Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aaron Belkin and the Palm Center: "How We Won": Kindle Book traces the history of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and its ultimate repeal

Author: Aaron Belkin

Title: "How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’"

Publication: Kindle, from The Huffington Post Media Group, ASIN: B0005NDLMVK, 108 pages, ten chapters

Amazon link

I was able to find this book only on Kindle; no hardcopy seems available.  I don’t know whether it would work on the Barnes and Noble Nook device.  So I finally bought a Kindle, which up to now I had not needed.  I find it a little distracting that the Kindle needs its own wireless access; why not just download everything on the laptop and migrate using the USB port?  Amazon lists the book as 108 pages, but they seem to be two columns per page;  one page on the Kindle is really one column only, so the real length was 216.

The book is timely, as on Sept. 20, 2012, “we” will mark the first anniversary of the full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Dr. Belkin is a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, and previous was an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara and previously, the City University of New York.

In the 1990s, Belkin headed the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military (CSSM),  which became the Palm Center a years ago, always hosted at the Santa Barbara campus (link).  

In February 2002, shortly after my own “forced retirement” from my final “legacy employer”, I  met Dr. Belkin at his office during a trip to California.  I had sent him my own “Do Ask Do Tell: a Gay Conservative Lashes Back” book, and in his office, effectively the CSSM office at the time, he housed a large physical library of books on matters pertaining to the military gay ban and the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. 

Dr. Belkin did tell me how difficult it was to get major media outlets to take the DADT issue seriously, now that it was overwhelmed by the more obvious issues associated with 9/11.  I do remember my conversation with him.

Let me say at the outset, I am impressed with the amount of historical detail – of  the military ban since 1993 -- in this relatively short work.  It is a good complement to Randy Shilts’s “Conduct Unbecoming” which stops in 1993.  (But it needs to be available in print.) . It’s important to note here that Palm Center has helped published two other books in the interim: one is Dr. Belkin’s own "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Debating the Gay Ban in the Military" (2003, Lynne Rienner), and Nathaniel Frank, “Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America” (2009, St. Martins), reviewed on this blog March 11, 2009).

Of course, Belkin’s position will be that his own effort (and that of people he hired and contacted) was crucial to the repeal.  The book suggests that it would be very difficult for a future hostile (GOP?) president and Congress to undo the repeal and reimplement the military ban (maybe the “Old Ban” of 1981 with “asking”).  However, in recent press stories, Dr. Belkin has indeed expressed this concern (see my GLBT issues blog, Sept. 9, 2012.

Belkin starts his book by laying out what he sees as the right arguments to attack. While progressive activists concern themselves with fairness and equality, the productive argument is to show that the practice of banning gays does not contribute to military effectiveness; it may be counterproductive or even dangerous.  Abstract ideas about morality are not the issue.

Belkin does, however, quickly get on to the most conspicuous early arguments made back in 1993, that allowing gays to serve (at least “open” gays) violated “privacy” in the barracks where a degree of forced “homosocial” intimacy must occur.  Over time, this argument has gotten overlaid with a more nebulous notion of “unit cohesion”, as was explained in the 2011 HBO Film “The Strange History of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’”, movies blog, Oct. 13, 2011). Belkin sees this argument as morphing into a more generalized moral disapproval of homosexuality (or of homosexuals as people).  Indeed, as he points to writings by Elaine Donnelly  (of the “Center for Military Readiness”) which “warn” that acceptance of gays in the US military would tend to promote of homosexuality in civilian society at large.  (Belkin mentions Republican Senator Alan Simpson as once saying that gays [relative to procreation] weren't part of the "human family" but then changing his attitude and agreeing that the ban should be lifted.) That corresponds to my own theory (as in my own 1997 book) that the military, because it has had the ability to conscript men in the past (as with me, during the Vietnam era) has a lot of influence on the moral culture of a society as whole, particularly in nebulous ideas about duty and obligation (outside of normal parameters of choice and personal responsibility) and how these ideas about social (familial, tribal, communal, religious) cohesion (as an expansion of “unit cohesion”) affect those individuals who grow up being “different”.

Belkin, for example, points out that the whole “stop-loss” policy, practically a backdoor draft (and the “Individual Ready Reserve” clause signed at enlistment)  might have been unnecessary during the “second Iraq War” (and post 9/11 war in Afghanistan) had all the gay discharges not occurred.  He also discusses the security threat in the loss of linguists, which could have been a contributing factor in failing to stop 9/11 (although Jesse Ventura has other ideas on this matter!)  I reviewed Paramount’s film “Stop-Loss” on my movies blog March 29, 2008.

A major part of Belkin’s narrative concerns the effort of his group to get articles written in major media sources by major columnists and also by others with obvious expertise and stakes, like retired military.  He says this was difficult, and he provides interesting observations on how the Associated Press, in particular, works.  (I’ve covered AP issues on my main blog in conjunction with copyright controversies on the Internet.)  He had to “watch his step”, since more military officers seemed to favor the ban at first, although gradually changed their views.  After Barack Obama became president in 2009, Belkin got into disagreements with SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) over whether there was the political will in Congress to support direct repeal.  Belkin supported a plan that Obama issue an Executive Order to stop enforcement.  Even the White House expressed misgivings about the legal or constitutional logic of Belkin’s suggestion.  Belkin also disagreed with Log Cabin Republicans over the wisdom of litigation, but in the end, LCR turned out to be right, as the lower court’s decision effectively nullifying the law put pressure on Congress to agree to a staged repeal.

The later part of 2010 saw initial disappointment with the likelihood of repeal., until activists (with the help of Senator Joe Lieberman, whose view on lifting the ban had become much more supportive over the recent years since 9/11 and the linguists’ fiasco) came up with the idea of a stand-alone repeal bill, during the lame duck session in December.

I personally attended the mid-day rally at the Capitol side (near Union Station) on December 10, about when the bill was introduced.  As I got off the Metro to go, right to the rally event, I got a call from a caregiver at home (in suburb an Arlington VA) that my own mother had suddenly gotten much worse and would not survive more than a few hours.  I stayed for the rally (hearing Michele Benecke, who had headed up SLDN, speaking almost immediately), and after I got home Hospice was taking her to the Hospice facility for her final four days.  She lived  just long enough for a lifelong project of mine to come to fruition., and then, at age 97, let go.

We all know of what would follow, the surveys and the “certification process” that would finally end in formal repeal September 20.  And, I have to admit, I am concerned about what could happen if social conservatism takes control of the White House and Congress, and then blames or scapegoats the nation’s economic ills on the visibility and personal values of those who are different.

There’s another interesting embedded story in the book about the late Northwestern University sociology professor Charles Moskos, who had, along with Sam Nunn, raised the “privacy” issue in the barracks back in 1993.  He says that, during most of his activity in the past decade, Moskos cast doubt on repeal.  Yet, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Moskos argued for restoration of the military draft (to include women), as had some others, such as Sen. Levin of Michigan.  I got into an email conversation with Moskos then (I was living in Minneapolis at the time), who wrote to me “Gays should get behind conscription.  Then the ban would be lifted.”

In fact, SLDN told me, sometime later, by email, that it was looking into the ramifications of the possible restoration of the military draft.  As I noted above, it has always seemed to me that a combination of conscription and a ban together provides an excuse for making gays second-class citizens in civilian life (and for denying security clearances), which was the world in which I had grown up.  But, of course, when we had a draft, the military was actually more concerned that people would use it to get out of military service, and it tended to look the other way during the Vietnam era on concerns over gay soldiers.  (The Navy even at first tried to resist discharging Keith Meinhold when he outed himself, but did so under political and public pressure.) 

Moskos had, in fact, at one time paid attention to the issue of gay students in college dorms, and argued that they should be segregated.  It was roommate issues that catalyzed my own expulsion from William and Mary in 1961.

Belkin also notes the Veterans Administration made a goof in 1996 by calling homosexuality a mental illness in trying to deny some veterans benefits.

I found this debate (85 minutes) from early 2012 of a debate between Aaron Belkin and Elaine Donnelly on DADT at Maxwell Air Force Base on YouTube.

I haven’t watched it yet – time considerations.  Note that the debate takes place in Alabama. 

Here's the link to a Wikipedia picture of UCSB.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"It's Simple": Collection of essays by Dean Hannotte, for the Paul Rosenfels Community

Author: Dean Hannotte, with Introduction by Rachel Bartlett

Title: “It’s Simple: Ordinary Common-sense Explanations for Everything You Haven’t Figured Out Yet

Publication:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN-13 978-1477670767, paper, 144 pages, indexed,  four parts.

Amazon link

Dean Hannotte and Rachel Bartlett run the online presence for the Paul Rosenfels Community, which followed (or descended from) the Ninth Street Center that Dean and Paul Rosenfels formed in 1973 in the East Village in NYC. The “Community” link   (“Social progress through personal growth) is here

There is a review here on April 12, 2006 of Paul Rosenfels’s core “dissertation”, “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process (1972), to which Dean appended a strong introduction to a 1986 reprinting by the Ninth Street Center.

This book comprises about thirty-two (by my count) short essays about everyday “perceptions” and the pieces come across as a bit like blog posts.  They would correspond more to Chopin’s etudes than his preludes.  The first “part” asks “What is life? What am I doing here?”; the second goes on to psychology, the third to what matters in life, and the last, to where we are going.  The very first chapter asks “what is natural?” 

The overall philosophy is pragmatic (as one can judge from the title).  People make up religious or political agendas that control others because of their own cravings for self-aggrandizement.

What matters to the author is life and personal growth on Earth, not who “created” us or where we may go afterward.

Toward the end, however, the chapters do get more metaphysical.  At one point, the author discusses the progression in science from physics, to chemistry, to biology, to social sciences, each stage less deterministic and more macroscopic than before.  I recall a lesson like this in a middle school text when I was substitute-teaching.   The larger the level, the more important free will, individual consciousness, and psychology become.

There is a midpoint chapter that compares the difficulties of writing fiction, non-fiction (like my "Do Ask Do Tell"), textbooks, and poetry. I think that fiction is the hardest.  Poetry -- you need the gift for verse (and for comedy, like that of Seth Meyers).  

The author certainly takes a skeptical view of religious ideas of an afterlife, creation, intelligent design, and the like.  There is a degree of objectivism in the writings.  Absolute equality cannot exist in nature.  Socially and politically, it is a goal that is necessary to provide a climate stable enough for people to explore personal growth. The author discusses two films in conjunction with personal growth: “Sundays and Cybele (1959)”, and “Splendor and the Grass” (1961), the second of which I saw during my lost freshman semester at William and Mary.

On the issue of “afterlife”, I have to agree, what matters is how well one lives here – and that takes on a certain objective reality which can be destroyed by misfortune or by the wrongful actions of others, somewhat dependent on luck, and regardless of whether justice is done.  Really, there are no "victims".   I personally think that consciousness must persist somehow (maybe time stops and we stay in our last moment forever, so it had better be blissful) – and I don’t think that, even given a concept like Christian Grace, we simply live forever (with “family”) in a condo in Clive Barker’s First Dominion.

Dean has a chapter “Are gay brains different from straight brains?” and offers the idea that sexual orientation might change the brain physiologically – reversing the usual argument.

I would like to take this point and expand  and suggest a few other possible essays – I’ll be writing them at one time or another.  But a big problem is that it is very difficult to sequence my thoughts in any structure that would resemble a mathematical argument or proof (like in graduate school). So I'll argue "inside out".  

For example, why do gay activists insist that sexual orientation is immutable?  Such insistence hints that there is something intrinsically wrong with homosexual attraction if it is somehow willful.

So why have, historically, many (maybe most) cultures persecuted homosexuals for what is normally seen as private “victimless” activity, often pursuing it more than heterosexual infidelity?  Ok, “it’s simple” – religion.  But that only begs more questions.
I can give a particular glimpse because of my own stance as an only child.  I will not be able to give my parents a lineage.  Many marriages probably depend on this sort of hope for sexual interest to persist as a couple ages together. 

There’s a deeper issue, that I can come back to after going beyond the issue of sexual orientation and look at the broader drive for self-expression and recognition – especially for someone with my personal bent, which seeks a psychic reward not only in discovering but sometimes in exposing “inconvenient truths” about the conventional drives of others (which get discussed in the book a lot).  This issue looks further to the position of those who seem “different” in society, and asks why society sometimes goes after and bullies its outliers.  That question is much broader than just why homosexuals have been “oppressed”.

It’s easy to come up with “simple” reasons.  Many people see life in terms of mastering social combat, and see “those who are different” as suitable for subjugation.  Nature often works that way.  More relevant, many sees the “difference-people” as threats, who can and will expose their own weaknesses.

There’s a particular aspect of this that has surfaced in the Internet area (or era):  people can draw attention to themselves for their speech or artistry (or auteruship, perhaps) on the Web, without necessarily being open to taking personal responsibility for others in a conventional way, which for people like me, can involve a lot of risk and dealing with a lot of shame (to be distinguished from guilt) after “falling short”.

Taking responsibility for others, for someone with my history, can be a particularly daunting task.  I have been brought up to abhor competitive failure.  It seems as though “society” wanted me to perform competitively “as a man” and when I didn’t, it tried to back down a bit and still interest me in conventional marriage and fatherhood – because if I remained single and visible (and didn't add personally to "social capital") I could really become a “threat”.  (Society has often viewed “failures” as expendable or as cannon fodder – look at how we handled the draft during the Vietnam era.)  There is a logical breakdown in thinking here, somewhere.  It seems as though sometimes I am challenged to “give up” my own expressive goals to take care of others and learn fellowship with them, when the whole process of interacting with “them” earlier in life simply was humiliating.  All the normal protective “feelings” for family members – connected to conventional heterosexual attraction and an expectation that one will pass one’s lineage on to children – come to seem repulsive. Fantasy, based on finding angelic perfection, takes its place. I'm particularly "offended" in situations where I am expected to intervene personally to make someone else seem "all right".

It seems that “society” does have a practical “vested interest” in maintaining a culture where people will be able and inclined to make an maintain emotional bonds that actually respond to real need and augment the welfare of other members in an extended family, which is set up (ideally) by married parents.   People like me refuse to show emotion (or experience it) when it is normally expected.  Whole moral philosophies (particularly the “camel’s eye” metaphor in the Gospels) grow around this sort of experience.  This capacity for "aethetically realistic" love, as a moral requirement (quite possible in same-sex "polarities" context), seems to arrive as a corollary of the need to make every human being in a civilization (that is, all of "the people") "valuable".  It’s easier for a lot of people to develop emotionally in a “communal” sense when they believe everyone else has to (and when no one is allowed to depend on the crutch of upward affiliation).  Totalitarian systems get set up to feed on this need.  One of Dean’s chapters, “Why are some cultures better than others” gives some interesting history about the connections of Paul’s family to communism.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time's "Global Warming" glossy scrapbook available at supermarkets, pharmacies

Recently, Time has been selling a heavily illustrated paperback “Global Warming: The Causes, The Perils, The Solutions”, by Bryan Walsh and other Time correspondents, in retail outlets like supermarkets. The book has 112 pages, heavily illustrated with gloss photographs.

It does reiterate, with even more arguments, the substance of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”.  Bryan starts out with a piece, “How hot does it have to get?”   It analyzes the idea that we might be able to tolerate a carbon level of 450 ppm, but warns that recent information says that we can tip over at a much lower number. And there are some grave risks that can materialize suddenly, such as the release of methane from permafrost.  Climate change tends to affect people unpredictably by causing extreme events, such as superstorms with floods or extreme droughts.  It tends to affect poor people much more.

Some of the focal points include extinction of species (such as in Madagascar) and detailed analysis of deeper fossil fuels, including oil shale and tar sands.

The last part of the book starts with technological solutions, which sound like piecemeal, local measures like fuel cells, electric cars, green buildings., and solar powers.  The last page of the book is “20 things you can do”, and top among these are carpooling, telecommuting, and living in large cities, particularly if you have a small family.   Universal use of wind and solar panels by homeowners or buildings could not only reduce greenhouse gasses but decentralize the grid and make it more robust.  A smart grid could detect inefficiencies, even though it would be a lot more vulnerable to hackers or terrorists.   Near the end of the book there is a sensitive essay by Bill McKibben, “Children of a Hot Planet”.

The book casts questions of global climate re-engineering with ideas like the (Intellectual Ventures) Mhyrvold StratoShield, which would pump sulfur aerosol particles into the stratosphere.   These could “blowback” with suddenly catastrophic results.

Sociology would seem to have some effect on the sustainability of our way of life (and not doing it on the backs of the Third World, which is more vulnerable to many perils, especially drought and seal level rise). The book is critical of population of expansion, and does not take up right wing (“demographic winter”) arguments that richer people often are not replacing their populations and allowing poorer populations do the job or providing the next generations.   The book does present the idea that people need to drive much less and maybe give up car ownership, and idea that so far has been workable only in cities with very dense public transit (like NYC).  Car sharing (like ZipCar) can help.  It presents the community of Vauban, Germany where private carports would cost $30000 a year.  There is a suggestion that people could have to start learning the values of “intentional communities”. (ABC's story about Vauban in 2009, by Jim Sciutto, is here.)

The book also takes the position that consumers need to know, on a “pay as you go” basis, the carbom footprint cost of every little thing they do.  Perhaps I would not be able to rent sole-occupant cars on my own (at least non-hybrids).  

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Monday Mornings": medical novel by CNN's Sanjay Gupta

Author: Sanjay Gupta, MD (Chief Medical Correspondent, CNN; a practicing neurosurgeon in Atlanta)

Title: “Monday Mornings: A Novel"

Publication: Grand Central Publishing, 2012, ISBN 978-0-446-58385-5, hardcover, 290 pages, 48 chapters

Amazon link

Medical schools tell incoming students that medicine (most of all, surgery) can become a unifocal existence for young doctors for years. 

So it’s great to see that Gupta, by his early 40s, has branched out from surgery, which he says he still practices, to medical journalism for CNN (sometimes talking about “jungle medicine” as in Haiti) to authoring fiction, which is tougher to do well than non-fiction, I think.  Gupta has always worked as an enthusiastic reporter for consumers, and is probably not quite so moralistic as Mehmet Oz, Oprah Winfrey’s find in medical journalism.

There isn’t a lot of plotting here, not the “beginning, middle and end” that English professors teach, and not quite the sensationalism of say Robin Cook (since his 1970’s novel “Coma” was recently a repeat cable miniseries – TV blog, Sept. 5).  Nevertheless, Gupta manages to get his doctors into trouble. One young female resident is fired after a poor surgical result results in aggressive litigation from the patient (and that sequence is quite well-written).   Then the doctor who fired her gets into serious trouble himself.  OK, that’s plotting.

Gupta does provide a lot of medical warnings along the way.  A sore hip that doesn’t improve might spontaneously fracture from metastatic tumor.  Persistent flatulence might be a sign of advanced colon cancer. An abscessed tooth could lead to a brain infection.  (Dentists love that warning;  I just came back from a visit about my own need for extractions and implants, with no “clear choice”.)  One of the most startling episodes involves an Asian surgeon who id diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor after headaches, and undergoes surgery.  He then faces aggressive (if oral) chemotherapy, and wonders if his kids and wife will accept him after he becomes as hairless as a “newborn baby” (even though the surgery itself requires little scalp shaving, and the radiation is precise and uneventful).   From the chemo (more than from the tumor itself) he also faces loss of cognitive ability required of his profession and even needed interpersonally. The ability of people to sustain relationships where they can give and receive love after a medical catastrophe has always been a big issue with Dr. Oz (a heart surgeon), who (much more so than Gupta) says he doesn’t like to treat seriously ill patients who are socially isolated.  And, yes, near the end of the book, one of the major characters drops dead of a heart attack after exertion; Gupta describes what his last conscious moments are like in excruciating detail.

The title of the book (reminding me of a 1960s song) comes from the very early Monday morning sessions at hospitals where doctors review their mistakes.  (One mistake can deep-six your career.)  It must be pretty early. In 1999, my other mother had her coronary bypass surgery start at 7 AM on a Monday; she was aroused and showered at 5:30 AM.

I would have been interested in more details about nosocmial infection control, including issues ranging from MRSA and aggressive bacteria to the mechanics of scrubbing for surgery (and hand-washing all the time), which I think could become even more fastidious in the future.

The novel is set in Michigan. I like the line about counting states to Vermont. 

Readers might enjoy this MSN report of a "cell phone electrocardiogram" invented by teenager Catherine Wong.  I don't know how you would apply it to the body to get the 12 leads.  The link is here. 

Gupta is interviewed by “The New Doctors”:

I recall reading a non-fiction book “Five Patients”, by Michael Crichton, (published by Knopf in 1970) – based on his experiences treating patients at Massachusetts General.  Even then, Crichton explained how easily medical costs can get out of control.

Monday, September 03, 2012

NASA museum in Tidewater VA offers illustrated mission reports from Apogee

My visit to the Virginia Air and Space Museum in Hampton (on the notorious “Peninsula”) tempted me with a few picture books with vistas of other worlds, so here goes:

In the Museum itself, there was a giveaway, a 389-page paperback (full size) of an official NASA report by Joseph R. Chambers, “Innovation in Flight”, from the NASA Langley Research Center,  dated August, 2005.

The book is mostly technical, with one of the most curious chapters being “Personal Air Transportation Concepts”.  For the very rich?

The chapter reminds me of an apartment neighbor here in Arlington in 1990; he was in to private aviation, tried to recruit me into promoting it, and took me on one private flight to the Shenandoah Valley, from Manassas, on Labor Day 1990.   Back in 1970, I had ridden with a coworker from Trenton NJ to near Harrisburg PA in a private plane, and I took one complimentary lesson, courtesy of an American Airlines promo, at Redbird Airport in Dallas in 1982.  

The (privately-owned) bookstore on the premises sells the rather pricey (about $27 a  pop) Apogee mission books.  Most of the Apollo missions have a book, and I picked up “Apollo 15” (272 pages), which documents the July 1971 manned mission to the Moon. It seemed to be the most heavily illustrated of all the volumes.  There is a one-side DVD (requires a computer with a ROM drive) with lots of little movies.  For some reason, the “.htm” files would not load on my Macbook in Safari.

But the books  (NASA Mission Reports) going to the rest of the Solar System got more interesting.  Most are edited by Robert Goodwin.

Mars” (Volume 2, 2004) offers a lot of original photos from the Red Planet.  The DVD is 20-sided, with the A-side playable on a regular player (not requiring ROM), having interviews (of scientists like Steve Squyres) and press conferences, and two animated simulations of the mission, each around 13 minutes, the better one being that filmed by Cornell University (privately owned and copyrighted), the last five minutes of which shows the rover landing in its padded chute, opening, then driving itself around the desert landscape until it finds a suitable rock to drill, behaving like a robotic alien.  The pictures tend to make the thin Mars atmosphere look smoggy with dust.

Deep Space”   is organized (like the Mars books) as a series of official papers in more-or-less chronological sequence, and often cover the same material, about the outer planets and moons, from the viewpoint at any particular time. The knowledge of the outer planets has grown with the Pioneer missions, to that accumulated by Galileo (launched 1989) and Cassini (launched 1997), which sent a probe to the surface of Titan in January 2005, which it says landed with a “splat”.  Galileo (which would send a probe into Jupiter) and Cassini were both in the Jovian “metropolitan area” in 2000.

There are numerous speculative descriptions and diagrams (sometimes repeated) of the internal structures of Jupiter and Saturn.  Some people thought that the Pioneer findings suggested that Jupiter was entirely fluid.  Most descriptions show a complicated layer, with water and ammonia, hydrocarbons and nitrogen at reasonably warm temperatures and reasonable pressures, suggesting the possibility of primitive airborne life, with energy coming from lightning.  The gas hydrogen layer goes for thousands of miles and must become liquid at some point, at some particular pressure.  It would seem that this would still have to “look” like an ocean surface (at night).  At an even higher pressure, there probably is a conversion to metallic hydrogen, which would look like mercury.  Apparently there is still no definitive proof of a solid core, although Jupiter obviously generates its own heat (retained from its formation) and magnetic field.

The book has a few predictive descriptions of Titan (and Io and Europa), with a brief report on the Huygens probe descent into Titan’s atmosphere near the end of the book.

The above video is “Probe of Saturn Could Tell Us More About Life on Earth” (8 minutes), from Euronews (the European Space Agency).. Also look for “The Quest for Expolanets”. From the same publisher.