The Prevailing Westerlies, The Horse Latitudes, and Doldrums: Global Air Circulation

The understanding of complex things… from simple to basic ideas is the goal Professor Greenler sets forth at the onset of this “glimpse into a process of science.” The stated subject is big-scale air circulation patterns around the earth, the hows and whys of the bands of alternating winds circling the globe, as well as a sense of their geographical and human impact, from the location of rainforests and deserts to Columbus’ discovery of the New World. But the main focus is on four ideas concerning the effects of temperature and of the earth’s rotation on air masses, and then on how these principles combine to yield further understanding.

The Mirage, The Discovery of Greenland, and The Green Flash

Fun-house mirrors (ice) castles in the air, the Biblical parting of the Red Sea, a desert Oasis and a Jules Verne novel all work together to explore the mystery of mirages, and quite likely send viewers in search of one. In “The Mirage, the Discovery of Greenland, and the Green Flash,” physicist Robert Greenler uses a lively and entertaining mixture of diagrams, pictures, and demonstrations to explain the how and why of a natural phenomenon that has intrigued and influenced humans throughout time.

Sunlight and Ice Crystals in the Skies of Antarctica

What does the well-dressed scientist wear in Antarctica? (Many layers.) How does that researcher live in an environment where ice and air are the only naturally occurring building materials? (With much logistical support.) Why conduct research at the end of the world? (Best sky effects in the world, and a fascinating place.) In answering these and many more questions, physicist Robert Greenler draws on two research seasons in Antarctica, in 1977 and, 21 years later, in 1997-98.

Red Sunsets, Black Clouds and The Blue Moon: Light Scattering in the Atmosphere

Robert Greenler — Light waves and particles in the atmosphere produce blue skies, red sunsets, white and black clouds, and the rare blue moon. An understanding of the physical origins of such processes, claims physicist Robert Greenler, enhances a person’s sense of awe and appreciation, giving fresh eyes with which to see and enjoy the familiar. With this goal in mind, he combines a delightful mix — of poetry, lasers, diagrams, photographs, shades of white/ gray, and ingenious but simple demonstrations — to explain and show how light waves are scattered in the atmosphere.

Chaos and Fractal Forms: Irregularity in Nature

Anastatsios Tsonis — New expanding ways of looking at the nature of things abound in this lively discussion of the order/disorder that governs out world. “Chaos and Fractal Forms: Irregularity in Nature” looks at a specialized and growing field of computer-based research whose applications touch all aspects of life.