Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via amazon.com. I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, amazon.com associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Astronomy

Title
Author
Purchase / Enjoy Cover
Comment
Astronomy: Journey to the Cosmic Frontier Fix The textbook from the astronomy and astrophysics course I took. My edition included a pair of 3D glasses for better visualizing certain diagrams.
Atlas of the Solar System Yenne Astonishing. Includes actual maps of many of the bodies of the solar system, lists of hundreds of asteroids, discussions of chemical composition, and much more. It is in every way what its title claims. I have no idea whether or not it has been updated.
Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds Fontenelle (translated by Hargreaves, introduction by Gelbart)

Written in the late 17th century, so out of date detailwise (though the information about Mars is pretty correct). However, what is important now in this work is a recognition of what has gone before and Fontenelle's own place in history.This is not clear to me - his name hardly comes up except in histories of astronomy. It is my view that the slim book (even with the introduction and preface it does not make 200 pages) is an illustration of a genre of writing which is needed: the science-in-fiction genre, of which this is almost a representative. (For my friends: you will understand the last line, given what I have talked with you about sometimes: "I only ask of you, as payment for my trouble, that you never look at the Sun, the sky or the stars, without thinking of me.")

Cosmos Sagan The book companion/version of what is probably the most famous science show ever to appear on TV. Sagan's love of science shines through.
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems Galilei A classic that everyone who values science, reason and freedom of thought should know. Also a classic for those who oppose or poo-poo such things to deal with ... One section is curious and deserves more attention - the defense of nature itself as "creating". Could this have been partially why Galileo was condemned by a bigotted and reactionary Church?
Epitome of Copernican Astronomy and Harmonies of the World Kepler (translated by Wallis) Exerpts of some of the first work in copernican astrophysics (i.e., postulating a mechanism for the movement of the planets). The laws which bear Kepler's name are buried in here, as are (astonishingly) a lot of numerology and Pythagorean style mystery-mongery. A mixed bag by contemporary standards, this was nevertheless ground breaking work in a large number of ways, and as such merits careful attention for understanding the history of human thought, etc. Most curious, however, is Kepler speculating about life elsewhere in the solar system. It is not clear why he does this, especially as he has defended certain positions elsewhere from a very anthropocentric viewpoint.
In Search of the Big Bang Gribbin A patient introduction to cosmology from (roughly) Kepler to the state of the art circa 1986. Patient and reasonably clear, it also contains a bit of material hard to find in detail elsewhere in secondary sources (the 18th century stuff). It also includes a nice annotated bibliography. But, alas, I cannot entirely recommend this volume, as it contains the usual subjectivist nonsense about quantum mechanics, and is also riddled with something like typos on equations and tables (many symbols are wrong or missing). There's also a mistake in a reference to the 17th century which should be 18th. Since there are many books which largely cover the same material, most readers will do well with others.
Intelligent Life in the Universe Shklofskii (annotated by Sagan) Although this book is no doubt very dated, it serves as an introduction to cosmology, exobiology and other subjects. I received my copy from my paternal grandfather who had apparently enjoyed it greatly as well.
Moon, Mars, and Meteorites   Since Amazon.com has very little information on this title, I am only assuming it is the one I have.
On The Revolutions Of Heavenly Spheres Coperinicus (Hawking, ed.) Another classic. However, this one alas makes for very dry reading as much of it is simply calculations, proofs (in geometry and trigonometry) and tables. It is very difficult to get any methodological remarks, intellectual understanding of the author, etc. For example: the naive view that Copernicus wrote it simply to tell the truth as best he could is not contradicted by this work, but nor is it terribly well supported, either.
Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Sagan Warning: This is a paperback edition which is seemingly missing some pictures from other editions. Other than that, I have no major complaints about this book, given its age. Sagan died just as the investigation of extrasolar planets really took off, and I think even he would be astonished at the many that have been found. He is right that we must both learn to live elsewhere and to cherish our original home, but I do not know how to get there from here. I did also notice that the book got sort of (slightly) less poetic as it moved on. I have no idea if it was written in the order it reads, but if it was, perhaps by the end the author knew the end of his life was coming. (Listen to the audio book extracts on Youtube - they are both wonderful and sad.)
Ptolemy's Almagest Ptolemy (trans. and ed. by Toomer) This is arguably one of the most important yet effectively completely superseded scientific works of all time. When one contemplates all the technical hurdles Ptolemy had to work around and with, it is incredible that a work like this was possible at all. This edition is full of editoral material based on the manuscript traditions as welll as many introductory pages which provide much stage setting and a very needed and useful glossary. A great work in what seems to be a great edition.
Sidereus Nuncius: or the Sidereal Messenger Galilei (trans. Van Helden) This is a translation of a small book (almost a pamphlet) that changed human perception of the world forever. Galileo reports on his observations of our moon and satelites of Jupiter (the first non-terrestrial moons ever discovered). He also includes schematic instructions for the telescope he improved in order to make his monumental observations. This edition has many notes and much commentary and "stage setting".
The Demon Haunted World: Science as Candle in the Dark Sagan Sagan quotes Einstein about science being fallible and human, but the most precious thing we have. My precious things are at the moment only partially ordered, but science is still a most precious thing to me. Sagan will explain to you why that is so better than I can. Ubi dubium, Ibi libertas. Also remarkable is that the book includes a discussion of Frederick Douglass: no direct biological relation known to me except our shared humanity, but a very important person to share my family name. (My father tells me that there is no difference between Douglass and Douglas; the difference reflects the lack of standardized spelling until relatively recently.)
The Stars: A New Way to See Them Rey I don't do as much observational astronomy as I would like sometimes, but this book got me temporarily interested in it as a child. I also still remember that it taught me the difference between a constellation and an asterism.
The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God Sagan This posthumously published transcription of Sagan's Gifford lectures is like a precis of Cosmos with a focus on religion. Sagan's position is that religions have to update themselves continually in light of new evidence about the nature of the universe and ourselves or be rendered otiose at best. He thinks that they can from part of an ethical society, but only if the above condition is met. I fear he should have analyzed "religion" as much as he analyzes "god", to say the least. Nevertheless it is nice, as his editor and wife Ann Druyan says, to hear his "voice" again. Since Sagan was brought to my attention to by my late grandfather I also hear his voice when reading this ...
Universe Berganini   This was given to me by a friend of my mother as a child. It arguably got me interested in physics, since it discusses special relativity in a qualitative way.

 

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