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Science and Astronomy 3 February 2016

Astronomy (and physics, to a slightly lesser extent) has been an interest of mine since I was 10 years old. I am a member of the South Peninsula Astronomy Club (SPARC), which was founded in November 2004 by Wolfgang Lange. The club meets once a month in Fish Hoek (a suburb of Cape Town in South Africa) ; contact me if you'd like to join the club or attend one of our meetings.

I've given talks on the following subjects at the South Peninsula Astronomy Club:
 
  The Life Cycle of Stars28 April 2005
  Lesser Objects of the Solar System27 October 2005
  Relativity Demystified24 May 2006
  The Astronomical Magnitude Scale28 February 2007
  Black Holes26 April 2007
  The Big Bang31 January 2008
  Classifications of Stars30 April 2009
  Uranus, Ultraviolet and the Uncertainty Principle 24 February 2011
  Space Exploration 1958-201129 September 2011
  Is there Gravity in Space?3 May 2012
  So exactly how many planets are there?7 June 2012
  Escape Velocity - a myth dispelled3 October 2012
  Stars for Beginners2 May 2013
  The Quantum Universe7 November 2013
  The Higgs Boson and the particle zoo5 March 2015
  Gravitational Waves7 July 2016

Want to find out more?

The New Horizons space probe has gone past Pluto.
Messenger successfully went into orbit round Mercury in March 2011.
NASA's Spirit rover landed on Mars in 2004.
Follow the Cassini spacecraft as it orbits Saturn.
See the results of the Galileo mission to Jupiter.
There are various lunar spacecraft operating.
What's the latest on the 2001 Mars Odyssey?
Future missions to Mars are being planned.
Old faithfuls Pioneer and Voyager just keep on going.
What future space missions are being planned?
Want to know about Planets outside our Solar System (exo-planets)?

Other links :
 - The Nine (Eight) Planets (a superb site)
 - NASA
 - NASA's Space Science site
 - NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
 - Space.com
 - Space Daily
 - Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy site
 - Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers site
 - National Science Foundation (in the USA)
 - World Year of Physics 2005
 - SA Astronomical Observatory (Sutherland)
 - Astronomy Online (a private site)
 - Science Daily

Astronomy Magazines :
 - Astronomy Magazine (from USA)
 - Astronomy Now Magazine (from UK)
 - Sky & Telescope
 - Sky at Night (a BBC publication)
 - Popular Astronomy (published by the Society for Popular Astronomy)

Science Magazines :
 - Scientific American
 - New Scientist
 - Popular Science
 - Discover Magazine

Still interested? Try any of the following books on astronomy and physics ; those marked with * are highly recommended:

Title  Author  Remarks
* Big Bang  Simon Singh  An absolutely superb account of how the Big Bang theory of the universe's creation came to be generally accepted. Quite possibly the best general science book I've ever read.
* The Fabric of the Cosmos  Brian Greene  An excellent general explanation of the current state of the various theories in physics, from relativity to quantum mechanics to string theory. The main pages of the book are oriented to the layman, but much more detailed and mathematical explanations of many tricky concepts are included in an appendix.
Black Holes and Baby Universes  Kip Thorne  Everything you ever wanted to know about black holes and how Einstein's theory of general relativity affects them.
Warped Passages  Lisa Randall  Insightful explanations of some of the weird concepts of quantum physics, as well as an introduction to esoteric ideas such as Brane Theory. Parts of this book can be difficult to read.
The Trouble with Physics  Lee Smolin  A layman's overview of some the issues plaguing modern-day theoretical physics, principally concerning String Theory (which is still unproven and seemingly unprovable).
The Universe and Life  G. Siegfried Kutter  A detailed but readable explanation of cosmic evolution.
A Brief History of Time  Stephen Hawking  A classic book, written by the most well-known scientist of our era, but unfortunately quite hard to read.
* Quantum  Manjit Kumar  An account of the great debate between Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, which started in the 1920's and is still raging today.
The 4% Universe  Richard Panek  Insightful explanations of the two biggest problems facing astronomers today - Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which collectively comprise 96% of the known universe.
The Rough Guide to the Universe  John Scalzi  Part of the excellent "Rough Guides" series, this is an outstanding introduction to everything in the known universe. Very good for beginners or if you want to look up something that you can't quite remember. Well structured and laid-out with plenty of photographs, illustrations and diagrams.
The Universe - A Biography  John Gribbin  A good, very up-to-date summary of everything we know about the universe. The book describes how the universe began, what the early universe looked like, how its structure (stars, galaxies, etc) developed, what emerged to hold it all together and how life as we know it emerged.
* In Search of Schrödinger's Cat  John Gribbin  An excellent layman's explanation of quantum physics.
A Short History of Nearly Everything  Bill Bryson  Not strictly-speaking a serious science book, but I've included it because Bryson is an outstanding writer and manages to explain complex issues simply, clearly and with his characteristic sense of humour.

© Paul Kilfoil, P O Box 1091, Sun Valley, 7985, South Africa (PKilfoil@Hotmail.com)