I skipped physics in senior high school, doing biology instead. And I managed to fail that in Year 12. But I love reading about cosmology and the universe, and this book has been a great help. It deals with the big questions like whether we'll ever be able to travel through time, whether there's life out there and where we all came from, but, it's written in a way even I could understand. And yet they did it without dumbing things down. There's a lot of meat to chew on, but they made it easily digestible. I hope this gastronomic analogy doesn't put you off, because it's really a great read. The authors explain how atoms work and what the universe looks like, yet they manage this without breaking their promise to use only one equasion. If you're interested in the big questions, don't shy away from this entertaining and informative book.
What I liked about Professor Kaler's approach was that he related everything back to the earth. Though he points out that the terrestrial planets could be regarded as the sun's leftovers, he reminds us that size does not equal significance.
The professor has a way of describing things so that you can picture them in your mind's eye. He points out not only the huge sizes of objects like the sun and Jupiter, but even more so the enormous distances between them. I did not realise how big the solar system is. Neptune is 30 times further from the sun than is earth. And the comets perhaps extend out to half the distance to the next star. But you don't get blinded with statistics. Professor Kaler explains succinctly how the moon orbits the earth, why it appears in phases, and other basic facts of astronomy.
The lectures are well worth your credit. I've already started listening to Part 2.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I enjoyed this book. Robert Hazen starts from the beginning and describes how the Earth formed from starstuff, its crust and minerals crystallizing from cooling magma. He covers the planet’s storied relationship with its moon, the importance of tectonic plates, the formation of the seas, and the magnetosphere. We learn about the chemistry that provided a basis for proto-life-as-we-know-it, and, eventually, the real deal. We learn about the complex feedback loops that govern the climate system, the revelation that the entire planet may have once been covered in ice.
Hazen emphasizes the interdependence of the planet’s features and life itself: “geology influences life and life influences life”. Eons of metabolizing, respiring, and dying plants and animals have unquestionable altered the features and chemical makeup of the Earth’s surface, and, more importantly, the climate. Hazen also takes some time to identify instances of past natural climate change, triggered by imperfections in the Earth’s rotation, changes in the sun, volcanic activity, feedback loops caused by clouds/ocean/ice, and the emissions of the biosphere. Deniers of man-made climate change often refer to such events (usually with limited understanding of what caused them) to minimize the idea that human activity makes any difference, but Hazen points to the past as evidence that the equilibrium is delicate and *can* be changed, sometimes with catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem.
Finally, I’ve often wondered how scientists *know* about things that happened millions or billions of years ago -- I mean, I was aware that they had methods, but I couldn’t have explained them in much depth. Well, this book provides some good answers.
A worthwhile read. Informative and sweeping without being too dense.