James D. Livingston

The evolution of life

Matt Damon in "The Martian"

Pluto's surface as seen by New Horizons

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket

Size comprison of the Earth, the moon, and Pluto (lower left)

Aerial view of Spaceship Two crash in Mohave Desert

Close-up of nucleus of comet 67P taken by ESA spacecraft Rosetta

Wernher Von Braun & engines of Saturn V

Steven Swanson (left) and Russian colleagues

Yutu, Chinese rover, on the moon

Comet ISON and its green tail

International Space Station, where NASA will continue to support the astronauts during the shutdown

Artist's version of Mars One colony (Bryan Versteeg)

Kepler Space Telescope (artist's version)

Pluto - the Former Ninth Planet

Virgin Galactic space plane over New Mexico's Spaceport America

Saturn - Lord of the Rings

Arizona's Meteor Crater

Radar view of the surface of Venus as seen by Magellan orbiter

Use of Terra, a spin-off of CheMin (instrument on Curiosity), in King Tut's tomb

Streambed found on Mars by Curiosity (compared to dry streambed on Earth)

Self-portrait of the rover Curiosity on Mars.


The Story of Life

August 30, 2016

Tags: homo sapiens, big bang, evolution, RNA world, Georges Lemaitre, Jenn Martel, Life of Pi, story telling, Ken Read-Brown

In an online interview, Yann Martel, the author of “Life of Pi,” said, “the subtext of the book can be summarized in three lines: 1: Life is a story, 2. You can choose the story, 3. A story with God is the better story." And to another question, he answered, "God is hard to believe, ask any believer. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. What is your problem with hard to believe?”

Martel’s thoughts, my readings on how skill at story telling provided a likely evolutionary advantage to early homo sapiens, plus a sermon last year by Ken Read-Brown, minister of my UU church on the Great Story, the scientific story of life, together encouraged me to put together for a summer service at the church a condensed version of this story (in what may be a familiar format to those who have read Genesis): (more…)

Here Comes The Martian

September 18, 2015

Tags: Mars, astronaut, landing, Matt Damon, Andy Weir, Mariner 4, NASA, Mars One, Bas Lansdorp

Published in The Patriot Ledger September 19, 2015

It’s opening soon – “The Martian” starring Matt Damon. In the film, Damon plays the title character, but he’s not an alien. He’s a human astronaut stranded on Mars when the rest of his NASA crew evacuate the planet to return home, thinking Damon dead. He’s “The Martian” because he then has to find ways to survive alone on Mars. (more…)

Flying By Pluto

July 21, 2015

Tags: Pluto, Kuiper belt, New Horizons, NASA, Alan Stern, Alice Bowman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Charon

Published in The Patriot Ledger July 25, 2015

I called it “poor little Pluto” in an earlier column, but Pluto was very big in the news last week when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by it after traveling more than 9 years and more than 3 billion miles through space. It was a tremendous success for the New Horizons team led by Principal Investigator Alan Stern and Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, known to the team as MOM. (more…)

Competition Beats Monopoly

June 4, 2015

Tags: SpaceX, Elon Musk, ULA, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Atlas, Delta, Air Force, satellites, NASA

Published in The Patriot Ledger June 4, 2015

It was a win for competition, a loss for monopoly. Last week, the U.S. Air Force announced it would allow SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket to compete for the launching of military satellites, ending a decade-long monopoly of United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. (more…)

Big Year for Dwarf Planets

February 9, 2015

Tags: Dawn, Ceres, New Horizons, Pluto, dwarf planets, asteroid, planet

Published in The Patriot Ledger January 24, 2015

2015 will be a big year for dwarf planets. Two spaceships launched by NASA several years ago will soon be giving us our first close look at Ceres and at Pluto, giving us better photos and more scientific data on each of these dwarf planets than we have had before. But what are dwarf planets? When I was a boy, Pluto was one of the nine planets and Ceres was an asteroid. (more…)

FAILURE - unfortunately, it IS an option

November 8, 2014

Tags: Virgin Galactic, SpaceShip Two, Orbital Sciences, Antares rocket, Apollo 13, Elon Musk, SpaceX

Published in The Patriot Ledger November 8, 2014

Last year in this space I wrote about the prospects of space tourism, and urged you to sign up soon for a suborbital flight with Virgin Galactic, which was likely to start its flights this year. I don’t know if any of you followed my advice, but if you did, you were probably disturbed by the crash last week of Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two, killing one of the two pilots (the other escaped by parachute). Fortunately, there were no other passengers. (more…)

Rosetta and the Stone

August 23, 2014

Tags: comet, European Space Agency, 67P, Rosetta, rendezvous

Published in The Patriot Ledger August 23, 2014

In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the Soviets who had most of the space firsts, including the first satellite, first man in space, and first rocket to the moon. Starting with the Apollo moon landing in 1969, it has been NASA that has had the most space firsts. But earlier this month, the European Space Agency (ESA) scored a major space first when its Rosetta spacecraft rendezvoused with a comet. (more…)

It's Only Rocket Science

July 22, 2014

Tags: rockets, moon, Saturn V, SLS, Falcon Heavy, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Wernher Von Braun

Published in The Patriot Ledger July 22, 2014

In July 1969, 45 years ago this month, Neil Armstrong made the famous “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” onto the Moon. He and the two others on the Apollo 11 crew, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, were launched from Cape Canaveral by a huge Saturn V rocket. Saturn V rockets continued to launch astronauts to the moon for several years, and there were serious predictions that humans would land on Mars before the end of the century. Those were the days. (more…)

Cold War on the International Space Station

April 8, 2014

Tags: Steven Swanson, International Space Station, Kazakhstan, Baikonur, Russia, Crimea, Ukraine, Putin, Obama

Published in The Patriot Ledger April 8, 2014

Recently, as Obama sharply criticized Putin’s moves towards Ukraine and the world worried about a renewal of the Cold War, American astronaut Steven Swanson and two Russian colleagues were launched together to the International Space Station, leaving Earth-based politics behind. In the early days of the Cold War, the space race was the most visible form of competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Today space is one of the few areas where America and Russia truly work together in a cooperative fashion. (more…)

The Rabbit Has Landed - on the Man in the Moon

December 21, 2013

Tags: moon, rover, China, jade rabbit, Yutu, Chang'e, Bay of Rainbows

Published in The Patriot Ledger December 21, 2013

We all look up in the night sky and see the markings on the moon, the contrast between the dark lowlands called maria and the lighter highlands, but different cultures interpret the markings differently. We see a “man in the moon.” The Chinese see a rabbit. (more…)

Selected Works

A brief sequel to Arsenic and Clam Chowder, in which Mary Alice travels north on the Klondike Gold Rush
A sensational murder trial set in 1890s New York
Popular Science
The first review of the many and varied forms of magnetic levitation written for a general audience.
A entertaining treatment of the history, legends, science, and technology of magnets for a general audience.
Historical Biography
The dramatic life story of an early feminist and abolitionist who was both witty and wise.
Undergraduate Textbook
A lively introduction to the electrical, optical, and magnetic properties of solids.

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