The statesman and the scientist

Today, February 12, marks the 200th birthday of two larger than life figures: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Lincoln was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, grew up poor but went on to become a lawyer, congressman and 16th President of the U.S. A new biography by former Presidential candidate George McGovern part of the American Presidents Series, presents Lincoln as both politician, pragmatist and idealist.

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England and is best known for his revolutionary (for his day) theories of evolution. A new and very readable book about Darwin in our collection is titled Charles Darwin: The Concise Story of a Remarkable Man which includes brief chapters and many illustrations, some which are Darwin's own photographs.

A book that looks at both these men as visionaries and men encumbered with their own personal struggles is Adam Gopnick's Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln and Modern Life.

Science Fair is beyond fun for Middle Schoolers and beyond

Science FairScience Fair

What a hilarious book! Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson bring science fairs to a whole new level in this comedy-thriller of a novel. Science Fair: a story of mystery, danger, international suspense, and a very nervous frog, features Toby and his best buds, Micah and Tamara. They battle, suffer, endure, and enjoy(?) the usual middle school happenings. Meanwhile, Grdankl the Strong, president of Kprshtskan, is plotting to take over the American government and destroy America, and plans to secretly use the kids of Hubble Middle School to activate the plan by using their Science Fair projects in an elaborate scheme.

The rich kids at Hubble cheat on their science project year after year and are able to get away with it because of who their parents are. This year’s prize is $5,000 and Toby and his friends are determined to win, not only for the money, but to stick it to the rich Manor Estate kids. Oh, and there’s that whole matter of Toby needing the money to pay off the two guys he’s being chased by, Vader and Wookie, to whom he sold some of his dad’s Star Wars memorabilia to via Ebay. Needless to say this is one fun and bumpy road to the Science Fair. Watch out for the attack robot owl!

What are you reading...?

Tim McKayTim McKay

UM physicist Timothy McKay will be at the Downtown Library on February 2, 7:00 p.m., to answer Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Astronomy (But Were Afraid to Ask) as part of our series of Ann Arbor Reads events. We asked him what he's currently reading....

"Lately, as I often do, I've been reading about science and its history. I am currently reading two books (there are usually several). One is Ferris' Seeing in the Dark, which I find beautifully written. I am also reading Carl Zimmer's latest Soul Made Flesh, about the discovery of the connection between the brain and human identity. Much of it is about the enlightenment, a fascinating time in the history of science when it seemed possible for individuals, people like Christopher Wren, to know almost everything.

"There are two books I recently finished, both of which I really enjoyed. The first was Crysalis, by Kim Todd. This is a biography of Maria Sybylla Merian, a German woman who lived from around 1650-1720. She was a remarkably modern woman, who left her husband at the age of 45, moved to Surinam, and painted pictures designed to illustrate studies of insect metamorphosis. An amazing person.

When We Left Earth - The NASA Missions, on Blu-ray.

Chronicling the totality of NASA's manned space flight efforts, from the Mercury predecessor X15 Program to the modern day International Space Station, When We Left Earth presents exciting and often never-before-seen footage. The film features restored and remastered archival footage, as well as scenes that were originally filmed in high definition. If you've ever wanted to see the space shuttle launch in high-def, now's your chance. You can also request your copy on DVD.

Looking to get out of the cold?

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Don’t forget about the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum of Natural History! The Museum offers a host of programs and exhibits that both adults and kids can enjoy. Look into the Winter Family Reading and Science program where the Museum offers a coordinated series of topical hands-on workshops, family reading programs, and a Discovery Day designed to facilitate science learning within families. Free public tours of the dinosaur exhibits are available on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm for the first 15 people to sign up. And so much more! And as an added bonus, be sure to check out a Museum Adventure Pass for a 10% discount in the Museum Store!dinosaurdinosaur

Lookback Time: The Detroit Observatory

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In Seeing In The Dark, author Timothy Ferris writes, "Peering far into space means looking deep into time gone by. This phenomenon, known as 'lookback time,' makes historians of stargazers." Historians and stargazers alike can enjoy a look back in time to 1854 by visiting the Detroit Observatory at 1398 E. Ann St. In its day, the Observatory housed the first large telescope constructed in the United States, for years the third largest refractor in the world. It was the training ground for many 19th century astronomers, saw the discovery of 21 asteroids and 2 comets, and remains the most important physical legacy of the University's early scientific preeminence. "I cannot speak of the Observatory without emotion," said former UM president Henry Tappan. "No one will deny that it was a creation of my own." (Historic Buildings, Ann Arbor, MI)

Although the dome is currently not operational, rendering the telescope unusable, the Observatory was fully restored in 1998 and the astronomical instruments remain intact and operational. Read more about the Observatory's legacy and watch for upcoming open houses in conjunction with UM's winter theme semester.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads author visits in January

Timothy FerrisTimothy Ferris

Acclaimed author Timothy Ferris will make a special appearance in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area as part of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads. His book, Seeing In The Dark: How Amateur Astronomers Are Discovering The Wonders Of The Universe, has been chosen as the focus of the 2009 Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program.

On Thursday, January 29 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Towsley Auditorium of the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, he will discuss this book as well as his own thoughts on astronomy and the universe around us. A booksigning will follow and books will be on sale at this event, courtesy of Shaman Drum.

This appearance is a key event for the 2009 Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program, which this year focuses on the theme The Universe: Yours To Discover.

Dec. 6, 1947 - Everglades National Park, Florida dedicated by President Harry S Truman

"Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it. To its natural abundance we owe the spectacular plant and animal life that distinguishes this place from all others in our country." With these words, Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. For a fascinating and comprehensive history of this amazing wetland, check out Michael Grunwald's The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. Thinking of visiting the park? Check out Hidden Florida Keys and Everglades or Adventure guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades National Park.

The planets align for Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads

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You may already know the theme for the 2009 Reads, "The Universe: Yours to Discover," aligns with UM's 2009 winter theme semester, but did you know UM chose it to align with the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) and the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first astronomical observation through a telescope? UM is planning a galaxy of events, exhibits--even new classes!--and there will be many additional Reads programs.

In the meantime, read the book and brush up on your backyard stargazing with the latest edition of The Backyard Astronomer's Guide, or by attending one of the University Lowbrow Astronomer's open houses at Peach Mountain for a look through their 24-inch McMath telescope. Look for Mercury and Jupiter to align on December 31, just in time for the kick off.<--break!-->

Hands-On Science with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers

Science experiments mulit-culturalScience experiments mulit-cultural

Join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 6:30 pm for this hands-on science workshop. Learn some science experiments and watch some cool demos based on traditional and new concepts in science and engineering. All kids (by age or at heart) are welcome! It's a night guaranteed to make you want to be a scientist or engineer. Presented by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and Proyecto Avance: Latino Mentoring Association (PALMA) from the University of Michigan.

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