All posts by ntbadmin

Cosmos #10

This episode is all about Michael Faraday.


Faraday, coming from poor beginnings, would end up becoming interested in studying electricity after reading books and seeing lectures by Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution.

Davy would hire Faraday after seeing extensive notes he had taken to act as his secretary and lab assistant.

Faraday was able to create his own device to create the first electric motor by applying electricity aligned along a magnet.

Faraday then created the first electrical generator by inserting a magnet in a coil of wires.

Faraday concluded that electricity and magnetism were connected by unseen fields, and postulated that light may also be tied to these forces. Using a sample of the optical glass that Davy had him make, Faraday discovered that an applied magnetic field could affect the polarization of light passing through the glass sample (a dielectric material), leading to what is called the Faraday effect and connecting these three forces.

1861 (age 70)

Faraday postulated that these fields existed across the planet, which would later be called Earth’s magnetic field generated by the rotating molten iron inner core, as well as the phenomena that caused the planets to rotate around the sun.


Cosmos #9

This episode explores the palaeogeography of Earth over millions of years, and its impact on the development of life on the planet.

The lignin-rich trees evolved in the Carboniferous era about 300 million years ago but were not edible by species at the time and would instead fall over and become carbon-rich coal.

50 million years later volcanic activity would burn the carbonaceous matter, releasing carbon dioxide and acidic components, creating a sudden greenhouse gas effect that warmed the oceans and released methane from the ocean beds, all leading towards the Permian–Triassic extinction event, killing 90% of the species on Earth.

Scientists like Abraham Ortelius hypothesized the idea that land masses may have been connected in the past.

Abraham Ortelius


Alfred Wegener hypothesized the idea of a super-continent Pangaea and continental drift despite the prevailing idea of flooded land-bridges at the time.

Alfred Wegener


Bruce C. Heezen and Marie Tharp discovered the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that supported the theory of plate tectonics.

Bruce C. Heezen & Marie Tharp


The show concludes by noting how Earth’s landmasses are expected to change in the future and postulates what may be the next great extinction event.


Cosmos #8

This episode describes the work of Edward Charles Pickering to capture the spectra of multiple stars simultaneously, and the work of the Harvard Computers, a team of women researchers under Pickering’s mentorship, to catalog the spectra.

This team included Annie Jump Cannon, who developed the stellar classification system, and Henriette Swan Leavitt
who discovered the means to measure the distance from a star to the earth by its spectra, later used to identify other galaxies in the universe.

Annie Jump Cannon
Henriette Swan Leavitt


Later, this team included Cecilia Payne, who would develop a good friendship with Cannon. Payne’s thesis based on her work with Cannon was able to determine the composition and temperature of the stars, collaborating with Cannon’s classification system.

Tyson describes that stars can only be so large, using the example of Eta Carinae which is considered an unstable solar mass that could become a hypernova in the relatively near future.

Eta Carinae


Cut-Throat Cate

The Curious Case of Cut-Throat Cate
(Inspector Capstan #2)
by David Blake (2017)

The second case for Inspector Capstan where he has to contend with a certain Mrs Cate Jakebury, a young university lecturer who’s also a published author. But things don’t go well when she decides to murder her husband, become a pirate, steal a famous 18th Century ship and then attack France, just to research her next novel.

Reading the second book in the series, a pattern is emerging…

A young female protagonist does something strange or daft, and in a very violent way. The Detectives peruse her for the remainder of the story.

The second book is just as good as the first. This time there is a murder in the first chapter and the body count keeps rising until the end. Again, it’s a very British humour that only works due the the stupidity of most of the characters.

All in the worst possible taste (recommended).



Cosmos #7

This episode is centered the work of Clair Patterson in the middle of the 20th century, who was able to determine the age of the Earth.

Clair Patterson

Patterson determined an accurate count of lead in zircon particles from meteor craters. With the established half-life of uranium’s radioactive decay to lead, this would be used to estimate the age of the Earth.

Patterson found that his results were contaminated by lead from the ambient environment, required the construction of the first ultra-high clean-room to remove all traces of environmental lead. With these clean results, Patterson was able to estimate the age of the Earth to 4.5 billion years.

Patterson examined the levels of lead in the common environment and in deeper parts of the oceans and Antarctic ice, showing that lead had only been brought to the surface in recent times.

He would discover that the higher levels of lead were from the use of tetraethyllead in leaded gasoline, despite long-established claims by Robert A. Kehoe and others that this chemical was safe. Patterson would continue to campaign against the use of lead, ultimately resulting in government-mandated restrictions on the use of lead.


New Viking

Viking Tomorrow
by Jeremy Robinson & Kane Gilmour (2017)


The world is barely holding on. A century after a series of apocalyptic events, humanity is struggling to survive. In the frigid north of Scandinavia, people have returned to farming, fishing, and fighting amongst themselves, living as their ancient Viking ancestors once did. But their days in the world are numbered.

This is mainly one big road trip/adventure. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Viking culture has arisen again (why it is not clear). It is also populated by gangs of baddies and a few monsters.

The objective  for the main protagonist is to take a trip, get the McGuffin and return. So while it is entertaining while reading, there isn’t much science fiction or lasting themes to the story.

Worth a read for the Robinson fans.

Incredible #2


Incredibles 2 is a superhero film produced by Pixar Animation Studios. Written and directed by Brad Bird, it is the sequel to 2004’s The Incredibles and second installment of the film series.

The plot follows the Parr family as they balance regaining the public’s trust of superheroes with their civilian family life, only to combat a new foe who seeks to turn the populace against all supers. The film stars Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell and Samuel L. Jackson, who reprise their roles from the first film.

Isabella Rossellini stars as the ambassador.

With a budget of $200 million, after just two weeks it has grossed over $500 million and has 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Yet again Pixar combines family values, fast action, intrigue and fun. In fact there are more laughs here than most ‘comedies’.

While it may be about superheroes, most of the plot involves Bob and his new role as house-husband while Helen is off with her new job.

The action sequences are exciting and the plot keeps moving at a decent pace. Another great movie from Pixar.



Demon Spirit

The Demon Spirit
(The DemonWars Saga #2)
by R.A. Salvatore (1999)

Second Audiobook in the trilogy.

Elbryan and Pony hope that the tide of darkness is at last receding from the land of Corona. Yet if evil is on the retreat, why are hordes of goblins and bloody-capped powries slashing their way ever-deeper into civilized lands ?

While the first book had a very conventional structure of hero growing up  and defeating evil, the second is more political and strategic in nature. Elements in the church splinter and power dynamics change. Pony develops and her relationship with Elbryan changes. All this makes the story less predictable and interesting.

Now it is not clear how the story will end.


Sierra Bravo

Sierra Bravo
(Harriet Walsh #3)
by Simon Haynes (2018)

A criminal gang has moved into Chirless, Dismolle’s second major city. Elderly residents are fed up with the loud music, noisy cars and late night parties, not to mention hold-ups, muggings and the occasional gunfight.

Chirless has no Peace Force, so Harriet Walsh of the Dismolle City branch has to help out. That puts her up against a gang of hardened criminals with only her training pistol and a few old allies to lend a hand.

And these allies aren’t just old, they’re positively ancient!

The humour of the first two books has gone from this one. This is s straight forward Sci-Fi adventure, getting close to Military Sci-Fi. The story is OK, but not outstanding and there is more action sequences in this novel than any of the previous Simon Haynes novels.

Cosmos #6

This episode looks to the nature of the cosmos on the micro and atomic scales, using the Ship of the Imagination to explore these realms.

Tyson describes some of the micro-organisms that live within a dew drop, demonstrating parameciums and tardigrades.


He proceeds to discuss how plants use photosynthesis via their chloroplasts to convert sunlight into chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and energy-rich sugars.

Tyson narrates how two Greek philosophers contributed to our understanding of science.

Thales was among the first thinkers to examine a “universe governed by the order of natural laws that we could actually figure out,”.

Democritus postulated that all matter was made up of combinations of atoms in a large number of configurations.

Tyson explains the basic atomic structure of protons, neutrons, and electrons, and the process of nuclear fusion that occurs in most stars that can overcome the electrostatic forces that normally keeps atoms from touching each other.

He explains how subterranean water pool facilities lined with special detectors like the Super-Kamiokande are used to detect neutrinos.

Super-Kamiokande Detector

Neutrinos from supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud were detected three hours before the photons of light from the explosion were observed due to the neutrinos’ ability to pass through matter of the dying sun.

Supernova SN 1987A