Earth Size

Earth Size
Relative Size of the Sun and Earth

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Writing an eBook

Part of the reason for this blog's existence is to support my writing of an introductory astronomy book for use by my students (and anyone else interested).  My intent is for it to be published in an eBook format, probably for iPads, and simultaneously available in roughly the same form as a series of posts on this blog and pdf for download.  The advantage to the eBook format would be portability and the ability to see the pertinent animations and play with the physical simulations that will be embedded as small widgets.  

It's long been my soapbox rant that in education we seriously underuse computing technology if we only employ it to show static pages.  Computers are so fast and powerful these days that, in my opinion, the best way to employ them is to harness their ability to interact with the reader by the use of animations and playful simulations.  So I suppose the logical step is to stop preaching about it and actually get down to fulfilling the rhetoric.  
The text, in some kind of order, will appear on the "Astronomy" page; this page will mostly be used as support in noting the "making of..." certain aspects as well as other bloggy topics of things I'm interested in outside the scope of the text.  I'd be very appreciative of any constructive criticism along the way to make things better or more understandable.
One of the daunting challenges in taking on a solo writing project (especially one in which the visual elements are so critically important) is creating the illustrations, both static and dynamic.  For the static pictures, I’ll be using primarily Blender, a free 3D modeling/rendering/animation program.  I’ve worked with it on and off for a while and am always amazed at the results one can achieve with a little tinkering.  One of the images for the introductory chapter is here, “Million”, illustrating visually something that is important to understand for the rest of the text —- the scale of commonly used numbers.  It’s hopefully clear here, after inspecting the image, that a million is a thousand groups of a thousand things.  It’s my opinion that an illustration has the greatest chance to be instructive if it’s aesthetically appealing; an image that people want to look at and draws their gaze has a much better chance of inspiring curiosity.  The banner image on this blog's home page is another example --- it's so easy to tell students that the Sun is about 100x bigger than the Earth, but it's much more impactful to show them in a way that is both accurate and perhaps memorable.
A Million Little Boxes