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What is dark matter? How is the mining of scarce metals affecting the environment? How do we imagine the moon landing, 50 years on? These are just a few of the questions tackled in this year’s Book Club picks. Join the conversation by becoming a member of our Facebook group.
Late March/Early April
In recent years a handful of scientists has been racing to explain a disturbing aspect of our universe: only 4 percent of it consists of the matter that makes up you, me, and every star and planet. The rest is completely unknown. In vivid detail Panek narrates the quest to find the “dark” matter and an even more bizarre substance called dark energy that make up 96 percent of the universe. The book offers an intimate portrait of the bitter rivalries and fruitful collaborations, the eureka moments and blind alleys, that have redefined science and reinvented the universe.
“Discovering Dark Matter”
Saturday Speaker Series
March 9, 2019
Late June (read one or both)
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. One of the world’s greatest technological achievements—and a triumph of American spirit and ingenuity—the Apollo 11 mission was a mammoth undertaking involving more than 410,000 men and women dedicated to winning the space race against the Soviets. Set amid the tensions of the Cold War and the upheavals of the 1960s, and filled with first-person, behind-the-scenes details, Shoot for the Moon is a gripping account of the dangers, the challenges, and the sheer determination that defined not only Apollo 11 but also the Mercury and Gemini missions that came before it.
What happens when you take two global superpowers, dozens of daring pilots, thousands of engineers and scientists, and then point them at the night sky and say “Go!”? Answer: A SPACE RACE! The whole world followed the countdown to sending the first men to the moon. T-Minus: The Race to the Moon is the story of the people who made it happen, both in the rockets and behind the scenes.
How will your life change when the supply of tantalum dries up? You may have never heard of this unusual metal, but without it smartphones would be instantly less omniscient, video-game systems would falter, and laptops would fail. Tantalum is not alone: other refugees from the bottom of the periodic table are key components of many consumer products, such as cell phones, hybrid car batteries, and flat-screen televisions, as well as sophisticated medical devices and even weapon systems. In addition to explaining the chemistry behind rare-earth metals, Rare delves into the economic and geopolitical issues surrounding these “conflict minerals,” blending tales of financial and political struggles with glimpses into the human lives that are shattered by the race to secure them.
Fear is a universal human experience, but do we really understand it? If we’re so terrified of monsters and serial killers, why do we flock to the theaters to see them? Why do people avoid thinking about death, but jump out of planes and swim with sharks? For Kerr there was only one way to find out. In this eye-opening, adventurous book she takes us on a tour of the world’s scariest experiences and shows us the surprising science from the newest studies of fear—what it means, how it works, and what it can do for us.