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The Life and Death of Stars Hardcover – 25 Mar 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 363 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (25 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 110701638X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107016385
  • Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 2.4 x 25.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 681,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'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

Book Description

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.

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Top Customer Reviews

By Sir Barnabas VINE VOICE on 12 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent book that details the life cycle of stars. Starting with some background into the nature of light, gravity, atomic theory and transmutation of the elements the book explains how stars are born, the processes that make them shine, their evolution through the main sequence and beyond to the various stellar end states.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you wish to gain a deeper insight into the many complex events going on with the stars and sky without the onslaught of mathematics then this book delivers. A personal choice for me when picking books on anything to do with Astronomy is to find those authors who are capable of carefully delivering the difficult task of describing the jaw dropping goings ons in a way that makes for engaging reading. This book does fall into that mode of thought and it achieves this very well. The title does give the impression that the book is very specific, however, the book does have certain chapters that are closer to what the title implies but the general information is fulfilling and rewarding. The diagrams and photos (Including a very welcome section of glossy colour plates) reward the reader heavily by taking time with closer scrutiny and revisits.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Great book, so much detail and information in 1 place is rare to find. Some of the US reviews slant this book because of the detail as the first few chapters are about atoms and nuclear processes, but in all fairness how can you read about the life of stars without knowing what an atom is? Similar for the chapters on the Sun. Yes you do need these as the Sun is a star and the only star we can observe in such detail as we do and that allows us to apply this knowledge to other stars out there.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a brilliant explanation, without formulae, how stars are created and eventually come to an end. It also includes the forming of black holes and the presence of so called Dark matter. Very very good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8d5a84ec) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d34f720) out of 5 stars Beautiful, Up to Date, a Kindle Conundrum 1 Jun. 2013
By Let's Compare Options Preptorial - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Because there are no exponential equations in LaTex that get slaughtered on Kindle (or any other e-reader today), this text is gorgeous on both Kindle and in print. It might seem pricey for a "popular science" book but is almost 400 pages and the color is stunning.

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.

Library Picks reviews only for the benefit of Amazon shoppers and has nothing to do with Amazon, the authors, manufacturers or publishers of the items we review. We always buy the items we review for the sake of objectivity, and although we search for gems, are not shy about trashing an item if it's a waste of time or money for Amazon shoppers. If the reviewer identifies herself, her job or her field, it is only as a point of reference to help you gauge the background and any biases.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d3a03b4) out of 5 stars Understand the Stars 11 Oct. 2013
By Lawrence E. Crary - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent resource for truly understanding how stars "work". I have a lot of college level astronomy texts and many popular astronomy books, but none explain the inner workings of a star as well as Prof. Lang does in "The Life and Death of Stars". Highly recommended!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8da80330) out of 5 stars Excellent resource for stellar life stages 24 Dec. 2013
By sunsetwavelengths - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Some may feel the first chapters cover subjects which readers should already be familiar with, but I feel I always pick up something new or perceive a new way of looking at the enigmas of the quantum world. After all, nobody truly understands quantum physics. I thought Mr. Lang's descriptions of stellar stages and the physics behind them lucid and engaging. I also felt Mr. Lang did an excellent job of getting his point across without be condescending. It's clear his motives are sharing his vast knowledge with others, and that is the best way to communicate. I highly recommend this book!
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90c11a38) out of 5 stars Misleading Title 28 Aug. 2013
By Mike Simonsen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to start by saying I have not finished reading this book yet, but I feel compelled to write a review because I am so thoroughly annoyed by this book. Let me explain.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d34f858) out of 5 stars Amazingly concise and informative. 20 Jun. 2013
By John Lambeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would heartily recommend this book to any layperson looking to better understand the processes behind astophysics. An excellent blend of straightforward information with more in depth asides.
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