Tag: space

Harry Potter and Dumbledore in the Astronomy Tower

The Possibilities of Wizarding Space Exploration

Muggles may very well have beaten wizards to the Moon, and beyond. Space is one of the only acknowledged limitations of magic in the Harry Potter books. The Department of Mysteries in the Ministry of Magic has an entire room devoted to space.


The Space Chamber hosts floating replicas of the planets and minor planets in our solar system. To what end is, of course, a mystery. Their efforts don’t appear to be a space program, as none of the books reference any sort of wizarding expedition beyond planet Earth, aside from a Quibbler article of dubious authenticity.


Via Giphy

Via Giphy


J.K. Rowling herself has stated that the distance one can apparate is based upon the wizard’s individual skill and the distance of the jump. The longer the apparation and the more inexperienced the wizard, the likelier that death or grievous bodily harm will result. Enchanted broomsticks have similar range issues. A transatlantic flight was seen as a momentous accomplishment back in the 1930s. The geniuses over at Stack Exchange examined the situation in detail and came to the conclusion that neither apparation nor broom-flight could safely convey a wizard to the Moon.


Even for wizards there are less conventional methods of transportation, as the responses to this Reddit post explore. A port key launched on a probe bound for a celestial body is one such solution. Another feasible application of magical aerodynamics is a combination of levitation spells and vanishing cabinets. An earnest redditor brings up fireplace based teleportation through floo powder, but the primary dilemma facing that approach is the lack of fireplaces outside Earth. Or atmospheres for combustion.


You’re not a rocket scientist, Harry.



Story Time from Space

You Can Now Let an Astronaut Read to Your Children!

Earlier today I found out about Story Time from Space, a project coming from nonprofit Global Space Education Foundation, which features astronauts reading children’s books from the International Space Station, which is definitely something I would’ve been waaaay too into as a kid.


Patricia Tribe, former director of education at Space Center Houston, told HuffPost 


What better role models to engage kids in science and to engage them in reading? You’re not only looking and listening to the books, you’re looking around the International Space Station.


Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr 


Story Time from Space started with astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr. reading Max Goes to the Moon by Jeffrey Bennett. He read the tale on the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery. Since the project’s launch, other stories have been told from space, including Next Time You See a Sunset by Emily Morgan and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The footage is available on the Story Time from Space site and YouTube.


The team behind Story Time from Space includes astronauts, scientists, and educators of all types, and the team follows strict guidelines when it comes to choosing the books they’ll read. Beyond being “neat”, they must be readable in about 15 minutes, relate to the STEM field, and be scientifically accurate.


“We don’t want to perpetuate any misinformation,” Tribe said. 


I’m so excited to see this project continue, because my two favorite loves are books and space. 


Featured Image Via HuffPost. 

SpaceX dummy

Thanks to Elon Musk, These Books Have Become Astronauts Before You

Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy has successfully launched into space and is headed for Mars orbit. Aboard the massive rocket is Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster, a test-dummy called “Starman,” a bunch of David Bowie music, the words “Don’t Panic” (in reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) displayed on the Tesla’s panel, and a storage device containing sci-fi classics.


Besides The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference propelling through space, a device that SpaceX calls “5D quartz laser storage device…a high tech, high data storage unit that can survive the harsh environment of space” is also on the payload. This device contains Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.



Image Via Amazon


The Foundation trilogy is basically about the idea that humans have cracked the code and can predict and plan for the future. It’s kind of a nice idea that Musk stored copies of the novels aboard the first Falcon Heavy launch. It’s, you know, symbolic or whatever. People should have reason to be hopeful if Musk’s optimistic enough to be sending something like the Foundation series up into space.


Musk is a known bookworm, constantly recommending books, and apparently a Potterhead. SpaceX’s successful launch of the Falcon Heavy means we can soon send up massive payloads (up to 64 tonnes) at a relatively low price. But the most valuable part of the payload that was sent up on its premiere voyage was, of course, literature.


Feature Image Via Business Insider

Grafitti of Einstein

Science Books From 2017 That Will Make You Smarter

You and I, book lover, we might not know everything. We might not understand how gravity behaves in black holes or the genesis of stars or how electricity works. We might not know any of these things.


What we do know, though, is how to read. And books are being written by people who know things. Scientific things! We can then read those books and learn some of the things that those people know. This, in the scientific community, is known as a eureka moment. So here are seven books from just the past year that shine a light on the darkest corners of my mind.


1. Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean


Caesar's Last Breath cover

Image Via Hachette Book Group


It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell. In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world.


On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you’re probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra’s perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe’s creation.


Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we’ll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar’s Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.


Official synopsis courtesy of Hachette Book Group


2. Beyond Infinity: An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng


Beyond Infinity

Image Via Hachette Book Group


How big is the universe? How many numbers are there? And is infinity + 1 is the same as 1 + infinity? Such questions occur to young children and our greatest minds. And they are all the same question: What is infinity? In Beyond Infinity, Eugenia Cheng takes us on a staggering journey from elemental math to its loftiest abstractions. Along the way, she considers how to use a chessboard to plan a worldwide dinner party, how to make a chicken-sandwich sandwich, and how to create infinite cookies from a finite ball of dough. Beyond Infinity shows how one little symbol holds the biggest idea of all.


Official synopsis courtesy of Hachette Book Group


3. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy


Code Girls cover

Image Via Hachette Book Group


Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.


Official synopsis courtesy of Hachette Book Group


4. Gravity’s Kiss by Harry Collins


Gravitys kiss cover

Image Via the MIT Press


Scientists have been trying to confirm the existence of gravitational waves for fifty years. Then, in September 2015, came a “very interesting event” (as the cautious subject line in a physicist’s email read) that proved to be the first detection of gravitational waves. In Gravity’s Kiss, Harry Collins—who has been watching the science of gravitational wave detection for forty-three of those fifty years and has written three previous books about it—offers a final, fascinating account, written in real time, of the unfolding of one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever made.


Official synopsis courtesy of the MIT Press


5. Endangered by Tim Flach


Endangered cover

Image Via Abrams


In Endangered, the result of an extraordinary multiyear project to document the lives of threatened species, acclaimed photographer Tim Flach explores one of the most pressing issues of our time. Traveling around the world—to settings ranging from forest to savannah to the polar seas to the great coral reefs—Flach has constructed a powerful visual record of remarkable animals and ecosystems facing harsh challenges. Among them are primates coping with habitat loss, big cats in a losing battle with human settlements, elephants hunted for their ivory, and numer­ous bird species taken as pets. With eminent zoologist Jonathan Baillie providing insightful commentary on this ambitious project, Endangered unfolds as a series of vivid, interconnected stories that pose gripping moral dilemmas, unforgettably expressed by more than 180 of Flach’s incred­ible images.


Official synopsis courtesy of Abrams


6. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson


Astrophysics cover

Image Via W. W. Norton


What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.


But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.


While you wait for your morning coffee to brew, for the bus, the train, or a plane to arrive, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry will reveal just what you need to be fluent and ready for the next cosmic headlines: from the Big Bang to black holes, from quarks to quantum mechanics, and from the search for planets to the search for life in the universe.


Official synopsis courtesy of W. W. Norton


7. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford


Brief History cover

Image Via the Experiment


In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species—births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex.


But those stories have always been locked away—until now.


Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story—from 100,000 years ago to the present.


A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived will upend your thinking on Neanderthals, evolution, royalty, race, and even redheads. (For example, we now know that at least four human species once roamed the earth.) Plus, here is the remarkable, controversial story of how our genes made their way to the Americas—one that’s still being written, as ever more of us have our DNA sequenced.


Official synopsis courtesy of the Experiment


Feature Image by Sidney Perry Via Unsplash

Pretty space pic

Astronaut Scott Kelly Tells All About His Year in Space

Most of us would have to agree with Charlotte Kelly when she referred to her dad Scott Kelly as “out of this world” while speaking to Time. Astronaut Scott Kelly has set a record for the most consecutive days in space, 340 to be exact.



Image Via Amazon


You may or may not have heard of NASA’s ongoing twins studies. Scott Kelly and his brother Mark are twins and Jersey boys who both fell in love with space travel. The intention behind NASA’s twin study is to monitor the effects of long-term space travel on the human body by comparing the twins after the duration. One twin stays in orbit while the other stays here on Earth. Kelly has written a memoir called Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. The book chronicles not just his time in space but how space travel has affected his life on Earth.


Endurance promises to be a less technical read than The Martian was. Although the work in space was technically demanding, while speaking to NPR, Kelly described his daily duties like chores you’d do at home. In space, though, your day-to-day may range from fixing a toilet to doing a scientific experiment. Many men say a business suit is uncomfortable. Try a space suit. Space suits are complicated and hard to work in. He did, however, manage to keep his Twitter game going strong (@stationCDRKelly) with the help of his fiancée.


While Kelly admits that writing a book is harder than he thought, the consequences of a poorly written sentence aren’t nearly as serious as a mistake in orbit. Kelly has been an adrenaline junkie since childhood. As a result, he and his brother were always getting hurt. Professionally, he went from test pilot to Navy captain and even worked as an EMT.


Just a Regular Day In Space

Image Via NASA


It’s ironic that such a big personality was ultimately inspired by a book. Fellow astronaut Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff helped inspire Kelly to pursue the art of astronaut-ing. But what’s Kelly’s key to getting through life in space? Learning to focus and compartmentalize. According to Kelly, a person must realize and accept the things they have no control over. That’s some solid advice, even for those of us remaining safe and sound here on the ground.


Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery is available now here!


Feature Image Via NASA