Dark Matter and Dark Energy

Dark Matter & Dark Energy coverDark Matter and Dark Energy: The Hidden 95% of the Universe
Brian Clegg
Icon Books Ltd (August 8, 2019), 143 pages
Kindle edition $6.99, Amazon paperback $12.23

This is a slim volume, part of the Hot Science series from Icon Books, a publisher in the United Kingdom. Brian Clegg is a veteran science writer whose language is clear and concise but sprinkled with some enjoyable wit.

Scientists calculate that the matter in the universe that we can see is only a small portion of what should actually be there. We don’t yet know where the rest of it is. Clegg says that it would be better to call it transparent matter. The most recent science tells us that the universe continues to expand and will do so indefinitely. However the amount of energy we can measure is far less than what would be needed for this to happen. Hence dark energy.

Clegg thinks that there are alternative explanations to the existence of dark matter. He is more convinced that dark energy exists.

There are no definitive answers for either phenomenon. The research continues. But Clegg’s book offers a readable snapshot on the state of the research.

In Search of the Lost Chord

In Search of the Lost Chord coverIn Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea
Danny Goldberg
Akashic Books (June 6, 2017), 280 pages
Kindle edition $10.99, Amazon paperback $13.92

Danny Goldberg sees 1967 as the apex of the hippie era. Before that the movement was not fully mature and the following year brought an end to those ideals in the minds of many. That’s because the year 1968 brought us the assassinations of both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the riots at the democratic convention in Chicago, and the nomination of Richard Nixon to head the Republican presidential ticket.

Goldberg covers culture, politics, and music. He talks about the original hippie be-ins, a hippie spoof of the civil rights sit-ins and the antiwar teach-ins on college campuses. He points out that “like much hip language, the device had a short shelf life before going mainstream,” with the advent of the irreverent television program Laugh-In.

He writes about a group called the Diggers, who were a sort of a luddite group, but who provided food and other services to the poor. He discusses political activists such as Jerry Rubin, and documents the criticism of hippies by many, including by quite a few on the left, who felt they were doing nothing to improve society. Goldberg describes how musical groups such as the Grateful Dead were mostly non-political, whereas a group such as Country Joe and the Fish was the exact opposite.

Goldberg was born in 1950, three years before me, so he came of age in the midst of all this. Although he at times documents his own involvement in this world, for the most part he objectively describes the era, even if it is obvious where is biases lie.

Taste the Nation

I first became aware of Padma Lakshmi in a rather odd way. In an effort to save a little money I was borrowing audiobooks from the public library rather than buying them from Audible. This meant that the most recent and most popular titles were checked out and unavailable. Scrolling through the available titles I encountered her autobiography Love, Loss, and What We Ate. I had not been previously familiar with her, but I thoroughly enjoyed her book (which she read herself) in which she describes being born in India and then, as a child, following her mother to the United States after she completed her education and found work as a nurse.

Taste the NationYou may be familiar with Padma as host of the television program Top Chef on Bravo, but if you have been reading this blog you know how I feel about cooking competition television shows. There is a lot more to Padma than Top Chef, however, and after listening to her audiobook I started following her on Instagram. I was pleased to learn that she was developing a television program on which she sampled immigrant food around the country.

The series, entitled Taste the Nation, dropped on Hulu this past spring and is still available if you are a subscriber. It is a real delight. She samples Mexican food in El Paso, German food in Milwaukee, and Gullah food in South Carolina. She cooks Indian food with her mother and samples the food of the one group that does not have immigrant roots: Native Americans. (As one woman makes clear, Indian fry bread is not truly native American. It is what they made do with they were gathered up by the white man, put in camps, and given flour to cook with. True Native American food derives from what can be hunted and harvested in the desert of the American Southwest.)

If this sounds very similar to Marcus Samuelsson’s PBS program No Passport Required, it is. But each show brings its own perspective. Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, and immigrated to the United States. Padma brings her Indian American perspective. Both programs remind us of what we owe immigrants for the variety of food and culture we experience throughout the country.

Taste the Nation was produced pre-COVID-19, so Padma freely interacts with people, eating in their restaurants and homes. It is a delightful series to watch. I’m happy that a second season has been commissioned.