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Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 27 Mar 2008
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About the Author
John Gribbin has a PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and is one of the best-known current popular science writers. His many books include the acclaimed The Universe: A Biography, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, and Science: A History. He has written for all the UK broadsheet newspapers, regularly contributes to radio and television documentaries and debates, and also writes science fiction novels. He formerly worked for Nature and New Scientist, and is presently a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.
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Top customer reviews
Modern cosmology began only in the 1920s, when Edwin Hubble made his two major discoveries (that independent galaxies exist outside our Milky Way and that there is a precise relationship between a galaxy's redshift and its distance). But cosmologists have managed to cover a lot of ground (and space) in the succeeding 80 years or so. It is to Gribbin's great credit that he manages to convey the essence of this progress in so succinct and accessible a manner - there aren't any equations in sight to vex the more mathematically challenged. For most general readers, the basic principles of cosmology are challenging enough already. But for those who know Gribbin's other books, they'll probably find the going easier here than in, say, Shrödinger's Cat.
My only quibble concerns sequencing. After explaining how astronomers use the Doppler effect to calculate how stars are moving through space, Gribbin continues in a seemingly contradictory fashion: 'but the cosmological redshift is not caused by motion through space and is not a Doppler effect.' We have to wait 20 pages or so for the riddle to be resolved. Similarly, one of the graphs uses the Omega symbol several pages before explaining its significance. But such things aside, this is a superb introduction to a mind-changing subject. As in the better VSIs, non-specialists are helped by a straightforward Glossary which explains, for example, the difference between Galaxy and galaxy, and Universe and universe, usages which professionals take for granted but which confuse non-specialists. An outstanding introduction to the subject.
The content covers both factual knowledge and those aspects of galaxies that are speculative or theoretical however all these are described in non-academic terms suitable for the general reader. The format is similar to ‘Stars’ in that it includes sections on the origins, formation, evolution, measurement of and the probable future scenarios for galaxies, plus an interesting account of how mankind has developed techniques and equipment to investigate these stellar bodies. Whilst there are a few concepts that may be difficult to grasp, the book is certainly written in the spirit of Very Short Introductions and worth reading.
If you are interested in finding out more about galaxies, what they are, how did we come to know about them, how they develop, and what their ultimate destiny is, then John Gribbin's book is an excellent introduction to the subject. It is accessible to a non-expert, and very little scientific understanding is assumed. It is very readable and interesting, and it will take a reader on a fascinating intellectual journey across the universe. After reading this book, you will be looking at the universe with a whole new set of eyes, and would hopefully appreciate our own place in cosmos.
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