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One can hardly do justice to Marie Tharp in a paper of this length, as her life exemplifies so many strands of emerging science and disciplines as well as a sea-change in society as a whole. Her story points to the great value of the study of the history of disciplines, in the broad sense of geology as a whole, the emerging subsciences of geophysics and more sophisticated seismology, and  as the newly coined oceanography. In a relatively short period, knowledge of the ocean floor went from an assumed almost featureless abyssal plain to a worldwide complex of ridges, valleys and transform faults showing regularly reversing strips of magnetism. Accounts of Marie Tharp’s life also show a progression. She was at first nearly invisible, a “computer” as then known as she took numbers and translated them to maps. She was not allowed to go on ships to collect data, was basically ignored in published papers and was rarely referenced in histories, but her career ended with a full and fair assessment of her place in the complex story.

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2022 Library Acquisitions

Some people may think librarians have the best job in the world. We get to buy books…professionally. It is pretty great, but we can’t and don’t just buy whatever tickles our fancy. We work hard to make sure the books we’re buying for the collection support the action, whether that’s purchasing what scholars near and far recommend to us, trying to predict the future to acquire what scholars of tomorrow may want, or supporting the work our colleagues do at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives or Center for History of Physics. These are just some of the books we purchased this year and why we purchased them.

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January Photos of the Month

“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” is a familiar line if you have watched Star Trek: The Next Generation. In that show, Captain Jean-Luc Piccard orders his favorite beverage from the replicator in the same manner in practically every episode. A nice hot tea is also my beverage of choice during the cold winter months. Looking through the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, it is clear many a physicist has also enjoyed a delicious cup of tea. Enjoy this Photos of the Month post on the theme of tea with a cup of your favorite winter beverage.

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Here at the Niels Bohr Library & Archives, we are National History Day enthusiasts! NBLA has sponsored the History of the Physical Sciences & Technology Prize since 2017: one prize for the senior division, and one for the junior division. It is one of several special prizes that highlight a specific subject for the middle and high school participants of this nation-wide history contest. (Read more about the program and find out how to participate as a grade school student or a teacher here.) 

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December Photos of the Month

Back in the heyday of Livejournal, there was a “random” button you could select on the homepage that would take you to any blog on the site. One day when I was 16 and bored, I clicked it and it took me to a blog of a user named mananath, who was working as a janitor in Antarctica at the time. This was the first time I became aware of the fact that people could visit the continent, and it spurred my love of Antarctica that carries on to this day. 

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In recognition of Native American Heritage Month, we’ve compiled recommendations of all types that tell the stories of science and Indigenous people, including biographies of Native physical scientists, books and resources on the interactions between Indigenous knowledge and western science, readings about conflicts over Native land use for scientific purposes, and even a sci-fi series and selections for young readers. Our list contains books of multiple genres, podcasts, and videos, so there is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter what medium you prefer!

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November Photos of the Month

November 11th, known in the United States as Veteran’s Day, but in many other countries as Armistice Day, marks the end of fighting in the First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918. Although World War II is usually nicknamed the “Physicist’s War,” - and WWI the “Chemist’s War” - the history of physics and physicists is also closely interwoven with the First World War. For the November Photos of the Month, I’ve pulled out some photos from the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives (ESVA) that highlight aspects of the history of physics in WWI with a focus on the United States.

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Celebrating Archives Month

"A place where you can find unexpected things
unexpected treasures
unexpected grocery lists"

Is the start of our poem!

This poem was created in celebration of American Archives Month. Every October, Archives Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of archival collections and the people who work with and use them. In case you want a more concrete answer to the question, "What's an Archives?" check out the National Archives page on the subject.

The poem is comprised of anonymous submissions by AIP staff and our social media followers to the prompt "Archives are..."

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We are excited to welcome author Or Graur to the blog! Earlier this year, MIT Press published his book Supernova, which is a concise introduction to the history and physics of supernovae, or the brilliant explosions of stars. Graur is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Astrophysics at the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.

Please tell us a bit about your book.  What drew you to the topic?

When I was an undergraduate student, I wrote a report on dark energy. It had only been discovered a few years before and was an exciting new mystery. When the time came to look for PhD projects, I wanted to work in this field, but there was no one working on it at Tel Aviv University. I knew that dark energy was discovered due to observations of supernovae, so I decided to approach the field that way. This led me to Prof. Dan Maoz, who had a long-term research program to try and figure out what types of stars explode as Type Ia supernovae, the type of supernova used to discover dark energy. Under his supervision, I completed three surveys, in which I discovered supernovae myself, then used them to measure the frequency at which Type Ia supernovae explode at different ages of the Universe. I still remember how excited I was when I compared the rates I had measured to theoretical models. For a split second, I had twitched the veil covering the Universe’s mechanism. I’ve been hooked ever since. I still study Type Ia supernovae, but now my focus has shifted to using the Hubble Space Telescope to study how the light from these events fades years after the explosion. This is another way to approach the same problem: figuring out what type of star explodes as this type of supernova, and how the explosion occurs.

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October Photos of the Month

October is the month during which the Nobel Prize Awards are announced. This 121 year old tradition has been observed since the awards were established in 1901, following the will of Swedish inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel. For the October Photos of the Month, I decided to explore and see what we can find in the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives about these award celebrations.