Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

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Neil deGrasse Tyson has quietly become the new face of physics and space exploration over the last several years. Back in the 80s, Carl Sagan was far and away the most popular scientist among lay persons, but after his death, it took a long time to find an heir apparent. Michio Kaku has flirted with the idea, and does have some interesting and accessible books out, as well as making numerous appearances on a variety of news programs over the years. But in the last ten years or so, Dr. Tyson has become the undisputed go-to physicist for everyone from CNN to Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. He isn’t just another pretty face, however: he’s been on Presidential panels, and is the head of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, a prestigious scientific position. He holds four degrees, earning his BA at Harvard, his first MA at UofT Austin, and an MPhil and PhD from Columbia. Beginning in 1995, he wrote a regular column for Natural History magazine; this book is a collection of several of those columns, as well as transcribed keynote speeches given at various conferences and a mixture of other essays, papers, and speeches. To find out how these work together as a book, check after the break for my full review.

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an-astronauts-guide-to-life-on-earth-xl

Note to Canadian readers: the subtitle “What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything” is not included in domestic versions of the book.

It’s only appropriate that my year of memoirs will end with this excellent volume from arguably the most famous astronaut in years, Canada’s Colonel Chris Hadfield. His series of videos shot while Commander of the Expedition 35 mission on the International Space Station (ISS), culminating in his release of a modified version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity filmed throughout the station, made him something of a celebrity and gave him international fame. While his resume is impressive (test pilot, Top Gun winner, astronaut, ISS Commander), he never comes across as cocky; self-assured, yes, but that’s really a necessary component for the sorts of jobs he’s had. Being the last book I’ll likely finish in 2013, it was nice that it was also one of the best books I’ve read this year.
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PFMcover

I’ve always been massively interested in space travel. I was born within weeks of the first moon landing, grew up through the late years of Apollo, remember late nights and early mornings spent waiting for delayed Space Shuttle launches, and was moved to write one of my favourite early short stories by the Challenger disaster in 1986. I’ve also been a fan of SF since I was young, starting the fantasy route (Burroughs, Lord of the Rings, the Narnia books), and discovering Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, and E.E. “Doc” Smith when I was in my tweens. As my reading tastes have evolved, I still love to go back to a good SF or an epic Fantasy now and again, as there is always for me a comforting coziness to be found therein; however, I find myself reading more and more non-fiction, so why not tie the two together?
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