Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “scientists”

Video Glossary from Lawrence Livermore Labs

Video Glossary from Lawrence Livermore Labs – http://videoglossary.lbl.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Where do extremophiles live?
  • What might a biologist look like?
  • What is cellular senescence?


If you are more of an auditory/visual learner, this site might be for you. Scientists from this National Laboratory spend a few minutes explaining particular terms. Sometimes there are visual aids, but most of the time it’s like a face to face chat. Or face to face short monologue. Some of the definitions available that might help a space based story be true to hard scifi are:

  • antimatter
  • artificial photosynthesis
  • cosmological inflation
  • dark energy
  • dark matter
  • extremophile
  • galactic emissions
  • gravity
  • gravitational lensing
  • measuring the universe
  • neutrino astronomy
  • plasma
  • quarks
  • solar cell
  • supernova

Aside from the benefit of the scientists’ knowledge is the opportunity to observe a scientist speaking on a subject of interest to them. See the variety of people who can be scientists and engineers. What do they look like? How do they dress? Notice anything special about their mannerisms or patterns of speech? Do they use stuff on their desk as props?


Imagine the Universe (NASA)

Imagine the Universe – http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is an accretion disk?
  • What is Fermi acceleration?
  • When were the first X-Rays observation satellites?


This site is intended to provide astronomy and astrophysics information for people 14 years and older. It is provided by the Goddard Space Flight Center of NASA and focuses on high energy physics. Think stars, galaxies, black holes, quasars and related objects rather than planets, moons and comets.
The main reason I put this resource into the book is for its excellent dictionary section. If you’re not already well versed in astronomy, put down your pen and look up this section before writing the words light year, parsec, astronomical unit (AU), or black hole.

The other sections of this site are Science, Special Exhibit, Satellites and Data, Teacher’s Corner, Ask an Astrophysicist, and Resources.

Science – Collection of topical articles organized into: The Basics, Cosmic Objects, Cosmic Questions, and the Search for Answers. The last group of articles focuses on the tools that high energy astronomers and astrophysicists use in their work.

Special Exhibit – An in-depth treatment of a scientist, satellite and/or other topic. This area is also home to the Imagine the Universe Theatre Archive and the Featured Scientists Archive.

Satellites and Data – This tells the story of satellites used to detect high energy radiation (X-Ray, Gamma and Cosmic) and has a section on how the data is processed into useful information and new discoveries. Information on particular satellites goes back to the 1960s.

Teacher’s Corner – Lesson plans, PowerPoints and other resources that would be useful to orienting yourself on particular topics. The PowerPoint “Life Cycles of the Stars” would be helpful to run through if your story involves Red Giants or Supernovae.

Ask an Astrophysicist – This section has two pieces – an archive of questions arranged by topic and a form to ask a question. The scientists behind this section are a small group of volunteers, so they really, really want you to browse or search the archive for an answer before submitting a question. Members of the general public can send one question per email and no more than one question per week. It usually takes a week or two to answer a question, so this isn’t instant gratification.

Topics in the archive include binary star systems, dark matter and dark energy, exoplanets, Milky Way and other galaxies, relativity and Supernovae and their remnants. One Q&A with implications for writers is “Is there a possibility that a nearby star could go supernova and destroy the earth? Or have other bad effects on us?”

Resources – Links to outside resources on most of the topics covered in Imagine the Universe.

Contributions of 20th-Century Women to Physics

Contributions of 20th-Century Women to Physics – http://cwp.library.ucla.edu

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Who was a woman physicist who worked with dark matter?
  • Who was a female astrophysicist prior to 1976?
  • Who was a female geophysicist?


According to the National Science Foundation, this is “a UCLA searchable archive of data where you will find links to 83 webpages with details of 83 women of the 20th century who have made original and important contribution to physics. Pages include pictures, histories and descriptions of their contributions. Contemporary women whose contribution are post 1976 are not included.”

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