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review 2020-02-29 19:13
Reflections on a Surprising Universe
Reflections on a Surprising Universe: Extraordinary Discoveries Through Ordinary Eyes - Richard Conrad Dieter

[I received a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

A good, “popular science” introduction to quite a few concepts, including quantum physics, DNA, string theory and black holes. I’m not rating it higher because, for me, it was definitely just skimming a surface under which I’ve been diving regularly these past few years. That said, I have no doubts that a reader wanting the “beginner’s version” of these scientific ideas, before branching into more in-depth reading about them, will find “Reflections on a Surprising Universe” fairly useful, and easy to approach.

Notwithstanding the limited interest for me (since I already know more than what the book carries), this was still a fascinating read, if only for the author’s obvious (and contagious) passion for the subjects covered here.

It is also a reminder that there is still so much we don’t know, or aren’t sure of—some of our theories can’t be accurately proved yet, after all, and granted, we got lucky with the Higgs, but who knows if all of this won’t be overhauled (again) in 50 years?

Conclusion: Consider this a 4 stars if you want to get into physics/astrophysics but have little or no knowledge about it yet, and could do with a good primer in layperson’s terms.

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review 2019-03-07 18:27
The Consolations of Physics
The Consolations of Physics: Why the Wonders of the Universe Can Make You Happy - Tim Radford

Clearly an introduction to physics and astronomy, and not something more developed in that regard. But that's not the point of this book. This book is a love letter to science. And that's where it shines.

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review 2019-01-27 16:48
Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern and David Grinspoon
Chasing New Horizons - David Alan Stern

All you ever wanted to know about Pluto.


Actually, it covers the history of Pluto including its discovery by Clyde Tombaugh, then the early attempts to get NASA to fund a mission to Pluto, the struggles the New Horizons mission went through, and wraps up with some of the more important discoveries made at Pluto. And you know what? It does all that with minimal physical descriptions of the people involved, although some photographs were included.


This book comes down hard on the side of the line supposedly favoured by planetary scientists, that dwarf planets are planets, so if you were disappointed with Pluto's demotion, take heart, and dive in for some NASA politicking.


I only had one nitpick, and that was that the book assumes that its readers are more familiar with miles than kilometres, despite the team presumably working largely with kilometres. So it has some weird transitions, like where it's discussing the range of possible Pluto approaches in km and then switching to miles when relaying its final choice. For the most part, I don't care whether a book about astronomy talks about km or miles since neither unit is particularly useful in that domain; it's only when you start talking about terrestrial distances where I feel it matters. I mean, in astronomical matters numbers in both units can basically be translated as "lots". A better illustration of the distances and speeds involved is to say that it took New Horizons thirteen months to get to Jupiter and another eight years to get to Pluto. (!)


Anyway, if you want to learn more about the background of the New Horizons mission to Pluto as well as some of the trade offs that were made both prior to and during the mission, I'd recommend you pick this up.

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review 2019-01-14 15:48
Book Review of Little Astronomer: Once Upon a Sun (Kid Lit Science Book 2) by Julia Stilchen
Little Astronomer: Once Upon a Sun - Julia Lela Stilchen

Little Astronomer books aim to encourage children to learn about Astronomy and our place in the Solar System and the Universe.


From the Kid Lit Science Book series comes Once upon a Sun (book 2). The Sun, illustrated as an anthropomorphous character, shares his side of the story about his origins and his journey emerging from a Stellar Nebula to becoming the star he is today. Illustrations include kid-friendly concepts of how our Sun makes energy and takes care of our Solar System.


Kids are sure to enjoy learning about our Sun through fun facts delivered with humor throughout the colorful pages. Included is a full cast of the rocky planets, gas giants, dwarf planets and Comet from the previous book.


Celestial objects included are the rocky planets, gas giants, dwarf planets and a comet.


Kid Lit Science books approach early learning by combining kawaii (cute) versions of the celestial objects with comic-style graphics, and humor to present educational facts in a fun way. It makes a great addition to learning in the classroom and at home.


Review 5*


Fantastic children’s solar system reference book!


This book is an excellent way to teach a child about the solar system. The illustrations are well thought out and clearly show the sun and planets for those children who are not able to read yet, but also has words which explain in a fun way how the sun’s energy is produced. The author has given each sun and planet a personality, and I love DJ-ing Saturn - he knows how to p-a-r-t-y! I’m now looking forward to reading the next book in the series, even though I’m not the intended audience. This book is aimed at children aged from 0 to 9, but older children and adults will love it too.


Julia Stilchen has written and illustrated a fantastic reference book for children. I love that she has used simple words to explain how the solar system works. The illustrations are cute and fun. I have read other works by this author, and I love the way she writes.


I highly recommend this book to children of all ages, and adults looking for a fun, educational book showing how the solar system works. - Lynn Worton

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review 2018-10-17 21:42
Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" - Philip Plait
Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" - Philip Plait

A good book for people like me who haven't studied astronomy in a very long time and could use a refresher. Nice job covering some very common questions and misconceptions. And a fair amount of time debunking non-science of the Young Earth or aliens-among-us or astrology fans.


The only reason it took me so long to finish was Halloween Bingo interceded. I spent a month just getting other books out of the way to be ready for my bingo choices. Only to discover that the real horror is willful ignorance.


Fair warning, this is sixteen years old, so not exactly cutting edge. There are no gorgeous Hubble depictions of astonishing beauty. (I really like those kinds of books, too)


Library copy

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