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The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Aliveby John Graham-cumming
Synopses & Reviews
The history of science is all around us, if you know where to look. With this unique traveler's guide, you'll learn about 128 destinations around the world where discoveries in science, mathematics, or technology occurred or is happening now. Travel to Munich to see the world's largest science museum, watch Foucault's pendulum swinging in Paris, ponder a descendant of Newton's apple tree at Trinity College, Cambridge, and more.
You won't find tedious, third-rate museums, or a tacky plaque stuck to a wall stating that "Professor X slept here." Every site in this book has real scientific, mathematical, or technological interest — places guaranteed to make every geek's heart pound a little faster. Plan a trip with The Geek Atlas and make your own discoveries along the way.
With this unique traveler's guide, travelers can learn about 128 destinations around the world where discoveries in science, mathematics, and technology occurred or are happening now.
From Kiev to Jaipur with The Geek Atlas in hand
“This is the Captain speaking. Welcome aboard flight NB1729, the Nerd Bird, stopping in Kiev, Munich, Paris, London, Dublin, New York, San Francisco and Jaipur. Seat belts fastened please: we’re about to apply Newton’s laws of motion and take off.”
First stop is Kiev, Ukraine and it’s straight from the airport to the National Museum of Chernobyl that explains the events of April 26, 1986 when reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power station blew open and released a cloud of radioactivity that covered Europe. The following morning your tour bus leaves Kiev and makes the drive out to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Inside the zone you see the entombed reactor and the abandoned town of Pripyat, which is forever stuck in the mid-1980s.
During the trip you’ve got plenty of time to read The Geek Atlas’ explanation of the dangers of radioactive iodine and its effect on the thyroid gland.
Next, it’s back aboard the plane for the ride down to the gleaming airport in Munich, Germany. From there it’s a short train ride to the Deutsches Museum--probably the greatest science museum in the world. You’ll be staying all day in the museum because of its sheer size (there are 28,000 objects on display) and the highlight will be the Electric Power demonstration where 300 kV of AC are generated and then an 800 kV lightning strike is set off.
On the train ride into Munich there’s time to read The Geek Atlas’ explanation of the operation of the Diesel engine and find out what a planimeter is.
Paris is up next. Your walking tour of the City of Lights starts at the Paris Observatory at the feet of François Arago, director of the observatory in the 19th century. You are looking for a small brass disk set into the sidewalk. Written on the disk is the word ARAGO and the letters N and S. You follow the northerly direction towards the observatory staying on the old Paris meridian (the French 0 degrees of longitude).
Along the way you’ll search for more of these Arago medallions marking the meridian and end up seeing the sights of Paris. The meridian passes through the city center and without straying far you’ll see The Pantheon (with Foucault’s Pendulum inside), the Jardin de Luxembourg, the Eiffel Tower and le Musée du Louvre.
Stop for a coffee near the river Seine halfway through the trip and read The Geek Atlas’ description of how to find your local meridian at home using a stick and some string.
The next day, you leave the airplane behind and hurtle under the English Channel on a train to arrive in London in just over two hours. In London your tour avoids the major tourist attractions and takes you by underground train to The Brunel Museum. You arrive by passing through the first tunnel built under a body of water. If you are lucky you can take the museum tour back through the floodlit tunnel in an underground train that creeps through at walking pace.
While in London the tour stops for lunch at Bunhill Fields Cemetery, a quiet spot in the City of London, where you can hunt down the grave of Reverend, and pioneer of probability theory, Thomas Bayes. The Geek Atlas contains a probability brainteaser to ponder while thinking about the famous Bayes Theorem (which is explained).
Before leaving Europe the airplane makes a stop in Dublin for a bit more mathematics. Crossing Broom Bridge across the Royal Canal you come to a plaque on the bridge itself. This is the spot where Sir William Rowan Hamilton, out on a walk with his wife in 1843, scratched the fundamental equation of the theory of quaternions into the stonework using a knife. The equation had just come to him and he needed to write it down.
Opening The Geek Atlas to page 91, you’ll find a description of the quaternions and the complex numbers.
After the long flight to New York’s JFK and a bumpy cab ride into the city you avoid the crowds around Times Square and head straight for the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York City. Inside is the small and wonderful John M. Mossman collection of locks. Since New York is an important banking center locks are very important and the collection is filled with beautiful examples of complex, mechanical time locks used to secure vaults.
Many of the locks were built by the Yale Company, and The Geek Atlas explains how the familiar home ‘tumbler’ (or Yale) lock works.
Flying over the US towards California there’s plenty of time to read up on the The Geek Atlas’ highlights of Silicon Valley, but after leaving San Francisco airport your tour heads south and out towards Fort Irwin, CA where NASA has the headquarters of the Deep Space Communications Complex with its multiple parabolic dishes that point skyward and chat with man-made probes that are exploring the solar system. Some of the probes have been phoning home to Fort Irwin for over 30 years.
Since it’s a long ride to Fort Irwin you’ll have time to get your head around The Geek Atlas section on error-detecting and correcting codes used to transmit information across the reaches of space (and ensure your credit card number is accurate).
To complete the tour it’s a change of scene and continent: you leave high-tech California and dial back time to visit one of the oldest stone observatories in the world at the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, India. In Jaipur you’ll be seeing the largest sundial in the world and a host of beautiful and massive instruments used for astronomical observations since the 18th century.
“This is the Captain speaking once again. Thank you for taking The Geek Atlas world tour. Your trip is free if you can tell the chief flight attendant the significance of our flight number while deplaning.”
About the Author
John Graham-Cumming is a wandering programmer who's lived in the UK, California, New York and France. Along the way he's worked for a succession of technology start-ups, written the award-winning open source POPFile email program and churned out articles for publications such as The Guardian newspaper, Dr Dobbs, and Linux Magazine. His previous effort writing a book was the obscure and self-published computer manual 'GNU Make Unleashed' which saturated its target market of 100 readers. Because he has a doctorate in computer security he's deeply suspicious of people who insist on being called Dr., but doesn't mind if you refer to him as a geek. He is the proud owner of a three-letter domain name where he hosts his web site: http://www.jgc.org.
Table of Contents
IntroductionChapter 1: Parkes Radio Telescope, Parkes, AustraliaChapter 2: Zentralfriedhof, Vienna, AustriaChapter 3: Atomium, Brussels, BelgiumChapter 4: Baddeck, Nova Scotia, CanadaChapter 5: Mendel Museum of Genetics, Brno, Czech RepublicChapter 6: Galápagos Islands, EcuadorChapter 7: Airbus, Toulouse, FranceChapter 8: The Arago Medallions, Paris, FranceChapter 9: Beaumont-de-Lomagne, FranceChapter 10: Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise, FranceChapter 11: Institut Pasteur, Paris, FranceChapter 12: The Jacquard Museum, Roubaix, FranceChapter 13: Le Panthéon, Paris, FranceChapter 14: Millau Viaduct, Millau, FranceChapter 15: Musée Curie, Paris, FranceChapter 16: Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Le Bourget, FranceChapter 17: Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris, FranceChapter 18: The Eiffel Tower, Paris, FranceChapter 19: Deutsches Museum, Munich, GermanyChapter 20: Peenemünde Historical Technical Information Center, Peenemünde, GermanyChapter 21: Röntgen Museum, Remscheid, GermanyChapter 22: Stadtfriedhof, Göttingen, GermanyChapter 23: The Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, GermanyChapter 24: Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, IndiaChapter 25: Broom Bridge, Dublin, IrelandChapter 26: Tempio Voltiano, Como, ItalyChapter 27: Akashi-Kaiko Bridge, Kobe, JapanChapter 28: Akihabara, Tokyo, JapanChapter 29: The Escher Museum, The Hague, NetherlandsChapter 30: Tesla Museum, Belgrade, SerbiaChapter 31: Solúcar PS10 Power Station, Sanlúcar la Mayor, SpainChapter 32: CERN, Geneva, SwitzerlandChapter 33: Historisches Museum Bern, Bern, SwitzerlandChapter 34: Taipei 101, Taipei, TaiwanChapter 35: 14 India Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandChapter 36: Air Defence Radar Museum, RAF Neatishead, EnglandChapter 37: Albury Church, Albury, EnglandChapter 38: Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum, London, EnglandChapter 39: Anderton Boat Lift, Northwich, EnglandChapter 40: Bletchley Park, Bletchley, EnglandChapter 41: British Airways Flight Training, Hounslow, EnglandChapter 42: Bunhill Fields Cemetery, London, EnglandChapter 43: Down House, Downe, EnglandChapter 44: Edward Jenner Museum, Berkeley, EnglandChapter 45: Elsecar Heritage Centre, Elsecar, EnglandChapter 46: Farnborough Air Sciences Museum, Farnborough, EnglandChapter 47: Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, EnglandChapter 48: Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station, Goonhilly, EnglandChapter 49: Greenwich, London, EnglandChapter 50: Hovercraft Museum, Lee-on-the-Solent, EnglandChapter 51: Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, EnglandChapter 52: Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker, Kelvedon Hatch, EnglandChapter 53: Kempton Park Waterworks, Kempton Park, EnglandChapter 54: Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, EnglandChapter 55: Manchester Science Walk, Manchester, EnglandChapter 56: Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, EnglandChapter 57: Napier University, Edinburgh, ScotlandChapter 58: National Museum of Computing, Bletchley, EnglandChapter 59: National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, ScotlandChapter 60: National Railway Museum, York, EnglandChapter 61: Natural History Museum, London, EnglandChapter 62: Poldhu, Cornwall, EnglandChapter 63: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Porthcurno, EnglandChapter 64: Royal College of Surgeons Hunterian Museum, London, EnglandChapter 65: Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey, EnglandChapter 66: Sackville Street Gardens, Manchester, EnglandChapter 67: Sound Mirrors, Dungeness, EnglandChapter 68: SS Great Britain, Bristol, EnglandChapter 69: The Apple Tree, Trinity College, Cambridge, EnglandChapter 70: The Brunel Museum, London, EnglandChapter 71: The Eagle Pub, Cambridge, EnglandChapter 72: The Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk, ScotlandChapter 73: The Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, ScotlandChapter 74: The Iron Bridge, Ironbridge, EnglandChapter 75: The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, EnglandChapter 76: The Science Museum, Swindon, EnglandChapter 77: The Science Museum, London, EnglandChapter 78: Thinktank, Birmingham, EnglandChapter 79: Westminster Abbey, London, EnglandChapter 80: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, UkraineChapter 81: Aurora Borealis, Fairbanks, AKChapter 82: Trans-Alaska Pipeline Visitor Center, Fox, AKChapter 83: Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita, AZChapter 84: 391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View, CAChapter 85: 844 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto, CAChapter 86: The Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CAChapter 87: Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex, Fort Irwin, CAChapter 88: Joint Genome Institute, Walnut Creek, CAChapter 89: 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CAChapter 90: The HP Garage, Palo Alto, CAChapter 91: U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum, Groton, CTChapter 92: National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DCChapter 93: National Museum of American History, Washington, DCChapter 94: Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, FLChapter 95: Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Molokai, HIChapter 96: Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1, Arco, IDChapter 97: Fermilab, Batavia, ILChapter 98: MIT Museum, Cambridge, MAChapter 99: Gaithersburg International Latitude Observatory, Gaithersburg, MDChapteeeeeer 100: National Electronics Museum, Linthicum, MDChapter 101: National Cryptologic Museum, Fort Meade, MDChapter 102: The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MIChapter 103: Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MOChapter 104: Horn Antenna, Holmdel, NJChapter 105: Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJChapter 106: Trinity Test Site, White Sands Missile Range, NMChapter 107: Very Large Array, Socorro, NMChapter 108: White Sands Missile Range Museum, White Sands Missile Range, NMChapter 109: Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas, NVChapter 110: Nevada Test Site, NVChapter 111: Zero G, LasVegas, NVChapter 112: Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, Hammondsport, NYChapter 113: John M. Mossman Lock Collection, New York, NYChapter 114: Sagan Planet Walk, Ithaca, NYChapter 115: Early Television Museum, Hillard, OHChapter 116: NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OHChapter 117: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, ORChapter 118: Joseph Priestley House, Northumberland, PAChapter 119: Arecibo Observatory, Arecibo, Puerto RicoChapter 120: X-10 Graphite Reactor, Oak Ridge, TNChapter 121: Kryptos Sculpture, Langley, VAChapter 122: Shot Tower Historical State Park, Austinville, VAChapter 123: American Museum of Radio and Electricity, Bellingham, WAChapter 124: Grand Coulee Dam, Coulee Dam, WAChapter 125: Reber Radio Telescope, Green Bank, WVChapter 126: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WVChapter 127: Magicicada Brood X, East Coast, U.S.Chapter 128: Magnetic North PoleAcknowledgmentsColophon
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