Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time Traveler - Read Outside Your Comfort Zone




As promised, I continued to work on reading outside my comfort zone in the area of nonfiction. (Check out the "Read Outside Your Comfort Zone Challenge" by A Tapestry of Words) I finishedTime Traveler, which is an autobiography of Dr. Mallett, a physicist working on the science behind traveling through time. Since I heard him speak about his life and physics research at a recent conference, I was intrigued by the opportunity to read this book.
 
As a child, I loved the idea of time travel. I read books, watched movies, and even wrote several short stories that relied on various types of time machines. Thankfully, the stories I wrote are long gone. I’m sure I remember them as being much more amazing than they actually were!
Time Traveler combined the story of Dr. Mallett's life with simplified descriptions of many of the principles of physics that he uses in his work.  Dr. Mallett’s father, who was a battlefield medic and television repairman with a love of learning, died suddenly while he was ten.  Even though his family struggled to make ends meet, he found a way to continue to obtain books. He read H.G. Well’s Time Machine and began a lifelong pursuit of the knowledge he would need to turn this science fiction into reality - to travel back in time to save his father.
While I found the actual story of his life compelling, it was often hard to read. It jumped between telling the tale of his life and explaining many of Einstein and other’s breakthroughs in physics. Neither of these flowed particularly well, and I found myself wishing I had a better understanding of the scientific principles he was trying to describe. It’s been a long time since high school and college physics classes, and I really only learned the basics.  I also longed for more diagrams and illustrations to help me comprehend the math and science.
Regardless of the flaws in the writing style, though, it is an inspirational tale. Dr. Mallett is one of very few African American physicists, he transcended a difficult childhood with the love of his family, and he is making good on his childhood dream. Knowing that physics can make some kinds of time travel possible also fascinates me, and makes me want to dive back into a real reading love - science fiction.
If physics sparks your interest, and you’d love to read about one man’s journey from poverty to being a respected professor and speaker, I’d recommend the book. If you don’t have a solid background in this science, though, the technical aspects of the tale will probably bog you down. Instead, check out the History Channel special on time travel that includes Dr. Mallett’s tale. The visuals in the special help clarify the points he is making much better than the book does. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVhPYKYihv8 This link takes you to the full documentary!

Up next - exploring the history of female superheroes and regaining some of my old feminist perspectives with Ink Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors by Jennifer K. Stuller. 

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