“To the stars, Bowen. To the stars.”
Ok, that isn’t a quote from Dispatches from Planet 3, it’s actually a quote from a film called Dragonheart (which is amazing and you should watch it), but I thought it suited the tone of this book. Plus it’s kind of just an awesome quote.
Like, quite honestly, this is kind of just an awesome book. I’m both positively biased toward, and hard to please concerning popular science books geared toward astronomy. While I know relatively little about astronomy (sadly), I love it to a startling degree. The stars have always held a distinct fascination for me, and I honestly believe that if my undergraduate university had offered the option, I would have added an Astro major to my program. Alas.
When the opportunity came up to review Marcia Bartusiak’s book of short essays about Astronomy, I couldn’t have clicked the ‘request’ button any faster (yes, this is a review copy. No, that won’t change my opinion). Not only do I love the stars, I love the opportunity to learn about them from people who do make astronomy and astrophysics the study of their lives. More to the point, the scientists that are actually capable of communicating these wonderful ideas and discoveries to plebs like me (SOCIAL SCIENCES FOR THE WIN!) are doubly impressive. In the space of thirty-two short essays, Professor Bartusiak manages to transmit a startling amount of information not only about astronomy and astrophysics but about the people and the history of the science. I spent a few very pleasant evenings reading this book and learning about the men and women who have pushed our understanding billions of years through time, that have zeroed in on particles so inconceivably tiny that it boggles the mind to read about them. I read about neutron stars, and quasars, and black holes, and even about time itself and the point at which scientists suspect that it may not have existed, the point at which the rules of physics disintegrate and quantum takes over (I’m referring here to the Big Bang). I learned about Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity; I learned about how certain types of stars serve as a cosmological yardstick for measuring distances throughout the vast and growing universe of which we are on insignificant speck.
Professor Bartusiak’s writing is concise, it is clear, and it is informative without sounding stuffy or reducing the utterly incredible wonder that is the cosmos to an absolute bore (and trust me there are academics who manage that). I absolutely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the stars, or even in the general history of science and the natural world. There’s something in here for everyone, and I’m quite keen on acquiring a few more of this author’s books.
Five star read, people.
Image credits: inset and feature image are from the publisher’s page for this book.
Disclaimer: an ecopy of this book was given to me in exchange for a review. As with all my reviews, the provenance of a title has no effect on my opinion of the content.