World Space Week Round-Up #WSW2013

All this week for World Space Week, we’ve been posting excerpts from Chris Impey and Holly Henry’s new book, Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration, and while that’s an amazing book, we decided that in order to give World Space Week all of the cosmic attention it deserves, we would put together an interstellar round-up to fire up your engines and blast you to infinity… and beyond!

Beyond UFOs
Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future

By: Jeffrey Bennett

This book describes the startling discoveries being made in the very real science of astrobiology, an intriguing new field that blends astronomy, biology, and geology to explore the possibility of life on other planets. This book goes beyond UFOs to discuss some of the tantalizing questions astrobiologists grapple with every day: What is life and how does it begin? What makes a planet or moon habitable? Is there life on Mars or elsewhere in the solar system? How can life be recognized on distant worlds? Is it likely to be microbial, more biologically complex–or even intelligent? What would such a discovery mean for life here on Earth?

Titan Unveiled
Titan Unveiled: Saturn’s Mysterious Moon Explored

By: Ralph Lorenz and Jacqueline Mitton

In the early 1980s, when the two Voyager spacecraft skimmed past Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, they transmitted back enticing images of a mysterious world concealed in a seemingly impenetrable orange haze. Titan Unveiled is one of the first general interest books to reveal the startling new discoveries that have been made since the arrival of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan.

From Dust To Life
From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System

By: John Chambers & Jacqueline Mitton

The birth and evolution of our solar system is a tantalizing mystery that may one day provide answers to the question of human origins. This book tells the remarkable story of how the celestial objects that make up the solar system arose from common beginnings billions of years ago, and how scientists and philosophers have sought to unravel this mystery down through the centuries, piecing together the clues that enabled them to deduce the solar system’s layout, its age, and the most likely way it formed.

Fly Me to the Moon
Fly Me to the Moon: An Insider’s Guide to the New Science of Space Travel

By: Edward Belbruno
With a foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Belbruno devised one of the most exciting concepts now being used in space flight, that of swinging through the cosmos on the subtle fluctuations of the planets’ gravitational pulls. His idea was met with skepticism until 1991, when he used it to get a stray Japanese satellite back on course to the Moon. The successful rescue represented the first application of chaos to space travel and ushered in an emerging new field. Part memoir, part scientific adventure story, Fly Me to the Moon gives a gripping insider’s account of that mission and of Belbruno’s personal struggles with the science establishment.

The Milky Way
The Milky Way: An Insider’s Guide

By: William H. Waller

This book offers an intimate guide to the Milky Way, taking readers on a grand tour of our home Galaxy’s structure, genesis, and evolution, based on the latest astronomical findings. In engaging language, it tells how the Milky Way congealed from blobs of gas and dark matter into a spinning starry abode brimming with diverse planetary systems–some of which may be hosting myriad life forms and perhaps even other technologically communicative species. It vividly describes the Milky Way as it appears in the night sky, acquainting readers with its key components and telling the history of our changing galactic perceptions.

Universe
The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It

By: Robert Zimmerman
With a new afterword by the author

The Hubble Space Telescope has produced the most stunning images of the cosmos humanity has ever seen. It has transformed our understanding of the universe around us, revealing new information about its age and evolution, the life cycle of stars, and the very existence of black holes, among other startling discoveries. But it took an amazing amount of work and perseverance to get the first space telescope up and running. The Universe in a Mirror tells the story of this telescope and the visionaries responsible for its extraordinary accomplishments.

Think you know all about missions in space? Take our quiz and find out!
Proud of your score? Tweet it! #WSW2013

William H. Waller Brings the Stars to The Huffington Post

William H. WallerWilliam H. Waller, astronomist and author of The Milky Way: An Insider’s Guide, recently wrote an article that was picked up by The Huffington Post for their blog. Based on this bio page that was also posted for Waller on HuffPost, we’re hoping this means he will be writing regularly about science and the stars, especially with some of the amazing pictures included in the article.


The post, which focuses on our ability to visibly see the Milky Way with all of the light pollution in the air, starts by saying:

The Milky Way“For most of human history, the night sky demanded our attention. The shape-shifting Moon, wandering planets, pointillist stars, and occasional comet enchanted our sensibilities while inspiring diverse tales of origin. The Milky Way, in particular, exerted a powerful presence on our distant ancestors. Rippling across the firmament, this irregular band of ghostly light evoked myriad myths of life and death among the stars. In 1609, Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope heavenward and discovered that the Milky Way is “nothing but a congeries of innumerable stars grouped together in clusters.” Fast forward 400 years to the present day, and we find that the Milky Way has all but disappeared from our collective consciousness. Where did it go?”

To read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post, click here.


This book offers an intimate guide to the Milky Way, taking readers on a grand tour of our home Galaxy’s structure, genesis, and evolution, based on the latest astronomical findings. In engaging language, it tells how the Milky Way congealed from blobs of gas and dark matter into a spinning starry abode brimming with diverse planetary systems–some of which may be hosting myriad life forms and perhaps even other technologically communicative species.

Waller makes the case that our very existence is inextricably linked to the Galaxy that spawned us. Through this book, readers can become well-informed galactic “insiders”–ready to imagine humanity’s next steps as fully engaged citizens of the Milky Way.

William H. Waller is an astronomer, science educator, and writer. He lives with his family in Rockport, Massachusetts, where he can still see the Milky Way on dark moonless nights.

Q&A with Douglas Stone, Author of “Einstein and the Quantum”

Einstein and the QuantumA. Douglas Stone is the Carl A. Morse Professor of Applied Physics and Physics at Yale University. His book, Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian, reveals for the first time the full significance of Albert Einstein’s contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light–the core of what we now know as quantum theory–than he did about relativity.

In a recent interview, A. Douglas Stone talked about Einstein’s contributions to the scientific community, quantum theory, and his new book, Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian.



Why does quantum theory matter?
At the beginning of the 20th century science was facing a fundamental roadblock: scientists did not understand the laws governing the atoms and molecules of which all materials are made, but which are unobservable due to their size.

At that time there was a real question whether the human mind was capable of understanding this microscopic realm, outside of all our direct experience of the world.  The development and success of quantum theory was a turning point for modern civilization, enabling most of the scientific advances and revolutionary technologies of the century that followed.

What are some of the ways that quantum theory has changed our lives?
There is a common misconception that quantum mechanics is mainly about very weird phenomena, remote from everyday life, such as Schrodinger’s cat, exotic sub-atomic particles, black holes, or the Big Bang.  Actually it is a precise quantitative tool to understand the materials, chemical reactions and devices we employ in modern industries, such as semiconductors, solar cells, and lasers.  An early success of the quantum theory was to help predict how to extract ammonia from the air, which could then be used as fertilizer for the green revolution that revolutionized 20th century agriculture. And of course our ability to develop both nuclear weapons and nuclear power was completely dependent upon quantum theory.

Why is Einstein’s role in quantum theory important and interesting?
It is important because a careful examination of the historical record shows that Einstein was responsible for more of the fundamental new concepts of the theory than any other single scientist.  This is arguably his greatest scientific legacy, despite his fame for Relativity Theory.  He himself said, “I have thought a hundred times more about the quantum problems than I have about Relativity Theory”. It is interesting because he ultimately refused to accept quantum theory as the ultimate truth about Nature, because it violated his core philosophical principles.

So you are saying that Einstein is famous for the wrong theory?
In a certain sense, yes.  All physicists agree that the theory of relativity, particularly general relativity, is a work of staggering individual genius.  But in terms of impact on human society and history, quantum mechanics is simply much more important.  In fact, relativity theory is incorporated into important parts of modern quantum mechanics, but in many contexts it is irrelevant.

In what ways was Einstein central to the development of the theory?
I estimate that his contributions to quantum theory would have been worthy of four Nobel Prizes if different scientists had done them, compared to the one that he received. I go through each of these contributions in its historical and biographical context in the book.

Can you give a few examples?
Quantum theory gets its name because it says that certain physical quantities, including the energies of electrons bound to atomic nuclei are quantized, meaning that only certain energies are allowed, whereas in macroscopic physics energy is a continuously varying quantity.  Typically the German physicist, Max Planck, is credited with the insight that energy must be quantized at the molecular scale, but the detailed history shows Einstein role in this conceptual breakthrough was greater.
Another key thing in quantum theory is that fundamental particles, while they move in space, sometimes behave as if they were spread out, like a wave in water, but in other contexts they appear as particles, i.e. very localized point-like objects.  Einstein introduced this “wave-particle duality” first, in 1905 (his “miracle year”), when he proposed that light, long thought to be an electromagnetic wave, also could behave like a particle, now known as the photon.
Yet another, very unusual concept in quantum theory is that fundamental particles, such as photons, are “indistinguishable” in a technical sense.  When many photons are bunched together it makes no sense to ask which is which.  This changes their physical properties in a very important way, and this insight is often attributed to the Indian physicist, S. N. Bose (hence the term “boson”).  In my view Einstein played a larger role in this advance than did Bose, although he always very generously gave Bose a great deal of credit.
The stories of these and other findings are fully told in the book and they illustrate new aspects of Einstein’s genius, unknown to the public and even to many working scientists.

What did Einstein object to about quantum theory?
Initially he reacted strongly against the intrinsic randomness and uncertainty of quantum mechanics, saying “God does not play dice”.  But after that his main objection was that quantum theory seems to break down the distinction between the subjective world of human experience and the objective description of physical reality that he considered the goal of physics, and his central mission in life. Many physicists struggle with this issue even today.

Why is Einstein’s role in quantum theory underappreciated?
Einstein ultimately rejected the theory and moved on to other areas of research, so he never emphasized the extent of his contributions.  His own autobiographical notes, written in his seventies, understate his role to an almost laughable degree. Second, Einstein’s version of quantum theory, wave mechanics, did not create a school of followers, whereas Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others reached the same point be a different route. Their school fostered the primary research thrust in atomic and nuclear physics, gradually causing the memory of Einstein’s role to fade.  Finally, the history of Einstein’s involvement with quantum theory was long (1905-1925) and complex, and few people really understand it all; I try to remedy that in this book.

Did Einstein do anything important in quantum physics after the basic theory was known?
No and yes.  He did not work in the main stream of elementary particle physics which developed shortly after the basic theory was discovered in the late nineteen twenties, since he refused to employ the standard mathematical machinery of quantum theory which everyone else used.  However, in the early 1930’s he identified a conceptual feature of quantum theory missed by all the other pioneers, which became known by the term “entanglement”. This concept, ironically, is critical to the most revolutionary area of modern quantum physics, quantum information theory and quantum computing.

What does the subtitle of the book refer to? Who is the “Valiant Swabian”?
The Valiant Swabian was a fictional crusader knight, the hero of a poem by Ludwig Uhland, a poet from Swabia where Einstein was born. In his twenties, Einstein used to refer to himself jokingly by this name, particularly with his first wife, Mileva Maric.  It was a similar to someone today calling himself “Indiana Jones” for fun.  The young Einstein was a charismatic and memorable personality, with great joie de vivre, as this nickname indicates.  He was known for his sense of humor, his rebelliousness, and for his attractiveness to women, in contrast to the benevolent, grandfatherly, star-gazer we associate with iconic pictures of the white-maned sage of later years.

How did you research this book? What materials did you have access to?
There is a very extensive trove of letters and private papers that survive in Einstein’s estate, all of which have been translated and published for the period 1886 to 1922.  From reading all of these I got a good sense of his personality.  And all of his important scientific papers in the relevant time period are available in English now, so I was able to go back and see exactly how he arrived at his revolutionary ideas about quantum theory, which I then did my best to interpret in layman’s terms. In addition I relied on several excellent biographies by Folsing, Isaacson and Pais, and historical articles by many leading historians of science, such as T.S. Kuhn and Martin Klein.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Einstein and the Quantum?
First, new insight into Einstein’s genius, and a sense of the personality of the young Einstein, before his fame. Second, appreciation of the historic significance of the successful attempt to understand the atom through quantum theory, a turning point in human civilization. Third, an understanding of how science advances as a creative, human process, with both brilliant insights and embarrassing blunders, affected by psychological and philosophical influences.

String Theory On a Whole New Level

When Steven S. Gubser wrote The Little Book of String Theory, he probably never imagined anything like what this guy came up with: a cover of Queen’s infamous “Bohemian Rhapsody” that explains the complicated mysteries of string theory.

Perhaps I should repeat that.

Timothy Blais, a graduate student at McGill University, submitted a YouTube video along with his thesis paper. This video was a homemade cover of Bohemian Rhapsody with altered lyrics to talk about string theory, a highly debated theory in theoretical physics.

With lyrics like:

“Is string theory right?
Is it just fantasy?
Caught in the landscape,
Out of touch with reality
Compactified
On S5 or T*S3″

The Little Book of String TheoryBlais’ song might be a bit of a struggle to fully understand, which is why we’re suggesting you might want to read The Little Book of String Theory, which offers a short, accessible, and entertaining introduction to one of the most talked-about areas of physics today. String theory has been called the “theory of everything.” It seeks to describe all the fundamental forces of nature. It encompasses gravity and quantum mechanics in one unifying theory. But it is unproven and fraught with controversy. After reading this book, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions about string theory.

Whether you’re pro string theory, or you’re just trying to tie your shoelaces, check out this incredibly unique take on quantum physics:

Stuart Mitchner on Princeton University Press: “The University Publisher”

Stuart Mitchner has a very nice piece on Princeton University Press in the most recent issue of Princeton Magazine, which includes mention of several recent books and authors. To give you a feel, here is the introductory paragraph:

Princeton University Press celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005 with the publication of A Century in Books, which showcased 100 volumes that “best typify what has been most lasting, most defining, and most distinctive about our publishing,” according to the introduction by outgoing director Walter Lippincott, who was succeeded in March of that year by the current director Peter J. Dougherty. The co- chair of the search committee at the time was University Provost Christopher Eisgruber, the University’s newly installed twentieth president and the subject of this issue’s cover story. What the provost said about the new director eight years ago could be said by the president today, that he’s looking forward to working with Dougherty “to sustain the healthy relationship between the Press and the University.”

To illustrate the depth of the rest of Mitchner’s piece, here is a slideshow of the important books featured in the article:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

To read Mitchner’s full article in Princeton Magazine, click here.

Why You Hear What You Hear

Why You Hear What You Hear by Eric J. Heller Why You Hear What You Hear . . . has much to interest physicists and physics students. . . . This book contains a lot of physical insight, and I think it will be the rare acoustician who does not enjoy reading it. I particularly liked the use of color coding to introduce (with a minimum of math) a graphical algorithm to represent autocorrelation. Also interesting are the author’s diversions into history, including a story in which John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) and William Henry Bragg seem to have been mistaken about an echo transposed in pitch. . . . Acousticians will enjoy its interesting perspectives, and physicists and engineers outside of acoustics will find it an attractive introduction to some important parts of the discipline.”–Joe Wolfe, Physics Today

Why You Hear What You Hear:
An Experiential Approach to Sound, Music, and Psychoacoustics
by Eric J. Heller

Why You Hear What You Hear is the first book on the physics of sound for the nonspecialist to empower readers with a hands-on, ears-open approach that includes production, analysis, and perception of sound. The book makes possible a deep intuitive understanding of many aspects of sound, as opposed to the usual approach of mere description. This goal is aided by hundreds of original illustrations and examples, many of which the reader can reproduce and adjust using the same tools used by the author.

  • The first book on sound to offer interactive tools, building conceptual understanding via an experiential approach
  • Supplementary website (http://www.whyyouhearwhatyouhear.com) will provide Java, MAX, and other free, multiplatform, interactive graphical and sound applets
  • Extensive selection of original exercises available on the web with solutions
  • Nearly 400 full-color illustrations, many of simulations that students can do

Endorsements

Watch Prof. Eric Heller during “Alex Dalgarno Celebratory Symposium”, held at The Institute for Theoretical, Atomic and Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP), Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA), Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Table of Contents

Web resource for the book that provides Java, MAX, and other free, multiplatform, interactive graphical and sound applets

Sample this book:

Preface [PDF]

Request an examination copy.

 

How to Build a Habitable Planet

How to Build a Habitable Planet by Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker “To be worth being this unwieldy, a book ought to do something pretty remarkable. And that’s just what How to Build . . . does, as you can tell from its subtitle, The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind. Now that’s what you call a large canvas.”–Brian Clegg, Popular Science

How to Build a Habitable Planet:
The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind
by Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker

Since its first publication more than twenty-five years ago, How to Build a Habitable Planet has established a legendary reputation as an accessible yet scientifically impeccable introduction to the origin and evolution of Earth, from the Big Bang through the rise of human civilization. This classic account of how our habitable planet was assembled from the stuff of stars introduced readers to planetary, Earth, and climate science by way of a fascinating narrative. Now this great book has been made even better. Harvard geochemist Charles Langmuir has worked closely with the original author, Wally Broecker, one of the world’s leading Earth scientists, to revise and expand the book for a new generation of readers for whom active planetary stewardship is becoming imperative.

Interweaving physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, and biology, this sweeping account tells Earth’s complete story, from the synthesis of chemical elements in stars, to the formation of the Solar System, to the evolution of a habitable climate on Earth, to the origin of life and humankind. The book also addresses the search for other habitable worlds in the Milky Way and contemplates whether Earth will remain habitable as our influence on global climate grows. It concludes by considering the ways in which humankind can sustain Earth’s habitability and perhaps even participate in further planetary evolution.

Like no other book, How to Build a Habitable Planet provides an understanding of Earth in its broadest context, as well as a greater appreciation of its possibly rare ability to sustain life over geologic time.

Endorsements

Watch Wally Broecker deliver a public lecture addressing the global CO2 crisis at Columbia University

Table of Contents

Sample this book:

Preface [PDF]

Chapter 1 [PDF]

Request an examination copy.

 

Happy Birthday, Tesla!! Enter to win a copy of Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age

Celebrate with us by entering our giveaway to win a copy of Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age by W. Bernard Carlson.

“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”

–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”

–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

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TOMORROW: W. Bernard Carlson to be interviewed on The Diane Rehm Show

TheDianeRehmShow.org

W. Bernard Carlson - Corcoran Department of History: University of VirginiaTune into The Diane Rehm Show 11:06 a.m. (ET) for an interview with W. Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age.

Each week, more than 2.4 million listeners across the country tune in to The Diane Rehm Show, which has grown from a small local morning call-in show on Washington’s WAMU 88.5 to one of public broadcasting’s most-listened-to programs. In 2007 and 2008, the show placed among the top ten most powerful public radio programs, based on its ability to draw listeners to public radio stations. It is the only live call-in talk show on the list.

Diane’s guests include many of the nation’s top newsmakers, journalists and authors. Guests include former president Bill Clinton, General Tommy Franks, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Julie Andrews and Toni Morrison. Newsweek magazine calls the program one of the most interesting talk shows in the country. The National Journal says Diane is “the class act of the talk radio world.”

Each hour includes dialogue with listeners who call, e-mail, Tweet or post to Facebook to join Diane’s virtual community and take part in a civil exchange of ideas.

To find a station near you in the U.S. that broadcasts The Diane Rehm Show, click here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/stations

For stations outside of the United States, visit NPR Worldwide: http://www.npr.org/templates/stations/stations/

Look at the W. Bernard Carlson interview information on The Diane Rehm Show website: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-07-10/w-bernard-carlson-tesla-inventor-electric-age

Tesla:
Inventor of the Electrical Age

W. Bernard Carlson

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard CarlsonNikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America’s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

W. Bernard Carlson is professor of science, technology, and society in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of history at the University of Virginia. His books include Technology in World History and Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900.

Review:

“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

“A scholarly, critical, mostly illuminating study of the life and work of the great Serbian inventor.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Carlson even has something to teach readers familiar with Seifer’s dissection of Tesla’s tortured psyche in Wizard (2001) and O’Neill’s much earlier chronicle of Tesla’s childhood and early career in Prodigal Genius (1944). Carlson provides not only a more detailed explanation of Tesla’s science but also a more focused psychological account of Tesla’s inventive process than do his predecessors. Carlson also surpasses his predecessors in showing how Tesla promoted his inventions by creating luminous illusions of progress, prosperity, and peace, illusions so strong that they finally unhinge their creator. An exceptional fusion of technical analysis of revolutionary devices and imaginative sympathy for a lacerated ego.”–Bryce Christensen, Booklist starred review

“This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a monumental inventor whose impact on our contemporary world is all too unfamiliar to the general public. Carlson relates the science behind Tesla’s inventions with a judicial balance that will engage both the novice and the academic alike. Highly recommended to serious biography buffs and to readers of scientific subjects.”–Brian Odom, Library Journal

TUESDAY, June 25 (2pm – 4pm): Book Signing with W. Bernard Carlson at the Warner Bros. Theater

National Museum of American History

Book Signing: W. Bernard Carlson

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 2013, 2 – 4PM

Categories: Lectures & Discussions, Shopping/Book Signing
Co-sponsor: Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
Date: Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM.
Address: 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C., 20001
Venue: American History Museum
Location: Warner Bros. Theater, 1st Floor, Center
Cost: Cost of entry is free. Books are available for sale in the Museum Store.

W. Bernard Carlson discusses his new book Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. He places the legendary inventor within the cultural and technological context of his time and focuses on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through myth making and illusion. This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs. Book signing follows.

View the event on the National Museum of American History’s website: http://americanhistory.si.edu/events/?trumbaEmbed=view%3Devent%26eventid%3D105830002

What Is The Warner Bros. Theater?

Ranging from documentary screenings with expert panel discussions to Classic Film Festivals held in conjunction with Warner Bros., there is something of interest for nearly every visitor. The National Museum of American History is committed to exploring the legacy of American cinema as well as how film culture shapes how we perceive ourselves as Americans. The Warner Bros. Theater has state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, including 3-D capability. Made possible through a generous $5 million donation by Warner Bros., the theater allows the National Museum of American History to provide visitors with new and exciting opportunities to explore the art of film. Since its opening in 2012, the theater has hosted a full roster of public programs, from screenings, lectures, and concerts to demonstrations and film festivals.

Who Is W. Bernard Carlson?

W. Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical AgeW. Bernard Carlson is a Professor at the University of Virginia, with appointments in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (School of Engineering) and the History Department (College of Arts and Sciences). He received his Ph.D in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania and did his postdoctoral work in business history at the Harvard Business School. He has held visiting appointments at Stanford University and the University of Manchester.

Professor Carlson is an expert on the role of technology and innovation in American history, and his research focuses on how inventors, engineers, and managers used technology in the development of major firms between the Civil War and World War I. His publications include Technology in World History, 7 volumes (Oxford University Press, 2005) as well as Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1991; paper reprint 2002). In 2008, Technology in World History was awarded the Sally Hacker Prize by the Society for the History of Technology. With support from the Sloan Foundation, he is currently completing a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla.

He coordinates the Engineering Business Minor at UVA and teaches a course on “Engineers as Entrepreneurs.” He is an expert on the role of innovation in American history, specifically on how inventors, engineers, and managers used technology between 1875 and 1925 to create new systems and enterprises. With support from the Sloan Foundation, he has completed a biography of the inventor Nikola Tesla, which will appear in 2013.

Carlson has served on the board of trustees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and is currently serving as the executive secretary for the Society for the History of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984 and did postdoctoral work in business history at the Harvard Business School.

Biography Credits:
TechnologyInWorldHistory.com and bridges magazine

Fields & Specialties
  • History of Technology; American Business History; Entrepreneurship; Social and Cognitive Theories of Innovation

Education
  • A.B. Holy Cross College 1977
  • M.A. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1981
  • Ph.D. Univ. of Pennsylvania 1984

Awards
  • Scholar in Residence, Deutsches Museum, Munich, May-June 2010.
  • Sally Hacker Prize for Best Popular Book, Society for the History of Technology, 2008.
  • National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Studies Program, grant for “Rethinking Technology, Nature, and Society: A Research and Training Program,” 2004-2007. With John K. Brown and Edmund P. Russell.
  • Sloan Foundation grant for a biography of Nikola Tesla, 1997-2000.
  • Newcomen Fellow in Business and Economic History, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, 1988-1989.

Activities
  • Executive Secretary, Society for the History of Technology, 2009-11.
  • Co-Editor, MIT Press series on “Inside Technology: New Social and Historical Approaches to Technology,” with Wiebe Bijker and Trevor J. Pinch. Since 1987. Fifty books have been published.
  • Trustee, Newcomen Society of the United States, 1990-2009.
  • Trustee, Business History Conference, 1999-2001.

Current Research
  • The [Oxford] Handbook of the History of Technology. Under contract to Oxford University Press. Serving as general editor.

Professional and Education Information Credit:
Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age by W. Bernard CarlsonNikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America’s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla’s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an “idealist” inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla’s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

Review:

“Carlson sheds light on the man and plenty of his inventions. . . . [An] electric portrait.”–Publishers Weekly

“Superb. . . . Carlson brings to life Tesla’s extravagant self-promotion, as well as his eccentricity and innate talents, revealing him as a celebrity-inventor of the ‘second industrial revolution’ to rival Thomas Alva Edison.”–W. Patrick McCray, Nature

“A scholarly, critical, mostly illuminating study of the life and work of the great Serbian inventor.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Carlson even has something to teach readers familiar with Seifer’s dissection of Tesla’s tortured psyche in Wizard (2001) and O’Neill’s much earlier chronicle of Tesla’s childhood and early career in Prodigal Genius (1944). Carlson provides not only a more detailed explanation of Tesla’s science but also a more focused psychological account of Tesla’s inventive process than do his predecessors. Carlson also surpasses his predecessors in showing how Tesla promoted his inventions by creating luminous illusions of progress, prosperity, and peace, illusions so strong that they finally unhinge their creator. An exceptional fusion of technical analysis of revolutionary devices and imaginative sympathy for a lacerated ego.”–Bryce Christensen, Booklist starred review

“This is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a monumental inventor whose impact on our contemporary world is all too unfamiliar to the general public. Carlson relates the science behind Tesla’s inventions with a judicial balance that will engage both the novice and the academic alike. Highly recommended to serious biography buffs and to readers of scientific subjects.”–Brian Odom, Library Journal

“Carlson deftly weaves the many threads of Tesla’s story.”–Nicola Davis, Times

“Splendid.”–Jon Turney, Times Higher Education

 

Two for Tuesday – Political Bubbles and Champagne Bubbles

bubblesFrom financial and political bubbles to bubbles that tickle your senses, we have you covered with two books just published. We invite you to read their Introductions online.

Political Bubbles: Financial Crises and the Failure of American Democracy
by Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole & Howard Rosenthal

Behind every financial crisis lurks a “political bubble”–policy biases that foster market behaviors leading to financial instability. Rather than tilting against risky behavior, political bubbles–arising from a potent combination of beliefs, institutions, and interests–aid, abet, and amplify risk. Demonstrating how political bubbles helped create the real estate-generated financial bubble and the 2008 financial crisis, this book argues that similar government oversights in the aftermath of the crisis undermined Washington’s response to the “popped” financial bubble, and shows how such patterns have occurred repeatedly throughout US history. The first full accounting of how politics produces financial ruptures, Political Bubbles offers timely lessons that all sectors would do well to heed.

Nolan McCarty is the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Politics and Public Affairs and chair of the Department of Politics at Princeton University. Keith T. Poole is the Philip H. Alston Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia. Howard Rosenthal is professor of politics at New York University and the Roger Williams Straus Professor of Social Sciences, Emeritus, at Princeton University.
Introduction online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9934.pdf

Uncorked: The Science of Champagne (Revised Edition)
by Gérard Liger-Belair
With a new foreword by Hervé This

Bubbly may tickle the nose, but Uncorked tackles what the nose and the naked eye cannot–the spectacular science that gives champagne its charm and champagne drinkers immeasurable pleasure. Providing an unprecedented close-up view of the beauty in the bubbles, Gérard Liger-Belair presents images that look surprisingly like lovely flowers, geometric patterns, even galaxies as the bubbles rise through the glass and burst forth on the surface. He illustrates how bubbles form not on the glass itself but are “born” out of debris stuck on the glass wall, how they rise, and how they pop. Offering a colorful history of champagne, Liger-Belair tells us how it is made and he asks if global warming could spell champagne’s demise. In a brand new foreword, renowned chemist Hervé This places the evolution of champagne within the context of molecular gastronomy and the science of cuisine, and in an original afterword, Liger-Belair updates the reader on new developments in the world of bubble science and delves even more deeply into the processes that give champagne its unique and beautiful character.

Gérard Liger-Belair is a physics professor at the University of Reims, located in the Champagne region of France.
Introduction online: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9939.pdf

Why has Nikola Tesla become a countercultural hero?

This video was taped at a recent event at the Johns Hopkins University bookstore. The speaker here is W. Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age.