Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System Hardcover – 20 Feb 2011
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Finalist for the 2011 Lane Anderson Science Writing Award, Fitzhenry Family Foundation
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2011
One of Library Journal Reviews' Sci-Tech Best Books for 2011
"Anyone scanning the shelves today to learn about such urgent news from the universe should go directly 'J' and take down Ray Jayawardhana's Strange New Worlds. It begins with early speculation by ancient thinkers but moves quickly to a series of seemingly promising discoveries, beginning 160 years ago, that raised researchers' hopes only to frustrate them. . . . [R]eading Strange New Worlds, I felt the thrill of briefly sharing in the efforts of these planet-seeking scientists and seeing the universe through their eyes."--Mike Brown, Wall Street Journal
"He takes the reader on a four-century-long scientific quest to discover our place in the universe, beginning with the Copernican hypothesis and Galileo's discovery of four of Jupiter's planets. . . . An exciting, highly readable glimpse into a discovery that could have broad scientific and cultural implications."--PublishersWeekly.com (starred review)
"In Strange New Worlds, astronomer and one-time journalist Ray Jayawardhana surveys how 15 years of exoplanet discovery has changed astrophysics. . . . Jayawardhana's presentation of the research is remarkably even-handed. This is a fast-moving field in which groups have often clashed. Nonetheless, he provides a survey of the subject without giving the protagonists anything to complain about. His lucid and effortless prose makes for an engaging read."--Chris Tinney, Nature
"With the seemingly endless stream of news about discoveries of alien planets, it's easy to forget that just 20 years ago exoplanets were no more than theoretical possibilities. Now astronomer Ray Jayawardhana tells the story of how the dramatic hunt has unfolded, from the early days of stellar astronomy to present-day speculation about life outside our solar system."--New Scientist
"Professor Jayawardhana is an award-winning science writer and an eminent planet-hunter, and so is the perfect person to write an accessible guidebook to the new worlds we're discovering in our galaxy. He explains how many of those discovered so far are pretty exotic, bloated and massive or scorchingly close to their sun, and how we've even had our first weather report for another world. But what's most exciting is that this book explains how we now have within our grasp the ability to spot a true twin of Earth."--BBC Focus
"This combination of the insider's expert perspective and storyteller's skill really shines through in Strange New Worlds. . . . [Y]ou won't find a more able guide for the journey."--Lewis Dartnell, Times Higher Education
"[A]n engaging read that casts a floodlight at the search for life-sustaining planets beyond our Solar System. . . . It is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered about the possibility of life beyond our planet."--Myles Gough, Cosmos
"Ray Jayawardhana, an astrophysicist and writer, vividly recounts the advances behind an extraordinary age of exploration."--Leigh Dayton, Australian
"It is the most tantalizing question: are there other planets where creatures passingly like ourselves eat Chiko Rolls, watch TV and walk the dog? Jayawardhana, a journalist-cum-Professor of Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, contemplates this question and, for those of us non-scientists, explains the history and current science in simple English."--Sydney Morning Herald
"The author's writing style is reader-friendly and makes science approachable. This book's glossary explains unfamiliar terms. Dr. Jayawardhana provides the latest findings including his own research. Surely we'll be hearing more newsworthy scientific developments in the near future."--Kathryn Franklin, Portland Book Review
"Everything you need to know about alien planet discovery is insightfully described in this engaging book, which will appeal to astronomers, general science buffs, and armchair UFOlogists."--Library Journal (starred review)
"It's a fascinating story, which Ray Jayawardhana, a planet hunter, Canadian professor of astronomy and science writer, tells with panache, enthusiasm and insight. . . . Strange New Worlds is . . . rich in anecdote."--Fortean Times
"The search for habitable planets around other stars is one of the preeminent research areas in astronomy today. Jayawardhana gives a firsthand account of the exciting discoveries that have taken place in the past two decades of rapidly accelerating growth in this new field. Strange New Worlds not only conveys the author's point of view about his own discoveries of planet-forming disks around other stars, but also contains excerpts from Jayawardhana's interviews with many of the other researchers who helped build the newest astronomical instruments, observe the first extrasolar planets, and create new or revised theories for the formation of planets."--Choice
"[I]t is an interesting and well written book that doesn't need much technical knowledge to be appreciated."--David Simpson, Magonia Review of Books
"If you're looking for something to truly fire the imagination, then grab Ray Jayawardhana's Strange New Worlds from the shelves of your nearest bookshop--you will be glad that you did! . . . Providing an insider's view that includes the debates and controversies at the very front line of exoplanet research, this book is a fascinating read. Adding the occasional splash of personal interlude, Jayawardhana has provided us with the most engaging nine chapters of cutting-edge research making this masterpiece a winner for a wide audience of readers."--Astronomy Now
"One aspect that attracted me to this book was that it revealed, in story book fashion, the chronology of discoveries (including the names of the most significant players involved) in the quest for finding exoplanets. Such a format made for easy reading and, with each chapter, you could see the exoplanet story unfold."--Edward Albin, Planetarian
From the Back Cover
"Jayawardhana's small book is a gem. It brings readers up to date on the rapidly progressing quest for exoplanets and their potential inhabitants, and also interweaves the very human details about the people behind these discoveries. Read this book if you want a picture of how modern astronomy and astrobiology are helping to calibrate our place in the universe. A most delightful read."--Jill Tarter, director of the Center for SETI Research
"Jayawardhana brings the latest cutting-edge science to all those astounding science-fictional visions of alien worlds, showing us that the universe is every bit as exciting as the masters of science fiction have always claimed. It's no accident that his title invokes the opening of the original Star Trek. In this terrific book, he boldly goes out into the galaxy, showing us strange--and wondrous--new worlds."--Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Wake, Watch, and Wonder
"If you have ever wanted to know how astronomers are going to find an Earth-like planet, this engaging book explains it all. Not only is Strange New Worlds fantastic storytelling about the checkered and dramatic history of exoplanet discovery, but it also gives a compelling description of the path to future discoveries."--Sara Seager, author of Exoplanet Atmospheres
"Strange New Worlds is a very satisfying book that does a thorough and excellent job of tracing the discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets. It is the only popular-level book that gives full, up-to-date, and in-depth coverage of one of the most exciting and fast-moving fields of scientific research."--Greg Laughlin, coauthor of The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity
"This is quite a good book. Its greatest strengths are the clarity of the writing; the thorough, technically accurate, and very up-to-date coverage of the material; and of course the fascinating topics the author presents."--Edwin L. Turner, Princeton University
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Top customer reviews
It's well-written and strikes a good balance between detail, readability and length, although inevitably the rapid series of star catalogues, people and institution names becomes a bit of a blur after a while.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
A book about the search for extrasolar planets is a prime example of a book doomed to be out of date as soon as it hits the shelves, no matter when it hits the shelves. That, though, can also be what makes the book compelling -- the field is hot with new discoveries, new methods, new characters. Its time has come. There are currently over 700 confirmed expoplanet discoveries. Even though the book went to print just as the Kepler telescope mission began to bring in huge results Jayawardhana is able to put us in position to appreciate its discoveries and understand the need for their confirmation by other means. He supplies what we need in order to appreciate the announcements that come now on an almost weekly basis.
The search for extrasolar planets is inevitably bound up with the search for alien life, but Jayawardhana doesn't let the cart get in front of the horse. Our ability to detect planets runs far ahead of our ability to detect life, or to understand the conditions under which life may develop and flourish. While not ignoring the question, Jayawardhana presents himself neither as an unbridled enthusiast nor as a disinterested planetologist -- of course we'd love to know where to look, how to look, and what we're going to find, but it's going to take us a while to get to that point.
All in all, this is a very readable, relatively non-technical guide to a developing field that transcends the interests of professional scientists, that addresses truly mind-boggling questions about our place in nature.
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