Dark energy : More than two-thirds of the total energy of the universe is in a form we don’t yet understand. Two popular models for it are known as the cosmological constant and quintessence.
A History of Flight through its Martyrs, Oddballs and Daredevils
In a world without aircraft, to believe flight might be possible required a certain kind of character. You had to be starry-eyed, a possessor of practical ingenuity, nerves of steel and a level of sanity that would be best described as deficient.
In Mayday!, I tell the stories of the unconventional aviators across history who have been willing to risk all to further their craft. Meet Sophie Blanchard, a balloonist of nervous disposition whom Napoleon charged with organizing balloon displays at all major ceremonies in France. Then there’s the daredevil stuntman Lincoln Beachey, the dogfighter aces of WWI, the man who performed the dance of death – switching planes in mid-air, the real “X-Men” who flew at the edge of space, and the BASE jumpers who want to fly without wings. The cast members are eccentric, reckless and extraordinary, and Mayday! is made up of their riveting tales, bizarre contraptions, magnificent achievements and, sometimes, startling folly.
“Gripping… dazzling tales of madness and derring do.” -- Brian Clegg, author of Inflight Science
“Impressive.” – Wall Street Journal Oneworld Publications, 2015
Within the next 10 or 15 years we may have our first clear evidence of life on other worlds. This comprehensive A-Z contains the latest information on all aspects of our quest to find life, and possibly intelligence, elsewhere in the universe. The first edition of The Extraterrestrial Encyclopedia was published in 2000. Now this completely revised and updated edition, which I’ve coauthored with astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, covers the latest developments in exoplanet discoveries, origin-of-life research, the biology of extremophiles, missions to Mars and other astrobiologically significant places in the solar system. Also included is the history of human thought on the subject of life beyond Earth, biographical entries on scientists, philosophers, and writers who have made important contributions, alien life as depicted in science fiction, and popular conceptions and beliefs about extraterrestrials.
First edition, Three Rivers Press, NY, 2000.
Revised edition, First Edition Design, 2015.
Nine Strange Ways the World Could End
Could it be the asteroid hurtling towards us from outer space, or a super-volcano covering the Earth under a cloud of ash; black holes gobbling up the solar system, or a tiny army of nanobots in a deranged feeding frenzy? Oh, and don’t forget — there’s always the risk of alien invasion. Rating the likelihood of each potential disaster, Dirk Schulze-Makuch and I provide the best guide to the worst that could happen, and explore what we could do to save our souls. So sit down, face the inevitable, and prepare to discover the nine weirdest ways we could all go to meet our maker.
"Fascinating, if sometimes macabre ... A fabulous book that got better with every page - I couldn't put it down!" - Debra Fischer, Professor of Astronomy at Yale University
"A mix of good old-fashioned silliness and some fine science writing. Next time someone tells you, 'Cheer up, it might never happen,' throw this book at them." - BBC Focus Magazine
Oneworld Publications, 2012
What happens to “you” – your self – when your body dies? What is the purpose of life? And can we realistically look forward to a life after death? For millennia people have pondered these fundamental questions. In this book I offer some possible answers drawn from a synthesis of the latest scientific research and the ageless wisdom of Eastern philosophy.
I begin by upending our most basic notions of what it means to be us. The urban myth of ‘who we are’ is peeled back to reveal a strange truth: we are little more than narratives held together by a selfish brain whose primary concern is its own immortality. I point to clinical evidence that demonstrates how fragile and malleable our “I’s” are. I explore the mysteries of multiple-personality syndrome, left-brain/right-brain splits, and memory disorders, to unravel the greater mystery of why we evolved selves in the first place and to prove how easy it is to “change our minds”. Although each individual self is the product of a certain brain and as such changes over time and eventually dies, the fact of consciousness is shared and independent of the body.
First edition, HarperCollins, 1996.
Reprinted by First Edition Design, 2012.
Skull : The human skull protects the brain and supports the structures of the face. It consists of two main parts, the cranium and the mandible, but at birth is made up of 44 separate bony elements most of which fuse during childhood.
Gemini Project : This was series of two unmanned and ten manned NASA missions conducted between April 1964 and November 1966. With its two-seater capsule, it built on the success of the Mercury Project and paved the way for Apollo.
Solar collector : A device used to collect, absorb, and transfer solar energy to a working fluid, such as water or air. The heart of it is the absorber, which is usually composed of several narrow metal strips.
Roman army : In the beginning one legion of 3,000 infantrymen and 300 cavalry made up the whole of the army of Rome. Under the Empire the number of legions, each of 5,000 or 6,000 men, was increased to 33.
Infinity : Don’t think of infinity as being like a very large number – because it isn’t. You’re no nearer to infinity at a trillion trillion trillion, or even a googol, than you were at 1. And there are infinitely many kinds of infinity!
Lincoln Beachey : Pioneering American aviator and early barnstormer, Beachey performed seemingly impossible stunts in the early days of powered flight including his infamous ‘Dip of Death’. Whenever he flew he dressed like he was on a big night out, complete with pinstripe suit, high collar, fancy tie, and golf cap turned fashionably backwards.
Gravitational waves : The first detections of gravitational waves – ripples in the fabric of spacetime – have recently been claimed. We are on the verge of being explore phenomena such as matter falling into supermassive black holes and neutron stars orbiting around each other by means other than electromagnetic radiation.
Industrial Revolution : It was not until the 18th century that scientific thought and experiment were applied to the needs of everyday life and trade and industry. In England, where the Industrial Revolution began, the steam engine was used first in collieries and then in rolling-mills, pottery works, and spinning mills.
Pompeii : On 24th August, AD 79, Vesuvius erupted burying the nearby town of Pompeii under a rain of hot ash and pumice stones. By the time the eruption was over Pompeii lay under 20 feet of volcanic debris – a suffocating avalanche that perfectly preserved buildings, objects, and people as they were at time of the tragedy for the next two millennia.