Stargazers, get ready!

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks in mid-August with many shooting stars visible each hour. The night of August 12 through dawn of August 13, with a new moon- meaning no moonlight, will be one of the best nights for viewing. Since the shooting stars will seem to be emanating from the constellation Perseus, why not beef up your stargazing skills with a few star maps to make sure you're looking in the right spot. Check these out: Simple stargazing : a first-time skywatcher's guide, Atlas of the night sky, A walk through the heavens : a guide to stars and constellations and their legends, Star maps for beginners, Peterson first guide to astronomy. So grab your blanket and find a good spot to watch the sky!

Your Summer Science Reading List from Science News

Science News (June 30, 2007) recommends “a picnic basket of lively books. Scientists soaring through trees and camping out with ivory-billed woodpeckers are our action heroes. Storytellers describe natural living, raising flowers for profit, and surviving as original Americans. Our dose of summer school seriousness comes from authors trying to explain climate change, the religion-science divide, and the universe itself. Enjoy.”

The Wild Trees: a Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Flower Confidential: the Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers by Amy Stewart
Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate by William F. Ruddiman
Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature by Keith Thomson
Ivorybill Hunters: the Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness by Geoffrey E. Hill
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
Many Worlds in One: the Search for Other Universes by Alex Vilenkin

Blinded by Science! Tesla vs. Edison: Electricity Throwdown

When I think of Nikola Tesla, I imagine David Bowie, who played him in the recent film about magicians, The Prestige. The real Tesla may not have looked like a rock star or built a mysterious cloning machine in the mountains of Colorado, but he did compete in a heated rivalry with Thomas Edison, each man hoping to secure the future of his own electrical designs.

See the competition play out in person at the Downtown Library this Thursday evening at 7pm. The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum's very own John Bowditch, an Edison expert featured on BBC and the History Channel, will be on hand not only to discuss this historical scientific rivalry, but also (Steampunks, listen up) to demonstrate some electric artifacts from both inventors—zzzt! spark! flash! Awesome!

Any bug lovers out there?

The periodical cicada has invaded the Midwest by the billions over the past few weeks- particularly in parts of llinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. These red-eyed beauties (yes, I said beauties!) spend 17 years underground before they emerge, and when they emerge, boy are they en masse! Some people find them amazing, others find them loud and messy. You can be your own judge of that. Find more cicada facts, and colorful pictures too, here. Happy reading, and don’t let them bug you too much!

Rarely Seen are Now Readily Accessible


This is not a zigzag bladderwort, it's a Blanchard's cricket frog, one of the more than 600 rare plants and animals featured in the new Michigan Rare Species Explorer. The curious of all ages can search by habitat, location, name, best time to view or browse the beautifully illustrated entries for all the species. Kudos to the team at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory for this wonderful new resource.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #67

Critics are calling Rebecca Stott’s academic thriller Ghostwalk* “hypnotic”, “intelligent”, and “stunning”, (where) “Isaac Newton joins Dracula and Leonardo da Vinci”. Curious? I was.

Elizabeth Vogelsang, a Cambridge University scholar at work on a potentially controversial biography of Isaac Newton is found drowned and clutching a prism in her hand (a clue?). Lydia Brooke, a successful screenwriter is asked by Cameron Brown, her former lover and Elizabeth’s son to ghostwrite the last chapter of Elizabeth’s manuscript.

Lydia soon finds that Elizabeth’s cottage might be haunted and she is drawn into solving two series of murders centuries apart, both connected to 17th Century alchemy and present-day animal rights.

This well-researched and intricately crafted debut novel by British historian Stott (bio.) is a clever whodunit that entertains and instructs - of such varied subjects as optics, neuroscience, and animal testing. More interesting trivia on 17th Century Cambridge could be found on her website.

* = Starred Reviews

Can yodeling cause an avalanche? The MythBusters find out!


Have you ever wondered why pirates with two good eyes might wear an eye patch? Or if a Ninja really can stop a sword blade with his bare hands? The MythBusters on the Discovery channel have tested out these myths and others. NPR has a fun interview with Jamie and Adam (the lead mythbusters), and the official website for the show can be found here. Watch out! You may become addicted to myth busting!

NASA and the Queen


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will visit NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. today. The Queen has been visiting the U.S. in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia.
What does NASA have to do with the Queen? This visit follows a signing on April 19 of a statement of intent between NASA and the British National Space Centre that confirmed a mutual desire for discussions on specific areas of potential collaboration involving lunar science and exploration. The visit will include a tree planting ceremony at the Goddard visitor center and the Queen will have an opportunity to speak with the crew aboard the International Space Station.

See a Moon Rock in Michigan!

Soyuz TMA-3Soyuz TMA-3

On Saturday, June 9, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo will be opening its new Michigan Space Science Center. You can visit Ann Arbor astronaut Jack Lousma’s space suit (he spent 59 days in space on the crew of Skylab 3 and was spacecraft commander on STS-3. Russian Cosmonaut Alexandr Kalri's suit will also be on display, along with a Moon Rock, a full-size replica of a Gemini space capsule, a Gemini crew-training simulator, F1 rocket engine, J-2 rocket engine (both from a Saturn V rocket), plus a bunch of interactive exhibits.

Composting Extravaganza


Yes, composting can be extravagantly entertaining to watch when the science wizards at the MRF turn 12,000 tons of leaves into dark, yummy mulch. Join them this Saturday, April 14th, from 10:00 a.m. - noon, and receive a coupon for a free, yes free, bushel of compost. But wait there's more. You can also tour the recycling center for free.

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