James D. Watson is most famous for his work with Francis Crick to discover the structure of DNA. Watson was born today, April 6, 1928. He was declared a genius at an early age and he graduated from the University of Chicago at age nineteen. He and Crick began to investigate the molecular structure of DNA in 1952, eventually coming up with the structure known today as the "Double Helix." Watson won a Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1962, and in 1991 he became the first director of the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project was an effort to map the genetic sequence of the entire genome, a project which was completed in 2006, and has huge implications for research as well as ethics. It's hard to imagine where we would be today without Watson's work and the work of countless other scientists after him. For one thing, it's possible some of my favorite science fiction books might never have been published!
Are you itching for spring or maybe just looking for something free to do? Explore our big backyard at one of 28 Jefferson County Open Space Parks. Jefferson County Open Space (which started 40 years ago as a grassroots volunteer initiative) includes more than 52,000 acres and 210 miles of trails. There's a park for everyone, whether you want to picnic along the creek at Lair o' the Bear or climb to the location of the ill-fated Summer White House at Mount Falcon. You can even pick up free trail maps at most Jefferson County Library locations.
If you think writer's workshops are only for amateurs, think again. Since 2008, YA authors Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff, and Tessa Gratton have posted more than 250 works of short fiction on their collaborative website, Merry Sisters of Fate. Like their respective novels, the flash fiction and short stories on Merry Fates deal with the paranormal, the weird, and the strangely beautiful.
Thirty stories from the Merry Fates project are now available in The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories. The stories are great on their own, but what makes the book really special are the introductions and handwritten notes and critiques from the trio. They provide insight into the creative process - how three acclaimed writers construct story arcs, build worlds, and create believable characters. This is an inspiring read for anyone interested in writing fiction!
Try NON-Fiction – it can be a real trip! Here are some of my recent favs from the realm of the real…
Pretty much anything by Jon Ronson is a lot of fun to read and if you can listen to him read it himself – even better! He is a British journalist, and he tackles some weird topics with rare wit.
The Psychopath Test – Go deep into the madness industry and see just how crazy it is. Ronson explores how we define madness, how we treat the mentally ill and how most of top CEOs are probably psychopaths.
The Men Who Stare at Goats – you might have seen the movie, but the book is pretty funny! Yes. The United States military tried to create a secret unit of highly trained psychics who could kill with their minds… or something like that. It’s true! Weird, but true!
Mary Roach writes books about stuff you want to know about but didn’t know you wanted to know about. Like what you would need to take on a trip to Mars, and how how much of our society we owe to dead bodies / cadavers.
Spook – This book talks about the science of the afterlife; chronicles the research regarding the human soul, reincarnation and whether electromagnetic fields can make the human brain see ghosts? How much does the human soul weigh? Let’s see…
Stiff - From being crash test dummies to being something someone would like to snack on, this book looks at all the ways that society uses human corpses. Sometimes disturbing, sometimes funny, this gives you something to think about.
Michael Pollan is the guru of the organics movement, thanks to his entertaining and informative books on botany. Yes. I said, “Botany.” These books will make you think twice about your food and just how cunning apples really are.
The Botany of Desire - This book is about apples (surprisingly devious!), tulips (which single-handedly destroyed the Dutch economy!) and marijuana (which has mutated into a monster of its former self!). Funny and bizarre, this book makes you reconsider your house plant (and what it might be thinking about you!).
The Omnivore’s Dilemma – If you love eating McDonald’s French fries… don’t read this book. This book goes on a journey through the American food universe and what Pollan finds is not always fun to know, but it’s important… and might just keep you from mutating into some sort of deranged man-bear-pig type creature. Just sayin’…
Gobi takes Perry on the weirdest, most dangerous, and most exhilarating night of his life when she transforms from an introverted, anti-social Lithuanian exchange student into a trained assassin.
I'm so excited the new Catching Fire movie trailer has been released:
April fools! Catch the much better version on which this one is based on YouTube. This video was brought to you with the help of a glue gun, burnt fingers, my husband who is much more tech savy than me and my 5 year old son who helped me film the fight scenes.
(Super cheesy, I know. I couldn't resist)
Here are a few eggy experiments to help you celebrate Easter weekend:
Suck an egg into a bottle (from The Naked Scientists): You'll need a hard boiled egg, a bottle with a slightly smaller neck, a little oil and a match (or you can try it with boiling water). You'll light the match and put it in the bottle, with will warm the air inside and cause it to expand. As the air cools, the egg will be sucked into the bottle. Read through the link for full directions, as well as instructions for getting your egg back out again.
Egg Geodes (from The Happy Scientist): You'll need clean egg shells and an egg carton to hold them, epsom salt, food coloring, and hot water. You'll finish with cool crystalized eggs. Read through the link for the directions.
Naked Egg or Rubber Egg (from Steve Spangler Science): You'll need an egg, a glass, and a lot of vinegar. Basically, you let the egg sit in the vinegar until the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate in the egg shell and breaks it down. I saw a few other websites that said you could bounce it against your table, but do so at your own risk! Read through the link for full directions.
What other experiments can you think of?
The world is a big, awesome, crazy place full of amazing weirdness! If you keep your eyes open for it, you can spot it all around. Some of my favorite weirdness comes in the guise of… SCIENCE!
Here are a couple of my favorite ‘science’ books that put a new spin on things. They might make you reconsider how you view the universe.
The Dancing Wu Li Masters : An Overview of the New Physics by Gary Zukav: This book introduced me to particle physics but not in a boring, academic way. The voice is conversational, the science is real, and the possibilities that exist in and around us are mind blowing! You will never look at the world the same way again.
The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto: Water holds memory and, according to the studies of Dr. Masaru Emoto, intention as well. Dr. Emoto exposed water to words and then froze the water into snowflakes which he would film. He noticed that positive words like ‘love,’ and ‘truth,’ would cause the water to transform into beautiful, perfect snowflakes. Negative words like, ‘hate’ or ‘pollution’ caused the water to transform into distorted, ugly snowflakes. This happened whether you spoke to the water or just put a sign close by the water with the word written on it. Crazy! But sooooo neat!
Some of you may already know how much I loved the Clarity books by Kim Harrington. When I realized she had a new book out I was a little worried; what if I didn’t like it? Never fear! It was amazing!
The Dead and Buried is a ghost story. A very spooky ghost story. Jade’s family moves into a new house they never should have been able to afford. When she starts poking around she realizes that the reason the house was so cheap is because the most popular girl in school, who also happened to be the meanest of mean girls, was murdered in the house last spring. And then Jade realizes that her little brother can see the ghost. And that the ghost can move her stuff around and destroy things. And it can possess people and make them do whatever it wants. Now the ghost needs Jade to solve the murder before it can move on, but it’s not very patient and it’s not very nice about it. Can Jade solve the murder before the ghost destroys her family?