation from a recent trip: the automated announcements at Des Moines Airport are delivered with a British accent. While classy, it seems a poor fit for the locale. Contrast Des Moines with Dallas, where the same announcements come with a hearty Texas twang.
Even though it’s a 100 minute advertisement for the product, I’m pretty sure none of the characters in The Lego Movie ever actually spoke the name “Lego.” I’ll have to see it again just to check but there’s a powerful brand.
There were some teenagers in another part of the gym locker room. They were maybe thirteen or fourteen, old enough to talk like adults but young enough that they still sounded like women. I kept thinking I was in the wrong locker room.
It never occurred to me that Facebook would have a Facebook page. It has things on it like “422,769 people like this.”
The later afternoon sun shining through the plowed snow pile in our parking lot caught my eye. This week’s spring thaw left a little ice cave, complete with icicle stalactites, in the bottom of the pile of snow and debris.
Author’s note: This post has been backdated to February, when I took the photo at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, so I could maintain my streak of at least one post per month. So there.
I wonder if Mick Jagger ever catches himself humming “Get Off of My Cloud.”
Perhaps I’ve never shared my sartorial theory: that within my lifetime Little House on the Prairie style clothing will return to fashion. Because I can’t imagine people getting any more casual.
Dear young man with the throat tattoo extending from ear to ear: I can see you have excellent judgement. I’m sure you will never regret that decision. Thank you for keeping exquisite taste on permanent display.
I haven’t been writing here because I’ve been writing for a creative writing workshop. I hope to share some stuff later.
I don’t write creative fiction very often, and have a few things kicking around, including some that have appeared here. It’s interesting to hear others’ opinions about it and to get constructive feedback. My class is very encouraging.
I’ve upgraded WordPress to 3.8 and am trying out the new default theme. It’s okay. I didn’t meet my goal this year of designing my own theme.
AMC breaks for a commercial halfway through the restaurant scene with Sollozzo. An absolute crime.