Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2017
By Kadri
Towards Understanding the Climate of Venus

Venus is an interesting planet in it's similarities and differences from our own planet. Similar in size and location, but very different in it's atmosphere's composition, pressure, climate and many other physical features.

This book looks at how models that have been used for modelling Earth's climate can be used in the case of Venus.

The book starts out with an overview of the history of Venus observations, and what we knew from ground-based telescopic observations and what information was added later by satellites and radar-systems etc. It is interesting to note how early ideas about Venus saw it as a somewhat warmer habitable planet with rain forests, and how those ideas were in a way crushed by the Venusian atmosphere as scientists found out more about it.

After getting to know Venus as a planet we then dive into it's atmosphere and it's characteristics and the modelling efforts looking at it in great detail in the case of the radiation field of Venus, air circulation and how the atmosphere interacts with the surface.

This book also provides some information on the current ideas about what kind of space missions to Venus we might see in the near future.

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Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2017
By Kadri
Engineering Women: Re-visioning Women's Scientific Achievements and Impacts by Jill S. Tietjen

This book presents a short overview of women's access to engineering education in the US and short biographies of some high-achieving women in a variety of engineering areas.

This book's structure is great - first it introduces the challenges that women faced at a specific time period and then brings in the bios of women who despite everything managed to become engineers and thrive at their work.

The historical view is fascinating, especially as it shows, how for women's technical education wars were a good thing and they facilitated social change since women had to step in to fill the gaps that were left by men going to war. What distinguishes this book about women in engineering though, is that although it tells of the past when women were rarely accepted to study engineering or work as an engineer, it isn't full of stories of discrimination and sexism. Yes, it is a sad part of the history, but the large number of fascinating biographical sketches of the women in engineering brings to mind the attitude that if they could swim against the current in those conditions, then we're living at a great time for female engineers.

The women whose short biographies are presented in the book include electrical, mechanical, chemical and biological engineers and even female astronauts with engineering backgrounds.

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Posted on Sunday, May 28, 2017
By Kadri
Posted on Tuesday, May 23, 2017
By Kadri
"Breakthrough!" by Robert Gendler and R. Jay GaBany

Breakthrough! begins with a short history of astrophotography and the methods that have been used from the middle of nineteenth century all the way to present day, describing on the way the difficulties that were associated with photographing specific objects with specific techniques.

The book presents astronomical images that have changed our understanding or perception of the objects in some meaningful way together with an explanation of what and how it changed.

The range of images in this book is wide, starting with first surviving astrophotographs of the Sun, Moon and nebulae, and continuing all the way to images taken in a variety of wavelengths and from space telescopes to fly-by missions and orbiting spacecrafts.

I liked that although the focus is on the images , it is very informative. Although a picture is said to be worth more than a thousand words, in some popular astronomy books they do however tend to rather fill space and provide less information to a new astronomy enthusiast than they could with a good explanation that would go beyond the "Messier object ....". I feel that sometimes long explanations are important since they make the reader pay more attention to the images that they might have seen tens of times, and never really looked at closely enough to take in all the details.

It's a wonderful book.

As for the images, I did choose my favorites for what they represent - the human boot print on the Moon, and finding water-ice beneath Martian surface.

I did come across my pet peeve in this book though - slight errors that could have been avoided with double-checking.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 23, 2017
By Kadri
Survival and Sacrifice in Mars Exploration by Erik Seedhouse

One of my favoutire topics to read about as a teenager was polar expeditions. I'm not quite certain what drew me in to read about Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen or Fridjof Nansen, but I always found those journeys incredibly interesting and then also sad because there didn't seem to be any other place left, that would produce expeditions to the edge of the unknown.

In "Survival and Sacrifice in Mars Exploration", Erik Seedhouse looks at how polar expeditions might give us a glimpse on what to expect from manned missions to Mars - the cold, the long journey, cramped conditions, unknown dangers, no help from home.

Reading this book was great as a reminder of what I already knew about polar expeditions and the possible difficulties for a Mars mission, but it also brought out many more things that should and probably would have to be carefully considered.

Some of the more gruesome ideas ofcourse were dealing with extreme trouble - might a food shortage lead a Mars mission to succumb to cannibalism? What would be done in case of a person dying en-route to Mars? Would the crew have to dispose of the body or live on a spacecraft with a corpse on-board?

It also deals with some (relatively) more likely problems - what would be done for entertainment? How to make sure that the crew remains on friendly terms after long months of space-travel in cramped quarters? Seedhouse tries to answer some of those inconveniences and problems with solutions from polar expeditions, and it does bring out the possible similarities between polar and space exploration.

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Posted on Monday, May 15, 2017
By Kadri

A History of the Solar System by Claudio Vita-Finzi

How did the Solar system form? What were its building blocks? How has it evolved? Those are a few of the questions that you can find an answer to in this book.

It's a short and delightful treatment of an interesting topic of the history of the solar system covering it's birth from a cloud of dust and gases, it's youth and how it might still evolve. The book is very detailed and written for a popular audience.

It takes a look at a variety of interactions in the solar system that have shaped it and continue to do it such as the interactions between planets and their moons.

The book's short length makes it ideal as an introduction.

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Posted on Friday, May 12, 2017
By Kadri

Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology by Peter Schneider

Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology is a textbook about what and how we know or hypothesise about the Universe and our Galaxy.

The book starts out with a short overview of all the strange and wonderful astronomical objects and cosmological ideas that we face in modern science.

I enjoyed most the depth and abundance of details provided in the book.

As is quite usual in physics where at one moment you're dealing with passages of a rather descriptive nature and before you know it, you'll be in the middle of equations searching for your Greek alphabet. The structure of the book follows a rather steep learning curve. That however is necessary to get to the core of it and get to the modern observations, experiments etc that have provided the data about our Universe.

If in a more basic astronomy course you might be shown an image of CMB as seen by Planck and a short explanation of what it the features on it signify, then Schneider's book goes into great detail talking about deviations from what was expected etc.

The book doesn't start with the basics of astronomy or cosmology, and a certain level of comfort with higher maths is expected, but some necessary topics that you really need to understand before tackling the more advanced topics in cosmology are provided in the appendices.

It is however in essence still an introduction to extragalactic astronomy and cosmology, so you can read about different cosmological models, objects such as active galactic nuclei, galaxy cluster and groups, the cosmic microwave background, how much we know about the cosmological parameters and the Universe at an earlier time and evolution of galaxies.

Quite densely packed with theory but ultimately rewarding.

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