Tag Archives: cosmos

COSMOS Reading List – Episode 5: Hiding in the Light

The most recent episode of COSMOS focused on the science of light and how it has evolved over the centuries. Our viewing party this week didn’t feature a guest speaker BUT we did have a lot of fun playing astronomy-based Jeopardy.

Did watching the episode or playing science Jeopardy spark your interest in learning more about these topics?


Here is a brief list of books to get you started (with a note next to those that can be found on the shelves at some of our local, independent bookstores):

Manipulating Light: Reflection, Refraction, and Absorption by Darlene R Stille
“Provides an explanation of how light works, including how it bounces or reflects, how it bends or refracts, and how light gets absorbed. Also discusses mirrors, telescopes, and colors.” (amazon.com)

Light by Michael I. Sobel
“Like the denizens of some brilliant ocean, humans are awash in light. Surrounded by illuminations both natural and artificial, we remain blissfully unaware of how light determines most of life’s rhythms and rituals or how it dominates every field of modern science. Michael I. Sobel, a professor of physics at Brooklyn College, has attempted no less a task than to enlighten us (see how it pervades our language) about the many facets of this ubiquitous phenomenon, from its earliest stirrings of emotion and wonder in ancient savants to its modern applications in lasers and silicon chips.” (amazon.com)

A History of Optics from Greek Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century by Olivier Darrigol
“This book is a long-term history of optics, from early Greek theories of vision to the nineteenth-century victory of the wave theory of light. It shows how light gradually became the central entity of a domain of physics that no longer referred to the functioning of the eye; it retraces the subsequent competition between medium-based and corpuscular concepts of light; and it details the nineteenth-century flourishing of mechanical ether theories. The author critically exploits and sometimes completes the more specialized histories that have flourished in the past few years. The resulting synthesis brings out the actors’ long-term memory, their dependence on broad cultural shifts, and the evolution of disciplinary divisions and connections. Conceptual precision, textual concision, and abundant illustration make the book accessible to a broad variety of readers interested in the origins of modern optics.” (amazon.com

Astronomy 101: From the Sun and Moon to Wormholes and Warp Drive, Key Theories, Discoveries, and Facts About the Universe by Carolyn Collins Peterson
“Explore the curiosities of the cosmos in this engaging book! Too often, textbooks go into more detail than readers have in mind when they want to learn a little something about astronomy. This is where Astronomy 101 comes in. It takes you out to the stars and planets and galaxies and discusses some of the latest Big Astronomy discoveries while presenting the basic facts about astronomy and space.  From the Big Bang and nebulae to the Milky Way and Sir Isaac Newton, this celestial primer is packed with hundreds of fascinating and entertaining astronomy charts and photographs selected to guide you through the universe. Whether you’re looking to unravel the mystery behind black holes, or just want to learn more about your favorite planets, Astronomy 101 has a LOT of answers–even the ones you didn’t know you were looking for.” (amazon.com)

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COSMOS Reading List – Episode 4: A Sky Full of Ghosts

Last Sunday’s episode of COSMOS talked about the speed of light, gravity, black holes, and William Herschel, among other things. And Don, our speaker for the week at our COSMOS viewing party, talked about scientific myths and hoaxes.

Did watching the episode and listening to the speaker spark your interest in learning more about these topics?


Here is a brief list of books to get you started (with a note next to those that can be found at some of our local, independent bookstores):

An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and The String Theory Revolution; The Holographic Universe by Leonard Susskind and James Lindsay
“Over the last decade the physics of black holes has been revolutionized by developments that grew out of Jacob Bekenstein s realization that black holes have entropy. Stephen Hawking raised profound issues concerning the loss of information in black hole evaporation and the consistency of quantum mechanics in a world with gravity. For two decades these questions puzzled theoretical physicists and eventually led to a revolution in the way we think about space, time, matter and information. This revolution has culminated in a remarkable principle called The Holographic Principle , which is now a major focus of attention in gravitational research, quantum field theory and elementary particle physics. Leonard Susskind, one of the co-inventors of the Holographic Principle as well as one of the founders of String theory, develops and explains these concepts.” (amazon.com)

Discoverers of the Universe: William and Caroline Herschel by Michael Hoskin
“Discoverers of the Universe tells the gripping story of William Herschel, the brilliant, fiercely ambitious, emotionally complex musician and composer who became court astronomer to Britain’s King George III, and of William’s sister, Caroline, who assisted him in his observations of the night sky and became an accomplished astronomer in her own right. Together, they transformed our view of the universe from the unchanging, mechanical creation of Newton’s clockmaker god to the ever-evolving, incredibly dynamic cosmos that it truly is.” (amazon.com)

Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos by Caleb Scharf (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“We’ve long understood black holes to be the points at which the universe as we know it comes to an end. Often billions of times more massive than the Sun, they lurk in the inner sanctum of almost every galaxy of stars in the universe. They’re mysterious chasms so destructive and unforgiving that not even light can escape their deadly wrath.
  Recent research, however, has led to a cascade of new discoveries that have revealed an entirely different side to black holes. As the astrophysicist Caleb Scharf reveals in Gravity’s Engines, these chasms in space-time don’t just vacuum up everything that comes near them; they also spit out huge beams and clouds of matter. Black holes blow bubbles.
  With clarity and keen intellect, Scharf masterfully explains how these bubbles profoundly rearrange the cosmos around them. Engaging with our deepest questions about the universe, he takes us on an intimate journey through the endlessly colorful place we call our galaxy and reminds us that the Milky Way sits in a special place in the cosmic zoo—a “sweet spot” of properties. Is it coincidental that we find ourselves here at this place and time? Could there be a deeper connection between the nature of black holes and their role in the universe and the phenomenon of life? We are, after all, made of the stuff of stars.” (amazon.com)

Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax” by Philip C Plait
“Inspired by his popular web site, www.badastronomy.com, this first book by Plait (astronomy, Sonoma State Univ.) debunks popular myths and misconceptions relating to astronomy and promotes science as a means of explaining our mysterious heavens. The work describes 24 common astronomical fallacies, including the beliefs that the Coriolis effect determines the direction that water drains in a bathtub and that planetary alignments can cause disaster on Earth. The author sharply and convincingly dismisses astrology, creationism, and UFO sightings and explains the principles behind basic general concepts (the Big Bang, why the sky is blue, etc.). Though some may find him strident, Plait succeeds brilliantly because his clear and understandable explanations are convincing and honest.” (amazon.com)

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COSMOS Reading List – Episode 3: When Knowledge Conquered Fear

The third episode of COSMOS talked about comets, Edmund Halley, and Sir Isaac Newton (among other things). Our guest speaker for the weekly viewing party was Dr. Seth Shostack, an astronomer with the SETI Institute who has a deep interest in space exploration and astrobiology.

Did watching the episode and listening to the guest speaker spark your interest in learning more about these topics?


Here is a brief list of books to get you started (and as always those that can be found in some of our local independent bookstores have a note about that next to them):

Edmond Halley: Charting the Heavens and the Seas by Alan Cook
“Halley played a crucial role in the Newtonian revolution in the natural sciences. Indeed, Cook reveals that it was Halley who set the question that led Newton to write the Principia, and who edited, paid for, and reviewed it. The author also describes how Halley’s prediction of the transit of Venus led to Captain Cook’s voyage to Tahiti and to an accurate calculation of the distance between the Earth and Sun. Perhaps as important, the book examines Halley’s personal life, revealing a man who was far from a lab-bound thinker. As a young man, he sailed to St. Helena to chart the unmapped stars of the Southern Hemisphere. Moreover, Halley knew the leading artists of his age–Wren, Pepys, Handel, Purcell, and Dryden–and he travelled widely throughout Europe, meeting numerous fellow scientists and serving on a variety of diplomatic missions. He even spent a number of adventurous years as commander of a Royal Naval warship.” (amazon.com)

The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy by Isaac Newton (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“This book is a complete volume of Newton’s mathematical principles relating to natural philosophy and his system of the world. Newton, one of the most brilliant scientists and thinkers of all time, presents his theories, formulas and thoughts. Included are chapters relative to the motion of bodies; motion of bodies in resisting mediums; and system of the world in mathematical treatment; a section on axioms or laws of motion, and definitions.” (amazon.com)

Comets! Visitors from Deep Space by David J. Eicher (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“From ancient times, humans have been fascinated by “broom stars” and “blazing scimitars” lighting up the sky and moving against the fixed background of stars. The Great Comets of our time still receive in-depth attention – ISON, Hale-Bopp, Hyakutake, West, and others – while recent spacecraft encounters offer amazing insight into the earliest days of the solar system. In this guide you will discover the cutting-edge science of what comets are, how they behave, where they reside, how groups of comets are related, and much more. The author carefully explores the ideas relating comets and life on Earth – and the danger posed by impacts.” (amazon.com)

Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence by Seth Shostak (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“Aliens are big in America. Whether they’ve arrived via rocket, flying saucer, or plain old teleportation, they’ve been invading, infiltrating, or inspiring us for decades, and they’ve fascinated moviegoers and television watchers for more than fifty years. About half of us believe that aliens really exist, and millions are convinced they’ve visited Earth.  For twenty-five years, SETI has been looking for the proof, and as the program’s senior astronomer, Seth Shostak explains in this engrossing book, it’s entirely possible that before long conclusive evidence will be found.
His informative, entertaining report offers an insider’s view of what we might realistically expect to discover light-years away among the stars. Neither humanoids nor monsters, says Shostak; in fact, biological intelligence is probably just a precursor to machine beings, enormously advanced artificial sentients whose capabilities and accomplishments may have developed over billions of years and far exceed our own.” (amazon.com)

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Adventures in Spokane – Party TwentySix: Where I Watch Movies, Eat Sushi, and Play with Science

It’s pretty outside today. I want to be out there playing in the sunshine instead of inside all day here at the station. My family in Texas is at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo today, playing in the sunlight and having a great time. I wish I was there. Spring Fever will probably be setting in pretty soon around here. I wonder if they’d let me move my desk outside for a few months to enjoy the nice weather. I’ll let you know how the campaign for that goes.

Last week was relatively quiet for me. I hung out at home quite a bit, watching bad movies (turns out Showgirls is just as terrible now as it was when I first saw it 18 years ago) and reading books (Neil deGrasse Tyson’s autobiography is pretty fascinating folks) and Skyping with family. I did make it down to Borracho once but as I was getting over a chest cold I only partook of one tequila shot. I’m still inching ever closer to completing the Tequila Challenge, though I was a little disheartened to learn that the original winner of the challenge managed to complete it AGAIN before I even got halfway through it. What, does that guy just live there or something? Sheesh.

I made it up to The Garland Theater for a showing of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on Tuesday evening. Definitely enjoyed the second movie in the trilogy way more than the first. A big part of that was due to the dragon, of course. They did an amazing job with that dragon. I was concerned at first because I have found the CG on the main orc characters to be less than stellar. I didn’t want to see a crappy CG dragon. Luckily Smaug was far from crappy. I could probably wax on poetically (or just screech with fan-girl zeal) for hours about that dragon, but I won’t. Just imagine if I went on at length extolling the many amazing things about that dragon and we’ll call it good, okay?

St. Patrick’s Saturday happened at some point last week (probably around Saturday I’m thinking). I’m sure it was lots of fun for many people who wandered downtown to partake of the drinking and merrymaking. I was not one of those people. I love to have fun as much as the next person, but I find St. Patrick’s Saturday to border a bit too much on the chaotic and so leave it up to others to enjoy instead. I was downtown very early on Sunday morning (like 6:45am), however, and saw three random shoes, one abandoned pair of pants, two puddles of someone’s regurgitated lunch (ick), and a lot of green glitter. Go St. Patrick’s Saturday!

Why was I downtown at such a ridiculously early time on a Sunday, you’re probably (hopefully) asking? Well I was joining with some of my fellow local Modified Dolls to answer phones at KYRS Community Radio for their Spring fund drive! For three hours we were there to take listener pledges and chat on the air with Sam of NonProfit Spokane. While it wasn’t their most lucrative fundraising slot, we had a good time participating in the drive and hanging out with each other and being on the radio, so it was worth getting up early for.

After a long and lovely nap Sunday afternoon it was time for my new favorite event of the week: the Cosmos viewing party at Mobius Science Center! First I had a quick bite to eat at Sushi Maru as it was right across the street. Then I headed to the Science Center to check out their planetarium show at 7pm. Unfortunately right after I arrived something came up that kept me from seeing the show, but I didn’t mind so much as I still got to hang out at Mobius. That was one of the best parts of the event this week, in my opinion. After the first planetarium show and before the guest speaker began, attendees were running around the Science Center, playing with exhibits and learning about science and having a great time.

The speaker this time was Dr. Kamesh Sankaran. He talked about asteroids and comets and the end of the world (well not exactly) and was really pretty fascinating. Some of the science went over my head (I’m more of an English/creative writing/liberal arts kind of girl) but what I basically took from the whole thing was that relying on Bruce Willis to save us if a giant asteroid heads our way is probably not the best plan of action. After all the asteroid talk it was time to watch the new episode of Cosmos, which was beautiful and lovely and all about evolution and how everything on our world is connected. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you are in the area and into science and space and fun and awesome, you REALLY need to come out on Sunday and watch Cosmos with us. The viewing parties are getting bigger and better each week and you’re missing out by not attending. Just saying.

That wraps it up for me this time around. I’ll be back next week to talk about geek girls, outdoor adventure shows, tequila (of course), and even more Cosmos! To pass the time until I return why don’t you head out and have some adventures of your own? If you’re lucky you just might see me bouncing around town while you’re out there!

– Mia V.


This week’s Adventures in Spokane brought to you by:
Borracho Tacos & Tequileria
The Garland Theater
The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
KYRS Community Thin-air Radio
The WA Modified Dolls
Sushi Maru
Mobius Science Center
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey


COSMOS Reading List – Episode 2: Some of the Things That Molecules Do

Last Sunday’s episode was all about the evolution of life on our world. Did it spark your interest in learning more about evolution, natural and artificial selection, and the Tree of Life?

Did you attend our viewing party at Mobius Science Center and hear Dr. Kamesh Sankaran speak about comets and asteroids and are now curious about learning about them more in-depth?


Here is a brief list of books to get you started (and once again those that can be found in some of our local bookstores have a note about that next to them):


The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“Dawkins sifts through rich layers of scientific evidence—from living examples of natural selection to clues in the fossil record; from natural clocks that mark the vast epochs wherein evolution ran its course to the intricacies of developing embryos; from plate tectonics to molecular genetics—to make the airtight case that “we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life and it is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random selection.”” (amazon.com)

What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“At once a spirited defense of Darwinian explanations of biology and an elegant primer on evolution for the general reader, What Evolution Is poses the questions at the heart of evolutionary theory and considers how our improved understanding of evolution has affected the viewpoints and values of modern man.” (amazon.com)

Comet by Carl Sagan
“Comet begins with a breathtaking journey through space astride a comet. Pulitzer Prize-winning astronomer Carl Sagan, author of Cosmos and Contact, and writer Ann Druyan explore the origin, nature, and future of comets, and the exotic myths and portents attached to them. The authors show how comets have spurred some of the great discoveries in the history of science and raise intriguing questions about these brilliant visitors from the interstellar dark.” (amazon.com)

Asteroids by Curtis Peebles
“Covering all aspects of asteroid investigation, Curtis Peebles shows how ideas about the orbiting boulders have evolved. He describes how such phenomena as the Moon’s craters and dinosaur extinction were gradually, and by some scientists grudgingly, accepted as the results of asteroid impacts. He tells how a band of icy asteroids rimming the solar system, first proposed as a theory in the 1940s, was ignored for more than forty years until renewed interest and technological breakthroughs confirmed the existence of the Kuiper Belt. Peebles also chronicles the discovery of Shoemaker-Levy 9, a comet with twenty-two nuclei that crashed into Jupiter in 1994, releasing many times the energy of the world’s nuclear arsenal.” (amazon.com)

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Adventures in Spokane – Party TwentyFive: Where I Take a Drive, Celebrate an Anniversary, and Explore the Cosmos

Last Saturday I drove over to Seattle with the tiny/tall roommate. We visited the Comics Dungeon comic shop to pick up badges for Emerald City Comicon. It was a very nice store with wonderfully helpful people. I wish I lived closer so I could visit more often. Then we went to Panera for lunch because we were in Seattle and Panera is awesome and there isn’t one in Spokane and why don’t we have one here anyway?


The food was amazing. I had cheddar broccoli soup and a half chicken … something … panini and it was all warm and filling and savory and delicious. I may have been ruined for cheddar broccoli soup anywhere else. So really, we NEED a Panera in Spokane. Someone needs to get on that already.

After lunch we headed back to Spokane, because we could and we had taken care of our errand in Seattle and we are young and apparently we can just drive across the state for lunch and back if we really want to. Unfortunately it rained for 2/3rds of the drive back which got really old really fast, but at least it wasn’t snowing.

Once I arrived back in Spokane it was time to head over to The Elk to help them celebrate their 15th anniversary. The place was packed, as it usually is on Saturday nights, but I was there with one of the Spokast Podcast hosts and we were able to get a table pretty quickly. He tried the Imperial Stout Flight to drink while I had myself a margarita that was okay and an Italian Sidecar which was better. We also shared a plate of BBQ quesadillas and a hummus platter. Everything was very tasty.

Before anyone asks, yes I did got to Borracho last week. I had myself a taco salad that wasborracholunch more meat than lettuce and another couple of tequila shots. I’ve been working my way through the Silvers and Blancos on the list and am a little concerned about the time when I run out of them to drink. Turns out I really like the Silvers and Blancos. They are … mellow, I guess you could say. I like that in a tequila.

My tequila frenemy is about seven shots ahead of me at this point, which drives my competitive side crazy. BUT we have agreed to do our last shot together when the time comes (as it is $40 and we are saving that kind of expense for last) so it really doesn’t matter if she completes the rest of the list first. Of course that voice inside me that wants to WIN is having trouble accepting that.

In case you missed it (not like we’ve mentioned it a thousand times on Twitter, Facebook, MyFoxSpokane.com and on air), Sunday was the premiere of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by rockstar astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. My team here at the station set up viewing parties for each episode at Mobius Science Center and our first one happened Sunday night. The very interesting and entertaining Professor Kevin Decker did a talk for the first hour, about philosophy and Carl Sagan and science and stuff. It was cool. I might have even learned something.

Then we watched the show and that was pretty cool too. Not just because Cosmos is a great show so far and Neil deGrasse Tyson does a good job filling the late, great, Carl Sagan’s shoes as host, but also because it was a bunch of us in a room together, sharing our love of science and nature and the universe. We laughed and cheered and got teary-eyed at the end and it made the experience extra special that we got to do it as a group. I can’t wait until next Sunday when we get to do it all again.

cosmosmeetupAfter the show I went to The Satellite with a friend for a bite to eat. It was late and probably not the best time to chow down on a heavy meal, but I was hungry and it sounded like a great idea at the time. I tried the Joe’s Breakfast Burrito, which was full of eggs and spinach and parmesan cheese and ground beef and red onions. So good and so filling. There may have been cinnamon raisin toast and hash browns along with it. I’m not entirely sure as I was in a food coma by the time I was done.

My week pretty much ended with that food coma. I’ll be back next week to talk about free trips to the museum, more tequila (of course), and more Cosmos (ditto). To pass the time until I return why don’t you head out and have some adventures of your own? If you’re lucky you just might see me bouncing around town while you’re out there!

– Mia V

This week’s Adventures in Spokane brought to you by:
Comics Dungeon
Panera Bread
The Elk Public House
Borracho Tacos & Tequileria
Mobius Science Center
Satellite Diner & Lounge

*Want to attend a Cosmos viewing party at Mobius Science Center? Be sure to sign-up online at the Fox28 Events page! Seating is limited so book your place early!

COSMOS Reading List – Premiere Episode!

Did Sunday’s premiere episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey spark your interest in science, space, Carl Sagan, or Neil deGrasse Tyson? Did you attend our viewing party at Mobius Science Center and are now curious about Dr. Kevin Decker and his series on philosophy and pop culture?


Here is a list of books to get you started (those that can be found at bookstores in Spokane have a note next to them to let you know; also this is not a full list of all books by these authors, just a few to mention today):

Cosmos by Carl Sagan (Auntie’s Bookstore, 2nd Look Books)
“Cosmos retraces the fourteen billion years of cosmic evolution that have transformed matter into consciousness, exploring such topics as the origin of life, the human brain, Egyptian hieroglyphics, spacecraft missions, the death of the Sun, the evolution of galaxies, and the forces and individuals who helped to shape modern science.” (amazon.com)

The Sky is Not the Limit by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“This is the absorbing story of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lifelong fascination with the night sky, a restless wonder that began some thirty years ago on the roof of his Bronx apartment building and eventually led him to become the director of the Hayden Planetarium. A unique chronicle of a young man who at one time was both nerd and jock, Tyson’s memoir could well inspire other similarly curious youngsters to pursue their dreams.” (amazon.com)

Who is Who? The Philosophy of Doctor Who by Kevin S. Decker (Auntie’s Bookstore)
“When you have been wandering the cosmos from one end of eternity to another for nearly a thousand years, what’s your philosophy of life, the universe, and everything?
Doctor Who is 50 years’ old in 2013. Through its long life on television and beyond it has inspired much debate due to the richness and complexity of the metaphysical and moral issues that it poses. This is the first in-depth philosophical investigation of Doctor Who in popular culture. From 1963’s An Unearthly Child through the latest series, it considers continuity and change in the pictures that the program paints of the nature of truth and knowledge, science and religion, space and time, good and evil, including the uncanny, the problem of evil, the Doctor’s complex ethical motivations, questions of persisting personal identity in the Time Lord processes of regeneration, the nature of time travel through ‘wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey stuff, how quantum theory affects our understanding of time; and the nature of the mysterious and irrational in the Doctor’s universe.” (amazon.com)

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