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Stardust (Penguin Press Science) Paperback – 27 Aug 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Re-issue ed edition (27 Aug. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140283781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140283785
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 650,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

One of the most fabulous revelations afforded by modern cosmology is the fact that we are all stars, literally. The elements which comprise our bodies (like iron or oxygen) were all forged in the burning cores of distant suns, before being flung across the endless wastes of space by the enormous force of stellar explosions. Great stuff!

Now well-known writer and respected astrophysicist John Gribbin has taken this fairy-tale bit of Big Science and used it as the central premise for a book: which describes how the cosmos made us, and what we can therefore make of the cosmos. It's essentially a biography of man from the molecular point of view, with diversions into evolution, astronomy, geology, extra terrestrial life, and so on. One of the more poetic notions covered is that of "panspermia", the idea that the seeds of life are continually being carried across the universe--like so many sycamore keys in an autumn wood. The author definitely sides with those who believe the answer to life is "out there".

As always with John Gribbin, the writing is fresh and accessible, the thinking clear if occasionally complex. The real joy of Stardust is its perspective: in contrast to so many pop cosmology writers, Gribbin has managed to tell a fairly well-known tale in an original and very satisfying way.--Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

John Gribbin is one of today's greatest writers of popular science and the author of bestselling books, including In Search of Schrödinger's Cat, Science: A History and Deep Simplicity. He is famous to his many fans for making complex ideas simple, and says that his aim in his writing - much of it done with his wife, Mary Gribbin - is to share with his readers his sense of wonder at the strangeness of the universe. John Gribbin trained as an astrophysicist at Cambridge University and is currently Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex.


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Format: Paperback
John Gribbin's work is always readable, and particularly fascinating to those with a non-scientific background like myself. But with Stardust he excels himself. Taking the simple premiss that everything in the world (including yourself!) is made out of the hydrogen and helium from the very first stars of the Big Bang, Gribbin weaves a tale as luminous as any he has ever written. In prose that is pure and highly entertaining, this old war-horse of science writing provides a skilled explanation of a difficult subject. Fascinating stuff!
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By A Customer on 14 Sept. 2001
Format: Paperback
If you only buy one science book this year, it has to be John Gribbin's STARDUST. I rate this the best book he has ever written, and either his writing style is getting easier or I am getting used to it. The story of how we are literally made of dust from stars is mind-blowing in itself, and the stories he tells of the people who made the discoveries bring it all to life.
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Format: Hardcover
Like all novice astronomers, I have a limited knowledge of the subject; I'll be honest, this is the first book ive brought to help me understand the true nature of the universe and it has lived up to its title very well - the cosmic recycling of stars, planets and people - He explains complex scenarios with the blessing of being able to make them easy to understand. The book's journey starts with the birth of an atom and finishes with the death of a star not forgetting to mention all that goes on inbetween. I have throughly enjoyed reading this book. Thankyou John. He's the Bill Bryson of Astronomy !
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Format: Paperback
The atoms in your body were forged in the nuclear fires at the heart of a nearby star, or in the exploding supernova that marked its death. This intimate connection between life on a small blue planet and creative destruction in the heavens is a fetish of popular cosmology. Twentieth-century science delivered many startling facts about the universe, but the one Joni Mitchell sang about at Woodstock is still a clear favourite with science writers. We are stardust.

It is a wondrous truth, in a slack-jawed way. And it is wondrous that some particularly complicated clumps of stardust have been able to figure out where they came from. But these facts are often taken to mean much more than this. The grand sweep of this evolutionary story has been used time and again to dispute the physicist Steven Weinberg’s famous conclusion to his account of the very beginnings of the universe in The First Three Minutes: “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”

Just telling a technical story, though, is a weak response to Weinberg’s assertion. It only works if the scientific cosmology can be turned back into a religious one. But, as two books which tell the stardust story in unusual detail demonstrate, the attempt always falls short. However well we understand how the universe came to be, it does not tell us what the point is.

John Gribbin’s new Stardust and Marcus Chown’s The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origins of Atoms, just out in paperback, cover much the same ground. Both use the tried-and-tested pop-science formula of recounting the formation of the elements and interweaving the story of how their stellar origins were pieced together. This is partly because otherwise the atomic narrative alone is too slender to justify a book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book for explaining the latest explanations for star and galaxy creation/evolution for the lay reader. Complex chemical developments and the historical background are laid side by side which makes the book easy to read.
However. One is firstly disturbed by the many references to the author's own books as extra information on the subject - surely there are other 'experts' who have things to say too?
Secondly, the book wavers in it's direction alot and loses it's grip on the arugument in many places. Partly this does help with reading because they can be interesting historic facts; sometimes though they are just weak diversions.
Thirdly, the author fails to attack the reasons WHY life didn't begin from comets and all the very strong arguments relating to this that show that most of the water on Earth came from developments ON / WITHIN Earth. To make the argument convincing these needed to be attacked and dismissed, which they weren't at all leaving me not very convinced or impressed by the last half of the last chapter 'sowing the seed'. Simple ideas like contamination of comets after they had fallen to Earth were not even addressed!
Despite this though, the book does cover valuable developments in cosmology which are of great interest - a worthwhile read, but take cautionary conclusions.
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Format: Hardcover
This book left me a little confused, not by the subject matter, but more about whether the book was aiming to present an historical account of the various discoveries / theories that have resulted in the present understanding of where the elements on earth came from, or whether it was trying to be a popular science book trying to explain the above. Or maybe John Gribbin is trying to do both.

On the plus side, there are no tricky explanations of quantum mechanics and astrophysics and the historical details are presented in a very readable fashion.

On the negative side, as I believe another reviewer has mentioned, it does tend to wander backwards and forwards a little, both within an historical framework and between the subjects.

That said, if you are starting out and no very little about twentieth century astronomical discoveries then you will certainly learn something by buying this book. If I had paid full price I would have been disappointed and probably more inclined to giving it three stars, but having paid slightly more than the cost of postage by buying second hand then I feel a little less aggrieved.
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