Parker, Barry R(ichard) 1935-
PARKER, Barry R(ichard) 1935-
PERSONAL: Born April 13, 1935, in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada; immigrated to the United States, 1961, naturalized citizen, 1980; son of Gladstone (a garage owner) and Olive (Young) Parker; married Gloria Haberstock, 1962; children: David. Education: University of British Columbia, B.A. (with honors), 1959, M.Sc., 1961; Utah State University, Ph.D., 1967.
ADDRESSES: Home—750 Fairway Dr., Pocatello, ID 83201. Office—Department of Physics, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Weber State College, Ogden, UT, lecturer, 1963-65, assistant professor of physics, 1965-66; Idaho State University, Pocatello, associate professor, 1967-75, professor of physics, 1975—.
MEMBER: American Physical Society, Sigma Xi (president, 1974-75), Sigma Pi Sigma.
AWARDS, HONORS: Science writing prize, McDonald Observatory, 1980, for the article "The Gravitational Lens."
Concepts of the Cosmos: An Introduction to Astronomy, Harcourt (New York, NY), 1983.
Einstein's Dream: The Search for a Unified Theory of the Universe, Plenum (New York, NY), 1986.
Search for a Supertheory: From Atoms to Superstrings, Plenum (New York, NY), 1987.
Creation: The Story of the Origin and Evolution of the Universe, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Plenum (New York, NY), 1988.
Invisible Matter and the Fate of the Universe, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Plenum (New York, NY), 1989.
Colliding Galaxies, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Plenum (New York, NY), 1990.
Cosmic Time Travel, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Plenum (New York, NY), 1991.
The Vindication of the Big Bang, Plenum (New York, NY), 1992.
Stairway to the Stars, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Plenum (New York, NY), 1994.
Chaos in the Cosmos, Plenum (New York, NY), 1996.
Alien Life: The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Plenum (New York, NY), 1998.
Einstein's Brainchild: Relativity Made Relatively Easy!, illustrated by Lori Scoffield, Prometheus (Amherst, NY), 2000.
Quantum Legacy: The Discovery That Changed Our Universe, Prometheus (Amherst, NY), 2002.
Contributor to books, including Astronomy: Selected Readings, edited by Michael Seeds, Benjamin-Cummings (Redwood City, CA), 1980; and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Contributor to scientific journals and popular magazines, including Astronomy, Star and Sky, Fly Fisherman, Fishing World, High Country, and Angler.
WORK IN PROGRESS: "Fiction and, perhaps, juvenile or children's books."
SIDELIGHTS: Barry Parker once told CA: "It's difficult to say why one writes, but in my case I suppose it's because I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of taking a scientific subject—or any difficult subject, for that matter—and making it understandable and enjoyable for a popular audience. The emphasis here should, I firmly believe, be placed on the word 'enjoyable'; it's not enough just to make the material understandable.
"My first book, Concepts of the Cosmos, resulted from many years of teaching astronomy and writing popular articles on the subject. I felt that the majority of astronomy books on the market were not enjoyed by most students, and I hoped I could produce a book that would at least partially overcome this. Once I had completed it I found I was hooked—well hooked—and I immediately started a second book. It is also oriented, to some degree, towards astronomy, but it is much narrower in scope than the previous book. Titled Einstein's Dream, it is the story of man's search for a unified theory of the universe."
Parker's interest in writing popular science books for a wide audience continued with Alien Life: The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond. The book "summarizes recent scientific conjecture on extraterrestrial life without venturing much personal speculation," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Parker "employs a simple, clear style that's not particularly colorful and a little textbooky," remarked J. Kelly Beatty in Sky & Telescope. "Although not lengthy, Parker's text covers a lot of territory, including the chemical basis for life, interstellar travel, and a long aside about the discovery of DNA. Of necessity," Beatty continued, "this means most topics end up with rather cursory treatments."
Parker frankly admits that there is little possibility of finding life in or beyond our solar system. Despite lack of vindication for seekers of UFOs and extraterrestrials in the pages of Alien Life, "Parker's hopeful and energetic book ends up reinforcing the science establishment's lonely outlook for humanity, but still leaves room for the possibility that if they are out there, we will find them—or they, us," wrote the Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Parker enjoys "interpreting science for the general public," he more recently told CA. In Einstein's Brainchild: Relativity Made Relatively Easy, Parker again approaches a complex subject in a manner designed to be accessible to both amateur scientists and casual readers. Einstein's Brainchild is "one of the clearest and shortest" books on Einstein's insights and their consequences, remarked a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Parker "explains Einstein's theories in nonmathematical language, along with their famous predictions, tests and implications." K.C. Cole, writing about the book in Astronomy, noted that "At best, it's a clear, simple review of relativity, literate if not literary." The book "is nicely organized and certainly gives readers a useful review of the essentials of relativity," Cole said, "along with some charming interludes."
In Library Journal, Amy Brunvand remarked that "Parker's scientific writing is nicely done," but felt Einstein's Brainchild was flawed because Parker "studiously avoids mention of politics or the atomic bomb yet still tries to take his reader beyond just the science of relativity." The book covers topics such as Einstein's youth and physicist contemporaries, time travel, and the life of the universe. "Students and others looking for fascinating and painless introductions to this particular, well-traveled, but still startling corner of the sciences will be happy with Parker as their guide," wrote the Publishers Weekly reviewer.
"Although much of my writing has been in the area of popular science," Parker told CA, "I am also an enthusiastic outdoorsman and have published many articles on fishing, backpacking, and so on. 'Write about the things that you enjoy most,' someone once said to me, and I guess I've taken that advice."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Analog Science Fiction & Fact, December, 1998, Tom Easton, review of Alien Life: The Search for Extraterrestrials and Beyond, pp. 136-137.
Astronomy, January, 1994, review of The Vindication of the Big Bang, p. 107; February, 1995, review of Stairway to the Stars, p. 86; July, 1996, review of Chaos in the Cosmos, p. 98; May, 2001, review of Einstein's Brainchild: Relativity Made Relatively Easy!, p. 96.
Booklist, May 1, 1996, review of Chaos in the Cosmos, p. 1480.
Choice, April, 1995, review of Stairway to the Stars, p. 1325; November, 1996, review of Chaos in the Cosmos, p. 481; October, 1998, review of Alien Life, p. 340.
Library Journal, September 1, 2000, Amy Brunvand, review of Einstein's Brainchild, p. 244.
Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1987; October 11, 1988.
Nature, March 23, 1995, review of Stairway to the Stars, p. 317; July 23, 1998, review of Alien Life, p. 336.
New York Times Book Review, January 10, 1988.
Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1993, review of The Vindication of the Big Bang, p. 54; September 26, 1994, review of Stairway to the Stars, p. 49; April 13, 1998, review of Alien Life, pp. 62-63; August 21, 2000, review of Einstein's Brainchild, p. 61.
Science & Technology, September, 1993, review of The Vindication of the Big Bang, p. 57; August, 1995, review of Stairway to the Stars, p. 62; September, 1999, review of Alien Life, p. 84.
Skeptical Inquirer, January, 2001, Kendrik Frazier, review of Einstein's Brainchild, p. 64.
Sky & Telescope, September, 1999, J. Kelly Beatty, "Stalking the Stuff of Life," p. 84; September, 2001, Frank E. Reed, review of Einstein's Brainchild, pp. 56-58.*