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Stars: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2012
.... so says the author in his preface. By extension, not suitable for the general reader, I'm afraid. I'm sure it is all good stuff, but there is a lot of physics here and quite a few equations, so it is not quite what I was hoping for (i.e. something like the VSI on planets, which I enjoyed). As someone with a limited science background I found little of it comprehensible. I'd be interested to see a review by someone who understood it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Stars are some of the most fascinating objects in the universe. They have exercised an oversize grip on our imagination since the dawn of humanity, and it's not hard to see why: one look at the clear star-sprinkled night sky will leave everyone in awe. Stars have been imbued with all sorts of meaning throughout history: religious, mystical, poetic, and prophetic. One of the major attitude changes happens when we realized that stars are in fact distant suns, and their faint glimmer is the consequence of their incredibly far distance from us. However, this only replaced one mystery with another: how do the Sun and all the other stars keep shining over the incredibly long time frames without changing their overall appearance noticeably. The solution to that puzzle was finally elucidated in the 20th century with the advent of our fuller understanding of microscopic Physics. This explanation - encapsulate in the field of astrophysics - is the basis of modern understanding of stars, and it is the subject matter of this very short introduction.

In order to properly understand star we need to be familiar with all the physical forces - nuclear, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational. We also need a solid understanding of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. In other words - learning about stars is an excellent way of learning about Physics in general. This book provides an excellent overview of all the physical mechanisms and processes that go into making of a star. The book goes into some detail of the evolution of individual stars. This is a very fascinating topic in its own right, especially when it comes to the later stages of stellar evolution. If stars are massive enough, then their ends can be quite violent resulting in a spectacular explosion known as a supernova. The remnants of such massive stellar endpoints are some of the most exotic objects in the Universe: neutron stars and black holes. These objects would in principle be hard, if not impossible, to observe, but fortunately there is enough of them in the binary stellar systems and in such configurations their existence can be deduced from the effects they have on the companion star and the surrounding matter. Unfortunately, unlike the end stages of the stellar evolution, the origins of stars are still much less well understood, and this is an area of active current theoretical and observational research.

This book is incredibly well written and lucid in its presentation. The author definitely comes across as an expert and authority in the field, and the book presents the best and latest understanding of the stars and their structure. My only issue with this book is that it may be a bit too advanced for the general reader. Many of its explanation and arguments seem very straightforward and reasonable, but in fact rely on the kind of physical intuition that you only develop after having taken a few semesters of college Physics. This is particularly true of the arguments that depend on simple proportionality equations and their manipulations. For us Physicists these sorts of equation manipulations become the second nature, and we tend to forget that most people rarely think along these lines in their everyday lives. If your general Physics background is a bit shaky I would suggest to keep these caveats in mind when reading this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2015
This book is a well written and surprisingly in-depth introduction to the subject. A word of warning - if you're looking for a really breezy, newspaper column level introduction, you may be better of looking elsewhere. This book actually discusses theories of chemistry and physics and also supplies the equations that underlie the principles that make stars work. You don't have to understand these equations - they are just there to show you how ingenious and complex astrophysics can be, but they might put off the casual reader by their very presence.
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on 20 February 2015
This is an interesting volume in the VSI series and provides an in-depth account of the life cycle of stars, but be aware that the content is in parts challenging and some knowledge of basic physics and maths is advisable; speed reading is not an option! The book describes in detail the creation of stars, how they function, evolve and their various end-of-life scenarios as white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes. Also explained are the mathematical techniques used by astronomers for determining star characteristics such as size, distance, luminosity and so forth. The book covers a lot of ground and will certainly appeal to those considering astronomy as a serious study option. Even for the general reader with a low tolerance for equations and physical 'laws', the book should still be of interest even if it needs to be read twice to gain an understanding of the content.
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on 29 January 2015
Highly recommend for anyone wanting to learn about the Stars or anyone at University to pair this with your other course books.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2012
Usually VSI are in the words of one reviewer "lucid but not patronising"; they strike a fine and very competent balance between being a beginners guide and something that someone with more experience can gain something from. As someone with a Theatre background I found the edition on "Tragedy" to be a wonderful refresher to the degree I took ten years ago, while the edition on "Galaxies" a fascinating introduction to subject about which I knew very little. This book unfortunately assumes too much prior knowledge in its reader and was rather difficult from the first chapter onwards. The use of equations was particularly off putting. A shame really as I would liked to have understood more than I did.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2012
This is a great introduction to stars and astrophysics. Do yourself or someone in your life a favour - get them this book. Everyone should know where we really come from and what we are all made of - star dust! It's a much better and grander view of life than the one peddled by those funny-mentalist cretins.....
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2013
This is not one of the longer vsis. It has the rare distinction of being both very readable and utterly incomprehensible, at least to me.
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