Posted on Monday, December 11, 2017
By Kadri
 Advancing Women in Science: An International Perspective.
Edited by Willie Pearson, Jr, Lisa M. Frehill, Connie L. McNeely

The collection of articles in this book presents a variety of approaches to what might be the reasons that there's a relative lack of women in certain fields of science. In addition it gives some insight about why even when women are quite well represented in the field, the scientific field itself might still be dominated at the highest reaches by men for a variety of reasons.

The focus of the articles is varied from attitudes, culture, education and many other sometimes even surprising aspects. Some of the articles are more general, whilst some present specific situations from different countries. I found those the most illuminating and very valuable because of the international reach.

Some of the issues that women who'd like to work in a STEM field might sound simpler and easier to solve than they really are. Depending on the culture it's not always easy or even acceptable for a woman to even study long enough to get a higher education, not to even mention striving for achievements in science or technology.

All in all the collection gives the impression that the reasons why women might not study science, mathematics or informatics as often as men are very different from country to country depending on the country's recent history, the cultural and religious background. While in some cases it might seem as if it is easy to point a finger at specific causes for lack of women in science, it is much more complex.

Some of the solutions and various policies that might improve and already have improved the situation are also presented. I found it fascinating, especially since improving women's participation in STEM fields would also help other minorities participation in those fields or at least show the way to it.
Posted on Sunday, December 03, 2017
By Kadri

Superconductivity. An Introduction by Philippe Mangin , Rémi Kahn

In Mangin and Kahn's "Superconductivity" there is an overview of the scientist who are/were involved in the discoveries connected to superconductivity.

After the brief historical overview, the reader is presented with the London theory of superconductivity which gives an idea how current in and around superconductors is connected to the electromagnetic field. It is presented in such a way that you go step-by-step from the more general ideas to specific examples. I found the division between the topics and in the chapters very helpful and clear, as you can easily tell what you're reading about, where the specific equations are applicable in that way etc.
In addition to getting familiar with the London theory, the reader can also read about the non-local nature of superconductivity, which is an extension of the London theory.

What I found most interesting were the chapters on thermodynamics of particular types of superconductors. The different phase transitions and their orders are explained there as well.
It's important to note that chapters are followed by appendices that are helpful for understanding the electromagnetic features of the systems described or provide solutions to specific cases.

In "Superconductivity" you can also read about how SQUID magnetometers work, that enable scientists to measure very small magnetic fields.

The book is a well-rounded, complete and student friendly guide to superconductivity. It assumes that the reader is well acquainted with at least undergraduate physics.
Posted on Tuesday, November 28, 2017
By Kadri

Theoretical Physics 1: Classical Mechanics by Wolfgang Nolting

Theoretical Physics 1 starts with providing the student with the necessary mathematical apparatus that will be needed to understand classical mechanics. It starts from differential calculus and integration and continues with operations with vectors.

After a crash-course of calculus and algebra the book continues with mechanics starting from the usual – coordinate systems, uniform motion, circular motion, forces etc. It is interesting to note, that in this book there are lots of examples of connections between classical mechanics and other areas of physics, which bring out similarities between the different laws of physics. As an example – different central forces as exemplified by both Gravitational force and Coulomb force but also the force affecting an isotropic harmonic oscillator.

One of the features I liked best about this book is that the same concepts come up in several places and they’re explained more thoroughly in one place, but they’re mentioned briefly in another so that when you get to the longer discussion of the topic you already have a clue about what the main point is. That is one of the features which gives some more incentive to keep on working through the theory, test your understanding on the exercises and self-examination questions. In the end the reader is quite likely to feel that they’ve learnt something. Because of its clear presentation of the topics, different levels of exercises with solutions provided in the back of the book, it's an ideal book for independent study.

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Posted on Thursday, August 24, 2017
By Kadri

Women Spacefarers by Umberto Cavallaro

If you've ever been interested in  what kind of background women astronauts have, then this is the book to read. Cavallaro present short biographies of sixty women who have flown in space.

This book feels more like a reference book and it functions well as one - if you're interested in on what kind of missions any of the women astronauts flew, what were their tasks on those missions, what is their education, family background, when did they get interested in spaceflight etc, then you can find it in this book together with a bibliography should you be more interested in reading more about any of the sixty astronauts.

To me, the most interesting part was their work on the ground though - what were they assigned to do- starting from looking into how spacesuits can and should be adjusted for women and ending with engineering.

The book also serves as a good introduction to the history of women spacefarers - what were the reasons for keeping women out of space missions in the first place and what changed in the attitudes of different space programs and culture.

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Posted on Wednesday, August 09, 2017
By Kadri
Making Beautiful Deep-Sky Images: Astrophotography with Affordable Equipment and Software by Greg Parker

Deep-sky imaging is one of the most technical fields in astrophotography that requires a lot of devotion when it comes to acquiring equipment and also resilience in the face of non-ideal conditions and outcomes from imaging. This book doubles as a technical guide to deep sky astrophotography for intermediate or advanced astrophotography enthusiasts but also as an inspirational guide to show what can be achieved with enough time and effort.

Already at the beginning of the book it's mentioned that this book is not for beginners, and as such it does not delve into the basics of what kind of equipment can be used and what astronomical objects can be imaged and what they are. Rather, the author starts with introducing his own imaging systems, how he chose them, how they've changed over time, and what he uses them for.

Although the subtitle of the book has the word "affordable" in it, it's relative. When it comes to astrophotography, there are a lot more affordable ways of starting out in it - imaging the Milky Way or the Moon etc doesn't require too much specialist equipment. When it comes to imaging nebulae, galaxies and star cluster etc however one has to keep in mind that there what is seen as entry-level equipment can still set you back a lot more than any other astrophotography equipment.

The book isn't aimed at complete novices in astrophotography, but it's still useful if you're only a novice in photographing deep sky objects - the book provides step by step information on setting up your imaging system, what benefits one or other telescope type might have for this specific purpose, what kind of computing power you should have access to and why it might be a good idea to consider setting up a permanent home observatory instead of driving to a dark-sky sight with your telescope, or even just setting it up each night.

In addition to tips for choosing which object to photograph, when and with what, there's also a lot of information about image processing, something that is vital for deep sky images.  And as inspiration, you can find numerous photos of deep sky objects by the author of the book.

If you're thinking of getting into deep sky astrophotography, the beginning of the book might slightly scare you away just with the expenses involved in purchasing and setting up an imaging system, however there are other options - renting telescope time on a telescope farm and imaging remotely for example. That would be a great way to test out some imaging systems, try out some methods and suggested imaging targets in an even more affordable way. And "Making Beautiful Deep-Sky Images" might just provide you with the inspiration to do so together with the skills you'd need to start taking amazing photos of some of the most beautiful astronomical objects.


Posted on Wednesday, August 02, 2017
By Kadri
Archaeoastronomy : Introduction to the Science of Stars and Stones by Giulio Magli

Looking at the sky and using the annual and even daily apparent motions of astronomical objects in the sky for practical purposes goes back thousands of years. Although there are still people, who look for guidance for everyday life in the goings-on in space, we mostly now see astronomy in connection to space-telescopes, giant ground-based telescopes and awe-inspiring images of deep space objects, and not so much in what can be seen and learned with the naked eye over a large timespan from one location.

This book deals with archaeoastronomy - an area of research that looks at ancient structures that were aligned in a specific way or used in connection to astronomy for timekeeping or religious festivals etc. The most famous examples of some such structures include Stonehenge, the Great Pyramids and Chichen Itza.

This book provides information on what kind of celestial motions can be followed with the naked eye and what kind of significance they might have had for the people who built these magnificent structures. In addition to the exposition we also get a glimpse of how archaeoastronomy is done and the reader is also provided with some tools and resources together with some exercises using widely available free software or internet resources that enable one to gain a better understanding of the nature of both archaeoastronomy and the historic sites mentioned in the book.

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Posted on Saturday, July 29, 2017
By Kadri
Inner Solar System

Prospective Energy and Material Resources, edited by Viorel Badescu, Kris Zacny

In Inner Solar System we take a look at Mercury and Venus, what we know about them and how that information was gathered and also at what technologies have been employed for missions there, what could be used in the future and what might the future reasons be for exploring both Venus and Mercury.

The book starts of with the real basics - the physical composition and structure of terrestrial planets and how we know about that. Also the planet formation is discussed in a way that  presents the terrestrial planets as forming early on similarly to giant gas planets with dense metal cores that eventually would lose the extensive atmosphere because of the strong solar wind from the early Sun.

The space missions that have contributed to our knowledge about these planets such as the early Venera, Vega and Pioneer Venus missions, but also later ones such as MESSENGER and Venus Express and others are introduced together with what was learned from those missions. The missions are presented in such a way that you get an idea what kind of modifications were made in next spacecraft because of what was learned.

The book also presents current ideas under development for future spacecraft and what kind of challenges have to be overcome for making them viable for a space mission to Mercury or Venus. You can also find calculations on how long it would take to reach either of the planets with different thrust systems and how much fuel they would require, but also info on power systems.

This book is a fascinating collection of research that has been done to enable future missions to test and sample the surface of Mercury and Venus in a way that hasn't been possible before. Some of the interesting developments that are introduced in the book include drilling at high temperatures and pressures, and comparisons between different sampler systems.

A large part of the book is dedicated to looking at what kind of resources and materials we might find useful on Mercury or Venus that would make venturing there an economical and business enterprise rather than just a scientific undertaking.

The book concludes with chapters on the possibility of terraforming Mercury and Venus and discussion on colonization of those two planets.

This book makes you see Mercury and Venus from a different, slightly utopian, angle, from which it isn't totally crazy to imagine manned missions there.


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