Exploring the Solar System

The exploration of our solar system is one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements. The last fifty years in particular have seen huge steps forward in our understanding of the planets, the sun, and other objects in the solar system. Often referred to as the final frontier, many profound mysteries about our own solar system have yet to be answered.

In his book Exploring the Solar System, award-winning author Peter Bond takes a look at the latest information we have on the celestial bodies in our own backyard. Today he has agreed to talk with us about his work.

  • Why did you feel this was an important book to write?
  • Science is often seen as a difficult subject to choose at school or college, and, as a result, students tend to avoid it. On the other hand, many young people are fascinated by space, and when I speak to school groups, they often show considerable knowledge of the stars and planets.

    I wanted to write a book that would be accessible to students and general readers with a limited science background, one that would, hopefully, also enthuse and inspire them about the scientific discoveries that are being made about our solar system. Since we live on the only easily habitable planet in the solar system, it is also important to compare Earth with the other worlds that have been discovered, in order to make people aware of how unique and precious it is. Our role as caretakers of this beautiful blue planet cannot be overstated.

  • What Solar System facts do you think would surprise your readers to learn?
  • During presentations to groups of school students or non-scientists, I always try to give them an idea of sizes and distances. For example, when they see an image of Earth next to the Sun, they are amazed to discover that 1.3 million (1,300,000) Earths would fit inside the Sun. 1,300 Earths would fit inside Jupiter – indeed, Jupiter is so big that all of the other planets would fit inside it – yet it rotates faster than any other major planet, taking less than 10 hours to complete one rotation. Continue reading

UMass Amherst Scientists Invent Geckskin

Photo Credit: Nano Nature: Nature's Spectacular Hidden World by Richard JonesBack in 2007, researchers at the Polytechnic University of Turin postulated that, using nanotechnology, scientists would one day be able to come closer to creating a “Spiderman suit” using a system of strong invisible cables and self-adhesive smart materials.1 This month, researchers at UMass Amherst took a significant step towards that goal with the announcement of a new invention called “Geckskin,” a material that can hold up to 700 pounds on a smooth wall.

Inspired by gecko feet (which have an adhesive force roughly equivalent to carrying nine pounds up a wall), Michael Bartlett, Duncan Irschick, and their colleagues at UMass Amherst worked together to develop a material with a combination of similar properties, including high-capacity (able to bear considerable weight), reversibility (both easily applied and removed), and dry adhesion (leaving no residue behind). Their results were published in the most recent Feb 2012 issue of Advanced Materials.2 Read more here! ⇒

Evo-Devo of Child Growth

Evolutionary development biology (referred to in the field as “evo-devo”) investigates how developmental systems have evolved and the implications of those systems for organismal evolution. In his new book Evo-Devo of Child Growth: Treatise on Child Growth and Human Evolution, Ze’ev Hochberg analyzes child growth and development through the evo-devo lens and provides “real world” applications for both evolutionary biologists and clinicians.

  • As you compiled your book, did anything in the research particularly surprise or intrigue you?

It is quite amazing how the tempo of development is programmed early in life. In a recent as yet unpublished study we found that by modifying the period of breastfeeding, the tempo is set, and that it is transmitted from one to the next generation.

  • How are you working to integrate evo-devo studies with medicine? Do you see medical research moving in this direction in the long run?

Evolutionary medicine is a new approach to medical learning which is gaining increasing interest, but is still in its infancy. I use an evolutionary theory called “Life History” and I’m probably among the first to have developing it clinical medicine. The book is meant among other to expose this new approach. Continue reading