Science Shelf Blog, Year End 2017

My standard opening disclaimer: Due to the shrinking freelance book review market, my opportunities to publish full-length reviews of science titles in major metropolitan newspapers are now few and far between. Because I do not want to leave that territory completely, I have decided to develop a blog that publishes short reviews of science books … Read more

Opinion: Hostile Alien Invaders Are Unlikely

Sorry Stephen Hawking, I agree with Jill Tarter. Hostile alien invaders are unlikely–at least not the kind envisioned in SciFi movies. I received the news release reproduced below and it reminded me of a book manuscript that I now have under consideration at a major publisher of books for young readers. That manuscript looks ahead … Read more

Pioneer Anomaly is no longer anomalous

Thanks to funding from the Planetary Society, of which I am a proud member, the “Pioneer Anomaly” has been definitively resolved. Physics has prevailed over speculation. Over the past 20 years, some people, including a few scientists, have looked at oddities in the trajectories of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft and proposed that our … Read more

James Webb Space Telescope on Chopping Block

URGENT from Heidi Hammel: “The House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee has proposed termination of the James Webb Space Telescope. Now is the time to contact your representatives in Washington, as well as members of the Appropriations Subcommittees, if you support JWST.”

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Review of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs and the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth

Review of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs and the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth
by Marc Kaufman

Simon & Schuster, $26.00, 224 pages, April 2011

Reviewed by Dr. Fred Bortz

Read moreReview of First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs and the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth

Track Kepler’s Candidate Exoplanets with a new app

I’m not an app person, but when I got an e-mail from Hanno Rein of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University suggesting that I look at a new iPhone/iPad app called “Kepler” to track the ever-increasing list of candidate exoplanets from the Kepler satellite, I decided to check it out.

Read moreTrack Kepler’s Candidate Exoplanets with a new app

Searching for Martian DNA

I recently began giving a school visit talk called “The Truth About Space Aliens: What We Know and What We Don’t Know About Life on Other Worlds based on Astrobiology book covermy “Cool Science” book, Astrobiology.

This news release will certainly give me more to talk about. We will soon have instruments looking for Martian RNA or DNA, say scientists from MIT and Harvard. If we find it, we will be able to compare it to similar genetic material from Earth.

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Jim Elliot, discoverer of rings of Uranus, 1943-2011

One of the themes in my writing for young readers has been that a scientist’s achievements flow from the richness of his or her life, that s/he is more than his/her discoveries. So I share this obituary of Jim Elliot, who was planetary astronomer Heidi Hammel’s mentor. I never met him, but his kindness was apparent through e-mails exchanged during and after my writing of Heidi’s biography in the Women’s Adventures in Science series.

Read moreJim Elliot, discoverer of rings of Uranus, 1943-2011