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The Sun's Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet Hardcover – 3 Nov 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown US; 1 edition (3 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316091014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316091015
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,190,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description



"This might be the last book you ever read-afterward, you can't help but stare, in wonder, directly into that fiery ball in the sky. From ancient sun worship to the latest in Sol science, Bob Berman makes THE SUN'S HEARTBEAT shine." Sam Kean, "author of The Disappearing Spoon""

"Bob Berman's "The Sun's Heartbeat" glitters and skips with the joy and excitement of science at its best. He explains things I always wondered about without diminishing the star-gazer's sense of awe." Mark Kurlansky, "Author of Salt and Cod""

"Berman directs your attention to our neighborhood ball of nuclear fire, telling its story with charm and wit....He makes a compelling case for putting on a wide-brimmed hat, stepping outside, and giving a second thought to the star that illuminates and powers our planet." "Discover Magazine""

"Berman shakes readers out of a complacent understanding of his subject with startling facts conveyed in companionably witty prose....He finds much that is surprising in the relatively commonplace....making this common sight mysterious again, remind[ing] us of questions we had forgotten to ask." "Columbus Dispatch""

"Berman's pitch-perfect book goes a long way to answering the questions you thought were too dumb to ask, but it does much more than simply provide facts....Berman is a master storyteller, whose passion and enthusiasm for astronomy has served the public well for decades....Read this and you will never look at the sun in the same way again." New Scientist"

"A good read....light-hearted....[and] fun...Above all, the author's enthusiasm for science shines through." "Wall Street Journal""

"A deeply enjoyable book...[Berman] comes across as the world's most enthusiastic science teacher....[who] writes 'everything about the sun is either amazing or useful.' It's hard not to enjoy a book when someone says that and does their cheerful best to back it up." "Washington Post""

"We won't take the Sun for granted any longer if astronomy popularizer Berman...has anything to say about it....'Everything about the Sun is either amazing or useful, ' Berman writes, and then proves it, without a doubt." "Publisher's Weekly""

"A quick, smart and colorful biography of 'yon flaming orb.'" "Kirkus Reviews""

"An engaging consciousness-raiser that entertains as it informs about our neighborhood nuclear furnace." "Booklist""

"This might be the last book you ever read-afterward, you can't help but stare, in wonder, directly into that fiery ball in the sky. From ancient sun worship to the latest in Sol science, Bob Berman makes THE SUN'S HEARTBEAT shine." Sam Kean, "author of The Disappearing Spoon""

Book Description

A wide-ranging summer science beach read describing the sun's profound effects on our lives, our history and our future.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In some ancient cultures, the Sun was one of the central deities, if not the deity: I'm thinking of the Incas and the ancient Egyptians, for starters. After reading Bob Berman's The Sun's Heartbeat, you get a sense that they might have been on to something. Berman collects many facts from many angles about the Sun, mostly about how it makes all good things possible on Earth--and a few bad ones, too.

Let's start with a Sun-related factoid: not just the planet we're on, but everything we are made of, is the result of stars bursting and spilling forth through the universe, until those random wandering atoms collected together enough of their kind to form a gravitational pull, and thus gather more of their floating brethren, eventually making the planet Earth and all the atoms on it, including you and me. (Which brings up another question, the really hard question, of how material can be conscious of itself; but that's for another review, of Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey.)

Berman marches through science history, as humans slowly doped out what the Sun is made of and what it does. It was often the story of people ahead of their time, mocked for their wacky beliefs, which turned out to be much closer to the truth than that which came before. Berman details, for instance, Edward Walter Maunder, and his wife, Annie, who kept decades of lonely vigils for sunspots, and proposed the solar origin of terrestrial magnetic disturbances, spot on in their conjectures.

As the chapters whiz by, more and more bewitching information flows our way, like the magnetic particles that make up the solar wind that smothers our outer atmosphere and occasionally leads to the spectral display of auroras.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Went beyond all expectations. Bob Berman is a master science writer combing real science with brilliant story-telling Although I thought I knew a bit about Old Sol I was in for a bit of a surprise. That the sun is an H-Bomb whose mechanisms for proding heat for billions of years is far more subtle than that. That all but the first 3 elements have been produced by the sun and its fellow stars... I am not going to spoil the read by giving anything else away only please buy it if you love science.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very good, informative and easy to read. I will be buying some other Bob Berman books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 71 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous book for anyone, not just fans of science 13 Jun. 2012
By Benjamin Stocksdale - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a page turner. The material presented in this book ranges from some pretty deep science (all of which presented in a fantastically understandable manner) to common stories and how they relate to the sun. I found myself sharing much of the information in this book with my wife, who doesn't really find science and astronomy fascinating the way I do, and she actually enjoyed it.

As other reviews have noted, some of his facts tend to be over statements about certain things. What I mean by this is his enthusiasm for the subject can sometimes cause him to make statements that aren't entirely accurate, rather just filled with a little excitement. That being said, it in no way detracts from the experience. When he says a supernova explosion is the most powerful force in the universe, he is filled with excitement, as it is one of the most powerful but not quite numbber one. Small things like that add to the vision of the book and aren't made as main take away points of the book.

He occasionally comes off as calling different religions or beliefs as ignorant, though put in an indirect fashion. These occurrences are rare and sometimes he even highlights different religions or references a Creator.

Overall, small errors rarely pop up and this book is great. I recommend this to anyone at all interested in our Sun or even why things are how they are on our planet.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lames jokes but a good read nevertheless 10 Sept. 2011
By Formerly Fly Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The jokes are frequent and lame, but after a while I didn't notice them; maybe they got better. Those account for 1 star off what otherwise would be a 5-star review. A grand tour of the Sun: its history and our history in relation to it. I especially liked the description of the 1800s and the unnoticed and unappreciated scientists who proposed their new theories, breaking with past ideas.

Oddly, the understanding of the Sun's source of heat--nuclear fusion--is mentioned in passing. It must have been a revelation in the early 1900s but the author barely touches on it.

The author makes a statement I don't understand: "Throughout the universe, light is created only when an electron falls down closer to its atom's nucleus." Is this true also of RF energy? I thought that was generated by oscillating current...does that also energize electrons from one shell to a higher one, then let the electrons fall down? I hope a reader can enlighten me.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 14 Aug. 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very well written and interesting.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sun Lives! 7 Jan. 2013
By Al - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I see it almost every day, enjoy feeling its warmth, and am thankful for it feeding my plants, but really knew very little about the Sun. When I heard about this book on SLOOH.com, I thought it might just be the right book to fill me in and ---oh my!--- it really has. It just about covers every aspect concerning the Sun and does so in an enjoyable, not too technical way. Some might say that Bob Berman, the author, says nothing knew BUT it is new to ME! I would not have gone to the library and rad any of the hardcore technical tomes but, having purchased this book, I can read virtually any chapter and not have to worry about doing them in order.

I'm glad I bought this book and have read it. I've also given two as gifts, one to a person who took some very fine pix of the recent annular eclipse as seen in northern Arizona, and the other to a junior in high school. They, too, enjoyed the book and both learned more about our Sun without having to have a vast knowledge of the topic. I think it's a great book for all who are not experts on the topic, but perhaps even they might pick up a point or two!

I highly recommend Berman's "The Sun's Heartbeat" and will reread it again.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Sun's Heartbeat - Bob Berman 21 Mar. 2014
By Jim Colyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bob Berman is my favorite astronomer. We are close to the same age, and that makes his observations and writing style accessible. He is not afraid to inject his ample knowledge of science and of the sun in this particular book with some serious humor. Certain topics stand out, like the dividing of stars into 7 classes based on temperature, color and size. We find O B A F G K M stars, remembered as "O be a fine girl kiss me." The lettering is arbitrary, but O and B stars are blue, huge and very hot. The creamy white, yellow and orange stars in between are somewhat average like our sun. In fact, the sun is a G star. M stars on the far right are red dwarfs, small and cool. Cool, that is, as far as stars go. There are more red dwarfs than any other kind of star. To their right are brown dwarfs, objects whose mass and temperatures were not sufficient for nuclear fusion to begin. Berman reminds us that our sun is a metal-rich, third generation star.

Berman has great praise for the ancient Greeks. They were scientists. Aristarchus knew the earth revolves around the sun. Eratosthenes determined the size of the earth. Hipparchus divided stars into 6 magnitudes, a system we still use today. Heracleides Ponticus suggested that Mercury and Venus orbit the sun because they are close to it. Anaxagoras knew the earth and celestial objects are made of the same stuff. He knew the moon reflects sunlight.

To Berman, Aristotle and Ptolemy were villains. Their erroneous ideas held sway and stifled science until Copernicus and Galileo some 14 centuries later.

I had been wrestling with mental images of Earth traveling around the sun and how its hemispheres tilt toward and away from it. The seasons, of course, are caused by this tilt. Earth is 91.5 million miles from the sun on January 3, and 94 million miles from it on July 4. The tilt causes the northern hemisphere to experience summer in July even though our planet is furtherest from the sun at that point. The sun is high in our sky.

Even though we orbit the sun at 67,000 miles per hour, we feel as if we are not moving. We know we are because as we view the sun from different angles, its position against background stars changes. The sun's apparent yearly path along the Zodiac is called the ecliptic because it is where eclipses take place. The sun and moon join here.

Chapter 16 deals with totality, and it is here that my current interest lies. I mean to go to Indonesia for the March 9, 2016, total solar eclipse and be in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming for the August 21, 2917, total solar eclipse. Berman refers to these eclipses as impossible coincidences. Totality can happen because the sun is 400 times larger than the moon and 400 times further away, making the sun and moon appear the same size in the sky. During totality, the sun, moon and the spot where we stand form a straight line. We see the sun's corona and its prominences. Berman recommends No. 12 welding goggles for the minutes before and after totality. He assures us that no one is prepared for this otherworldly experience. Everything becomes unfamiliar.

We are children of the sun. Everything on earth comes from the sun, including the earth itself, which formed from debris left over when the sun formed. All of our energy comes from the sun. Coal, oil and wood are stored sunlight. All life depends on it. Evolution is sun-driven as species of animals and plants mutate to form new ones.

The Sun's Heartbeat is enjoyable and readable. Its heady concepts are presented in ways that make them easy to understand.

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