BRIGHAM CITY — Brad Carroll, a professor in Weber State University’s physics department, became interested in astronomy and physics as a child.
“I think it was something about the space program,” he said. “I watched, as I was growing up as a kid, and I was excited by it — the idea of going to the moon was amazingly exciting.”
Then he saw the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
“All of a sudden I knew I wanted to do something with space science,” he said. “I didn’t know the word ‘astrophysics’ at the time, but eventually that’s what I did — I got a Ph.D. in astrophysics.”
Carroll is one of several WSU professors ready to share their excitement about space, and the history of space exploration, as discussion leaders for the Brigham City Library’s 2015 reading series, “To the Moon and Beyond.” The series kickoff is at 7 p.m. Jan. 8, when readers will discuss “Rocket Boys,” by Homer Hickam, in the library at 26 E. Forest St.
Sue Hill, director of the Brigham City Library, chose the theme of space exploration to celebrate the library’s centennial.
“We kind of wanted to highlight parts of our community that have been a major influence on Brigham City,” she said. “One of the major employers — and why Brigham City grew into the size of town it is now — is Thiokol/ATK, so we decided to do a series about space travel from the early days with Wernher von Braun to the Mars Rover.”
In addition to Carroll, Hill invited WSU physics professors Stacy Palen and John Armstrong to lead discussions about space-themed books. Kathryn MacKay and Branden Little, history professors from WSU, will also lead book discussions, as will Sally Shigley, a professor from the university’s English department.
MacKay has been part of the Brigham City Library’s annual reading/discussion program for many years, and is excited about the idea of working with her colleagues from the physics department.
“I think this is really going to be lots of fun,” she said.
The topic of space is a bit of a stretch for her, she said, but no one should feel intimidated by the books selected for discussion.
“It’s not as much on the technology of it all, as on the people who experienced it — either who worked on various space programs, or who in fact went up into space or developed some interesting careers around the space program,” she said. “I really do think the books are very accessible to anybody and everybody.”
“Everything discussed here is really a story about people, and what people do,” he said.
Carroll has been reading “Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts,” by Andrew Chaikin, so he’ll be ready to discuss it.
“Even though I grew up at the time, and followed closely all of the stories, I really didn’t know how fascinating it was, and the way people had to work together and meet challenges,” he said. “It’s such a human story. Of course there is also some science in there, but all of the books I’ve looked at so far explain it very well.”
What science is in the books enhances the stories.
“We see how clever they were to achieve the goals of going to the moon, or going to Mars,” Carroll said.
A list of the books to be discussed, and a schedule, can be found on the Brigham City Library’s website at http://bcpl.lib.ut.us/. The library has several copies of each book, thanks to funding from the Utah Humanities Council.
The professors are not planning lectures, and there won’t be any tests.
“The scholars are there, absolutely, not to be intimidating but resourceful and encouraging,” said MacKay.
Carroll said he’ll be there simply to facilitate the discussion.
“The discussion goes wherever it goes,” he said. “I don’t have a set goal I’m trying to reach for it.”
He’s enjoyed leading book discussions in Brigham City in the past.
“You’re dealing with people who are self-selected, because they’re interested in the topic and generally come with good questions — some of which I can answer, and some I can’t. It’s always a very interesting discussion.”
Although some people come with questions for discussion leaders, Carroll wants to hear from others.
“I’m hoping to maybe get some people there who can provide an insider’s view, and I hope I’ll learn a lot,” he said.
Contact reporter Becky Wright at 801-625-4274 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ReporterBWright.