View Full Version : Suggestions Needed

2003-Feb-19, 05:57 AM
Hi. I'm new to the boards but have been reading this site quite frequently. I'm a 17 year old high school junior. I'm fascinated w/ astronomy and physics. I live in a small southern Indiana town. As a person could imagine our education system is not the best. I want to further my knowledge about these subjects but where should I start? I've been checking out a few books from the library (including "Brief History of Time") but I really have no one to point me in the right direction. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks much

Kaptain K
2003-Feb-19, 08:08 AM
Hello Stellar,
Welcome to the board. You did not say whether you are interested in a career in the field or just learning more about the subject.
If you want a career, the first thing is to take all the science and math courses your high school offers.
While "name" schools have a certain cachet, a degree is more important than where you get it. A local state college will give you the basics. Grad school is where you worry about the reputation of the institution.
If you just want to learn about the field because you are interested in knowing more, subscriptions to Astronomy (aimed at the layman to intermediate amateur) and Sky & Telescope (for the beginner to advanced amateur) will give you lots of information on the subject. In physics, there is no magazine aimed at the layman (there are no amateur physicists - Ralph Rene is a case in point), but Discover is aimed at keeping laymen in touch with current developments in all of the sciences and has many articles on physics and astronomy. Scientific American is for the serious layman and scientists who wish to keep abreast of fields other than their own. As such it goes deeper and requires more background knowledge. Science magazine is for the serious layman and pros. Many of the articles will be over your head (some of the abstracts will be be over your head) but the meat is definitely there. Another source of information is a local astronomy club. Sky & Telescope (http//skyandtelescope.com/) has a listing of astronomy clubs. You will meet every one from beginners to really serious folks, all of whom will be glad to show you around the sky (and show off their equipment).

"There's a whole lotta things I've never done, but I ain't never had too much fun."
Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Kaptain K on 2003-02-19 03:11 ]</font>

2003-Feb-19, 12:40 PM
On 2003-02-19 00:57, Stellar wrote:

As a person could imagine our education system is not the best.

I would suggest "The Universe" by Isaac Asimov. Itīs a rather old book, but it features all the classic fundamentals of astronomy. And itīs a pretty easy reading. Perfect for a newby.

And welcome, Stellar. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

2003-Feb-19, 01:46 PM
Welcome aboard, Stellar!

If you are up for some web browsing this web page (http://www.mdsci.org/exhibits/spacelink/news/index.cfm) will give you links to the key astronomy web pages.

(You can also just have fun browsing the MD Science Center - Spacelink sit itself. BTW, the MD Science Center works with STSI in releasing Hubble info to the public, because they are both in Baltimore. Just a little trivia to make things interesting!).

Books like NightWatch (http://shopping.discovery.com/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10000&storeId=10000&langId=-1&productId=11011&categoryId=22750&interCategoryId=22634&parent_category_rn=22608&partnumber=358382) from the Discovery Channel store are also a great reference book fo starting out. It will not only tell you about what is out there and what we know about how it came to be, but it also gives info on how to observe the night sky - know what you are looking at and how to find what you might want to look for. I have one of my own. It's a great book. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif

Sticking around the BABB is also a valuable source of information. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_biggrin.gif

2003-Feb-19, 04:36 PM
Hello Stellar:

Welcome aboard the board. I was in a similar situation when I was in high school in Connecticut. My physics teacher was willing to sponsor an astronomy club, in spite of the fact that he was not particularly interested. We all learned together.

Our club was pretty poor. Our only telescope was a 2" apeture, 50x spy glass my dad had from being in the army. Using the machinery from the metal & wood shops in the VoAg building we made a tripod with alt-az mount for it.

Most of the astronomers were also skiers so we took the scope & tripod on ski trips to New Hampshire & Vermont. We had a pretty good time with it.

When I got back to the world, I went to visit my old physics teacher. He said they were trying to earn enough money to buy a real telescope. I donated some of my ill gotten gains and they were able to make a very nice 8" newtonian and buy a top notch german equitorial mount for it.

So don't stand there waiting for something to happen. Do it yourself and drag the rest of the clods along with you! You will all be better for the exercise.

2003-Feb-19, 04:52 PM
If you're interested specifically in cosmology, I recommend the following books, listed from most recent to least recent. All are infinitely better written than Hawking's book:

The Universe at Midnight by Ken Croswell. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684859319) This book is extremely up-to-date and tells the story of how astronomers discovered the nature of the universe--from Olbers' paradox of the dark night sky to the recent discovery that the universe's expansion is accelerating. Contains colorful quotes from Fred Hoyle, Allan Sandage, and dozens of other scientists--quotes you won't see anywhere else.

Cosmology by Edward Harrison (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/052166148X). This is actually a textbook, but it's well-written and engaging. It contains just a little math, but nothing too onerous. Strangely, although published in 2000, it says not a word about the recent discovery of the accelerating universe. Could it be the author didn't believe it at the time?

Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos by Dennis Overbye (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316648965). Forget the stupid title. This book was first published in 1991 and tells the story of cosmology through the 1980s. A lot of theory, but also a lot of observations, and like the Croswell book this one contains a lot of quotes from the protagonists, so you see the human side of the scientists.

The Red Limit by Timothy Ferris. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/068801836X) Timothy Ferris's first and best book, an eloquently written account of cosmology. It was first published in 1977, so it's not the book to read about more recent matters--dark matter, inflation, the accelerating universe--but it's still a classic book that anyone curious about the subject can enjoy.

2003-Feb-19, 07:03 PM
Thanks a lot everyone /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif Very helpful

JS Princeton
2003-Feb-19, 07:37 PM
Learn math.

2003-Feb-19, 08:01 PM
Hey Stellar, and welcome to BABB. /phpBB/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif You should like it here, we have both really intelligent people that are fun to discuss stuff with, and those who just have fun (like me).

To answer your question, I can't think of any more than what has already been said. I'm not sure if this is too advanced or not, but if you're really interested in the evolution of the universe (past and future), I strongly reccomend The Five Ages of the Universe by Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin. A lot of interesting ideas and new theories mentioned about how the universe began and will end...

2003-Feb-19, 09:34 PM
On 2003-02-19 14:37, JS Princeton wrote:
Learn math.

And physics!

(You know how many threads go on and on with the physics. . . ?)

(Grimbling because I don't have to time to study them to really understand what they are saying as I should. . . .)

2003-Feb-19, 09:47 PM
dont laugh.. but i dropped out of my highschool astronomy class...

so much for my dream of becoming a famous astronomer in the field of astrology... maybe I will seek a career in cosmonology or meteorology...


2003-Feb-19, 11:34 PM
Southern Indiana, eh? If the state of Hoosierland science education hasn't gotten any better (and I'm sure it hasn't) then I feel your pain. I grew up in Beanblossom, still have some family in Nashville and Spencer and get down that way to hike and hunt and fish whenever I can. At least you should have some good dark skies, we've got a lot of light pollution here in metro Indy. Any of Timothy Ferris' books are good, NIGHT WATCH by Terence Dickinson was mentioned before, it's excellent as is THE BACKYARD ASTRONOMER'S GUIDE by Dickinson & Dyer. You might check out some of BA's links and look over the Arkansas Sky Observatory site too, it has lots of links http://www.arksky.org
Good luck

2003-Feb-20, 11:44 AM
Don't forget Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip Thorne--good layman's description of gravitation and relativity. Thorne was co-author (with the greats Misner and Wheeler) of Gravitation, one of the major texts on the subject.

Principles of Physical Cosmology by P.J.E. Peebles will probably be a bit difficult for you--much of it is difficult for me--but it's a reference which has a lot to offer beginners and which will still offer a lot to pretty advanced students.

Also, use the discussions here as springboards--if you read something that sparks your interest then spend a few hours looking up articles and papers on the Web. Have fun!

(Yes, learn math and physics!)

2003-Feb-20, 07:57 PM
On 2003-02-19 16:47, Resu wrote:
so much for my dream of becoming a famous astronomer in the field of astrology...
From what I've seen, believers in astrology who learn astronomy start to notice all the holes in astrological theory and soon give it up. It's a rare astrologer who can learn that astrology doesn't take the precession of the equinoxes into account, for example, and can still believe in astrology's alleged predictive power.