The planets align for Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads


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.

A Smart Cookie--Alex the Parrot

Alex the African Gray Parrot--when he died September 2007, all the major newspapers, news broadcasts covered his death. He was the poster child for animal intelligence studies; his owner-trainer-scientific inquirer-caretaker, Irene Pepperberg claimed he had the intelligence of a five-year old child. Now, Pepperberg has come out with a memoir of her 30 years of working with Alex.

To keep you going until you get your hands on the book, you can read an excerpt of the first chapter from the New York Times.

The World's Biggest Science Experiment


Today, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, began operating the much anticipated Large Hadron Collider. Known for being the world's largest particle accelerator, this 17 mile long tunnel took 14 years to build and cost 9 billion dollars. If all goes as planned, the collider will accelerate particles at over 99% the speed of light! This amazing capability should theoretically enable scientists to recreate conditions like those immediately following the Big Bang. Scientists hope that the LHC will help solve some of physics greatest mysteries, such as the existence of the Higgs boson and possibly even the existence of other dimensions . If you would like to learn more about some of the exciting questions physicists are hoping to answer with the help of the LHC, you might want to check out The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene or The God Particle: if the universe is the answer, what is the question? by Leon Lederman.

Finally! It IS easy to be green!

If you are like me, you are interested in being more socially responsible, like going beyond simple recycling and doing your part to help save our planet for future generations, but you don't have lots of money and time to devote to "going green". Sound familiar? If so, then you need to get yourself a copy of Renee Loux's Easy green living : the ultimate guide to simple, eco-friendly choices for you and your home. This lifestyle guide is PACKED with information about the simple, affordable choices we can make to avoid toxins, conserve natural resources and generally be more eco-smart. Whether you choose to take tiny baby steps or completely overhaul your wasteful self, you will find the answers you need. One of my favorite easy eco-tips is the following: "About 100 million trees and 28 billion gallons of water are used annually to produce the 5.8 million tons of catalogs and unsolicited wads of preapproved credit card offers and other junk that arrive at our homes - 44 percent of which are thrown away unopened....Stop credit card offers. Go to, where the consumer credit report industry lets you opt out of receiving preapproved and prescreened credit card offers." Now imagine if we all did that!

Human biology for kids (and adults who like gross stuff)

Look on our New Books shelf in the Youth department and you might find a copy of what The Seattle Times referred to as a book "For kids who like their science with a dash of grossness". Ouch! : how your body makes it through a very bad day is a graphic introduction to many basic functions of the human body. Inside you'll find detailed images and explanations of things like pimples, sneezing, sleeping, vomiting, pathogens and parasites, and the ever-popular bathroom break. To add to the visual detail of the book, a CD-ROM is included which offers viewers an animated view of a few everyday bodily functions. Science lovers will enjoy the meticulous detail and elaborate glossary (I learned what Epithelial Tissue is!) and parents will appreciate the numerous health facts for kids (like "Feces can consist of up to 50 percent bacteria, hence the need to wash hands after going to the bathroom"). Yuck! Enjoy!


In Laika, Nick Abadzis beautifully and compassionately tells the sad tale of Sputnik II and Laika, the Russian dog who became Earth's first space traveler. Abadzis carefully blends fact with fiction to show the human side of the overtly political Soviet Space Program of the 1950s. Unfortunately, we all know that Laika's story does not have a happy ending. There was never a plan for her return. Abadzis takes full advantage of the affordances of comics storytelling, using thoughtful and poetic page layouts to fully investigate the inner lives of the characters and their struggles. The panels themselves are packed full of visual information--including phases of the moon depicted accurately to the date of the events within the story. Abadzis explores the fragile balance between obligation to one's duties and having to live with the consequences.
If you'd rather have a happy ending, try Pupniks by S. Ruth Lubka. It tells the story of Sputnik 5, in which Belka and Strelka returned safely to Earth in 1960.

Astrophysics Anyone?

Did you ever wonder if life exists outside of our planet or our universe? Would you like to get caught up on space stuff in general? If so, I recommend you check out Jeffery Bennett's book Beyond UFOs. The author explains interesting things such as the true scale of the solar system and the center of mass between Jupiter and the Sun. If you like to sound smart at parties, this is the book for you.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #110

According to a New York Times article, it took a citywide fund-raising effort for The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to raise the $68 million needed to keep a Thomas Eakins masterpiece - The Gross Clinic in the city. "The painting is widely considered to be among the greatest convases in American art".

Though Eakins' fame is "almost entirely posthumous and he was little known and admired in his native city" during his life time, but in Lawrence Goldstone's debut The Anatomy of Deception, Eakins is front and center in this highly readable, intriguing and historically well-researched forensic thriller. Also depicted are the real-life characters such as William Osler (the Father of Modern Medicine), famed surgeon William Stewart Halsted and the vibrant social scene of Philadelphia 1889.

Historical mystery readers, especially those of Caleb Carr and Matthew Pearl will find much to like here.

An eerie coincidence?

Did you feel the earthquake this morning (Friday, April 18) at about 5:45 a.m.? The epicenter was in Illinois but some Ann Arborites who were up that early felt some weird vibrations. Adding to that weirdness was my discovery that on April 18, 1906, the catastrophic San Francisco earthquake hit, and because of resulting fires, most of the city burned to the ground. That quake measured 8.3 on the Richter scale and was felt from Southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. Scientists later determined that the San Andreas Fault had moved about 23 feet. To learn more about earthquakes, check out the Library's books and dvds.

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