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Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1891389559
ISBN-10: 1891389556
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Editorial Reviews


Scharf's coverage of exoplanets is quite wonderful and will be very valuable for classes. I enjoyed reading this presentation. --Geoff Marcy, University of California, Berkeley

I like this book very much. The writing style is clear and engaging and it provides more physics than most texts on astrobiology. --Debra Fischer, San Francisco State University

About the Author

Caleb Scharf was born and educated in England. He received his B.Sc. in Physics from Durham University, and his PhD in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge. Following postdoctoral work in X-ray astronomy and observational cosmology at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, he has been a research scientist at Columbia University, New York. He is currently Director of the multidisciplinary Columbia Astrobiology Center. His research interests include the study of exoplanets, exomoons, and the nature of environments suitable for life.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 490 pages
  • Publisher: University Science Books (August 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891389556
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891389559
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Caleb Scharf is Director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, and has an international reputation as a research astrophysicist, and as a lecturer to college and public audiences. The UK's Guardian newspaper has listed his blog Life, Unbounded, as one of their "hottest science blogs," while an editor at Seed Magazine called it "phenomenal. Informed, fresh, and thoughtful." Scharf is author and co-author of more than 100 scientific research articles in astronomy and astrophysics.

His book 'The Copernicus Complex' (September 2014) is a sweeping investigation of the latest scientific thinking on the age-old question of the significance and uniqueness of life on Earth.

Praise for 'Gravity's Engines' (2012):

One of The Barnes and Noble Review Editors' Picks: Best Nonfiction of 2012

Selected by The Christian Science Monitor as one of "21 smart nonfiction titles we think you'll enjoy this summer"

Selected by The New Scientist as one of 10 books to look out for in 2012

"Paperback Pick of the Week"--The Guardian

"In Gravity's Engines, Caleb Scharf deftly tells you all you wanted to know about Black Holes, as well as all you never knew you wanted to know. By the end of the book your conclusion will surely match mine: Black holes are terrifying yet awesome constituents of the cosmos."
--Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, author of Space Chronicles and Death by Black Hole

"Scharf makes vivid the mind-boggling nature of the universe . . . [there are] bright beams of knowledge coming from this excellent book."
--Wall Street Journal

"This is a book that is rich in the poetry of scientific language . . . [N]ot only does [Scharf] know more about the universe than you or I do, he knows how to transmit his knowledge by deft use of analogy."

--The Guardian

"To call this an absorbing read is an understatement. I felt dreamily transplanted . . . When I did emerge from the book to look up at the summer stars, the night seemed more brightly lit, slightly more known but also more awesome, more wonderfully strange."
--The Barnes & Noble Review

"With Gravity's Engines, Caleb Scharf establishes himself as one of the finest space storytellers."
--The Christian Science Monitor

"Using rich language and a brilliant command of metaphor, [Scharf] takes on some of the most intricate topics in theoretical and observational astronomical research. He weaves a wonderfully detailed tapestry of what modern astronomy is all about, from the complexities of cosmic microwave background studies to the X-ray mapping of galaxy clusters."

"[H]eady stuff, but luckily for readers . . . who lack a deep understanding of cosmology, Scharf populates his book with images and colorful metaphors."
--The Chronicle of Higher Education

His work has been featured in publications such as New Scientist, Scientific American, Science News, Cosmos Magazine, Physics Today, and National Geographic, as well as online at sites like Space.com and Physorg.com. His textbook for undergraduate and graduate students, Extrasolar Planets and Astrobiology, has been called "the gold standard" for the field. His articles and reviews have appeared in such prestigious publications as Science, Nature, The Astrophysical Journal, and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Dr. Scharf is a regular keynote speaker at academic meetings, such as for the American Physical Society, museums, and both public and private venues, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York. He has been a guest on Krulwich on Science at NPR, William Shatner's "Weird or What?" and has served as a consultant to editors and producers at National Geographic Magazine, The Science Channel, The Discovery Channel, and The New York Times.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The textbook is well sourced, well written, and incredibly well organized. As a astronomy and biology student wishing to understand the unification of these two rather different approaches to science, this is invaluable and MUCH appreciated.

Students sometimes don't realize that textbooks are not confusing because of their subject material, but usually very opaque because of their ORGANIZATION.

Scharf's organization of the material and presentation is nonpareil, and what's more, this is the only text currently available (I have read every one), that contains a physical, mathematically based derivation and demonstration of the sciences at work.

This is incredibly important as Astrobiology becomes a denser field with more and more concepts piling atop one another. Presenting the grounding of the subject in the basic sciences, not as abstract musings but as truly observationally based science, is perhaps the author's greatest success.

In the world of science textbooks, which I believe is all too often a graveyard where students' love of science goes to die, this text stands amongst the few which will not only encourage your understanding of its chosen topic, but will cause you to want to expand it.
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By Jen on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is far and away the most comprehensive book on the market covering extra-solar planets. It is both rigorous and easy to follow, no small feat for such a new textbook about a young field. I highly recommend it to higher level undergraduates interested in learning more about everything from T Tauri stars and protoplanetary disks to extremeophiles. Keep in mind, this book is written by an astrophysicist, not a biologist.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book does a great job at piecing together components of astrophysics and astrobiology to make a cohesive and comprehensible textbook. There are very few books out there that actually attempt to do this so to be one of the first must have been a task in it of itself. I do have a few issues with this book as a textbook and they are as follows:

1) There are no textbook examples that help you work through problems. (Granted the end of the chapter problems may be simple enough for an advanced undergraduate.)
2) Some of the derivations are a bit poorly explained and may not be entirely clear at first. (Through persistent work one may understand it however.)
3) It's not necessarily self-contained. You might find yourself scrambling around the net or other textbooks to look up some stuff you may have forgotten.
4) It's very much so a compilation of papers in that most of the formulas that aren't explained and graphs acquired are taken from papers. This may be a good thing though as you can always reference them if you need.
5) The minute this book was released it was already old. I'm currently taking a class with a professor who is referenced in the textbook and works with the Kepler mission and there were several things in the book which are already old information or new theories had already been drawn out. I don't necessarily blame the author though, because the field is very much new and understanding of planetary physics is growing exponentially as I write this.

All in all, this is the only textbook I know of that doesn't focus on our Solar System as a means of studying extrasolar planets so in that regard it is definitely unique. It provides a great approach and does this excellently. Seek external sources of planetary physics to accompany this book and you're set!
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