Wreath Laying at the Lincoln Memorial, February 12th

I am honored to be the official representative of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia for the annual wreath laying at the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, February 12, 2016.

I received my invitation letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and will be participating in the event this Friday. The annual ceremony began in 1923, the year after the Memorial was dedicated, and commemorates the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. I will lay the wreath on behalf of the Lincoln Group.

Lincoln Memorial Wreath Laying

The event is organized by the Lincoln Birthday National Commemorative Committee (LBNCC). The Lincoln Group of DC has participated for many years, so I’m especially honored to participate this year. Wreaths will be laid for the President, the Diplomatic Corps, the Secretary of the Interior, and for the District of Columbia. Other Lincoln and Civil War organizations, including the Lincoln Group, will also lay wreaths.

If you’re in the area, please join us in the dedication, which is free and open to the public and starts at 11:45 am. I’ll have more photos after the ceremony.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Being Inside the Fish Bowl of St. Barts (aka, We All Live in a Yellow Submarine)

As an aquarium nut I’ve visited over 40 aquariums around the world. Last week it was me inside the fish bowl with the fish outside looking in at me. Welcome to St. Barts and the Yellow Submarine.

Saint Barthélemy, commonly called St. Barths (or by Americans, St. Barts) was the last stop on my recent sailing cruise in the Caribbean. It was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, who named it after his brother Bartolomeo. With a complicated history that includes slavery up until 1847, this tiny island (< 9 square miles; ~9000 people) is a haven for the unnaturally wealthy. The number of yachts bigger than my house was astounding to see.

Its long volcanic history heightens its mountainous charms and led to the rise of its encircling coral reefs. It was to these reefs I headed with the Beatles song humming in my mind…aboard a yellow submarine.

Yellow submarine

Technically it was a semi-submersible (or semi-submersed) and not a submarine, but the gimmick was an effective way to introduce people to the reef corals and fishes. Once out of the marina you move from the stylishly yellow surface deck to a long tube-like below deck. Essentially, you’re now inside the aquarium looking out at the inhabitants in their natural world.

Yellow submarine inside

As the submarine moves out of the harbor you start to see tons of fish. A handy fish guide helps you with identification, though the numbers of yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus for you nomenclature nuts) and Sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis). I’m sure you can figure out which is which in this photo.

Yellow Submarine fish

There were also several species of Caranx, various grunts, the occasional pompano, angel fish, surgeon fish, parrot fish, and even a barracuda. We even saw a shipwreck. One highlight was a quick view of a hawksbill turtle:

We saw another sea turtle swimming on the surface as we took the tender back to the ship. There were also pelicans and frigate birds in numbers I usually see only for seagulls.

Somehow being inside the aquarium seemed appropriate. The trip took us to seven different islands, each of which offered its own unique character and excursions. I’ll have more on other facets of this science traveling in future posts. For now, it’s back to dry land to plan the next adventure.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Book Review – The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom

Man Who Loved ChinaRenowned author Simon Winchester has written a wonderful book about a scientist most people have not heard about, but should have. Joseph Needham was a biochemist, nudist, socialist-leaning British scientist at prestigious Cambridge University. He was devoted both to his wife and his mistress, the latter of whom was a visiting Chinese scientist who introduced him to the culture he would obsessively love and study the rest of his life.

That obsession led to a series of epic volumes (now 7 “volumes” in 24 books, and counting) called “Science and Civilisation in China.” In it he documents in great detail how most of the inventions and scientific we have come to know as western were actually originally invented and envisioned in China (step aside Gutenberg, the printed book predated you by several centuries).

Winchester touches on some of those inventions, but mostly the book traces the man, his journeys in China during the Japanese occupation and second world war, his socialistic leanings (including meeting Chou Enlai and Mao Zedong), and the trials of creating his masterpiece, which was only partially finished at his death at 95 years old. At one point, soon after Mao has taken over China and the western world (including his campus) are in the midst of the “red scare,” Needham finds himself duped by his former friends in China, which nearly crashes his career and book project. Winchester examines that blunder and Needham’s slow climb back to acceptability, then the great success of creating one of the greatest treatises on the history of science.

An eye-opening book in many ways, exceptionally well-written by one of today’s most successful non-fiction writers. Of interest to scientists, to those who are interested in China, and anyone who wants to learn more about both.

More on “Science and Civilisation in China” can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_Civilisation_in_China.

More book reviews on Goodreads.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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EDISON: The Inventor of the Modern World

Thomas Edison

In July 2013 Fall River Press published my book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. Now in July 2016 they will publish the follow up book, EDISON: The Inventor of the Modern World.

The writing was finished last September and since then the book has been in the production phase – cover design, layout, and tons and tons of photos. I should have an image of the cover in the near future. Meanwhile the book is off to the printer for the expected July release.

There is also the back material. Most books have a summary on the back cover and the following is the draft that went to the publisher. What do you think?

Thomas Edison is well known to everyone. Or is he? We know that Edison was one of the most productive and influential inventors of all time and helped usher in the modern world. But while it makes for an impressively heroic tale, the full story of Edison the man is much more complex. He played an unsurpassed role in improving telegraphy; inventing the telephone, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera; and developing a more reliable electric lighting system and lightbulb. Edison also less famously explored iron ore mining and milling, concrete building materials, and storage batteries for electric cars, and even launched the search for a domestic source of rubber for automobile and bicycle tires. Along the way he found time for two wives and six children, although more often than not he neglected them as he worked through the night on his latest distraction. He also befriended Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, battled Nikola Tesla in the war of the currents, and became synonymous with the art of invention.

This impressively illustrated book takes us on a complete tour of this great man’s inventions, private life, personal struggles, and enduring legacy. Through fascinating anecdotes, illuminating stories, and many photographs, cartoons, and caricatures, this book brings to life one man’s amazing career and incalculable contributions to humanity.

Tesla and Edison were two very different men of invention, so it was a great honor to be able to examine both of their lives in successive books. If you haven’t already, check out my Tesla book now and then watch for the Edison book to come out in July.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Science Traveling – The Sailing Cruise

One of the joys of science traveling is the opportunity to try new adventures. I started my career as a marine biologist so spend a good number of hours on boats and ships, but it was only a few years ago I took my first actual pleasure cruise (a gift to my parents). That ship was a huge cruise liner the size of a large hotel or two, with stops in Roatan (Honduras), Belize City (Belize), Costa Maya and Cozumel (both Mexico).

This one is different. The ship is smaller (300 guests instead of 2300) and has sails. Yes, sails.

Wind Surf

The cruise starts in St. Maarten, sails each night, and stops each day at a new Caribbean island, none of which I’ve ever seen before. Between margaritas on the terrace bar we’ll have excursions into the rainforests and beaches and mountains and reefs of Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, and St. Barts, before heading back to St. Maarten (where we hope to see the planes land over Maho Beach).

Caribbean

I’ll be taking tons of photos and collecting more than a few stories. I’ll also be on the lookout for remnants of the slave trade, of which most of these islands played a significant role in the decades leading up to the U.S. Civil War.  The information is important for my Abraham Lincoln research.

More soon.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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St. Maarten – The Most Interesting Airport Landing in the World

One of the great thrills of science traveling is to experience interesting new places. If you watch any travel programs you may have seen something like this landing:

St. Maarten landing

Yes, that ‘s a real plane and real beach and real road; no photoshop. Maho Beach sits at the base of the runway for Princess Juliana International Airport on the Dutch side of the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. The beach has become a planespotter’s paradise because you can almost reach up and touch the landing gear of planes as they land. The History Channel in 2010 voted it the fourth most dangerous airport in the world. Check out this landing:

You can watch a longer series of clips here.

Princess Juliana is the gateway to the leeward islands, where I’ll be starting my sailing cruise shortly. Stops will take us to Barbuda, Dominica, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, St. Barts, and back to St. Maarten. The plan is to spend a day in St. Maarten before the cruise and make our way to Maho Beach before flying out.

Warning sign

As exciting as the landings are, the takeoffs can be interesting as well. Despite warning signs, beachgoers are known to stand in the jet blast zone, with not unexpected effect:

I’m not likely to be one of them. What interests me more is the science behind such a flight path. Coming in at a a 3° glide slope angle, the plane’s gear must touch down quickly to ensure a safe landing on the 7500-foot long runway. Take-offs require a quick turn to avoid the mountains rising into the departure path (you can see the mountains in the above video, which has the plane taking off over Maho Beach instead of the normal flight path).

I’ll dig up more science once on the trip. On most of the islands I’ll be doing tons of science-y hikes in the rainforest, snorkeling, kayaking, and more. During the trip I’ll be on complete “radio silence,” with no phone or internet at all, but expect some pre-scheduled posts while I’m gone and plenty of updates when I return.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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[Daily Post]

Book Review – Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams

Turn Right at Machu PicchuMark Adams is an editor and writer for adventure magazines who had never done anything at all adventurous. That is, until he became obsessed with Hiram Bingham III, the Yale lecturer and explorer who discovered Machu Picchu. Adams decides to follow in the steps of Bingham, and so begins a modern trek over ancient lands.

While Bingham may have indirectly been the inspiration for Indiana Jones, Adams is led on his adventure by a guide more closely related to Crocodile Dundee. John Leivers is an Aussie who has traveled to the remotest places in the world, usually under an 80-pound backpack. With four Peruvian natives manning the mules, carrying supplies, and cooking meals as they camp in the wilds, Adams and Leivers hike to Incan ruins ignored by modern tourists but discovered by Bingham a hundred years ago.

As the story unfolds, Adams reveals that “discovered” might be somewhat of a misnomer. Still, the triad of expeditions by Bingham are brought to life through Adams’s recreation of the events and retelling of Bingham’s rather comprehensive and detailed (i.e., boring) reports. The style of the book is to interweave the author’s own personal background and trials (along with that of John and the Peruvian guides) with Bingham’s history. Also interwoven is the history of the Incas from Atahulapa (murdered by Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro after extracting a ransom of gold and silver) to Manco Inca’s guerrilla warfare (and escape into the mountains) to the discovery of the ruins of Vitcos, Espritu Pampa, and Machu Picchu.

The book provides a sense of the territory being traversed and the culture both of the Incas and modern Peruvians. Adams’s writing is fluid and light, laced with rye humor, and constructed in very short chapters that make the book a delightful read. It does get sluggish in a few places, most notably immediately after Machu Picchu and Adams’s return to New York, but picks up again as he makes a return trip to hike the Inca Trail. Insights into local customs, ancient rites, and modern inconveniences are knitted deftly throughout the book.

Turn Right at Machu Picchu” was recommended to me as a preview for my upcoming visit to the ancient city. I found that it aroused my curiosity and excitement for the trip. If you’re planning such a trip, or simply are interested in a good adventure tail about the area, then this is the book for you.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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Recapturing Martin Luther King’s Dream

Martin Luther King Jr monument, Washington DCMartin Luther King Jr. had a dream. A dream in which “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'”

We’re not there yet.

As we celebrate Dr. King’s life, and commemorate his efforts, we find ourselves in the midst of many of the same trials faced by him fifty years ago – discrimination, voter suppression, systemic-induced poverty. Many, if not most, of us are still Looking for Martin Luther King’s Dream.

To be honest, it’s an embarrassment to America that over 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation and over 50 years since the Civil Rights Acts we are still fighting many of the same battles. In some ways it isn’t a surprise; the election of our first African-American president brought to surface the barely concealed weapons of bigotry just as the election of another tall president from Illinois brought to surface the inherent racism of the slaveholders a sesquicentennial ago. It is shocking that it still exists. And yet it does.

These ills aren’t limited to the African-American community. Bigotry directly effects other minority groups, women, LGBT Americans, Muslims, veterans, the poor, and virtually every other person that doesn’t fit the bigot’s view of “the right kind of American.” Often that bigotry is blind to the adverse effects it has on the bigot himself.

With these caveats in mind, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is a good time to reflect. President Obama has again called for this day to be a national day of service, where people don’t just take a day off, they take a day on…giving volunteer service to their communities. Dr. King would have approved.

Abraham Lincoln would have agreed as well. In his Gettysburg Address he advised us “to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” Dr. King’s dream has not yet come to fruition. It behooves all of us to dedicate ourselves to his unfinished work.

Other MLK-related posts:

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial – Washington DC

Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, and Abraham Lincoln

Martin Luther King Day – From Selma to Nobel

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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[Daily Post]

Around the Blogs

A lot is going on…and planning is in progress for a lot more. To get everyone up to date here is a quick round up of the blogs.

photo 3

Hot White Snow: A place for my more creative writing endeavors, writing prompt responses, erotica, science fiction, a couple of specialty series, and articles on how to improve the reader’s writing life.

Recent posts include an intriguing Microfiction post marrying Bogie, Bacall, and the Old West, plus an “On Writing” episode focused on Writing Through Writer’s Block.

Air and Water GaugesThe Dake Page: A science blog focused on communicating science to the general populace, examining climate change (both the science and the denial), and providing relevant book reviews.

Recent posts include the role of climate science in the State of the Union address and the upcoming election year, plus parsing the arrogance of ignorance in climate denial.

...and Tesla TV

Science Traveler: My author website focused on non-fiction books (Tesla, Edison, Lincoln), plus tips and tales about traveling the world.

Recent posts include the Aquarium in New Orleans, the connection between Davie Bowie and Nikola Tesla (hint: The Prestige), and a combined post on how my preparation for an upcoming trip to Machu Picchu reminds me of a previous trip into Argentinian Patagonia.

There is much more beyond this, including many activities with the Lincoln Group of DC, the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, a lot of book reading, and even more book writing.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

Preparing for Machu Picchu

Machu PicchuMachu Picchu is on my science traveling list for this year, so I’m doing some preparation and planning for the trip. That includes some background reading like the book, Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams. I’m only about 20% into it so can’t comment about the quality of the book yet, but already it’s given me some ideas for the future…and brought back some cool memories of a past trip.

The author is retracing the footsteps of Hiram Bingham III, the Yale professor who is credited with discovering Machu Picchu in 1911. As with many great discoveries, there is some intrigue about whether he was the first or not and how much it was an accident of faith to find it, but that’s a story for another time. What Bingham was actually looking for was the “Lost City of the Incas.” Before stumbling on Machu Picchu he actually first found a place called Choquequirao.

Choquequirao is considered a sister site to Machu Picchu; to this day it remains largely uncovered and undefiled by the tourist hordes. What struck me about Choquequirao was the eerily familiar approach. Adams has a photo that looks like a lot like this:

Pinturas River valley

 

 

My photo above is the approach to the Cueva de las Manos (the Cave of the Hands) in southern Patagonia, Argentina. Those are full size trees in the valley. The caption in the Adams photo says that his valley was mine on steroids – though only six miles total it took “two grueling days” of hiking down, then up. My valley was done in a long half-day, but to me it seemed no less grueling.

Reading the book gives me a taste of what to expect on the trip, as well as some fantastic background history on Inca culture and Andean geography. But it also gave me something completely unexpected – a connection to Abraham Lincoln. It seems that joining Bingham on his expedition to Choquequirao was a “well-connected young man” by the name of Clarence Hay. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Clarence Hay is the son of John Hay, the former Secretary of State to Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt – and former personal secretary to yet another president, Abraham Lincoln.

As I continue reading the book, and continue to prepare for Machu Picchu, I also find myself wanting to write more about my previous trip to Patagonia. I’ll be doing that in the near future. Until then you can read my earlier reminiscences of Patagonia here.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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