Wednesday, October 24, 2012


This post is about another online book discovery tool, but don't worry, it's even more exciting than others previously featured on this blog, like the Physics Today Bookends or the New York Times books section.

Today I'm introducing you to NoveList, a subscription database through the University that aims to connect readers to fiction books they'll love.  Each book that has a page on NoveList will include information about the book and book reviews.  The database also allows users to search many different facets associated with works of fiction, including tone, genre, writing style, subjects, and more.

I like to start out by finding a book I've read in the past and loved.  NoveList will offer "read-alikes" (books similar to the selected book) and provide information about the characteristics of the book and you can figure out which ones are most important to you.

For example, one of my favorite books is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  On the homepage for Name of the Wind NoveList tells me that its tone is atmospheric and dramatic, the writing style richly detailed, and the genres are epic and fantasy fiction.  The subjects of The Name of the Wind are things like good and evil, magic, quests, etc.  I don't really care if the next book I read is categorized as fantasy fiction or about a quest, but I do like books that are epic and about good and evil, so I can easily search for other books with those qualities from my book's page while ignoring the qualities and subjects that are less important to me.

Please check out this fascinating resource and if you have any questions stop by the Physics Library talk to a reference librarian at another library.

Monday, October 22, 2012

October New Book Feature, Part II

Here are a few more of the books currently on the New Book Shelf.

Particle PhysicsCarlsmith, Duncan L. Particle Physics. Boston: Pearson, 2013.
Of course we have to feature a book written by one of our own, Duncan Carlsmith. According to Amazon
Particle Physics is the first book to connect theory and experiment in particle physics. Duncan Carlsmith provides the first accessible exposition of the standard model with sufficient mathematical depth to demystify the language of gauge theory and Feynman diagrams used by researchers in the field. Carlsmith also connects theories to past, present, and future experiments.
Be sure to come take a look!

2012 Graduate Programs in Physics, Astronomy, and Related Fields 

For those of you looking into graduate school in physics or astronomy, the Physics Library has your back.  This is the most recent edition of the popular grad program guide which contains up-to-date information and data about almost all doctoral programs in fields relating to physics and astronomy within in the United States.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: The Life of Pi

Martel, Y. (2001). Life of Pi : a novel. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Harcourt.

I have to confess that someone left a copy of The Life of Pi in the Physics Library several years ago. It has been sitting on my office bookshelf ever since. Periodically I would look at and think hmm, I should read that. After all, it won the 2002 Man Booker Prize for Fiction ( But when I saw that Ang Lee was making a movie of the book ( ) and it was due out this coming November I thought it was probably time to read it. 

The book tells the story of Pi (short for Piscine) Molitor, a young Indian boy growing up in Pondicherry, India, where his father ran the local zoo. When he is 16 his father decides to leave India for Canada. They pack up their animals and board a Japanese freighter. The unthinkable happens and the ship sinks, leaving only Pi and a few animals in a lifeboat. The rest of the story is about Pi's journey across the ocean, his only companion a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Pi turns out to be quite resourceful during his voyage, using his wits to keep himself and Richard Parker alive. They encounter many wondrous things as they cross the Pacific Ocean. As I read it I wondered if I would have been able to survive as Pi did.

The Life of Pi is more than a survival story. It's deeper than that. It explores man's relationship with animals (and with himself). It explores the nature of spirituality and story-telling. And it explores the depths of the imagination.

If you are looking for a book that truly transports you to somewhere else I'd highly recommend The Life of Pi.

Submitted by Kerry Kresse.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sean Carroll Speaking at UW

Photo: Sean M. carrollSean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here and Spacetime and Geometry, is speaking at UW-Madison tonight (Thursday, October 18th) from 7-8:30 pm at the Wisconsin Institutes of Discovery.  Registration is required, so be sure to fill out the form as soon as possible.  Carroll will be speaking about the scale of life and the evolution of the universe.  You can find out more information about the talk here.

Addtionally, Carroll has a new book coming out in November called The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.  We will be purchasing this book for the Physics Library as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can read a description of the books and some editorial reviews at

To hear more from Carroll, be sure to check out his interview with Stephen Colbert (and our blog post about it!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October New Book Feature, Part I

Here are a few of the most exciting books added to the Physics Library collection in October.  As always, you can check out the Physics Library New Book page for the complete list.  

Physics professor Chad Orzel and his inquisitive canine companion, Emmy, tackle the concepts of general relativity in this irresistible introduction to Einstein’s physics. Through armchair—and sometimes passenger-seat—conversations with Emmy about the relative speeds of dog and cat motion or the logistics of squirrel-chasing, Orzel translates complex Einsteinian ideas—the slowing of time for a moving observer, the shrinking of moving objects, the effects of gravity on light and time, black holes, the Big Bang, and of course, E=mc2—into examples simple enough for a dog to understand. (from Amazon)

Science News also did a book review of How to Teach Relativity to Your Dog in their February 11th issue.  You can view it at the Science News website

Nuclear energy, X-rays, radon, cell phones . . . radiation is part of the way we live on a daily basis, and yet the sources and repercussions of our exposure to it remain mysterious. Now Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wayne Biddle offers a first-of-its-kind guide to understanding this fundamental aspect of the universe. From fallout to radiation poisoning, alpha particles to cosmic rays, Biddle illuminates the history, meaning, and health implications of one hundred scientific terms in succinct, witty essays. A Field Guide to Radiation is an essential, engaging handbook that offers wisdom and common sense for today's increasingly nuclear world. (from Amazon)

This book was reviewed by Francis Halzen back in May.  At the time there were no copies in UW-Madison Libraries.  We promised to purchase a copy for the Physics Library, and here it is!  Make sure to check out Francis' review, then stop in the library to reserve Antarctica before it's off the New Book Shelf.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

2012 Nobel Prize in Physics

You've probably already heard, but the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics went to Serge Haroche of Collège de France and Ecole Normale SupĂ©rieure, inParis, France and David J. Wineland of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and University of Colorado Boulder "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems".  

You can find out more information about the winners and their work at the Nobel Prize website and the AIP webiste.  

We have one book by Haroche on campus, "Exploring the Quantum: Atoms, Cavities, and Photons", and a couple books edited by Wineland.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October New Books

BookThe highly anticipated October New Books have found their way to the New Book Shelf.

You can stop by the library to see them in person or take a look at the list on the Physics Library website first.  A few of the books will also be featured on the blog in the coming week, so make sure you check back!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Author Interview/Talk: William Kamkwamba

The last review posted on the blog was for the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba. The reviewer, Amihan Huesman, mentioned that Kamkwamba has appeared on the Daily Show and has given a TED Talk.  Since the blog has recently begun posting author interviews, I thought I would include these as well.  

You can watch Kamkwanba's interview with Jon Stewert here and the TED Talk here Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Kamkwamba, W., Mealer, B., & Zunon, E. (2012). The boy who harnessed the wind. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin.

This was the best book I read this past summer. And I read a lot. And if you, like me, felt proud of taking apart (and reassembling) a boombox when you were a kid, you should read this book for a reality check.

You may know the author as the kid in Malawi who built a windmill out of found scraps—after all, he was on The Daily Show and gave a TED talk. But this is a book about hunger. The reason he wanted to build, specifically, a windmill? He wanted to have it power a pump so that his family could irrigate crops and be more resilient in the face of drought.
William Kamkwamba almost died of hunger. A badly timed drought killed an entire year’s harvest in his subsistence-farming community. Many people died; those who did not survived on scraps of food and food-like substances (the hulls leftover from milling corn, of no nutritive value, were sold as food). For months, his family shared one small handful of food each night, and his mother had a baby the week before they ran out of food entirely.
William survived, but he also experienced a different kind of hunger. He had to stop going to school because his parents couldn’t afford it anymore, and his primal need to learn about how the world works led him to read every book available in his local library about technology and science. That old intro physics textbook you donated to Textbooks for Africa? Explaining Physics? That’s the one he pored over. He could barely read or speak English. The other book that he deciphered, with the help of the patient librarian and her dictionary, was Using Energy. [This week, I’m trying to teach Physics 104 students about induced current, and this kid with a primary-school education and hardly any English figured it all out from an old college textbook. Shhh... Don’t tell my students.]

Any conversation about education must touch on issues of poverty. Students can’t learn without food to power their brains and enough sleep to consolidate what they learn. Growing up in Southern Africa and teaching physics in Gabon, I saw kids in circumstances much less dire than William’s struggle to get by in school. What William did, in the midst of a famine, is a little bit miraculous.
So, William builds this windmill and becomes an international sensation. Not a very long book, right? But it’s also a coming-of-age story about an awkward, nerdy boy who likes to tinker and whose best friend is his dog, which might be a bit familiar. Like a lot of nerds, he has a pretty keen sense of humor, much of it self-deprecating. I also found William’s own sketches that are in the book to be charming. If you can handle a feel-good, nerdy story that also happens to include a lot of people dying of hunger, this is your next book.

Submitted by Amihan Huesmann.

Copies of this book at UW-Madison Libraries