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Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights Hardcover – 25 Feb 2016

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Collins (25 Feb. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0008156093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0008156091
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 151,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

‘Captivating’ Nature

‘Spell-binding … a brilliant blend of auroral science, polar exploration, Sami heritage and folklore … full of wonders.’ The Simple Things

‘Her greatest strength is her ability to illuminate science for the lay person.’ Literary Review

‘Her enthusiasm for all things aurora is, ultimately, infectious and there will be something of interest here for anyone with even a passing curiosity in this remarkable natural phenomenon’ The Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Dr Melanie Windridge is a plasma physicist, lecturer and writer with a taste for adventure. She has a PhD in fusion energy and is Business Development Manager for fusion start-up Tokamak Energy, as well as working in education with the Ogden Trust, Anturus and Your Life. Melanie loves the mountains and believes science and exploration go hand in hand.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very enjoyable read
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting book
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Format: Paperback
An intriguing mix of exploration, science, history and 'the meaning of life'.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is brilliant, highly original. The author, a scientist (plasma-physicist) and intrepid traveller, takes us on a journey of exploration and discovery centred on the aurora or ‘northern lights’ - an expert guide with an extensive network of contacts.

It covers much more then the ‘lights’ themselves. It’s about the polar latitudes and landscapes, the northern and Arctic regions in particular. The extremes of climate and terrain. The remote communities, the outposts and settlements, the observatories and research stations. We’re out there, visiting Kiruna, Yellowknife, Svalbard, Caithness, Karasjok, Emstrur and others. Meeting the people who live and work in these testing frontier places, hardy and enterprising, self-reliant, simultaneously both matter-of-fact and revelling in their surroundings. Participating as the author talks with a range of experts and specialists, researchers and experimentalists, knowledgeable enthusiasts and amateurs, volunteer groups and adventurous individuals, all generously giving their time, expertise and knowledge. There are encounters and discussions with aviators and reindeer herders, artists and crofters; miners and micro-brewers. Excursions far from human habitation, accompanied by skilled Arctic guides.

Operating and being shown the recording instruments and apparatus, the observation equipment. Staying in spartan minimalist huts and cabins, sharing the hardships and adventures, as well as the camaraderie and hospitality around the mess-table and campfire.

The ethereal ‘lights’ have mesmerised, intrigued and beguiled, exerted a hold since earliest times. Driven the quest for understanding and knowledge.
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Format: Hardcover
Fascinated by the mysterious shape-shifting of the Northern Lights which intrigued both local communities and explorers long before they had an inkling of the scientific causes, plasma physicist Melanie Windridge set out to write a popular science-cum-travelogue to explain the phenomenon, visiting Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada and Scotland in the process.

The author makes comparisons to twanging elastic bands, strings of pearls or games of cricket to make theories easier to grasp. There is also a good deal of repetition, which can be useful, although I was left confused and frustrated by the fragmented explanation (with often unclear diagrams) of the all important “Dungey Cycle” by which the plasma stream of negatively charged particles from the solar wind interact with the earth’s magnetic field to give some of the most spectacular aurora effects on the night side of the earth. Perhaps I am puzzled over the above because the process is still not fully understood by the experts.

No doubt to achieve a reasonable length and to make the physics more digestible, the text sometimes seems “padded out” with mundane details of encounters, or over-long digressions into, say, the history of photography, but one cannot afford to skip anything. I found my interest unexpectedly caught by, for instance, the history of the Canadian town of Yellowknife, named after the copper blades of the knives carried by the local Dene people. In the series of prospecting rushes for minerals, the town had a belated gold mine open right up to 2003.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr Melanie Windridge is a physicist, specialising in fusion research, and an adventurous traveller, at home in the world’s coldest places. These two interests come together in her fascination with the aurora borealis, the Northern Lights, those beautiful, enigmatic, dynamic light displays visible across northern latitudes. (There is an Antarctic equivalent, the Aurora Australis, but this is only visible to a few Antarctic residents)

In her book, “Aurora: In search if the Northern Lights”, Melanie visits many places where the aurora is visible – Lapland, Iceland, Canada, northern Scotland, Spitzbergen – and interviews people for whom the lights are a big part of their lives. She travels with Sami herdsmen in northern Norway, and learns of Sami mythology and of the gradual dwindling of their nomadic way of life. In Canada she meets astronomers who run a nationwide auroral monitoring network; in Scotland, RAF pilots who regard the lights as a navigational complication.

In between these human interest stories Dr Windridge does a good job of explaining the natural science of the Northern Lights. We now understand that the driving force is winds of charged particles from the Sun, with spectacular displays corresponding to solar flares and coronal mass ejections. But the fine detail is surprisingly complicated and sometimes counter-intuitive. If aurorae are created by particles from the Sun, how come they happen at night, on the far side of the Earth? The answer lies in a subtle series of magnetic field line reconnections, channelling energy from the solar wind into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. It was refreshing to read, at times, that there are aspects of this theory that we still don’t understand.
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