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Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0312245511
ISBN-10: 0312245513
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Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: First Edition Hardcover with clean dust jacket and minor shelf-wear on edges and corners. Binding is tight and square. Small white sticker on top of flyleaf and label covering prior owners name. Interior pages are free from underlining, note taking, and/or highlighting. Eligible for Amazon's FREE Super Saver/Prime Shipping, 24/7 Customer service and package tracking 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
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Editorial Reviews Review

As Oliver Morton shows in his superb new book, Mapping Mars, Mars has clouds, winds, and shorelines. It has river valleys, mountains, volcanoes, and even glaciers. Even were it lifeless, it could support life, albeit of an almost unimaginably marginal kind. What Mars lacks is places. There are no "theres" there, nor will there be--until our feet make an impact on its soil.

Oliver Morton has a sense of place and a hunger for Mars, and a thrilling manner of communicating both. His account of our nearest neighbor's history, geology, and human potential is exhaustive. Morton touches on just about everything, from soil composition to survival techniques; from Martians to maps (maps, above all: they are his abiding subject, metaphor, and organizing principle). His artistry is to hide his daunting range of interests under a passionate and gripping human narrative: this book is about what Mars has meant, means, and may one day mean for us. And he has a wide-ranging definition of who "we" are. Like a good military historian, Morton knows to pay attention to the foot soldiers of science, as well as to the achievements of their celebrated masters. He understands how different the sciences are from each other, and how rivalries between them arise. Further, Morton understands where these people and their institutions sit in the general culture. He understands the crossover between science and science fiction, between space advocates and space fans.

All of which makes Morton's book something more than just "the story of Mars." It is, in addition, an astute study of how we go about exploring our world. --Simon Ings

From Publishers Weekly

Well-known British science writer Morton, a contributor to Wired, the New Yorker and Science, traces scientists' efforts to map and understand the surface of Mars. Because much of the planet's surface material is basalt, which is porous, Morton explains, it is very probable that water from Mars's now dry canyons long ago sank into underground aquifers and froze. Mars has often been regarded as the planet most similar to Earth, but the author describes graphically how startlingly different its topography is. Mars is a planet with mountains larger than whole American states and plains the size of Canada. Our Grand Canyon would be dwarfed by the massive erosion canyons that surprised us a decade ago with their implication that titanic floods once rushed across the planet's surface. Olympus Mons, its largest volcano, is taller than two Everests, contains more than four times the total volume of the Alps and has a circumference larger than the distance between the northern and southern tips of the home islands of Japan. Morton writes eloquently and displays a breadth of knowledge not often found in science writing. He summarizes how science fiction authors have imagined Mars as well as how pre-computer artists used airbrush techniques to depict Mars's monstrous contours. The book might have benefited from being more tightly focused, but astronomy and geology buffs will be sure to snap it up. 16 color photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (October 4, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312245513
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312245511
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 11.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book on a whim after getting interested in Mars colonization after reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, to which Dr. Morton's book is an excellent non-fiction counterpoint. Not only does he set forth a well-spoken, engaging exposition of the 20th century's cultural and scientific history of Mars, he balances this with a keen sense of the limitations of human knowledge, telling his story in the context of real, live human figures at the forefront of Mars exploration.
The central theme, of maps and how they relate to place - and furthermore, how we relate to those maps and places - sets off an easily read story of what Mars has meant to recent society, how scientists have shaped that understanding, and how that understanding is both formed and limited by our extended observers, the robot orbiters and landers that we've sent to our red neighbor.
Highly recommended reading both for historical and cultural interest.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The one geographic feature of the planet Mars that most people can think of is the famous "Face on Mars," a huge rock formation which is, if the fringe interpreters have it right, a gigantic, one-generic-face Mount Rushmore, to be viewed by us humans as sculpted by esthetically inclined Martians. There is more to Martian geography than that, and _Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World_ (Picador) by Oliver Morton, barely mentions the Face, and does not stoop to debunk it. Once again, real science is shown to be much more fascinating than fringe science. _Mapping Mars_ provides a history of how we know what we know about the most nearly Earth-like neighbor, and shows how we are actively creating a world in our own image.
There have been generations of pre-rocketry astronomers who tried to make sense of our neighbor planet. Morton gives a history of the English astronomers who named features on Mars after Englishmen, and French, Frenchmen, as well as Percival Lowell's certainty that he could see canals the Martians had made. The detailed mapping, begun with the later powerful earthly telescopes, was not all done with photography. "The well-trained human eye could seize such brief impressions, understand what was seen in them, and remember it," allowing much more resolution than photographs, and the book is illustrated with examples of different artistic versions of maps and terrain. Many science fiction books have tried to take in our understanding of the terrain and the ecology. Movies, however, have not done a good job, disregarding science; "... the blatantly ignored scientific advisor on _Mission to Mars_ ... has been stoically bearing the ridicule of his colleagues ever since.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on October 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Mapping Mars by Oliver Morton is an excellent book! Morton takes the reader on the very human journey to map Mars from Percival Lowell to the folks planning the 2003 rovers. Along the way, Morton brings everything that conceivably connects to this mapping effort, including Mars art [I'm proud to say I have an original Bill Hartmann hanging on my living room wall] and Mars fiction [no, I won't sell you my signed first editions of Stan Robinson's Mars books], into the mix. I also found Mapping Mars to be one of the best introductions to geology and geologists at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century I've read in recent years. My one complaint [and it's not really Morton's fault - Morton was just passing on a piece of history] is with the following passage:
[Robert Zubrin] told [his students] that no one did more for society, or was more worthy of respect, than scientists and engineers. If that was so, asked one of the kids one day, why was Zubrin just a teacher. Zubrin came up with an answer-he always had answers-but he took the question to heart. He began applying to graduate schools....
I agree with most of the sentiment in this passage, except the part about teachers somehow being less admirable than scientists. I was trained as a geologist and I teach high school earth science. I get asked the same question all the time AND I too have an answer:
Someone has to begin training the folks that'll be the first people on Mars [and help the rest become damn fine citizens of the Earth].
I highly recommend Mapping Mars, especially to anyone with an interest in Mars, geology and geologists, mapping, the cultural offshoots of the exploration of our solar system, and the future.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Khemprof TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World written by Oliver Morton is a wonderfully fascinating story about the fourth planet in our solar system... Mars.
For the better part of the book the author informs the reader on the geology of Mars along with history of mapping the surface of Mars early on with telescopes... and then later on the Mars explorer robotics that landed a few years ago.
The author's writing style is easy going and very informative. You can read the book with ease... quite frankly once you start you'll find it hard to put down, with the intellectual history and the engaging writing style you'll quickly be engrossed in the book.
Mars is cratered much like our Moon and has a most beguiling landscape. There are picture in the book that gives the reader a good sense of what the author is taking about when it comes to the geology of Mars. Only after our spacecraft reached its orbit could we see Mars for what it is, a planet with a surface area as great as that of the Earth's continents, all of it as measurable, as real as the stones in the pavement outside your door.
This book is about how ideas from our full and complex planet are projected onto the rocks of that simpler, empty one. The ideas discussed are mostly scientific, because it is the scientists who have thought hardest and best about the realities of Mars. It is the the scientists who have fathomed the ages of its rocks, measured its resemblance to the Earth, searched for its missing waters, and always wondered about the life it might be home to.
Engagingly fascinating are the two words that rightfully describe this book, enjoyable without technobable.
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