BPAA Lecture Series 2004

Keeping It Together

A Solar System Tour with a Dynamic Emphasis

Inner solar system animation

This ten lecture series will meet at 7:00 PM in Classroom 311 Bainbridge High School.

  1. January 22       Solar System Overview
  1. February 5       Gravity and Orbits I
  1. February 12     Gravity and Orbits II
  1. February 26     Origin of the Solar System
  1. March 11         Earth and Moon (What’s so Special About Us?)
  1. March 18         Venus, Mars and Earth (Why so Different?)
  1. April 15          The Gas Giants and Cassini
  1. April 22          Asteroids, Comets and the Gravitational Mixmaster
  1. April 29          Henri Poincaré and the Chaotic Solar System
  1. May 6              Other Planetary Systems


Worlds Without End, the exploration of planets known and unknown, John S. Lewis, Helix Books 1998

I want to thank Malcolm Saunders for bringing this reference to my attention. It is readable, not overly technical and very reliable.

Physics and Chemistry of the Solar System, John S. Lewis, Academic Press, 1995 

 This is a very comprehensive and technical book by the same author. I have used it extensively for several years.

Newton’s Clock, Chaos in the Solar System, Ivars Peterson, W.H. Freeman 1993

This is an excellent popular treatment of solar system dynamics by one of the best popular science authors and reporters. Peterson has a real feel for mathematics and can communicate complex mathematical ideas very effectively.

Rare Earth, Don Brownlee and Peter Ward, Springer 2000

 This book received a lot of attention when it was published. Brownlee and Ward are both UW faculty members. I recommend it and will be drawing on it.

Solar System Dynamics, C.D. Murray & S.F. Dermott, Cambridge, 1999

 This is a very comprehensive, mathematical treatment with lots of illustrative material in the form of Mathematica notebooks. This a link to book website:

This is a link to the Mathematica web site. The MathReader program allows you to view Mathematica notebooks.


Destiny or Chance, our solar system and its place in the cosmos, Stuart Ross Taylor, Cambridge, 1998

 This covers much of the same territory as Worlds Without End from a little different perspective.

Solar System Evolution, Stuart Ross Taylor, Cambridge, 1992

 This is a technical look at the subject by the same author.

Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps, Peter Galison, Norton 2003

 This is a new book with a very interesting historical perspective on the influence of Einstein's work in the patent office and Poincaré's engineering background on their contributions to the theory of relativity. It's relevance to our topic lies in Poincaré's contribution to the origin of chaos theory.

Celestial Encounters, The Origins of Chaos and Stability, Florin Diacu & Philip Holmes, Princeton, 1996

This book covers some of the same material as Peterson's book in somewhat more mathematical detail. It is not overwhelming though and is considered an important book.

I will be drawing heavily on web resources. Here are a few to get you started:

jpl solar system  links to the Jet Propulsion Labortory solar system web site.
jpl solar system dynamics links to the technical page at JPL. It is a good source for numerical planetary data and tools which provide a wide variety of solar system views and simulations.
nineplanets is a good, non technical solar system site.
Solar System Animation is an viewer and simulation.


Paul Middents

360 692 3861