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Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System Hardcover – 20 Feb 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1ST edition (20 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691142548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691142548
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 14.9 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,102,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


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." (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

"Engaging."--Science News

"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

Format: Hardcover
Despite the naff cover which makes it look like lightweight fluff, this book contains a solid amount of proper, well-explained science, describing not only the nitty gritty of how planet hunters go about their job, but also a nice dose of the human angle. This all comes from a man who's been involved at the sharp end of this stuff for many years.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars 15 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 7 Mar. 2011
By Nicolas Kassis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Strange New World is a great title for this book. It gives a very up-to-date and good overview of the search for planets of the last century and more. It describes the failure and successes of the search for planets around the stars. This book was very enjoyable. I bought this book because I was interested in the subject at the time, I had just finished watching a 9 part BBC series on netflix called the Planets and wanted to know more .I'm had no background in astronomy before picking up this book. None of the information in the book was complex or hard to understand. The science behind most discovery technique is explain just enough for the reader to follow the story

. In all I breezed through the book really fast and now I'm starting to look for a telescope on ebay :)
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Exoplanet Pop-Sci Book 8 April 2011
By Nick Cowan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best exoplanet pop-sci book i've read so far. It covers all the major aspects of exoplanet research and gives nice historical perspective to these endeavors. The book is a bit too detailed when covering topics close to Jayawardhana's own research, but that is to be expected in a book written by an active scientist. The upshot of this is the author's solid understanding of the science covered in the book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A search for new life, new civilizations.... 27 Oct. 2013
By Steve Reina - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Harvard's professor Ray Jayawardhana does it.

In this slender volume he accomplishes three missions:

1) He gives readers a brief history of exoplanetary studies from the very early middle ages when the possibility was first advanced to the clunky 19th century when the first (scientifically baseless) claims were made.

2) He explains the various methods by which extra solar planets were being discovered circa 2010. And finally

3) He provides a survey of then discovered (this book was published in 2011) 400 plus extra solar planets together with some description of their properties.

For readers interested in learning more about Earth like planets I would heartily recommend Super Massive Earths by Dimitar Sasselov.

In his book Harvard professor Dimitar Sasselov examines what we know about life on Earth and what these newly discovered planets tell us about its likelihood elsewhere.

In short Sasselov says:

1) Far from being less hosbitable to life Super Earths are more likely to harbor it than our planet. Why this is so amazingly has to do with another interesting disclosure by Sasselov.

2) Life on Earth has a lot to with the fact that Earth has plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is the process by which continents slowly move around Earth and in so doing reshape the way the Earth looks and suffle environments to better give life a chance to arise. According to Sasselov Super Earths have better plate tectonics because they are more likely to have it than planets that are small as ours is.

3) Most importantly, when he crunches the numbers Sasselov's estimate of the likelihood of planets with life in our galaxy is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million.

As mentioned at the outset the search for other planets cannot help but be a search for other life. Thanks to Professor Sasselov's excellent book, readers can have a SUPER understanding of recent developments in this exciting fielda thrill ride. As knowing science readers are all too aware exoplanetary studies is unfortunately one of many areas where reserach is moving at such a fast clip so as to confound even the efforts of the best science writers. However, even if you're armed with the latest scientific updates you'll still benefit with the coverage of the basics that this book so ably provides.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and pertinent read 9 May 2012
By J M - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The book details efforts by astronomers (professional & amateur) to search for planets beyond our solar system. There are numerous delightful insights revealed throughout the book, such as: Struve's prescient claim from 1952 concerning the viability of planets in close orbits around other stars, and the ability to detect such objects via radial velocity measurements and line-of-sight eclipses; the amazing discovery by a full-time working mother (& high-school dropout) that a lensing star featured an exoplanet!; Gray's assertion (& subsequent retraction) that the exoplanet detections were actually signals from stellar phenomena; the breakup of the famed Marcy/Butler planet-hunting team; and that if it wasn't for the stern determination of Bill Borucki the Kepler satellite (arguably the most successful planet-detecting apparatus hitherto) would likely never be, since the proposal to construct the satellite was rejected several times, etc.

Strange New Worlds is written by an astronomer in the field. He has certainly provided an enjoyable and pertinent read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story about people searching for planets 1 Sept. 2012
By Russell S. Milland - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I titled my review this way because I feel that Ray Jayawardhana has done a masterful job of weaving the people story surrounding the search for extraterrestrial planets into the book. The technical side of the search is also explained in layman's language so that I, as a non-technical person in their field, could easily follow and understand the approaches that were used to find these elusive planets. The book certainly filled in a lot of really interesting knowledge not found in the newspaper reports on the discovery of extra solar planets. A great read!
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