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Comet + Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science + Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (February 25, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345412222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345412225
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #613,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

WHAT ARE THESE GRACEFUL VISITORS TO OUR SKIES? WE NOW KNOW THAT THEY BRING BOTH LIFE AND DEATH AND TEACH US ABOUT OUR ORIGINS.



Comet begins with a breathtaking journey through space astride a comet. Pulitzer Prize-winning astronomer Carl Sagan, author of Cosmos and Contact, and writer Ann Druyan explore the origin, nature, and future of comets, and the exotic myths and portents attached to them. The authors show how comets have spurred some of the great discoveries in the history of science and raise intriguing questions about these brilliant visitors from the interstellar dark.



Were the fates of the dinosaurs and the origins of humans tied to the wanderings of a comet? Are comets the building blocks from which worlds are formed?



Lavishly illustrated with photographs and specially commissioned full-color paintings, Comet is an enthralling adventure, indispensable for anyone who has ever gazed up at the heavens and wondered why.



"SIMPLY THE BEST."

*The Times of London



"FASCINATING, EVOCATIVE, INSPIRING."

*The Washington Post



"COMET HUMANIZES SCIENCE. A BEAUTIFUL, INTERESTING BOOK."

*United Press International



"MASTERFUL . . . SCIENCE, POETRY, AND IMAGINATION."

*The Atlanta Journal & Constitution

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Customer Reviews

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I recommend this book to anyone with even a slight interest in the subject.
Michael Letourneau
To be sure, the primary focus of the book is about comets and I thought that there could not be enough here to justify an entire book - wrong!!!
Randy
Very thoroughly researched, Sagan researched scientific papers on the subject as well as historical records, by a variety of cultures.
Dan Shaffer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Randy on July 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I would classify myself as the Armchair type - I don't own a telescope, and shamefully I do not know my constellations, but I have enjoyed many popular books on the subject. Having just finished reading this book I am sorely tempted to get a telescope or at least go out and find a local star party (where ameteur astronomers set up their equipment and gladly share viewing opportunities with strangers). This book was truely one of my favorite reads on the subject in recent years. To be sure, the primary focus of the book is about comets and I thought that there could not be enough here to justify an entire book - wrong!!! Sagan takes the reader on a very interesting and inspiring tour of the solar system while also teaching some interesting astronomy history. The chapter on Haley alone teaches about the early history of astronomy and tells a fascinating story of a brilliant scientist about whom most of us have heard little beyond the discovery of the comet which carries his name. Also discussed in this book is the likely connection between comets and the end of the Dinosaurs 65,000,000 years ago (before which the largest mammals were mouse size, according to the book) and the current interest astronmers have in comets and asteroids as a potential threat in our current age. Another great feature of this book is that the many chapters may be easily read in any desired order; Sagan kindly refers us to other chapters with supporting material - so when he talks about the "sand bank" theory of comets - he tells you which chapter covered that idea. I couldn't put the book down (for long).
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
Dr. Sagan, as usual, has written a book that truly captured my attention. The photos and drawings were superb and the writing as usual was direct and not written in techno babble.
Dr. Sagan takes the time to explain theories and takes us on a roving path through the solar system. I couldn't figure out how some of the topics related to comets, but to be honest with you, I did not really care. I love his writings and I am sorry that he is no longer with us.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Grant on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
For an author to write an entire novel dedicated to comets and be able to keep the reader from slipping into a coma must be a very difficult task. However, Carl Sagan managed to hold my eyes to the 350+ pages without too much of a struggle. He provided vivid descriptions of the cool blue islands peacefully drifting through the endless reaches of space and how they suddenly awaken as they near a star. Sagan also presented interesting information about the lives of many prominent astronomers and how comets played important roles in almost every major civilization throughout history. Admittedly, there were times where it seemed as though my history book met up with my science book and gave birth to a hideous creation comprised of the worst of each. This book provided knowledge about a broad range of topics and how they all connected to comets. I would not recommend this book to anyone who is easily distracted or quickly discouraged. Some of chapters of this novel take a little effort to get through, but in the end it provides the reader with many interesting facts.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Emc2 VINE VOICE on November 23, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book goes deeper on the comet subject, originally explained in his best-seller Cosmos. This updated version includes topics such as Comet SHL-9 impact on Jupiter, the dinosaurus extinction theory, actual pictures of Halley's Comet, etc.
Good scientific explanation on the origin and physical nature of comets. There ara two interesting and updated chapters dealing with the colission of comets and asteroids with Earth and other celestial bodies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Erickson on November 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of the late great scientist/astronomer Carl Sagan. I've read most of his books and most are 5 stars...see my reviews.As a 40 year amateur astronomer I found Comet by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan done fantastically well. Carl was always great at explaining a complex subject for the non scientist and keeping a complex subject interesting and allowing the reader to want to continue reading.

Comet has loads of beautiful pictures, drawings, and diagrams by very good artists especially my favorite Jon Lomberg (I bought a lithograph from him "First Baby on Mars"...absolutely wonderful). Back to Comet!

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan give a great 1/3 of the book to the history of what mankind thought comets were, from evil things that foretold famine, death for armies, earthquakes and any number of disasters, to gradually a more modern "dirty ice ball" approach.

Then we learn the composition of comets. Some rich in organic matter with ices of methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide and mostly regular water ice plus some heavy water isotopes and a little silicates and metals. A huge "dirty iceball".

We see the near comets with orbits starting beyond Jupiter to comets way way out in the far reaches of the Oort cloud where orbits around the sun may take 10 million years. We see the different "ices" that boil off at different spacings from the sun, with regular water ice being the last to go as comets get closer to the sun. We learn about comet comas, their tails and their nucleus heads.

We learn some asteroids may be worn out comets as each time comets get close enough to the sun they slowly "die" as a meter or so of ice is boiled off until rocky silicates, and heavy metals like iron are left.
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