Bryson emphasizes that a lot of science is based on speculation—say, about when the universe started—to show that scientists still have many questions to uncover. Active Themes. Science, Discovery, and Mystery. Unbeknownst to them, a team of scientists led by Robert Dicke at Princeton University are looking for that exact hiss—cosmic background radiation left over from the Big Bang.
After connecting with Dicke, Penzias and Wilson realize what they have found, and they write a paper about their discovery. That's both exciting and humbling.
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Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. In Part 3, Bryson presents the theory of relativity and quantum physics as comprehensibly as possible. This section illuminates the flexible fabric of spacetime and the incredible amount of energy locked inside every molecule. It also attempts to explain the complex, static sub-atomic world, where nothing exists until it is observed, electrons travel from one spot to another without going through the intervening space, the universe is composed primarily of solid nothing, and particles travel faster than light.
The frightening revelations in Part 4 outline the dangers the Earth faces every day. These include being hit by one of the millions of meteors that cross the Earth's path two or three times per week; the potential eruption of the supervolcano at Yellowstone; a type of earthquake that can occur anywhere, any time; the ever-present and growing threat of global warming; and the history of ice ages and the possibility of their reoccurrence.
The final section deals with the topic of life on Earth. How would you feel if this happened to you? Which story touches you the most? Find out more about it. Research and discuss one of the following women included in the book, Mme Lavoisier 7 , Curie, Franklin For example, how big is the Solar System? If the Earth were only 2. What would be the size of the Solar system using this scale? Using the information in the Data Table, calculate the size of the sun and other planets using the scale 2.
Does this sound like a reasonable scale? Can you make Jupiter using a standard sized piece of construction paper? How about the Sun? Use the same scale factor from question 1 Show an example calculation here. To help you decide, try this calculation.
You calculated the Sun - Pluto distance for the scale model in centimeters. Calculate the distance from each planet to the sun using the scale Would this model fit on a piece of paper? A roll of paper towels about 3, cm for a large roll? On the football field? Calculate the size of the sun and other planets using the scale What are the limitations of the first model? What are the limitations of the second model? Teaching Suggestions Numbers are generally given in scientific notation, and to three significant figures.
Use what is appropriate for your students. You can make the models using a roll of paper towels, a roll of paper calculator tape, a roll of butcher paper, fanfold computer paper, etc. In other words, put the Sun at one end of the paper, and Pluto at the other end, rather than the sun at the center. Have half the class make the scale models in which the Earth is size of quarter to show the relative sizes of planets and half make the models in which the Earth to sun is 50 cm scale to show the relative distances.
You may need to omit the sun unless you have a large roll of butcher paper available. You could combine the 2 models, but be sure students understand they are not to the same scale. For a simpler activity: Instead of having students calculate the scaled data, provide them with this data. You may also divide the class. The other unusual aspect of Pluto is its eccentric orbit. Is Pluto a planet?
You can do a similar activity using the age of the Earth, or age of the universe. If one billion years is 1. Sample for Mercury 2. Yes, Jupiter would need large construction paper 11 x 14 inch the sun will need something much bigger. You may have to omit the sun, however. Use the same scale factor from question one Sample for Mercury 4. You calculated the Sun - Pluto distance for the scale model in cm.
It is way too big! The distance to Pluto is about 7. A roll of paper towels about cm for a large roll. It would also fit on the football field. It is not even close to scale!
Neither the sizes of planets or distances are even close to the actual relative sizes. In A Short History of Nearly Everything, author Bill Bryson discusses attempts to measure the size of the earth and distance from earth to sun. The method in this activity is a little different from these techniques, but uses similar principles.
The tangent of an angle is the opposite side divided by the adjacent side. If you know any two of these angle, opposite side, adjacent side and can use a calculator to give you the tangent, you can calculate the third. So if we know the Distance to our object, and the angle between us and its top, we can calculate the Height of the object. Supplies needed for each pair of students: A tape measureA protractor A string with a large washer tied to itA straw Procedure 1.
Tie the string with the washer to the center of the protractor, so the end with the washer hangs down. There should be a hole in the center of the flat end of the protractor that you can put the string through. Make sure the string can move freely. Figure 1 2. Find an object to measure. Bryson introduces a wide array of scientists who had a hand in determining these measurements, and gives helpful and often eccentric background information about each individual.
Along the way, he explains how geology and chemistry became branches of science, the idea of plate tectonics, the discovery of dinosaur fossils and chemical elements, and a bit about thermodynamics. Yet by the end of these chapters, each of these ideas is related back to how the Earth was ultimately measured. Bryson relates these ideas to astronomy and the idea that the universe is constantly expanding.