Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life Beyond Our Solar System

Book - 2017
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Publisher: Washington, DC : Smithsonian Books, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781588345943
Branch Call Number: 523.24 SUM
Characteristics: 218 pages : illustrations (some colour)
Additional Contributors: Trefil, James 1938-


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Apr 26, 2017

From the start I was a little bored with this book. I even didn't like that no credit was given to Kant (and maybe Swedenborg) for first proposing the nebular hypothesis. But as they got into the Kepler mission and then went on to describe different planets, I became more entranced. This book is mixed. The authors are well meaning and know their stuff -- despite getting some historical details like above off. They even go so far as to go over what might be wrong with particular views that have of this or that planet. That's a good approach: showing exoplanet science is a new field, by no means settled -- if anything is ever truly settled.

Of course, your mileage will vary. I already follow much of the news on exoplanet discoveries. This book will suit someone who's not an omnivorous follower of such news. For others, you might just want to read a chapter on your favorite type of exoplanet or skim. Regarding SETI and exo-life, their comments leave something to be desired, though it's a good starting place for discussion and exploration.

A good, but not great, introduction into the topic. Written for laypersons, it sometimes strays into academic language. Fine if you can handle it. Not so much if you cannot. While the authors have expertise in astronomy, they sometimes make minor errors or are not clear on some things. Also, they get the odd non-astronomical fact wrong such a statement identifying Marconi as the inventor of radio. This is a common and widely-held misconception that scientists like these should be more diligent in checking. Marconi invented an apparatus in which radio could be performed, namely telegraphy (telegraph) but not broadcasting such as we know radio to be. That was done by Canadian Reginal Fessenden. However, radio, said the US Supreme Court in 1943 was not Marconi's invention. He built his device on the technologies and patents of Nikola Tesla, Oliver Lodge, and John Stone. It's a small point but a careless one by the authors. Also, they throw in the odd foreign phrase such as "faute de mieux" which means "for want of a better alternative" so why not just say that? It sticks out like a sore thumb, seems snobbish, and loses the reader. I'm well read and I didn't know what that meant. Overall, though, it's a good primer on exoplanets but certainly not the be all, end all on the subject.

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