2017- Speakers/Topics

July 19, 2017:  Fusion of Art and Science: A Criticality” – John C. Mannone


This talk will explore why it is critical important that our education should fuse science with art. In the creative mind, visualization strongly enhances understanding, while science lends the creative writer new metaphors. There’s a connection between physics, metaphysics, and religion and the connections become more apparent with art and science taken collectively. Creativity is an essential resource to the scientist.


20170603_160908John C. Mannone achieved a PhD Candidacy in Electrical Engineering with a dissertation on expanded space charge theory in dielectric fluids (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 2002), an MS in Physics specializing in plasma physics (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 1988), an MS in Physical & Theoretical Chemistry specializing in photoelectron spectroscopy (Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 1978), and a BS in Chemistry (Loyola College/University, Baltimore, MD, 1970). His research interests are in astrophysical plasmas and electromagnetic theory.

As a research chemist for Martin Marietta in Baltimore, he worked on life detection systems on the Viking missions as well as on accelerated aging of electro explosives used on the Voyager missions. He broadened his career when he joined Westinghouse Naval Reactors in Idaho. This launched his consulting in the nuclear industry in which he helped to solve industry challenges for over thirty years in both commercial nuclear reactors and DOE nuclear projects. Retired since 2010, Mannone remains active in teaching university level physics and in astronomy outreach, where he is often sought out as a speaker. But he has also developed a passion for the literary arts since 2004, and fuses those arts with science. With over 600 poems and prose published, he has several collections of poetry and has won numerous literary distinctions, including the 2017 Jean Ritchie Fellowship in Appalachian literature. He currently serves as the president of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild.


June 28, 2017“Chasing Total Eclipses:  An Addictive Obsession” – John Rather, PhD.  


The August 21st total solar eclipse provides a uniquely wonderful opportunity for many Americans.  Many people have viewed partial eclipses with scarcely a ho-hum glance, but they missed the crucial point: There is a literally mind-blowing difference between a 99.9 % partial and a 105% Total Eclipse.  For a few precious minutes viewers are transported to a different world that can be remarkably beautiful and inspiringly memorable if the weather cooperates.  This is why eclipse chasing has become a worldwide obsession for many people who are willing to go to strange places to discover new cultural, geographical and psychological excitement.  It is unique indeed for this rare opportunity to offer itself free to vast numbers of people across the United States.  In this talk Astronomer John Rather will describe his adventures, beginning with scientific motivations that evolved into the thrill of the hunt combined with many inspirational human interactions.  He will show short movies of his experiences at five total eclipses around the world, hoping that this motivates parents and children to get to the centerline of totality for an unprecidented tail-gating experience.


Dr. John Rather is an astronomer/physicist/defense & aerospace scientist whose primary areas of focus have included creation of major technology programs, scientific innovation, invention of medical technologies, and development of clean energy sources.

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Dr. John Rather

His career experience includes government work with NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense.  Additionally, he has worked extensively in private sector research, development, and management, including Vice President of an aerospace company.  He has authored 9 U.S. patents.


Rather was raised in Tennessee and began his career as a research technician/physicist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where he worked on the team that created and developed the Bumpy Torus controlled fusion concept. He attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, earning a bachelor of science degree in physics and graduating with honors in 1963.  Following graduation, Rather went to work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California.  While continuing his work at LLNL, Rather pursued graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley, completing his Ph.D. in astronomy in 1970.  His thesis work resulted in the first accurate measurements of millimeter wavelength radio emissions from extragalactic sources.

After earning his Ph.D., Rather went to work for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) facility at Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona, where he built a state-of-the-art device for 1 millimeter wavelength observations of the sun, planets, and galactic and extragalactic objects. Rather developed a system that he took to Kenya in 1973 to observe a maximum total solar eclipse. To enable the experiment, he obtained support from the USAF, the RAF, the Kenya Air Force, and the US National Science Foundation. This inter-agency experience led to major broadening of his career path.