Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What books do you take on vacation or a cruise?; Here are the half dozen or so books I am packing.

Greetings from (offsite) Palmia Observatory

Well, I've had quite a time deciding what books to take with us on our cruise vacation.  Resident Astronomer Peggy has a couple of paperback novels and some science periodical, like Science News, The New Scientist, Astronomy, and Sky and Telescope magazine and her Ipad, so she is good to go.  I had a hard time because as much as I want to read a lot of good books, I know that as often as not, the books
go mostly unread on vacation.  How about you, do you do much the same thing?  Now, I don't often pack a novel with me, well, because I am mostly a physicist wannabe and nerd after all, so I pack a lot of technical type books.  These are the six or seven  books that after a lot of soul searching I put aside and will find room in the luggage.  I'm on a break from general relativity, until the class starts next week, and have been struggling through more quantum mechanics, entanglement and astrophysics.  It is the case though, as you can see by the titles and question I have asked, that these books are really mystery stories told in the language of science and physics.  I hope to make progress on at least one of these topics.

I will of course have my Ipad too, but it remains a total mystery regarding how many pages I will actually read on our vacation.  How many would you take and how many pages of these six books will I read?  Sometimes, I get asked, if I know that reading will be hard, why take more than just one book?  My answer is that I often get stuck with one book and one subject and so I like to switch to the other book and subject until I can get some help with the first problem. In addition, some smart alecs will proclaim that no matter what the final page count, the number of martinis ordered will exceed the number of pages read.  Hey, what are they trying to say???? We will just have to wait and see! 

The cosmic microwave background
How does one glean from the  measurement of the CMB findings how we can describe and predict the amount of dark matter, dark energy, and the flatness and homogeneity and isotropy of the universe?

Astrophysic for physicists (or physicist wannabes
What are the physical processes that cause and modulate the radiation coming from astrophysical objects and how is it used to determine what is going on at millions and billions of light years from us and how these processes explain the formation of stars, planets and galaxies?

Quantum information science
Why is quantum mechanics and the area of a black hole related and why is there a big controversy over whether information, just like energy and momentum, is conserved or not?

Introduction to Astrobiology
What does the discovery of organic compounds, like amino acids, and plausible causes for the molecules' chirality in life, and were these and water transported to earth and it tells us about the conditions necessary for and the possibility and likelihood of life in other parts of the cosmos.  This book is relevant for the upcoming astrobiology workshop in December

The asymmetry of time is one of the most striking features of our everyday experience, but for the laws of fundamental physics, which don't really care about the direction in time, so where does this directionality come from?  Is the well established and verified 2nd law of thermodynamics to be explained only by the supposedly low entropy occurring during the initial conditions of the past, which for the universe was at the big bang?

How do we review and evaluate different visions for the future of our society.  This philosophical text discusses some broad issues covering moral issues, fairness and justice in a world of widely differing values. We are surrounded and bombarded by different political positions offering what kind of future they advocate for, but how can we get a handle on where our own political positions come from and why do we hold them?  I spend a lot of time reviewing and learning my physics and cosmological positions and now how hard that is to get good understanding, so how can I be sure my political positions are valid for the world we live in, given the meager amount of time I spend evaluating politics?  How do we delay motivated reasoning to support our team so at first we can look for the truth of the situation?

Hey, we are on a cruise after all, so shouldn't I have at least one little book on the area where we are cruising?

So, I have no idea if I will make much or any progress through these texts, but at least they will be available.  We have a couple of sea days, and I can see us out on our balcony enjoying the sea flow past and considering some of these deep physical ideas.  Any bets on the number of pages of each book I get through?  My previous experience has shown that a number between 3-5 pages per book works out about right.  At least they will be onboard.

Until next time,

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