‘Forrest Mims’ Science Experiments’: Good projects for the new or experienced amateur scientist

You don’t need science degrees and big grants to perform useful, meaningful research, says one of America’s foremost amateur scientists, Forrest W. Mims III.

In his well-written new book, Forrest Mims’ Science Experiments: DIY Projects from the Pages of Make:, Mims notes that amateur scientists are continuing to do “what they’ve done for centuries. They’ve discovered significant dinosaur fossils, found new species of plants, and identified many new comets and asteroids. Their discoveries have been published in scientific journals and books. Likewise, thousands of websites detail an enormous variety of amateur science tips, projects, activities, and discoveries.”

He adds: “Today’s amateur scientists have access to sophisticated components, instruments, computers, and software that could not even be imagined back in 1962 when I built my first computer, a primitive analog device….”

His new book shows how to use simple, homemade or purchased devices to study and gather data on a wide array of subjects: heat islands, sunlight, twilight, ultraviolet light, infrared light, airborne particles, vibrations from earth tremors, and more. He even shows how to convert tree ring patterns into musical notes.

Generally, the do-it-yourself hardware and projects he describes are inexpensive and do not require fancy tools. Some are as simple as making a basic pinhole camera and using a small piece of blueprint paper to capture an image, and others require a few inexpensive electronic components or devices. For example, in one chapter, he writes: “For  as little as $20, you can begin tracking the atmosphere’s most important greenhouse gas, water vapor. And you can do so at any time, day or night, so long as the sky directly above you is cloud-free.”

Sometimes, you need a personal computer, too, plus some software and a digital camera. Depending on which experiments you choose to pursue, you may need other items, as well, such as a hobby knife, glue gun, clamps, sandpaper and more.

Mims’ book also contains interesting stories from his own career in electronics, inventing and doing amateur science. And he includes a brief but entertaining look at Thomas Jefferson’s life and accomplishments as an “amateur scientist…who made improvements in the design of clocks, instruments, and the polygraph copying machines that duplicated his letters as he wrote them.”

Si Dunn

Forrest Mims’ Science Experiments

DIY Projects from the Pages of Make:

Forrest M. Mims III

Maker Media, Inc., paperback  (Kindle ebook also available)

 

 

 

 

Our Beautiful, Fragile World – Excellent photographs by an environmental artist – #bookreview

Peter Essick's new book will inspire photographers to work harder and help readers to better understand the fragility of our planet.
Peter Essick’s new book will inspire photographers to work harder, and it will help readers better understand the fragility of our planet.

Our Beautiful, Fragile World

The Nature and Environmental Photographs of Peter Essick
Peter Essick
(Rocky Nookhardcover, Kindle)

Most of us are content to take a photograph and just settle for what we get under the current circumstances.

That’s not how Peter Essick works.

Essick has spent more than 25 years traveling to remote corners of the world, but also to many spots in North America, as a photographer on assignment for National Geographic.

“Many of my successful photographs,” he writes in his noteworthy new book, “are the result of discovering a scene and then going back several times to get the best picture possible.”

Our Beautiful, Fragile World presents a collection of Essick’s excellent nature and environmental photographs. And almost all of the photos are accompanied by a one-page essay explaining where and how an image was taken, what circumstances surrounded the shot, what environmental issues or crises are represented, and what Essick wants readers to take away from the story behind the photograph.

His book likewise contains a technical information section where specific details of each shot are described, including camera (Nikon or Canon), lens, film (typically Fujichrome 100) or digital camera settings, and how he had to work to get the photograph (i.e., use an underwater housing, or shoot from a light plane, or “look for a place where the sunlight was bounding off the sandstone and reflecting golden light on the opposite wall.”

There also is a fine foreword by Jean-Michael Cousteau, son of the famed, late ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. “I feel much hope for the future,” he writes, “when I see the talented work of artists like Peter Essick and understand the message he conveys through his stunning environmental images.”

Our Beautiful, Fragile World will inspire almost any photographer to try to take better nature pictures. And it starkly highlights how we continue to run roughshod over the delicate elements and natural forces that keep us alive on this threatened planet.

Si Dunn

Bruce Barnbaum’s ‘Tone Poems’ – Beautiful photographs, with music – #bookreview

Bruce Barnbaum is a superb black-and-white photographer, and Rocky Nook, Inc., recently has brought forth new editions of two of his beautifully crafted image collections.

Styled as part of a four-volume series, these two coffee-table books should appeal to almost anyone who loves good visual images and good music and appreciates opportunities to enjoy them together.

The two books, originally published by Photographic Arts Editions, are:

Tone Poems – Book 1, Opuses 1, 2 & 3
Bruce Barnbaum
(Rocky Nook, hardback)

Tone Poems – Book 2, Opuses 4, 5 & 6
Bruce Barnbaum
(Rocky Nook, hardback)

“It was the land, specifically the magnificent landscape of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, that initially drew me into photography,” Barnbaum writes, in a Tone Poems chapter titled “Opus 3, Lyricism of the Land.” Almost 40 years later, he is “still drawn to that landscape, but filled with ideas about photography—and about the land—that I never dreamed of having back in my younger days.” Barnbaum also is drawn to the landscapes of many other parts of the world and is keenly aware of their frailties, as well as the increasing threats that human activity and commercial development pose to their natural beauty.

Why two photography books that also have commentary about the compositions and CDs of music intended to be played as accompaniment to the stunning images?

“Sometimes, even the combination of words and pictures are insufficient to adequately convey my feelings,” Barnbaum notes. “Music, added to the mix, helps convey it much more strongly.”

The CDs included with these books feature selections of classical music played by noted pianist Judith Cohen, artistic director of the Governor’s Chamber Music Series in the state of Washington.

“The music and the images are meant to celebrate the life, the light and the poetic lyricism of the land,” Barnbaum emphasizes.

The two books succeed in reaching these lofty goals.

— Si Dunn