The Life and Death of Stars Hardcover – 25 Mar 2013
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'Of interest to readers of all ages, The Life and Death of Stars should be your 'go to' popular science text for facts about the Sun, the solar system, the stars, and the Universe … contains stunning color photos taken by satellites and Earth-based observatories of supernova, nebula, clusters, and colliding galaxies … also artfully balances descriptive explanations with fundamental relationships … thorough, detailed, and fascinating.' Robert Schaefer, New York Journal of Books
'My own understanding of the behaviour and lifecycle of stars has grown enormously from reading this book, and yours will too … Lang delivers with this book. After reading it, I'll definitely be checking out his other books … [it] broadened and deepened my understanding of all things stellar. It's a fantastic book, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to … readers who wish to expand their knowledge of astrophysics.' Evan Gough, Universe Today
'… an excellent primer … for someone looking to get a better understanding of how stars work … I can recommend this book.' Astronomy Now
'It's hard to imagine a better non-mathematical treatment of the subject for amateur astronomers wanting to take their understanding to the next level.' BBC Sky at Night
'This book is a perfect read for students and scientists alike. It packs the entire field of stellar and extragalactic astrophysics in an easy-to-read text full of analogies to everyday life and hard-to-find historical anecdotes and scientific discoveries. Although the general public interested in astronomy will enjoy this book, the nuances of the accomplishments of the scientists that developed this field can be fully appreciated only by those who have already taken an astronomy course. Peppered throughout the work are quotes by poets (e.g. Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda), unique tables, and a vast array of clear figures and pictures accompanied by detailed captions and no equations. The amount and quality of the information presented makes the volume a hybrid between a textbook and a popular science book. Highly recommended.' M. Takamiya, Choice
'Lang could have titled his book, 'Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Lives of Stars': it is well written, thorough and detailed, but not dense - a fine addition to a personal library - or any library.' SkyNews
This well-illustrated text explains how stars such as our Sun first came to be, what fuels them and keeps them bright, and the processes by which they will eventually die. Written for a broad audience, the book is a modern and up-to-date account of stars.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a very well written book with clear and accessible text accompanied by a wealth of illustration and photographs. If I had to criticize, then I'd suggest that the author sometimes rather states the obvious. For example, in one passage he informs us that, at 107,000 kilometers per hour, the Earth's orbital velocity is much faster than a car travelling on a road - er, well - yes.
Anyway that's a minor niggle. Overall, definitely recommended for any readers looking for a detailed but not overly-technical discussion into stars and their life-cycles.
Very essential for me, and no doubt others who can find this subject accessible when treated gently in this manner. It makes looking upwards even more rewarding.
The book is written fluently and has some dry quirky comments on the side like "star were expected to cool over time as can happen with human relationships" - to me it sounds like the writer also teaches in his spare time. I have come across plenty of profs at university that made such dry quirky comments during class. Don't get annoyed by them, just let them go with the flow would be my suggestion.
Another comment on a US review was "the writer expresses religious statements" ... he does not though. He refers to astronomers quotes from the past and indeed some of these dating back in the 1800's can have some religious tint, like a 19th century physicist being quoted that creation still has some secrets up her sleeve about particles. Because the writer quotes the physicist does not mean the writer is a creationist.
Again great book, and most of all quite up to date. Also this book will be readable for both people with and without a degree in physics. Which is always a plus.
PS. Bought the book in the local bookshop upon discovery hence no verified purchase by Amazon listed here in my comment.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The information is WAY up to date if you want to see the latest on stellar life cycles. The problem is that the publisher is promoting this as "contains no math" etc. as many do to increase sales, and this is unfair to this author. Granted, the text flows like a well written story, but the author has numerous "advanced box digressions" (my term) where he gives much more detailed, quantitative veins that you can mine at your leisure, and go as far as you want.
For example, if you're comparing Stellar parallax vs. red shift measurements, you rapidly get into Lie Algebras, alternative geometries, gauge theory and tensor calculus. For even the basic reactions, on the quantum scale, we're into numerous partial differential equations due to the conundrums of measuring time and frequency and other pairs "together" -- which requires holding one parameter constant temporarily with PDEs. Of course no publisher would allow this level of math in a pop sci volume, but Lang leaves bread crumbs if you want to go there!
Another interesting aspect is that many "old" fields like projective and spherical geometry are being resurrected (along with quaternions in 3D graphic analysis of brightness!). Their math also is too daunting for direct coverage, but again many "additional resource" citations are given. What about photons - bosons - fermions -- same idea, however quantum is covered with some of the finest "intuitive" discussions I've ever seen, and of course since we're talking about successive nuclear reactions, the author "tricks" the publisher (for the benefit of the reader) and ala Feynman type analogy and metaphor gets some very deep and detailed ideas across in fine fashion.
To be fair to the author, the text has great depth on the narrow area of lifecycle, but it would take 1,000 pages to get into the genesis of organic molecules in supernovas, etc. in detail-- given that stars are the source of all of this! But Lang DOES cover infancy all the way up to galactic and universal themes-- a breathtaking and mind boggling accomplishment. ***The sense of wonder and mystery is on every page, and frankly this book gives us all a GREAT break from the stream of depressing news on cable all day!***
I always try to give a general reader edu target, but it is tough with this volume. You can read it with a High School science background, and might not even miss what you're missing. But if you're an autodidact or have studied more advanced physics in school, you'll see way more. It is so well written that almost any reader can enjoy it, and get very advanced insights without having to plough through the calculus or group theory. But if you do love math, Lang has put much more meat here than I'd admit if I were trying to sell more copies! He has just done a great job of explaining it with descriptions and metaphors.
Back to the other conundrum. I read both Kindle and print versions. I love both! If you're on a budget, do not hesitate to go Kindle, but if you can afford it, the pictures are beautiful enough to be "coffee table" quality. Either way, makes for really fun reading akin to a good novel, as it's written like a story and you're "getting" the technical infusion painlessly!
The author advertises that his new "complementary" (his words) text has the "missing" math we need to go beyond this friendly intro for more quantitative depth (albeit next steps of fundamentals, but not going beyond algebra), as well as the most recent research, and I agree (the sweet lady in the office beside me got a sneak peek copy emailed): Essential Astrophysics (Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics). The author says there that "All you need is algebra to understand the fundamentals of Astrophysics." I know some will disagree with him there, but he has my vote for the energetic effort to get more of us into it! It really depends on what you categorize as fundamental, right? I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt.
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I am extremely interested in stellar evolution and its relevance to my field of study, variable stars. I read great things about this book before it was released and pre-ordered a copy from Amazon dot com. The book dealer I purchased it from sent me the wrong book. I reported the error via their website and they quickly refunded my credit card, but never sent me the correct book.
A few months later I was able to finally obtain a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher, and after a protracted wait, was anxious to dive into it. What I found was almost as disappointing as getting the wrong book. This isn't the book I thought I was getting either.
This book should have been named The Complete History of Stellar Astrophysics, or something equally boring but less misleading. The first several chapters are intended to give one an extensive amount of background knowledge so that if the author ever does actually begin to write about stars you will understand what he is saying. The chapters begin with Light and the Sun, Gravity and Motion, Atomic and Subatomic Particles, Transmutation of the Elements, What Makes the Sun Shine? and The Extended Solar Atmosphere. Are you bored yet? I am.
Finally, in chapter seven we are introduced to stars. The first section of this chapter, called Comparison of the Sun to Other Stars, is 7.1- Where and When Can the Stars Be Seen? Are you kidding me?!
It is now page 129 of 311 and he is now going to explain that if we go outside at night and look up...
I don't know if I will ever finish this book. It is a ridiculous way to tell a story, and the title is entirely misleading. It's like buying a book called "NASCAR Heroes of the 1990's" and beginning chapter one with the history of the internal combustion engine.
There are only 13 chapters in this book and the author has wasted my time reading seven chapters of background material to get me to the point of 'go out at night and look up, this is where you can see stars'. Chapter eight is finally about stars, The Lives of Stars. Maybe I'll skip ahead to that and see if it's worth going any further. But not today. I'm too annoyed.
Bottom line, if you want to read a text on the history of astrophysics, this is your book. If you want to read about stellar evolution skip the first seven chapters and refer back to them only if you need to understand some concept in more depth with the full history of the discovery process included.
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