The Story of Astronomy Paperback – 24 Nov 2011
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About the Author
Peter Aughton is the author of the hugely successful popular history titles Endeavour The Story of Captain Cook's First Great Epic Voyage, Resolution, Newton's Apple and The Transit of Venus. Formerly a computer engineer in the aerospace industry, where he worked on the world's first supersonic airliner, he went on to lecture at the University of the West of England for 25 years. He now lives in Leeds with his family.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Author then changes course to sail with the likes of Cook in his epic voyage and then his fatal voyage, prior to changing tack once more into the field of astronomic history, one that includes Newtons apple.
The book cover is a composite image taken from various astronomical archives and has an immediate impact that suggests that the contents may be of interest.
Although the book is easy to read it tends to wander from the theme and occasionally in its content.
The material contain within the book is sufficiently good enough for the uninitiated reader, anyone who reads a lot of books and has an interest in astronomy might find this too basic. It was noted that in the latter stages of the book that equations began to appear all of these are basic in their nature but may be off-putting to most readers.
The Story of Astronomy is subjective and the author tends to focus on breakthrough events, turning points that shaped the future and provides a little background as to the origins of the information that led up to such events. It is written in a clear style and makes for easy reading.
It does however contain errors and other faults that set this book aside from others with similar content, these range from errors not picked up in proofreading to those that are misleading and are more probably items passed down from in previous writings and not properly vetted by the author.Read more ›
But it was when we get to Einstein and the chapter entitled 'Understanding the Forces of Nature' that, despite the author's very best efforts, I lost my way. The work of Fred Hoyle up to Steven Hawking is so intensely complex that it is very difficult to convey to the layman without recourse to algebra and phrases like 'a barred spiral galaxy is a spiral galaxy but with the spiral arms attached to a bar running through the nuclear bulge’. The chapters dealing with the creation of the universe, Black Holes, the Big Bang and Dark Matter (undetected missing matter from the universe with as yet unknown properties!) were very difficult. There may be something in one of the comments that Bill Bryson does this sort of thing much better.
But as I say a good try, a worthy effort and very good on the straight history of astronomy.
The text is informative, easily understandable and never dull. The story itself is compelling. There are many entertaining details concerning, for example, how the calendar was fine-tuned, how Bruno was burned by the Church for his supposedly heretical ideas (that the earth revolved around the sun, for one), the "problems" of Einstein's e=mc², and more.
A well researched and highly readable account.
However, this book completely lacks enthralling descriptions or that 'wow'-feeling that science books actually can give you. Instead, this book is a short summary of the biggest discoveries in astronomy the last 10.000 years. I do not feel that it is always pedagogical as its explanations are not very descriptive. however, it should be added that this book is not intended to give detailed explanations from matters such as dark matter or the theory of relativity.
The book gives a very shallow look on astronomy and just googling the topics of the chapters in the book will give you just as much as reading it. Furthermore, it is a very short book (its 300+ pages are quite small and big letters) and a fast read. Despite of this, many filler quotes have been added to add maybe twenty pages to a short book. The one quote whose place in the book I find inexplicable is where the author devotes an entire page to an insert of a diarist from the 17th century describing the cold winter in London with absolutely no relevance to the topics discussed(!).
The lives of the astronomers are described very briefly and quite uninterestingly. Galileo, Newton and Einstein were fascinating characters but focus on this book is almost exclusively what they have achieved in astronomical stduy.
In short, a very brief book on astronomy that almost managed to make me feel bored of the topic. Although informative, I would instead suggest the chapters on astronomy in Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything" where both the science and historical scientists of astronomy are fascinating.
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