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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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review 2018-01-30 03:05
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry - Neil deGrasse Tyson

I may not be the target audience since although I'm basically a layman when it comes to astrophysics, I have been known to actively seek it out. Overall it was a good, concise overview, although I was a little disappointed that Tyson didn't mention that the Russians also had satellites in orbit to detect gamma rays from nuclear detonations (it's one of those funny cold war stories). But then I guess it wouldn't have been as concise as it was.


I did find it odd that some parts appeared to be strangely familiar until I realized that he reused a few of his examples from the lecture series I recently listened to (I guess they're his go-to examples).


The writing also had its quirky lines, although I only noted one of the page numbers to refer back to it, so I'll leave you with this from by 87:

"So dark matter is our frenemy."

If that sounds interesting but weird, maybe you should give the book a try. I'm not sure it would be something I'd want to refer back to, though, so if you're already generally familiar with the current state of astrophysics, you may want to check out a library copy like I did.

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review 2018-01-29 15:24
Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story by Karl Beckstrand
Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story - Karl Beckstrand,Luis F. Sanz

This book is great on a couple of levels. First of all it is written in rhyme. Small kid love rhyming books, at least mine do. The book is written about stars which is something that can be seen by everyone, so it makes it real for the kids, my kids tend to like stories that have an actual real subject to them. This book would make a great bedtime story for the kids, the stars come out at night, Right?


The book features a few tips, like how to find the North Star. The books does not actually feature certain stars and give a scientific history so to speak of it but instead it is more like a bunch of describing words about stars in general. Some of the words are quite large and would not be good for smaller children to try and read themselves, but as a parent I have no problem reading the book to them. It is a very short book but actually filled with a lot of stuff all related to stars.


The illustrations in this book are top notch. They are very colorful and quite busy. The kids loved looking at the pictures, and actually have my tablet right now looking at the book again.

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review 2018-01-17 03:40
My Favorite Universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My Favorite Universe - Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is part of the Great Courses series and although the video version would most certainly be better, Neil deGrasse Tyson is a pretty good lecturer. There isn't too much that's new here for someone with a general interest in astronomy, but it's always fun to revisit the old favourite topics, and I did learn a few historical details. It was probably worth listening to this just for the rant about flying saucers not needing landing strips and the comment about Phobos being a "poor little thing" (or whatever the quote actually was...I couldn't find it again).


For general astronomy, I still recommend the Astronomy Cast podcast.


[Aside: Guys! I have the new laptop! The sad news is that it looks like my old hard drive is dead, so I've lost everything since my last back up.]

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review 2017-06-30 00:39
The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet - Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet covers Pluto’s discovery, the controversy over whether it should be called a planet, and the IAU’s (International Astronomical Union) decision to call it a dwarf planet. It is amusing that their definition for planet references the Sun, which leaves exoplanets in a bit of a lurch, technically. I was surprised to learn a few things in this book, or at least to be reminded of things that I may have forgotten, which is always a plus, and Tyson doesn’t inject needless personal stories into the text (he has republished a bunch of cute cartoons though).


Most of what I found amusing was just the back and forth arguments between the scientists as well as some of the things like the legislation introduced in California to condemn the IAU’s decision which included the following:

“WHEREAS, Downgrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants;”


Some of the people having fun with Pluto’s lack of inclusion among the planets were amusing too, like the other things that might happen if this becomes a trend in other areas, suggested by Eric Metaxas in an op-ed for the New York Times:







This book predated the New Horizons fly-by of Pluto, so we’re left without any awesome photos of heart-shaped geological features, but it’s still fun and informative.


I read this for booklikes-opoly square Tomorrowland 36 “Read a book with either an image of or from space, or where the author’s full name contains all of the letters in SPACE”. There’s a picture of a nebula as well as an illustration of Pluto (pre-iconic heart photo, remember?), so I’d say it fits the space nicely. Tyson is also wearing a space-themed tie on the cover. At 180 pages (including the appendices), this adds another $4 to my bank, leaving me with a total balance of $164.


Previous update:

106/180 pages

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