Writer’s Retreat

I’m mostly off the grid this week in my own version of a writer’s retreat in my home town. So far it’s been incredibly productive – my new book on Thomas Edison is taking shape.

I did find these stocks used by town officials to punish distracted writers.

But I’ve also found inspiration in the local wilds.

And found sustenance in the local food houses.

And checked out my old haunts. And I mean really old haunts.

Okay, it’s back to work Finished a chapter yesterday so scoping out the next tonight. Gotta keep the momentum moving forward.

Catching Up on a Busy Writer’s Life

By the time you read this I’ll be on a writer’s retreat, of sorts. More details on that when I get back, but it’s been a busy writer’s life for me lately. So busy that I haven’t had a chance to do a writing round up for nearly a month. Let’s get started:

The Dake PageOn The Dake Page, you can check out a series of posts related to climate change science, and the communication thereof, as well as exposing climate change denial. Here’s a list:

Hot White SnowOn Hot White Snow I’ve had a few microfiction madness experiences that leave the mind boggled:

David J. Kent drinking mateAnd here on Science Traveler we’ve taken a look at the science of the earthquake in Nepal and a whole host of other Lincoln and Tesla-related projects:

Among other activities have been trips to see some “once-in-a-lifetime” displays of artifacts and documents, lectures at the National Archives, new e-books coming out, plans for major travel to the Scandinavian countries, and the End of the Civil War as we know it. More on all of these when I return.

As with most writer’s retreats, I’ll be off the grid for much of the time so I can focus on writing the book about Thomas Edison. The book is due to the publisher in August and should be in Barnes and Noble stores by early 2016. I’ll also be putting the finishing touches on my new e-book, Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate, due out in June.

See y’all in a week (with occasional pop-ins as possible). It’s off to a writer’s life for me!

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Science Traveling – Why the Devastating Earthquake in Nepal is Not Unexpected

By now everyone has heard about the devastating earthquake that has left at least 3,700 people dead. At least 18 died when an avalanche buried the base camp of Mt. Everest. Rescue attempts are ongoing. For those who want to help, you can go here for links to vetted charities. The American Red Cross is also spearheading efforts to assist.

While the destruction and loss of life, and the much needed assistance to survivors, brings with it a sense of shock, the occurrence of earthquakes in Nepal and other regions near the Himalayan Mountains is not unexpected. In fact, earthquake experts gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal only a week ago to discuss the high likelihood of huge earthquakes. Little did they know one would occur so soon after they met.

The reason for high earthquake risk in the region has to do with why science traveling can be of such interest. Some of you may have heard about “plate tectonics,” or the movement of large “plates” of surface rock around the earth. The Himalayan Mountains are plate tectonics at work on a huge scale. In fact, they are still growing.

Roughly 150 million years ago, what has become the Indian subcontinent broke away from Antarctica. As it moved north it left behind what is now Madagascar. About 35 million years ago it smacked into Asia and as it continues to push it helps create the Himalayan Mountains. The tallest, Mt. Everest at 29,035 feet (8850 meters), is still getting taller by as much as 2+ inches (6+ cm) a year.

Mt. Everest

Why so tall? Because the Indian subcontinent was moving at breakneck speed. Racing along at 30 feet per year, it moved twice as fast as the slippage along the San Andreas fault. Usually once continents bang into each other the movement slows considerably, but India has kept moving at about 15 feet per year even after being blocked by Asia, hence the continued rapid growth of Mt. Everest and the rest of the Himalayas. The land has to go somewhere; in Nepal and environs, that somewhere is up.

All of this constant movement and pressure results in earthquakes since the movement tends to get stuck, then suddenly release and move great distances, then get stuck again. The current earthquake near Kathmandu registered 7.8 on the standard scale, but other big quakes have occurred nearby over the years, most notably a 6.9 quake in 2011 near Sikkim, India (along Nepal’s eastern border) and a massive 8.2 quake in 1934 in the same region.

Nepal earthquake map

As science columnist Andrew Revkin notes, experts have been expecting another huge earthquake. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict when and where. The devastation caused by this quake is largely due to the shallowness of the epicenter (9.3 miles) and proximity to the capitol Kathmandu (50 miles). Lack of earthquake-resistant building standards and enforcement of any standards that do exist also contribute to the destruction.

If you can help, please do. Links to vetted assistance organizations can be found here, and the Red Cross is always on the job.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Book Review – Abraham Lincoln: Philosopher Statesman by Joseph Fornieri

Philosopher StatesmanAn exceptional scholarly treatment. Author Fornieri examines the age-old question of what makes Abraham Lincoln great. His answer lies in the belief that Lincoln was a philosopher statesman, which he defines as being understood in terms of six dimensions of political leadership.

The six dimensions are Wisdom (i.e., theoretical wisdom), Prudence (i.e., practical wisdom), Duty, Magnanimity, Rhetoric, and Patriotism. Fornieri devotes entire chapters to each of these individual dimensions and provides substantial and substantive examples.

As might be expected, there is significant overlap between the various dimensions and the examples used to explore them. As suggested by the title, the writing is often philosophical and deeper than most treatments of Lincoln. The book is short – only about 170 pages of text – but as dense as a book twice its length.

While probably not amenable to a general audience, the book is highly recommended for Lincoln scholars, both professional and avocational.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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The Civil War Ends – And Abraham Lincoln is Assassinated

It’s been a busy few weeks as the 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial for those who like big words) of the Civil War continues. We’ve seen the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant, the capture of Richmond, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Many events have commemorated these anniversaries, including an all night vigil in the streets between Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen House.

Death of Lincoln

Last week my article “And the War Ends” was published in the Smithsonian Civil War Studies newsletter. Below is a snippet; follow the link to the full article:

On April 9, 1865, just four weeks after President Abraham Lincoln had taken his second oath of office, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. So began the end of the Civil War. They met at the house of Wilmer McLean in a village called Appomattox Court House. The trials of four years of war etched the faces of both Generals as their weary troops struggled between thankfulness that the war was ending and patriotism for the causes they felt were still attainable.

In the days before the surrender, Grant and Lee had exchanged a series of messages through the front lines. Both men were cautious, avoiding commitments that they could not keep. Not surprisingly, Lee was hesitant to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to the Union forces. But he was a realist. After the defeat at Petersburg, Lee had on April 2nd warned Confederate President Jefferson Davis that Richmond could no longer be protected. As Davis and the Confederate government fled southward, Lee knew that his armies could no longer hold off the inevitable. The South would fall in defeat.

The terms of the surrender were simple. All Confederate forces were to be disbanded and allowed to return to their homes, “not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their paroles.” While “arms, artillery, and public property” were to be confiscated, officers were allowed to keep their side-arms (swords and pistols), private horses and baggage.

As General Lee mounted his horse to ride away from the McLean house, “General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.”

The war would rapidly come to an end. But just as rapidly, President Lincoln would be assassinated…. (continued)

Click here to read the rest

Much more has been going on – including some incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see treasured artifacts on display – so check back for more details.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla – Connected by Fate

Nikola TeslaAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809, lived in Indiana and Illinois, and was assassinated in Washington, DC in 1865 without ever having left the country. Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 of Serbian heritage in an Austro-Hungarian military outpost in land now part of Croatia. He moved to the United States decades after Lincoln’s assassination and lived for many years in New York City before dying in 1943. Their lives barely overlapped.

Or did they?

I’ve enjoyed a long career as a scientist, during which time I’ve also diligently studied Abraham Lincoln. In 2013 I wrote a book about Nikola Tesla that was published by Fall River Press, an imprint of Sterling Publishing in New York. Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity continues to be a great success, with multiple printings totaling 50,000 copies as of the publication of this e-book you’re reading now. This was followed in 2014 by an e-book, Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time, that explores in greater depth Tesla’s early interests and promotion of “energy from nature.” While researching both Tesla books I kept seeing unexpected connections between Tesla and Abraham Lincoln. Intrigued, I began a list of separate connections that kept growing beyond my expectations. How could this be?

In fact, it turns out there are surprisingly many connections between these two men. While they understandably never met, their interests and circles of friends and colleagues greatly overlapped. The concept was so intriguing that I put together an e-book exploring many of these connections – friends, acquaintances, professions, and fate. The e-book will be available on Amazon by early summer. I hope you’ll find it as interesting to read as I did to write.

Given Lincoln’s interest in science and technology and Tesla’s life as an inventor, these connections begin with science. But they don’t stop there. Connections between Lincoln and Tesla also exist in the arts, the environment, a great World’s Fair, and yes, even in the assassination of one of our greatest presidents.

So watch for Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla – Connected by Fate. While you’re waiting, check out my previous e-book, Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time on Amazon.com. [If you’ve read it already, please leave a ranking on Goodreads and Amazon]

Also watch for my new book on Thomas Edison. A companion to Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, EDISON is due out in early 2016 from Sterling Publishing.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Nikola Tesla Day and Spirit Awards – April 9, 2015

April 9, 2015 is the date for a special Nikola Tesla Day at the Tacony Academy Charter School in Philadelphia. The school’s Principal and CEO, Ashley Redfearn, has been actively collaborating with Tesla Science Foundation President Nikola Lonchar and many others to develop a curriculum so that Nikola Tesla can be taught in schools.

Tesla Day

My book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, will play a prominent role in the festivities as copies will be handed out as gifts to teachers who are receiving the Tesla Spirit Awards. Many thanks to the Tesla Science Foundation for organizing the event.

Tesla Day

There are several supporters who will give demonstrations, including author PanOrpheus (Howard Lipman), theremin player Mano Divina, and digital artist Brian Yetzer. I’ll miss the event in person due to other commitments, but will be there in spirit. And in books!

And for those who want to get up close and personal with Tesla automobiles, Tesla Motors will be there too.

Tesla Day 9April2015_p3

It’s been an honor to be associated with such hard working professionals. So if you’re in the Philadelphia area tonight be sure to check out the event. Even if you can’t make it, please consider supporting the efforts of a great many people to bring the work of Nikola Tesla to school curricula all over the country. For more information contact the Tacony Academy Charter School or Ashley Redfearn.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Join CPRC at our 2015 Annual Spring Meeting – April 24

CPRC logoThe following is a cross-posting from the Chesapeake-Potomac Regional Chapter of SETAC. Get more information here.

The CPRC SETAC Annual Spring Meeting will be held Friday April 24th, 2015 at the Robinson Nature Center in Columbia, MD

Meeting Agenda (Program & Abstracts) 

Registration

Registration is $75 for non-members, $60 for professional members, $30 for student non-members and $25 for student members.  The fee includes all of the catered food and drink (breakfast, breaks and lunch) and non-member registration includes a complimentary one year CPRC SETAC membership.  For driving directions to Robinson Nature Center please follow this link.

To register, please fill out the 2015 Meeting Registration Form (Word)  and email it to treasurer.cprc.setac@gmail.com.  Payments can be submitted via PayPal (no PayPal account is required, but please add $2 to cover the PayPal fee) by following this link.  On the registration form, be sure to indicate if you will be joining us for the Friday evening social from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company.  Directions from Robinson Nature Center to Main Street Ellicott City are here.

Area Hotels (pdf)

Keynote Speaker

CPRC SETAC is happy to announce this year’s keynote speaker Mr. James M. Harkins, the Director of Maryland Environmental Service, an independent state agency that operates hundreds of environmental projects including water and wastewater treatment plants, recycling facilities, landfills, and dredged material containment facilities. Jim, a former Harford County Executive, and a two-term member of the Maryland House of Delegates would like to share with you his vast insight and experience tackling environmental issues of our region.  Please find Mr. Harkins bio here (pdf).

Saturday Volunteer Opportunity

Please join us for a Conservation Stewardship Activity at Robinson Nature Center (RNC) on Saturday April 25th from 10:00-12:00. Let’s get outdoors to celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day, continue conversations from the meeting, and give back to RNC to say thanks for the use of their beautiful meeting space! The activity most likely will be either planting native trees and shrubs or removing invasive plants from the forest. Families and friends are welcome!

If you can join us, please complete the volunteer form (Volunteer Event Solo Application) and bring it with you on the 25th. All tools, gloves, and refreshments will be provided. Dress for working outdoors, including closed-toed shoes (no flip-flops or sandals).

The conference will include a full-day technical program with platform and poster presentations. This meeting will bring together professionals from multiple disciplines to present their scientific research and to discuss ongoing and emerging regional issues. Attendance is recommended for environmental professionals and students exploring solutions for environmental health problems, managers and regulators of natural resources, and environmental experts pursuing research and development. We enthusiastically encourage participation of individuals from academia, private industry, and government agencies.

Past CPRC SETAC Annual Spring Meeting attendees have enjoyed a full-day exploring scientific solutions while networking with the region’s top professionals. Everyone was provided with cutting-edge environmental education and offered the opportunity for public outreach through CPRC SETAC sponsored activities. Students were also engaged in mentoring and career guidance. So, save the date (April 24, 2015) and come join us at the Robinson Nature Center for another invigorating professional forum on major environmental issues of the CPRC region and beyond!

Spring 2012 outside building shots cropped_for website2

The Chesapeake and Potomac Regional Chapter (CPRC) of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is a regional chapter of SETAC-North America (NA). CPRC SETAC started in the year 1983. Like the national organization, CPRC SETAC is comprised of a mixture of members working in government, industry, private sector (e.g., consulting) and academic jobs.

I have had the personal privilege of serving as President of CPRC on two separate occasions, plus at various times have been on the Board, Newsletter Editor, Treasurer, Secretary, and general all-around active member. Science Traveler has been a proud Sponsor of CPRC for the last three years.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Skeletons, Hard Drives, and Galileo – Oh My Edison

GoodreadsWhile Thomas Edison slowly comes to life on the pages of my book in progress for Sterling Publishing, we’ve seen a “whole lotta writin’ goin on” (with apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis). There has also been a lot a reading, with 21 books logged into Goodreads for the first quarter of the year.

Skeleton Road near Blackwater National Wildlife RefugeWe’ve seen skeletons here on Science Traveler since the last update. Skeleton Road explored a wrong turn near Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that led to the remains of a deer massacre (unrelated, but somehow reminiscent of the Alice’s Restaurant Massacree of infamy). We also looked at how A Booth Saved a Lincoln (including an interesting connection to Nikola Tesla). There was also a review of the Jonathan W. White book Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln.

hard driveOver on Hot White Snow were two creative writing pieces. Lights Out took a microfiction look at the end of the world as we know it. It turns out it’s hard to end the world in less than 100 words. And in a lighthearted look at what would happen if someone dug into my old computer, check out Dear New Owner of My Old Hard Drive. Watch out for erotica.

GalileoOn the serious side, The Dake Page offered a review of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. Not only does the book put Darwin’s finches in context with recent understanding, it does it in a darn good storytelling format. Also on The Dake Page is The Galileo Delusion – How Climate Deniers Create Alternate “Realities.” The article focuses on the Ted Cruz’s of the world who deny all climate science, then delusionally claim the role of Galileo (the exact opposite of reality).

Young Thomas EdisonNow back to Thomas Edison. Did you know that as a child he was actually called “Little Al?” Or that he was a teenage “news butch” on a train (not quite a teenage werewolf in Paris)? Or that his deafness started at an early age? Stay tuned as Little Al grows up into “The Wizard of Menlo Park” (even though he wasn’t in Menlo Park very long).

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Book Review – Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln by Jonathan W. White

Jonathan W. WhiteThis book is an exceptional work of scholarship. Author Jonathan W. White explores in depth an area of the Civil War largely overlooked, or worse, taken for granted – the soldier vote in 1864. Unafraid to challenge the conventional wisdom, White painstakingly digs into the records to determine exactly how the soldier vote was influenced by various factors, political and otherwise.

That conventional wisdom notes that 78% of the soldier vote went to Lincoln in the 1864 election, and from this assumes that soldiers largely had shifted to the Republican party way of thinking and accepted emancipation as a valid military goal. White shows that the reality is much more nuanced. In fact, the 78% vote is most likely due to other factors.

Those factors are discussed in its five chapters and include intimidation in the Union ranks, resignations and desertions of those who disagreed with emancipation, and disaffection with the long war itself. In short, the composition of the army changed after the Emancipation Proclamation, as Democratic supporters either left the service or found it prudent to avoid voicing their opinions, which would get them charged with disloyalty to the Union.

White’s scholarly research is indefatigable, as the extensive endnotes and lengthy bibliography of primary materials is testament. His unearthing of diaries and letters from individual soldiers, as well as his considerable use of court-martial records, is second to none. The sourcing alone is worthy of acclaim. In fact, the book was awarded the prestigious 2105 Abraham Lincoln Institute book award.

The book is highly recommended to all Lincoln and Civil War scholars.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

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