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Books of Note Archives

Listed alphabetically by title.

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Pat Dasch

Icy Worlds of the Solar SystemIn Association with Amazon.com
Icy Worlds of the Solar System
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-64048-2, $45

Earth is the only planet known to have liquid water, and water ice has been present over parts of the Earth for much of its history. Scientists have only recently come to understand how widespread the presence of ice is in our solar system. Deposits of water ice may exist in unexpected places, such as in the polar craters of Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. Other ices, such as methane ice and nitrogen ice, abound in our solar system; these ices play an important role in the geological and atmospheric characteristics of the bodies in it. Icy Worlds of the Solar System focuses on the occurrence and significance of water ice, and ices formed by other materials. The findings discussed are the result of three decades of spacecraft exploration of the planets, complemented by ground and space-based observations. It considers implications of the reservoirs of water ice for the presence of life elsewhere in our solar system, and for habitability by human explorers who may venture to these distant worlds in the future.

Yannick Mellier and Georges Meylan, Eds.In Association with Amazon.com
Impact of Gravitational Lensing on Cosmology
IAU Symposium 225
Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-521-85196-3, $90

The proceedings of the International Astronomical Union Symposium no. 225, held in July 2004 at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Lausanne, Switzerland. The meeting focused on the applications of gravitational lensing to cosmological physics, and this book summarizes the most recent theoretical and observational developments. Chapters are written by leading scientists in the field, and cover testing gravitation theory with gravitational lensing; weak gravitational shear and gravitational magnification of galaxies; anisotropy of the cosmological microwave background as a probe of the dark matter power spectrum and the growth rate of perturbations in the universe, and its implications for investigating the properties of dark energy. The properties of dark halos from galaxy to super-cluster of galaxies scales are presented using mass reconstruction techniques.

Charles CockellImpossible ExtinctionIn Association with Amazon.com
Impossible Extinction: Natural Catastrophes and the Supremacy of the Microbial World
Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-521-81736-6, $28

Every 225 million years the Earth, and all the life on it, completes one revolution around the Milky Way Galaxy. During this remarkable journey, life is influenced by calamitous changes.

Comets and asteroids strike the surface of the Earth, stars explode, enormous volcanoes erupt, and more recently, humans litter the planet with waste. Many animals and plants became extinct during the voyage, but humble microbes, simple creatures made of a single cell, survive this journey. This book takes a tour of the microbial world, from the coldest and deepest places on Earth to the hottest and highest, and witnesses some of the most catastrophic events that life can face. Impossible Extinction tells this remarkable story by explaining how microbes have survived on Earth for over three billion years. Charles Cockell is currently a microbiologist with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) and based at the British Survey in Cambridge, UK. His research focuses on astrobiology, life in the extremes and the human exploration of Mars.

Andrew ParkerIn the Blink of an EyeIn Association with Amazon.com
In the Blink of an Eye
Perseus Publishing, 2003, ISBN: 0-7382-0607-5, $24.95

The Cambrian Explosion is universally referred to as biology's "Big Bang." About 550 million years ago, there was literally an explosion of life forms, as all the major animal groups suddenly and dramatically appeared. Why did it happen this way? Why didn't these creatures continue the slow, plodding pace of evolution, appearing only very gradually in the fossil record? Here Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker reveals his theory of this great flourishing of life. Parker's "Light Switch Theory" holds that it was the development of vision in primitive animals that caused the explosion. Precambrian creatures were unable to see, making it impossible to find friend or foe. With the evolution of the eye, the size, shape, color, and behavior of animals was suddenly revealed for the first time. Once the lights were "turned on," all animals had to either adapt or die, and in a geological instant, the world became a very different place. A controversial idea, the Light Switch Theory draws on evidence not just from biology but also from geology, physics, chemistry, history, and art.

Karl F. Kuhn & Theo KoupelisIn Quest of the UniverseIn Association with Amazon.com
In Quest of the Universe, 4/e
Jones & Bartlett, 2004, ISBN: 0-7637-0810-0, $84.95 (paperback)

In Quest of the Universe, 4/e is a comprehensive introduction to astronomy designed for non-science majors. The book uses the development of astronomical theories, both historical and current, to show how science works. The authors take a "planets first" approach, engaging students with an exploration of our own solar system before moving on to the stars and then to distant galaxies. Additional resources on http://www.jbpub.com/starlinks/4e/

Nik SzymanekInfinity Rising
Infinity Rising: A Personal View of the Universe
Polestar Publications, Ltd., 2005, $15.99

This Astronomy Now (www.astronomynow.com) special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek (recipient of the 2004 ASP Amateur Achievement Award) and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging. Modern digital cameras and computer techniques are powerful allies in the battle against light pollution but here you will also find breathtaking pictures using very basic equipment taken from magnificent dark sites such as La Palma and Muana Kea, Hawaii. Included are pictures taken by the author with the two-meter Faulkes Telescope alongside many images taken by professional astronomers using the UK's Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, to which the author had exclusive access for image processing.

Charles FlowersInstability RulesIn Association with Amazon.com
Instability Rules: The Ten Most Amazing Ideas of Modern Science
John Wiley & Sons, 2002, ISBN: 0-471-38042-3, $24.95

"A century of remarkable scientific discovery...

"We learned that the continents are forever slipping and sliding around the globe, like clothing on a teenager, and the mountains are forever rising, the oceans rising, the volcanoes stoking their furnaces for the next blast.

"Our bodies are a fever of change as our minds perpetually rewire themselves and our genes make uncountable decisions, renewing or growing or misfiring to produce the runaway cancers that may kill us, initiating the instability of mortal decay...

"Within tiny atomic universes, particles pop in and out of being, impossible as that may be to conceive, while atoms collide and meld, buzzing continually in their electrically charged states.

"This, then, was the truth behind many of the defining discoveries of the twentieth century: existence is constant activity."
—from the Preface

Dramatic and often humorous storytelling that illuminates science; science writing that explores the artifices of human personality and the humanity of artificial intelligence.

Thaisa Storchi-Bergmann, L.C. Ho & H. R. Schmitt, eds.In Association with Amazon.com
The Interplay Among Black Holes, Stars & ISM in Galactic Nuclei
IAU Symposium 222
Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-521-84803-2, $90

How massive are the largest and smallest nuclear black holes in galaxies? Why are the masses of nuclear black holes proportional to those of their host galaxy bulges? How is nuclear activity triggered? What are the observational signatures of such processes? What are the connections between the active nucleus, stars and interstellar medium in galaxies? Answers to these questions are addressed in this book, which presents a compilation of 191 works covering recent observations from X-rays to radio wavelengths, as well as theoretical modeling of accretion disks, stellar populations and galaxy and black hole evolution. This volume presents the nuclear activity as a phase in the life of a galaxy, which is intimately connected to the evolution of its stars and interstellar medium, and brings together recent developments in topics covering most aspects of galaxy evolution.

Chet RaymoAn Intimate Look at the Night SkyIn Association with Amazon.com
An Intimate Look at the Night Sky
Walker Books, 2003, ISBN: 0-8027-7670-1, $16 (now available in paperback)

On one level, An Intimate Look at the Night Sky is a unique star guide: twenty-four beautiful star maps, created specifically for this book, cycle through the seasons and across the heavens, revealing what you can see with the naked eye throughout the year on a clear night in the northern hemisphere. Raymo's commentaries amplify the maps, offering intriguing details and tips on identifying stars, planets, and constellations. On another level, Chet Raymo challenges our imagination — to see what is unseeable in the universe, to perceive distance and size and shape that is inconceivable, to appreciate ever more fully our extraordinary place in the cosmos. His elegant essays on the heavens blend science and history, mythology and religion.

John C. Brandt, Robert D. ChapmanIntroduction to CometsIn Association with Amazon.com
Introduction to Comets, 2/e
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-00466-7, $60 (paperback)

Including the abundance of information known prior to the return of Halley's comet, as well as the new information discovered since then, the science of comets is described here by order of its discovery. From tail phenomena to coma morphology, to the most recent findings from space missions, this comprehensive text provides complete and up-to-date coverage of the subject.

Jayant Vishnu NarlikarAn Introduction to CosmologyIn Association with Amazon.com
An Introduction to Cosmology, 3/e
Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN: 0-521-79376-9, $50 (paperback)

The third edition of this successful textbook is fully updated and includes important recent developments in cosmology. It begins with an introduction to cosmology and general relativity, and goes on to the mathematical models of standard cosmology. The physical aspects of cosmology, including primordial nucleosynthesis, the astroparticle physics of inflation, and the current ideas on formation are discussed. Alternative models of cosmology are reviewed, including the model of Quasi-Steady State Cosmology, which has recently been proposed as an alternative to Big Bang Cosmology.

Mark H. Jones & Robert J. A. Lambourne

An Introduction to Galaxies and CosmologyIn Association with Amazon.com
An Introduction to Galaxies and Cosmology
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-54623-0, $65 (paperback)

This introductory textbook has been designed by a team of experts for elementary university courses in astronomy and astrophysics. It starts with a detailed discussion of the structure and history of our own Galaxy, the Milky Way, and goes on to give a general introduction to normal and active galaxies including models for their formation and evolution. The second part of the book provides an overview of the wide range of cosmological models and discusses the Big Bang and the expansion of the Universe. Written in an accessible style that avoids complex mathematics, and illustrated in color throughout, this book is suitable for self-study and will appeal to amateur astronomers as well as undergraduate students. It contains numerous helpful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. The book is also supported by a website hosting further teaching materials.

Jamal IslamAn Introduction to Mathematical CosmologyIn Association with Amazon.com
An Introduction to Mathematical Cosmology
Cambridge University Press, 2001, 0-521-49650-0/0-521-49973-9, $90/$30

A concise introduction to the mathematical aspects of the origin, structure and evolution of the universe. The book begins with a brief overview of observational and theoretical cosmology, along with a short introduction to general relativity. It then goes on to discuss Friedmann models, the Hubble constant and deceleration parameter, singularities, the early universe, inflation, quantum cosmology and the distant future of the universe. This new edition contains a rigorous derivation of the Robertson-Walker metric; discusses the limits to the parameter space through various theoretical and observational constraints; and presents a new inflationary solution for a sixth degree potential.

D. J. Raine and E. G. ThomasIn Association with Amazon.com
An Introduction to the Science of Cosmology (Series in Astronomy and Astrophysics)
Institute of Physics Publishing, 2001, ISBN: 0-7503-0405-7, $50 (paperback)

This volume is a thorough introduction to modern ideas on cosmology and on the physical basis of the general theory of relativity. The various theories and ideas in 'big bang' cosmology are discussed in detail, providing an insight into current problems. The book is written at an intermediate level, beyond that of the many elementary books on cosmology, and provides an introduction to the more advanced works and research literature.

Contents:1 Reconstructing Time. 2 Expansion. 3 Matter. 4 Radiation. 5 Relativity. 6 Models. 7 Hot Big Bang. 8 Inflation. 9 Structure. 10 Epilogue.

Neil McBride, et al., Eds.An Introduction to the Solar SystemIn Association with Amazon.com
An Introduction to the Solar System
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-83735-9/0-521-54620-6, $110/$65

Compiled by a team of experts, this textbook has been designed for elementary university courses in planetary science. It starts with a tour of the Solar System and an overview of its formation that reviews in detail the terrestrial planets, giant planets and minor bodies. It concludes with a discussion of the origin of the Solar System. The text contains numerous useful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. It is also supported by a website hosting further teaching materials.

Simon F. Green & Mark H. Jones, eds.In Association with Amazon.com
An Introduction to the Sun and Stars
Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-521-54622-2, $65

Compiled by a team of experts, this textbook has been designed for elementary university courses in astronomy and astrophysics. Beginning with a discussion of our nearest star, the Sun, the volume then considers how astronomers study the basic physical properties and life-cycles of more distant stars. Exotic objects such as black holes are also introduced. The text contains numerous useful learning features such as boxed summaries, student exercises with full solutions, and a glossary of terms. Supported by a website hosting further teaching materials and written in an accessible style that avoids complex mathematics.

Isaac Asimov, with revisions and updating by Richard Hantula
Isaac Asimov's 21st Century Library of the Universe—The Solar System
Prometheus Books, 2003, $12 each volume

Isaac Asimov's 21st Century Library of the Universe draws upon the legendary writer's wit, clarity of style, enthusiasm, and enormous command of facts about space to give youngsters the most current information about the wonders of the universe. In twelve volumes Asimov takes young astronomers on a tour of the Solar System—proceeding step by step from the Sun at the center of it all to the distant outer orbit of Pluto. In between he covers all the interior planets, including our own Moon and the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars.

Now available: Earth, Venus and Jupiter.

Janet Jeppson AsimovIsaac AsimovIn Association with Amazon.com
Isaac Asimov: It’s Been a Good Life
Prometheus Books, 2002, ISBN: 1-57392-968-9, $26

As one of the most gifted and prolific writers of the twentieth century, Isaac Asimov became legendary for his inexhaustible creativity, wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, and talent for explaining complex subjects in clear, concise prose. While regaling his readers with an incredible opus of almost five hundred entertaining and illuminating science fiction and nonfiction books, he also found time to write a three-volume autobiography. Now these volumes have been condensed into one by Asimov’s wife, Janet, who also shares excerpts from letters he wrote to her. Together these writings provide an intimate portrait of a creative genius whose love of learning and playing with ideas is evident on every page.

Although Janet Jeppson Asimov concludes this work with a shocking revelation about her husband’s death, the volume is clearly intended as a celebration — as the title suggests — of a wonderful, creative life. As a poignant coda to this work, Janet has appended one short story that was Isaac’s favorite, and his 400th essay on this thoughts about science.

Isaac Asimov's 21st Century Library of the Universe—The Solar System With revisions and updating by Richard Hantula
Prometheus Books, 2003, $12 each volume

The Sun
ISBN: 1-59102-122-7

The Moon
ISBN: 1-59102-123-5

Mars
ISBN: 1-59102-124-3


Isaac Asimov's 21st Century Library of the Universe draws upon the legendary writer's wit, clarity of style, enthusiasm, and enormous command of facts about space to give youngsters the most current information about the wonders of the universe. In twelve volumes Asimov takes young astronomers on a tour of the Solar System—proceeding step by step from the Sun at the center of it all to the distant outer orbit of Pluto. In between he covers all the interior planets, including our own Moon and the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars.

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James R. VoelkelJohannes Kepler and the New AstronomyIn Association with Amazon.com
Johannes Kepler and the New Astronomy
Oxford Portraits in Science
Oxford University Press), 2001, ISBN: 0-19-515021-X, $11.95 (now available in paperback)

This latest volume in the Oxford Portraits in Science is the story of a young man who falls into his profession through a sense of duty - yet sets the scientific community into a frenzy. Voelkel reveals how Kepler, after years of studying theology, would go on to make fundamental astronomical discoveries in spite of religious upheaval and persecution, scholarly rivalry and intrigue, war, family tragedies and a witchcraft trial. Sidebars explain Copernicus’s Mode of Retrograde Motion, The Platonic Solids, Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg Observatory, and Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion.

Jack B. ZirkerJourney from the Center of the SunIn Association with Amazon.com
Journey from the Center of the Sun
Princeton University Press, 2002, 0-691-05781-8, $29.95

Jack Zirker takes us on an imaginary voyage from the center of the sun to its surface, showing how sunlight is made and finally following the sun's energy to the far reaches of the solar system. Along the way, he introduces the basic processes at work in our nearest star and the exciting answers solar scientists are finding to problems that have long perplexed astronomers.

Journey from the Center of the Sun describes how theory and practice are coming together to provide a new understanding of this old star. At this moment, solar physicists are collecting the best observations ever obtained about the sun's interior and dynamic atmosphere, while a new breed of theorists is interpreting these data using computer simulations. Zirker reports on cutting-edge advances and looks at the tough questions solar physicists are beginning to crack. How can we account for the solar wind that causes the sun to lose mass at an astonishing rate? Where have all the neutrinos gone? How does the sun generate magnetic sunspots, and why does it have a sunspot cycle? What causes a solar flare to explode? How does the sun affect the earth's climate? What is a sunquake?

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George G. SzpiroKepler's ConjectureIn Association with Amazon.com
Kepler's Conjecture: How Some of the Greatest Minds in History Helped Solve One of the Oldest Math Problems in the World
John Wiley & Sons, 2003, ISBN: 0-471-08601-0, $24.95

Sir Walter Raleigh simply wanted to know the best and most efficient way to pack cannonballs in the hold of his ship. In 1611, German astronomer Johannes Kepler responded with the obvious answer: by piling them up the same way that grocers stack oranges or melons. For the next four centuries, Kepler's conjecture became the figurative loose cannon in the mathematical world as some of the greatest intellects in history set out to prove his theory — from Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe to math greats Sir Isaac Newton and Carl Friedrich Gauss, from modern titans David Hilbert and Buckminster Fuller to Thomas Hales of the University of Michigan, who in 1998 submitted what seems to be the definitive proof. Kepler's Conjecture provides a mesmerizing account of this 400-year quest for an answer that would satisfy even the most skeptical mathematical minds.

Rhonda MartensKepler's PhilosophyIn Association with Amazon.com
Kepler’s Philosophy & the New Astronomy
Princeton University Press, 2000, ISBN: 0-691-05069-4, $37.50

Johannes Kepler changed the face of astronomy by abandoning principles that had been in place for two millennia, made important discoveries in optics and mathematics, and was an uncommonly good philosopher. Generally, however, Kepler's philosophical ideas have been dismissed as irrelevant and even detrimental to his legacy of scientific accomplishment. Here, Rhonda Martens offers the first extended study of Kepler’s philosophical views and shows how those views helped him construct and justify the new astronomy. By tracing the evolution of Kepler's thought in his astronomical, metaphysical, and epistemological works, Martens explores the complex interplay between changes in his philosophical views and the status of his astronomical discoveries.

Jane Drake & Ann Love, illustrated by Heather CollinsThe Kids Book of the Night SkyAstroShop
The Kids Book of the Night Sky
Kids Can Press, 2004, ISBN: 1-55337-128-3, $12.95 (paperback)

In The Kids Book of the Night Sky, boys and girls will discover all the secrets the night sky holds. They can play games like "Night Sky I Spy," keep an astronomer's log, read about night sky myths and  legends from different cultures around the world, and learn about the zodiac, he northern lights and eclipses. Star maps are included for each season—so kids will know what to look for, when and where. Then as the sun goes down and the sky goes dark, they'll be ready for the night sky's all-star show! Available at the ASP's online store, the AstroShop.

Bryan BunchIn Association with Amazon.com
The Kingdom of Infinite Number: A Field Guide
W. H. Freeman and Company, 2001, ISBN: 0-7167-4447-3, $13.95 (paperback)

From the Introduction: "The intent of this field guide is to aid the reader in identifying numbers in their native habitats. Just as an experienced birder can tell which birds are hidden in the trees by hearing their songs, or recognize a species from a silhouette or a flash of color through the leaves, the experienced number-watcher learns to find the hidden secrets of numbers, to classify a number instantly, and to use number relationships to enhance the enjoyment of mathematics as well as to solve problems...All numbers are interesting."

Alexei SossinskyKnotsIn Association with Amazon.com
Knots: Mathematics with a Twist
Harvard University Press, 2002, ISBN: 0-674-00944-4, $24.95

Ornaments and icons, symbols of complexity or evil, aesthetically appealing and endlessly useful in everyday ways, knots are also the object of mathematical theory, used to unravel ideas about the topological nature of space. In recent years knot theory has been brought to bear on the study of equations describing weather systems, mathematical models used in physics, and even, with the realization that DNA sometimes is knotted, molecular biology.

This book, written by a mathematician known for his own work on knot theory, is a clear, concise, and engaging introduction to this complicated subject. A guide to the basic ideas and applications of knot theory, Knots takes us from Lord Kelvin's early -- and mistaken -- idea of using the knot to model the atom, almost a century and a half ago, to the central problem confronting knot theorists today: distinguishing among various knots, classifying them, and finding a straightforward and general way of determining whether two knots --treated as mathematical objects -- are equal.

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Michael Christopher CarrollLab 257In Association with Amazon.com
Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government's Secret Plum Island Germ Laboratory
William Morrow, ISBN: 0-06-001141-6, $24.95

Nestled near the Hamptons, the fashionable summer playground of America's rich and famous, and in the shadow of New York City, lies an unimposing 840-acre island unidentified on most maps. On the few on which it can be found, Plum Island is marked red or yellow, and stamped U.S. government—restricted or dangerous animal diseases. Lab 257 details the checkered history of Plum Island, positing that the seemingly bucolic island on the edge of the largest population center in the United States may be a ticking biological time bomb.

George H. RiekeThe Last of the Great ObservatoriesIn Association with Amazon.com
The Last of the Great Observatories: Spitzer and the Era of Faster, Better, Cheaper at NASA
University of Arizona Press, 2006, ISBN: 0-8165-2522-6, $40

The Spitzer Space Observatory, originally known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF), is the last of the four "Great Observatories", which also include the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Developed over twenty years and dubbed the "Infrared Hubble", Spitzer was launched in the summer of 2003 and has since contributed significantly to our understanding of the universe. George Rieke played a key role in Spitzer and now relates the story of how that observatory was built and launched into space. Telling the story of this single mission within the context of NASA space science over two turbulent decades, he describes how, after a tortuous political trail to approval, Spitzer was started at the peak of NASA's experiment with streamlining and downsizing its mission development process, termed "faster better cheaper." Rieke examines in detail the premises behind "faster better cheaper," their strengths and weaknesses, and their ultimate impact within the context of NASA's continuing search for the best way to build future missions. As the only book devoted to the Spitzer mission, The Last of the Great Observatories is a story at the nexus of politics and science, shedding new light on both spheres as it contemplates the future of mankind's exploration of the universe.

Bill Carter and Merri Sue CarterIn Association with Amazon.com
Latitude: How American Astronomers Solved the Mystery of Variation
Naval Institute Press, 2002, ISBN: 1557500169, $24.95

For more than a century European astronomers grappled with the mystery surrounding a suspected variation in latitude that affected their careful observations. Where the best minds in Europe had failed, in1891, Seth Chandler, an actuary for a Boston insurance company with no formal education in astronomy, built an inexpensive instrument that solved the problem. Another American, Simon Newcomb, working at the U.S. Naval Observatory and using existing mathematical equations, validated Chandler’s discovery. The "Chandler Wobble," had profound significance to astronomers of the day and played an important role later in space exploration and the eventual development of the Global Positioning System. Private correspondence, documents, and photographs provided by Chandler’s granddaughter give a glimpse of life within the family and of Chandler’s relationships with the scientific community.

Robert ZimmermanLeaving EarthIn Association with Amazon.com
Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel
Joseph Henry Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-309-08548-9, $27.95

In this definitive account of man's quest to shoot for the moon...and beyond, space historian Zimmerman details the adventure, exploration, research and discovery of the world's first space cowboys and reminds us why courageous astronauts continue taking these daring flights. All against a background of the great global Cold War gamesmanship between Russian and American political leaders that drove us to the stars.

Dava SobelLetters to FatherIn Association with Amazon.com
Letters to Father: Suor Maria Celeste to Galileo, 1623-1633
Walker & Company, 2001, ISBN: 0-8027-1387-4, $40
(All proceeds will be donated by Dava Sobel and Walker & Company to Mother Mary Francis and the Poor Clares, the order Suor Maria Celeste belonged to)

Two years ago, Dava Sobel introduced Suor Maria Celeste, the eldest daughter of Galileo Galilei’s three illegitimate children, in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. In Letters to Father, all 124 existing letters she wrote to her father are reproduced in their original Italian alongside Sobel’s English translation. Introduced and annotated by Sobel, the letters provide a portrait of deep love between a father and his daughter and a fascinating insight into Galileo himself. They also touch on the events of the dramatic period through which she lived during which a pope came to power who battled the Protestant Reformation; the Thirty Years’ War embroiled all of Europe; the bubonic plague erupted across Italy; and a new philosophy of science, promulgated most forcefully by Galileo himself, threatened to overturn the order of the universe.

David WadeLi: Dynamic Form in NatureIn Association with Amazon.com
Li: Dynamic Form in Nature
Walker Books, 2003, ISBN: 0-8027-1410-2

The study of families of surface patterns was known in ancient China as Li and is the sister science to Fen Shui. In this unique book are sand and wave patterns, big cat markings, bark and leaf designs, soap and marbling swirls, crystalline and rock forms, tree branching types, and many other examples of nature's dynamic, sometimes enigmatic designs.

Peter D. Ward & Don BrownleeThe Life and Death of Planet EarthIn Association with Amazon.com
The Life and Death of Planet Earth: How the New Science of Astrobiology Charts the Ultimate Fate of Our World
Times Books (Henry Holt & Co.), 2003, ISBN: 0-8050-6781-7, $25

Imagine our planet far into the future, Carl Sagan's "pale blue dot" reduced to a reddish-brown husk, a mere shell of its former self. It seems like the stuff of science fiction novels, but it is really of science today. We are at a unique moment in our history—Earth's midlife—a point at which science has given us the capability to examine the birth of our planet as well as the forces that will bring about its eventual death.

Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, a paleontologist and an astronomer respectively, combine the discoveries of astronomers, Earth scientists, and those in other specific disciplines. Astronomers are well-poised to study the ends of other worlds, while paleontologists can tell us about "worlds" that have already ended on our planet, such as the death of dinosaurs and other signposts in the rock and fossil record.

Ward and Brownlee present a comprehensive portrait of Earth's ultimate fate, allowing us to understand and appreciate how our planet sustains itself, and offer a glimpse at our place in the cosmic order. As they depict the process of planetary evolution, they peer deep into the future destiny of Earth, showing us that we are living near or shortly after Earth's biological peak. Eventually, the process of planetary evolution will reverse itself; life as we know it will subside until only the simplest forms remain. In time they, too, will disappear. The oceans will evaporate, the atmosphere will degrade, and as the sun slowly expands, Earth will eventually meet a fiery end.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is crucial to understand Earth's tumultuous history and probable future. Combining groundbreaking research with lucid, eloquent writing, this landmark book offers fresh and realistic insight into the true nature of our world and how we should best steward our planet for the long-term benefit of our species.

William TobinThe Life and Science of Leon FoucaultIn Association with Amazon.com
The Life and Science of Léon Foucault: The Man Who Proved the Earth Rotates

Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN: 0-521-80855-3, $60

In 1851 a young French physicist erected a giant pendulum in the heart of Paris and showed astonished spectators that the Earth was turning beneath their feet. Pendulum mania swept the learned and everyday worlds and Léon Foucault's name became synonymous with his famous pendulum. His contributions to science went well beyond the pendulum, however: most notably to the gyroscope, to decisive laboratory measurements of the speed of light, and to the invention of the telescope in its modern form. The blend of pure and applied in Foucault's work and the ordeals he suffered make him an intriguing case study as one of the last amateur scientists at a time when science was becoming institutionalized.

Ralph Lorenz and Jaqueline MittonLifting Titan's VeilIn Association with Amazon.com
Lifting Titan's Veil: Exploring the Giant Moon of Saturn
Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN: 0521793483, $29, Hardback.

Lifting Titan's Veil is a revealing account of the second largest moon in the solar system. This world in orbit around Saturn is like a giant frozen laboratory that may help scientists understand the first chemical steps towards the origin of life. The authors describe our current knowledge of Titan, from its discovery in 1655, up to the present day. Ralph Lorenz includes in the book some of his personal experiences in preparing for the Cassini mission, which will reach Saturn in 2004 and release the Huygens probe into Titan's atmosphere in 2005. 

Brian CleggLight Years and Time TravelIn Association with Amazon.com
Light Years and Time Travel
John Wiley & Sons, 2002, ISBN: 0-471-21182-6, $24.95

Einstein said nothing could travel faster than the speed of light. But what if we could control the speed of light? In Light Years and Time Travel, physicist and author Clegg offers an accessible exploration of this astonishing topic. The book reveals today’s scientists’ searches to find ways that would allow us to increase the speed of light–and, they say, send messages back in time. There is also the development of "slow glass," a special glass that is capable of considerably slowing the speed of light.

The narrative presents both an historical account of the many scientific discoveries associated with light alongside a discussion of the latest research using light. From the spiritual interpretations of the Ancient Egyptians to the first scientific grapplings with light and its use by Renaissance artists, these are the stories of individuals through time who were obsessed by light and their attempts at defining, describing, and controlling this remarkable force: Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Einstein, and Feynman.

Steven J. Dick & James E. StrickThe Living UniverseIn Association with Amazon.com
The Living Universe: NASA and the Development of Astrobiology
Rutgers University Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-8135-3447-X, $49.95

The Living Universe is a comprehensive study of the formation of the new scientific discipline of exobiology and its transformation into astrobiology. The authors—Steven J. Dick is the Chief Historian at NASA and associate editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology and James E. Strick an assistant professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Franklin and Marshall College—explain how research on the origin of life became wedded to the search for life on other planets and for extraterrestrial intelligence. Many scientific breakthroughs of the last forty years were either directly supported or indirectly spun off from NASA's exobiology program, including cell symbiosis, the discovery of the Archaea, and the theories of Nuclear Winter and the asteroid extinction of the dinosaurs.

Exobiology and astrobiology have generated public fascination, enormous public relations benefits for NASA, and—the flip side of the coin—some of the most heated political wrangling ever seen in government science funding. Dick and Strick provide a riveting overview of the search for life throughout the universe, with all of the Earthly complexities of a science-in-the-making and the imperfect humans called scientists. Their book is the first to include oral history interviews with all of the primary participants from 1953 to the present.

Mario Livio & Thomas M. BrownThe Local Group as as Astrophysical LaboratoryIn Association with Amazon.com
The Local Group as an Astrophysical Laboratory
Space Telescope Science Institute Symposium Series
Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN: 0-521-84759-1, $130

The Local Group of galaxies consists of the Milky Way and all of its neighbors. The proximity of these galaxies allows for detailed studies of the processes that have led to their formation, structures, and evolution. In particular, studies of the Local Group can test predictions of structure formation that are based on dark energy and cold dark matter. This book presents a collection of review papers, written by world experts, on some of the most important aspects of Local Group Astrophysics.

Contents: 1. History of the Local Group S. van den Bergh; 2. Primordial nucleosynthesis G. Steigman; 3. Galactic structure R. F. G. Wyse; 4. The Large Magellanic Cloud: structure and kinematics R. P. van der Marel; 5. The Local Group as an astrophysical laboratory for massive star feedback M. S. Oey; 6. Hot gas in the Local Group and low-redshift intergalactic medium K. R. Sembach; 7. Stages of satellite accretion M. E. Putman; 8. The star formation history in the Andromeda halo T. M. Brown; 9. Bulge populations in the Local Group R. M. Rich; 10. The Local Group as a laboratory for the chemical evolution of galaxies D. R. Garnett; 11. Massive stars in the Local Group: Star formation and stellar evolution P. Massey; 12. Massive young clusters in the Local Group J. Maíz-Apellániz; 13. Magellanic Cloud planetary nebulae as probes of stellar evolution and populations L. Stanghellini; 14. The old globular clusters: or, life among the ruins W. E. Harris; 15. Chemical evolution models of Local Group galaxies M. Tosi.

David GrinspoonLonely PlanetsIn Association with Amazon.com
Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life
Ecco, 2003, ISBN: 0-06-018540-6, $25.95

In Lonely Planets, Grinspoon investigates the big questions: How widespread are life and intelligence in the cosmos? Is life on Earth an accident or in some sense the "purpose" of this universe? And how can we, working from the Earth-centric definition of "life," even begin to think about the varieties of life-forms on other planets? Using the topic of extraterrestrial life as a mirror with which to view human beliefs, evolution, history, and aspirations, Grinspoon takes readers on a three-part journey.

History is an overview of our expanding awareness of other planets, from the observations of seventeenth-century natural philosophers to modern-day space exploration. It traces the history of our ideas on alien life to the earliest days of astronomy, and shows how these beliefs have changed with humanity's evolving self-image.

Science tells the story of cosmic evolution and the evolution of life on Earth. Here, Grinspoon disputes the recent "Rare Earth hypothesis," which argues that Earth is unique for sprouting advanced life-forms, maintaining instead that life is likely to be well adapted to a wide variety of planets. He questions conventional assumptions of what is required for a planet to come to life, scrutinizing current ideas and evidence for life on Mars, Venus, and the moons of Jupiter, and challenging readers to think about other life-forms that may exist on other worlds.

Belief discusses the limits of our abilities to conceptualize or communicate with intelligent aliens living on planets circling distant stars. Grinspoon speculates on what intelligent life might become, eventually, on Earth and elsewhere, and the implications, both scientific and philosophical, of these far-future evolutionary possibilities.

Paul Clancy, et al.Looking for LifeIn Association with Amazon.com
Looking for Life: Searching the Solar System
Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-521-82450-8, $40

How did life begin on Earth? Is it confined to our planet? Will humans one day be able to travel long distances in space in search of other life forms? Written by three experts in the space arena, Looking for Life, Searching the Solar System aims to answer these and other intriguing questions. Beginning with what we understand of life on Earth, it describes the latest ideas about the chemical basis of life as we know it, and how they are influencing strategies to search for life elsewhere. It considers the ability of life, from microbes to humans, to survive in space, on the surface of other planets, and be transported from one planet to another. It looks at the latest plans for missions to search for life in the Solar System, and how these are being influenced by new technologies, and current thinking about life on Earth.

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