Science was in the headlines last week with NASA’s announcement that after 36 years and 11.66 billion miles of travel, Voyager 1 had become the first human object to reach interstellar space. Check out one of the many astronomy books in our collection for a deeper appreciation of the significance of this milestone. The Library collects books in many science disciplines—profiled below are three recent acquisitions.
If the cult status achieved by Star Trek and The X-Files is any indication, humans are fascinated by the possibility of extraterrestrial life. But thinking about aliens is not the domain of screenwriters alone--the field of astrobiology concerns itself with life in the Universe. It is a science “about something that might exist, not something that exists for certain” (p. 12). Who better to guide readers through the scientific search for life beyond Earth than Paul Murdin, a gifted astronomer (discovered the first stellar black hole in our Galaxy) and teacher (presents complex scientific concepts in straightforward language). In Are We Being Watched, Murdin explores a number of disciplines (astronomy, astrobiology, geology, organic chemistry) to attempt to answer the question: does extraterrestrial life exist? Take the journey with Murdin to answer this question yourself; he changed his mind after researching and writing this work. John T. Richardson Library, Call Number: 520 M9743A
Just as Paul Murdin is an ambassador for astronomy, the late Richard Feynman made physics an understandable and exciting subject for many students. In 1961, after 40 years of teaching graduate students at Caltech, he agreed to develop and present physics lectures to freshmen. As a testament to the success of these lectures, physicists from other schools requested transcripts (pre-Internet!) and The Feynman Lectures on Physics was published in 1963. But it doesn’t end there. The original work continues to be a recommended resource for the study of physics; Michael Gottlieb took a six-month sabbatical to study The Lectures. Not only did he learn physics, but his discovery of errors in several of the book’s exercises eventually unearthed four missing lectures. Feynman’s Tips on Physics: A Problem-Solving Supplement to The Feynman Lectures on Physics (2nd ed.) includes these missing lectures, revised exercises, and historical interviews with Feynman and colleagues from Caltech. John T. Richardson Library, Call Number: 530.073 F435f2013
The prologue of What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology contains a quote from a 1945 book sharing the same title and written by physicist Erwin Schrodinger. In essence, Schrodinger asks how physics and chemistry can answer the “what is life” question: “The obvious inability of present-day physics and chemistry to account for such events is no reason at all for doubting that they can be accounted for by those sciences” (pp. viii-ix). In 2013 the answer to this question is still open for debate. Addy Pross, a chemistry professor from Ben-Gurion University, wrote his book to present a theory of life that brings science closer to answering this question using systems chemistry, a new area of the discipline that bridges chemistry and biology. Pross completes the trifecta of scientists in this blog entry who skillfully communicate the complexities and findings of their disciplines to non-scientific audiences. John T. Richardson Library, Call Number: 570.1 P9667W