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Borderlands of Science Mass Market Paperback – 1 Nov 2000

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Baen Books (Nov. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671319531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671319533
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 10.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,497,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Boarderlands of Science. A small handy size book that really cuts the mustard when it comes to discovering the components that make great Sci-Fi.
Want to know what the ship of the future might use as a power plant? Black holes? DNA? Quantum computers? - Charles Sheffield brings it to you in a friendly easy to read format. Ideas literally spark from the pages. What if's get you quickly scrabbling for a pen and paper creating ideas you wouldn't have thought possible in your wildest dreams. Yes, its that good!
So if you want to spend endless hours on the internet and find very little about the subject, go ahead. Don't buy this book. But if you want up to date information by your side when the Novel or paper beckons - Well you know what to do...
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The title of this review says it all...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, not the most accurate subtitle 8 Dec. 2001
By Michael Brotherton - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book doesn't teach you to think like a scientst, nor how to write science fiction, but this subtitle may be the fault of the jacket writer and not the author.
This book is a readable summary of a number of areas of science: physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, etc., with an emphasis on topics most likely to concern a science fiction writer. The solar system and space flight both get long chapters to themselves, for example. Chaos theory gets a big chapter too -- bigger than it deserves probably -- but is interesting enough.
This book is a handy starting place for an sf writer, but doesn't really go into enough detail to do more than spark a story. The bibliography is therefore unfortunately thin (but at least there is one!).
I noted a significant number of small errors or conceptual problems in the areas of physics and astronomy (I'm a PhD astronomer). For instance, Sheffield repeats Clarke's erroneous point (from 2010) that if Jupiter were just "a bit bigger" it would support its own fusion reactions and be a star. Yes, if it were some 82 times bigger (more massive) according to current theory. That's nearly like saying if the earth were a bit bigger it would be like Jupiter (which is some 300 earth masses). He also notes that distant galaxies look "little different" from nearby ones, aside from brightness and redshift -- this is certainly not true for the higher redshift (say z > 2) galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field for instance, which are smaller and highly irregular indicating evolutionary effects. Sheffield is hard on the Big Bang without good justification (although I grant this could be a good area for story fodder), and gives a rather questionable amount of space to some very discredited alternatives. He does mention one of the more obvious scientific problems with The Sparrow (which is a good book and worth reading anyway) so if he can point it out I can point out a few of his.
I noticed that I stopping seeing problems when the topics moved into chemistry and biology, in which I am well read but no expert. That's a good sign. Sheffield has compiled a wide array of information at a pretty good level of understanding. If it really took a PhD in a particular subject to write hard sf in that subject, we'd be missing some great stories.
This book is an excellent addition to the shelf of a science fiction writer.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book, but writers will need more 22 Mar. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Charles Sheffield is one of the hardest "hard SF" writers, and seems to know the material inside and out. As such, he has a great sense for how speculative your speculation can be and still carry the reader. This book is an overview of how to use science in SF, but it isn't a complete reference. It's interesting for readers who wish to be better informed, and is certainly a good starting point for writers. But most writers will need further reference if they expect to go into any detail in their stories.
If you are writing a short story where the science is just part of the background, this will do a great job helping you avoid physical impossibilities in your plot. It's also more than enough detail for most screenwriters, not that that's saying much. But even the most non-technical SF novel is going to require a lot more research.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction to the Major Areas of Modern Science 6 Oct. 2003
By Randy Stafford - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are two primary audiences for this work. The first is anybody interested in understanding a wide variety of scientific topics. Though not as thorough and wide ranging as Isaac Asimov's science guides, Sheffield writes with the same clarity and and his own style of wit. Even somebody who regularly reads popular science magazines may find some new insight here.
Sheffield delves into the origins of life, subnuclear and quantum physics, possible mechanisms for space travel, physical descriptions of the solar system, superconductivity, viruses and prions, and a lot more including a whole section on "scientific heresies".
The second audience are those interested in writing science fiction, specifically the sort of hard science fiction Sheffield wrote. To suggest story ideas, Sheffield explores some of the borders of modern science where conventional theory gives way to speculation. Along the way, he points out some common traps to avoid when handling topics like near lightspeed travel and suggests specific fiction titles as examples of how a concept has been dealt with. He does not offer any advice on the literary aspects of science fiction or in marketing it. His sole interest is in helping you get your real science right and make your imaginary science plausible.
While the book doesn't have a whole lot about the thought processes of scientists, Sheffield does cover the historical and contemporary objections to some scientific theories, the prejudices that sometimes blind good scientists, and some of the amazing minds that have roamed across several disciplines.
Admirers of Sheffield's fiction will also probably like the asides about its scientific inspiration.
My only objection to the book is that I wish some sections would have had more detail.
The book includes a useful bibliography of fact and fiction titles for further research and an index.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Borderlands of Science 21 Aug. 2000
By Affaire de Coeur - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Borderlands of Science carries the subtitle "How to Think Like a Scientist and Write Science Fiction." This is as apt a title as I've seen in quite a while. This book contains everything the science fiction writer or reader could ever hope to want to know, including: black holes, chaos, cyborgs, cold fusion, Fullerenes, general and special relativity, quantum teleportation, superconductors, RNA and the origin of life, an exploration of the planets, ion rockets, Ram Augmented Interstellar Rockets, and wormholes, just to name a few. Sheffield warns the reader that by the time they read it, the book will be out of date, that science is changing so fast that no one can know which parts of the book will be out of date when, until it happens. For the writer, reader, or scientist who wants a comprehensive overview of science and technology as pertains to science fiction and speculative fiction writing, this book is invaluable. For curious minds who just want to know more about their universe, this book is an eye opener. An ambitious and excellently put-together tome.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Darn Good... 11 July 2000
By Randall Barnhart - Published on
Format: Hardcover
God, I hate most of what passes for science fiction these days! As a fan of hard science fiction, I find most of the "stuff" published to be unscientific eyewash. Which is why I like most of Sheffield's work. An excellent scientist and a good communicator, he really excelles at those sort of exposition. If you're a writer looking to spice up your work with some real science, this is the book you need!
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