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Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives us Life Paperback – 9 Jun 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (9 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416526129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416526124
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 4 x 14.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 577,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

`An encyclopaedic and endlessly informative compendium of the star that gives us all life, seen from every conceivable perspective' --Daily Telegraph

`By the end of this richly satisfying read, Cohen's mission is accomplished, and we are left sharing his wonderment at all that modern science has taught us about the sun.' --Sunday Times, 12 June 2011

'Dazzling' --Guardian, 5 June 2011

About the Author

Richard Cohen is the author of By the Sword. He was previously publishing director of Hutchinson and Hodder & Stoughton and the founder of Richard Cohen Books. He has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph, and the New York Times Book Review and has appeared on BBC radio and television. In 2004 he was appointed Visiting Professor of creative writing at Kingston University and is the recipient of a Sloan Foundation grant for this book. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Richard Cohen has compiled an encyclopaedic book covering every aspect of the Sun - in mythology, culture, the arts, astronomy and the other sciences. It is well worth reading for the many interesting facts and anecdotes.

However, it does contain many flaws - for one thing, it wanders off-topic at times. He talks about Arthur C. Clarke's story "The Star" (my favourite short story) and Asimov's "Nightfall", which are great stories but nothing whatsoever to do with the sun. He also talks about global warming, being seduced by Piers Corbyn's theories, to which he devotes several pages, where he swallows the assertion by climate-change deniers that scientists tampered with the evidence. There is also a discussion of photography, which admittedly requires light to work, but it is not strictly to do with the sun, any more than the workings of the eye are.

Another flaw is the fact that the setting sun shines along some of the streets of new York on certain dates because they are aligned 29 degrees to the East, which Cohen makes quite a big thing of. But the same sort of thing would happen if it was 19 degrees or 9 degrees, or the the East, so it is absolutely unremarkable.

There are many other examples of science which is badly explained and confusing, or just plain wrong:

p25 The sun is not overhead at midday at the equinox, except at the equator. Also, the sun does not seem to "linger for several minutes" at dawn.

p26 The speed of the Earth varies by 3%, not 6%.

p49 The explanation of precession of the equinoxes is unclear. I know what he is trying to say, but cannot make sense of his explanation.

p53 "Most pyramids oriented to the Equinox were aligned so that, on that date, they seemed to swallow the setting Sun...".
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I saw this advertised in the newspaper & I love it in short bursts as there is so much to absorp.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars 26 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed 22 Jun. 2012
By Mr. A. J. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Richard Cohen has compiled an encyclopaedic book covering every aspect of the Sun - in mythology, culture, the arts, astronomy and the other sciences. It is well worth reading for the many interesting facts and anecdotes.

However, it does contain many flaws - for one thing, it wanders off-topic at times. He talks about Arthur C. Clarke's story "The Star" (my favourite short story) and Asimov's "Nightfall", which are great stories but nothing whatsoever to do with the sun. He also talks about global warming, being seduced by Piers Corbyn's theories, to which he devotes several pages, where he swallows the assertion by climate-change deniers that scientists tampered with the evidence. There is also a discussion of photography, which admittedly requires light to work, but it is not strictly to do with the sun, any more than the workings of the eye are.

Another flaw is the fact that the setting sun shines along some of the streets of new York on certain dates because they are aligned 29 degrees to the East, which Cohen makes quite a big thing of. But the same sort of thing would happen if it was 19 degrees or 9 degrees, or the the East, so it is absolutely unremarkable.

There are many other examples of science which is badly explained and confusing, or just plain wrong:

p25 The sun is not overhead at midday at the equinox, except at the equator. Also, the sun does not seem to "linger for several minutes" at dawn.

p26 The speed of the Earth varies by 3%, not 6%.

p49 The explanation of precession of the equinoxes is unclear. I know what he is trying to say, but cannot make sense of his explanation.

p53 "Most pyramids oriented to the Equinox were aligned so that, on that date, they seemed to swallow the setting Sun...". This does not make any sense to me.

p60. The area of earth which experiences an annular eclipse is not always one sixth, it can be much less, and almost zero.

p181. Queen Maud Land is 70 degrees South, not West.

p201. It is not true that no star shines for more than 11 billion years. Red dwarf stars will burn for hundreds of billions of years.

p212. Electrical forces do not bind the atomic nucleus together, electrical repulsion tries to force it assunder. The Strong Nuclear Force binds the nucleus together.

p237 Cohen claims that the present solar maximum will be very strong, but it is now close to maximum, and the sunspot count is very low.

p389 Cohen tells us that 240 degrees F is 11% above boiling point. This is true if we convert to the Celsius scale, but not Fahrenheit, and on the kelvin scale it is 3%. So talking about percentages is actually meaningless.

p523. The scattering of alpha particles by atomic nuclei is due to electrical repulsion, and is nothing to to do with quantum mechanical tunnelling.

p584. The sun was not 186 million miles in diameter around 2.5 billion years ago!

There are other things which seemed wrong or unclear, which makes one wonder how much else is wrong. I think Cohen should stay away from Science writing in future!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Long Look at the Sun 17 Nov. 2010
By K. Kasabian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The sun is all around us, both literally and now, with Richard Cohen's comprehensive, compelling tome, figuratively.

The author does a wonderful job tackling an enormous subject and observing it from both scientific and cultural perspectives. The reader learns of the sun's relationship to Earth and its people through seven years of research and travel to 18 different countries. We learn of the sun's significance on a very large scale - from its life-giving properties and influences in our solar system to its place in our art, climate, rituals and mythology, to name a few. That's a daunting task and Cohen skillfully gathers an enormous amount of information and condenses it into a fascinating and accessible tale.

The real success of this book overall, though, lies with Cohen's skill in facilitating a conscious relationship between us and our solar system's only star. By book's end, it is impossible to ever see the sun the same way again. Recommended.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting 7 Nov. 2010
By J. W. Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Fascinating subject matter - talks about the sun in all its scientific and cultural aspects from early religious beliefs through the Renaissance and modern solar physics as well as appearances of the sun in art and literature. Chapters explore tangentially related topics such as atomic bombs, oceanography, global warming. There are lots of pictures. Footnote comments at the bottom of most pages amplify the text, and bibliographical footnotes are listed in a section at the back. The notes section has cartoons scattered through it, which made me examine a part of the book I would ordinarily have ignored.

Unfortunately this book is riddled with tiny factual errors which are detrimental to the overall effect. Most of them I passed over with a scowl, thinking something didn't "seem right" but not really consciously registering the mistake. However, one that really stuck in my craw was the blithe assertion that the name "Lucifer" appears anachronistically in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament book of Isaiah. It doesn't. Five minutes' worth of research was enough for me to find out what the Hebrew _actually_ says (and it isn't "Lucifer," which first appeared in the medieval Latin Vulgate translation, BTW.) I wonder how many other mistakes I didn't catch - even subconsciously - simply because I am ignorant of the subject matter. Perhaps these will be fixed in the final version, but I have to base my review on the version I read, which is an Advance Uncorrected Proof.

So why did I award four stars to a "nonfiction" book that is patently untrustworthy? Because it was interesting. Because, giving the benefit of the doubt, I hope that the factual errors will be corrected in the final press version. This book uses the sun as a central theme to link explorations of science, art, astronomy, physics, history and spirituality. If you are interested in these subjects then you will likely enjoy this book. Just double-check before you decide to BELIEVE anything it says.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book, but yes it has some factual errors! 18 Sept. 2010
By David Marks - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Since I originally reviewed this book (see below), I've also discovered some factual flaws, thus I am downgrading my rating to 3 stars. A good example of these flaws (whether due to poor editing or to the author's lack of knowledge) is the statement on page 235, where he says, "Even more dangerous than high noon is sunset, because it makes sun-gazing easier, even though the strength of UV rays is barely diminished".

The fact is that the strength of UV rays IS GREATLY diminished at sunset. I think that what he really meant was that gazing at the sun at sunset is dangerous because the viewer looks directly at the sun for much longer than he or she would, in bright sunlight, thinking it's not at all dangerous.

However, what is quite dangerous is the author's comment that the strength of UV rays is "barely diminished" at sunset! The reason this is dangerous is that it might lead the public to think that UV radiation is not significantly diminished (hour by hour) in the early morning, or after 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and thus they might decide to not exercise outside in the early morning or the late afternoon hours. Exercising (walking, biking, running, etc.) is MUCH safer in the early morning and in the late afternoon, because both UVA and UVB are significantly less at those times!
------------------

Original review:

I love this book! It is so well written and so comprehensive, and I've learned so many things about our Sun that I never knew, or never imagined.
The writing is exceptional, as is the author's research, and I simply can't imagine anyone who has read "Chasing the Sun", giving it less than 5 stars...

This is one of those paperback Vine books that I've reviewed, where I am planning on actually purchasing one or more copies of
the hardbound version when it is available (soon)!

Anyone with any interest in our solar system, or the Earth itself, but most of all any interest in truly understanding our Sun (and its relationship to us),
needs to read this book. It is a true gem, unlike anything previously written about this topic. You will love reading it, and learning from it...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Bright with Chance of Cloudy Thinking 18 Jan. 2011
By Karen S. Garvin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Cohen writes about our sun from an astronomical as well as a historical view. He begins the book with an exploration of early man' sun myths, his quest to measure the seasons, and his fears about auroras, eclipses, and comets and other astronomical events. Cohen moves outside of the sphere of Western history to tell the reader about Arab astronomers as well as those in China and Japan.

Cohen's writing style is nonscientific and the book will be of interest to anyone who enjoys astronomy, history, or just wants to know more about the sun in our human cultures. The book covers a pretty wide range of topics, from myths to science that include the effects of sunlight on crime, mood, and other things. Finally, Cohen finishes the book with chapters on solar astronomy, global warming, and the future of the sun. Cohen avoids taking sides on the global warming issue, pointing out that there is still so much that we don't know about the sun.

The book is illustrated throughout with photographs, illustrations, and cartoons, some of which appear in the notes section, which is fairly extensive and should appease history students. However, this is a book to sit back and enjoy, not a textbook that needs to be studied. My only complaint with the illustrations is that many of them should probably have been printed a bit larger because the detail was lost. Color plates would also have been nice. I gave the book 4 stars because of the small illustrations. It seems like the author made a great deal of effort only to have the publisher get stingy on the illustrations. I think that's a shame; although it doesn't ruin the text the book could have been presented a bit better.
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