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Inflight Science: A Guide to the World From Your Airplane Window

Overview

“With this book in hand, we have all we need to set off on our next flight with our eyes open to the sheer wonder of what is involved.” —Alain de Botton, author of A Week at the Airport, in the Mail on Sunday

“Imagine Leonardo da Vinci seated next to you on an airplane. . . . Brian Clegg attempts to restore something of the lost wonder of air travel . . . even as Leonardo, so fascinated by science, might have done . . . leav[ing] his readers improved for the journey and filled with a renewed sense of curiosity ...

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Inflight Science: A Guide to the World from Your Airplane Window

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Overview

“With this book in hand, we have all we need to set off on our next flight with our eyes open to the sheer wonder of what is involved.” —Alain de Botton, author of A Week at the Airport, in the Mail on Sunday

“Imagine Leonardo da Vinci seated next to you on an airplane. . . . Brian Clegg attempts to restore something of the lost wonder of air travel . . . even as Leonardo, so fascinated by science, might have done . . . leav[ing] his readers improved for the journey and filled with a renewed sense of curiosity toward the wonders out their window.”—Wall Street Journal

“An eye-spy book for adults . . . fitting into that publishing niche somewhere between hard science and Schott’s Miscellany that was so successfully exploited by books such as The Cloudspotter’s Guide.” —London Times Book of the Week

Every moment of your airplane journey is an opportunity to experience science in action—Inflight Science will be your guide. Brian Clegg explains the ever-changing view from your window seat and suggests entertaining experiments to calculate how far away you are from distant objects and the population of the towns you fly over. You'll learn why the coastline is infinite in length, the cause of thunderstorms, and why there's absolutely no chance of getting stuck on an airline vacuum toilet!

Packed full of amazing insights from physics, chemistry, engineering, geography, and more, Inflight Science is a voyage of scientific discovery perfect for any journey.

Brian Clegg is the author of several popular science titles, including Before the Big Bang and the forthcoming How to Build a Time Machine (2011), both from St. Martin's Press.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
If flying in an airplane has left you with questions, Clegg (Armageddon Science) will have the answers you're looking for and then some. Beginning at the airport, he takes the reader through the trip chronologically, explaining how security scans your luggage, explicating the magnetic field of a body scan, and shedding light on why few airports have a gate 13. He then identifies the plane's parts and expounds on the physics of flying. Once in the air, Clegg explains the landscape out the window (even the Nazca Lines, in case you're flying over Peru), covering the fractals of streams and why rivers meander, among other subjects. With time devoted to clouds, time zones, jet lag, technology, eclipses, and outer space, Clegg also includes more esoteric details, such as why you can't get a good cup of tea on board—the lower air pressure reduces the temperature at which water boils. Though it's not as much fun as a trip to Hawaii, it's much cheaper. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781848312418
  • Publisher: Icon Books, Ltd. UK
  • Publication date: 7/19/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,083,260
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Clegg: Brian Clegg is the author of a number of popular science titles including The God Effect, Before the Big Bang and the forthcoming How to Build a Time Machine (2011), all from St. Martin's Press. He is a science writer living in Wiltshire, England, and runs www.popularscience.co.uk.

www.brianclegg.net

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations ix

About the author x

At the Airport 1

Terminal boredom 1

An airport divided 2

Bag check 3

Testing the air 6

A lesson in detection 8

Body scan 11

Who do you think you are? 12

The science of superstition 15

Taking to the Sky 18

Aircraft basics 18

Fuelling flight 19

The greenhouse effect's good side 22

Flying the green way 24

Getting moving 25

Big radar is watching you 28

Something on the air tonight 30

Sat nav on the flight deck 32

The universal language 34

The latest model on the runway 35

How Newton's laws get you going 38

Joining the jet set 41

Rotation and climbing 42

Under pressure 43

Wing work 44

Control surfaces in action 48

Exploring the Landscape 52

The mystery of the fields 52

On the Nazca plains 54

Chalk marks the spot 57

The traces of the past 61

Following the water course 63

Fascinating fractals 65

The making of meanders 66

How does your town grow? 69

The infinite coast 72

Gravity always wins 76

From river to sea 78

Water, water everywhere 80

Time and tide wait for no one 82

On the crest of a wave 85

What colour is the sea? 88

Above the Clouds 91

Into the clouds 91

An adventure in cloud-spotting 94

All the way to cloud 9 95

No pot of gold for an endless rainbow 100

Over icy seas 102

Up into the sunlight 103

Voyage to the heart of the Sun 104

Why is the sky blue? 106

Why does the Sun keep shining? 108

Taking a trip through a quantum tunnel 110

Crossing flight paths 112

Leaving a trail in the sky 114

Is there life out there? 117

Going walkabout 118

Travelling through bumpy air 120

The flash of lightning 122

A static charge 123

Making lightning 125

Electricity on the move 126

There's safety in metal boxes 128

Grounded by the ash 129

Volcanic eruption 130

In the radiation zone 132

Fooled by a natural high 135

A cosmic collision 135

Cabin Life 138

Pressure on the blood supply 138

Catching up with jet lag 138

Crossing the time zones 139

What jet lag is (and isn't) 141

Taming jet lag 142

Resorting to medication 143

Is there a jet lag north/south divide? 145

A moving experience 146

Relatively interesting 148

Galileo's big idea 149

In the jet stream 152

The special one 153

Anti-ageing flights 155

A nice cup of tea 156

Hearing food 158

Technology in Flight 159

Following your course on the map 159

Projecting the world 160

At the bleeding edge of technology 161

Keeping the screen flat 162

Bartholin's crystal wonder 164

Giving light the liquid crystal twist 166

Taking your hi-tech with you 167

The view from the flight deck 168

Following the guidance of inertia 170

Tracking your way through the air 172

Einstein's accelerating revelation 173

The feeble force 176

Gyroscopic gyrations 177

Distant Views and Back to Earth 179

Viewing the distant mountain peaks 179

As old as the hills 181

It's cold on them thar hills 181

The icing on the mountain 182

Around the bend with a siphon 184

The vacuum solution 187

Meeting the night sky 189

A view of Venus 189

The amazing Moon 191

The changing face of the man in the Moon 194

Welcome to the galaxy 197

The street light fantasia 198

The amazing eye 198

Making up a picture of the world 200

Eyes wide 201

First touch on the runway 202

Final steps 204

Picture credits 205

Index 207

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