Science


I’ve had a subscription to National Geographic magazine since 2012, and after two years I continue to love it. I’m also completely in love with “COSMOS: A Spacetime Oddesy” the new Fox/National Geographic show about the world and how it got here. What I enjoy most about both the magazine and the TV show is how accessible and exciting they make science, which can often be a dry topic.

Take this introduction from the March 2014 feature article in my Nat Geo magazine:

But this is nothing compared with the death throes of a star some 20 times the mass of the sun. Detonate a Hiroshima-like bomb every millisecond for the entire life of the universe, and you would still fall short of the energy released in the final moments of a giant-star collapse. The star’s core plunges inward. Temperatures reach 100 billion degrees. The crushing force of gravity is unstopable. Hunks of iron bigger than Mount Everest are compacted almost instantly into grains of sand. Atoms are shattered into electrons, protons, neutrons. Those minute pieces are pulped into quarks and leptons and gluons. And so on, tinier and tinier, denser and denser, until…

Until no one knows….The star has become a black hole.”

(Finkel, Michael. “Star Eater.” National Geographic March 2014: 99. Print).

This bit of writing about basic star science makes me excited. It makes me want to share this amazing end-of-star-life description with everyone (truth: I made my husband read this article as soon as I finished it). It makes me feel small and frail. It makes me want to learn, and study, and understand everything about a star’s death.

To me, this is exactly what scientific articles aimed at the general public are supposed to do–inspire people to learn more, to get involved. It’s also how I feel after “COSMOS” each Sunday night, which is why I think the show has been so popular. It takes huge complicated scientific theories and makes them real.

Are you a fan of National Geographic or any other popular science publications? Are you as excited as I am for the third episode of “COSMOS” tonight?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved National Geographic magazine. At the library there was a magazine rack when you could trade used magazines, and I would trade my Highlights and American Girl magazines for an issue of National Geographic I hadn’t read yet. So in January, after reviewing my budget from last year and realizing there would be a bit extra this year, I bought a subscription to the magazine.

The National Geographic Society, which has been around since 1888, is a non-profit dedicated to science and education. Their interests, as listed on the website, include geography, archaeology, natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation. The National Geographic Society encompass all things I loved as a kid (my favorite issue from childhood focused on an archaeological dig in the city of Pompeii), and hope to renew my interest in as an adult.

The four magazines I’ve received this year have been just as interesting as I remember. April’s cover story is the Titanic, so I can’t wait to read it once I finish March’s issue. All my magazines have arrived on time and I have to pace myself of I’ll sit down and read the whole thing in one go–which is fine, unless I’ve got other things to do like eating dinner. The $15 I spent on a year subscription (that deal is still going on, by the way!) has been completely worth it so far, and pending major financial disasters, I’ll renew again next year.

I’m curious, do you subscribe to any magazines? This is my only one, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

I have always been a huge fan of used books. Not because I don’t love how shiny and pretty new books are, but because I rarely have enough money to buy new books. A used copy is exactly the same…except for the dog-eared pages, random comments and highlighting. Honestly, I often love my used books more. It’s like a treasure hunt to find the best loved pages or passages, signaled by the most underlining, most smudged edges and missing corners from being bent so much.

I have three favorite places to find good (read: not totally beat up) used books. The first is obviously book stores. Both ones that specialize in used books only and those (like Powell’s) that offer both new and used. Bookstores are the most reliable places to shop, but also the most expensive. As a much cheaper and incredibly unreliable alternative are Goodwill and garage sales. Goodwill (at least the ones here) has a very small selection, and obviously only updated when people donate. Garage sales are the same: the selection is only what people are willing to get rid of that day. While it takes a great deal of determination to sort through the many blah books, at prices of $.5 to $2, it is always a day well spent. My last favorite “shopping” spots are old books my friends get rid of. You can’t beat a price of free, and who doesn’t secretly covet at least a few of their friend’s books!

Speaking of books from friends, I recently had the chance to go through the old text books of a political science major. She specialized in HIV/AIDS, United States foreign policy and current politics in South Africa for her thesis and had some truly amazing books! In total, I took 17 books and the boy has three more about military strategy and science. Because I’m currently working of making a formal summer reading list (if not broken down by exact titles, at least by genre with several possible books), I want to share my newest finds. Obviously in the interest of having a well-rounded reading list I can’t read all of these books in the next few months, but I gladly welcome any suggestions on which ones to pick!

In the HIV/AIDS category: Letting Them Die, Catherine Campbell; Witness to AIDS, Edwin Cameron; 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa, Stephanie Nolen; HIV/AIDS in South Africa, S. S. Abdool Karim and Q. Abdool Karim; AIDS and South Africa: The Social Expression of a Pandemic, Kyle D. Kauffman and David L. Lindauer.

In the Military History category: Technology and War: From 2000 B.C. to the Present, Martin Van Creveld; War in the Modern World, Theodore Ropp; The Face of Battle, John Keegan.

In the Political Science/Sociology category: The Transformation of Political Community, Andrew Linklater; Imperial Encounters, Roxanne Lynn Doty; The Sociology of Science, Robert K. Merton; Science in Action, Bruno Latour; Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity, David Campbell; Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge, Steven Epstein; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn.

And in the random category: A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe and La Nausee, Jean-Paul Sartre (this one is in French so I can’t read it, but a copy of the text in its original language was too good to pass up!)