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The Scientific Traveler

June 12, 2011

If you’re traveling this summer, there are several books that help you sneak some science into your travels.

With Roadside Geology of Montana, you can drive down the major highways with someone in the car reading out descriptions of what you see and explanations of how those rock formations came to be.  Learn about the Lewis overthrust, the Boulder batholiths, the Lewis & Clark fault, glacial moraines, why there is oil and gas in the Williston basin, and what makes Yogo Gulch sapphires distinctive.

There are Roadside Geology books for 24 states plus 4 volumes of Geology Underfoot, so check to see if there is one for your destination.

The Guidebook for the Scientific Traveler series includes volumes on Visiting Physics and Chemistry Sites Across American and Visiting Astronomy and Space Exploration Sites Across America.  Since many of these sites are associated with individual renowned scientists, I suspect it is best to get a child interested in the scientists themselves, first, by reading a biography.  In fact, the book starts with brief biographies of some of the scientists.

I plan to use the book when taking my son to visit colleges this summer.  There are 8 universities with scientific sites described in the book.  Some of the tours are more of a “George Washington slept here” deal, where you already need to be excited about a particular scientist to find looking at his academic office building exciting, hence my recommendation to read a biography first.   But maybe these scientific tours of college campuses are a good way to introduce kids to colleges while still in middle school and get a jumpstart on the college selection process or a way to make college tours more interesting for high school kids.

There are also sections on the national laboratories (Fermi, Argonne, Lawrence Livermoore, Lawrence Berkeley and Brookhaven), particle accelerators, nuclear weapons, energy, chemistry in industry, and museums, so you can plan trips around those interests.  Or look in the back at the list by state to see what is available where you already plan to travel.

What other tools do you use to incorporate science into your summer vacations?  Add your tips in the “Leave a Reply” box below.


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