Is it July already? Damn. Two months of shit weather, so I've been hitting the books.
Chasing Hubble's Shadows by Jeff Kanipe: Just finished this one last night, a good update on where we presently stand in our quest to look back in time to the beginning of it all. Good overview of accelerated universal expansion, dark matter and dark energy, cosmic microwave background observations, reionization, and several other matters which are not covered in books even a few years older. Not a heavy read, but it requires one to pay attention. Since my attention is perpetually challenged, I will probably re-read it sometime in the near future.
Archives of the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak: Compiles in a single volume the actual scientific writings of all of the greats. It's not just another book about my heroes; it is a collection of their actual published works, mostly excerpted. As the author says at the opening of her Preface, "Often missing from astronomy textbooks are the voices of the scientists themselves... This book was compiled and written to reacquaint us with these words of discovery. Within these pages are excerpts from the seminal reports that first introduced both scientists and the public to a wondrous variety of celestial phenomena and in the process moved our understanding of the cosmos forward." Starting with the Venus Tables with which the Mayans first recorded their observations of the second planet (ca. 200AD) and ending with discovery at the end of the 20th Century that the universe's rate of expansion is accelerating, I am hard pressed to find any major advance in astronomy and physics that has been left out. Each chapter begins with Bartusiak's own notes on the topic covered, followed by the original work of the principal discoverer; her narrative style, which I'm familiar with from other books she's written, is excellent; this book can be read cover-to-cover, although I will most likely use it more as a reference.
Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku: Another book on superstring theory, branes, extra dimensions, time travel, and all sorts of cool shit that sounds perfectly good in theory but cannot be tested, therefore must be filed under "philosophy" rather than "science", at least until we develop the instruments capable of doing the experiments that produce real, falsifiable data. Interesting read nonetheless.
On another note, shuttle mission STS-121 is scheduled for launch this afternoon after two previous launch attempts were scrubbed on Saturday and Sunday. The Shuttle is suuposed to dock with the ISS, which coincidently is scheduled to pass nearly straight overhead tonight, moving from NW to SE, passing the handle of the Ursa Major and rising to about 10° of zenith at around 9:38pm. It will be cloudy, I am sure; why should my luck change now? Anyway, I am pleased to note that HDNet has been covering the launch countdowns in high definition and 5.1 surround.