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Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System Hardcover – February 20, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0691142548 ISBN-10: 0691142548 Edition: 1ST

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1ST edition (February 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691142548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691142548
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #948,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"He takes the reader on a four-century-long scientific quest to discover our place in the universe, beginning with the Copernican hypothesis and Galileo's discovery of four of Jupiter's planets. . . . An exciting, highly readable glimpse into a discovery that could have broad scientific and cultural implications."--PublishersWeekly.com (starred review)

Review

“Jayawardhana is among a posse of cosmic cowboys mapping the space frontier... His work and that of others is discussed in Strange New Worlds, a science book written in a lively way for star-struck laymen.” --Toronto Star

"Everything you need to know about alien planet discovery is insightfully described in this engaging book..." - Library Journal (starred review)

“With the seemingly endless stream of news about discoveries of alien planets, it's easy to forget that just 20 years ago exoplanets were no more than theoretical possibilities. Now astronomer Ray Jayawardhana tells the story of how the dramatic hunt has unfolded, from the early days of stellar astronomy to present-day speculation about life outside our solar system.” -- New Scientist

“Professor Jayawardhana is an award-winning science writer and an eminent planet-hunter, and so is the perfect person to write an accessible guidebook to the new worlds we're discovering in our galaxy. He explains how many of those discovered so far are pretty exotic, bloated and massive or scorchingly close to their sun, and how we've even had our first weather report for another world. But what's most exciting is that this book explains how we now have within our grasp the ability to spot a true twin of Earth.” -- BBC Focus

"Anyone scanning the shelves today to learn about such urgent news from the universe should go directly 'J' and take down Ray Jayawardhana's Strange New Worlds. It begins with early speculation by ancient thinkers but moves quickly to a series of seemingly promising discoveries, beginning 160 years ago, that raised researchers' hopes only to frustrate them. . . . [R]eading Strange New Worlds, I felt the thrill of briefly sharing in the efforts of these planet-seeking scientists and seeing the universe through their eyes."--Mike Brown, Wall Street Journal



"We are in the midst of a veritable golden age of discovery... Ray Jayawardhana provides here a dramatic account of how this story has unfolded over the years - and you won't find a more able guide for the journey. He is an eminent astrophysicist and planet hunter himself, and is an award-winning science writer. This combination of the insider's expert perspective and storyteller's skill really shines through in Strange New Worlds." -- Times Higher Education

"In Strange New Worlds, Ray Jayawardhana surveys how 15 years of exoplanet discovery has changed astrophysics... His lucid and effortless prose makes for an engaging read." - Chris Tinney, Nature

"Are we alone in the universe? The question is no longer unanswerable. Ray Jayawardhana, an astrophysicist and writer, vividly recounts the advances behind an extraordinary age of exploration." -- The Australian

"A readily accessible account of the increasingly successful search for other planets" - Harvard Magazine

More About the Author

RAY JAYAWARDHANA is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. A graduate of Yale and Harvard and a recent winner of Canada's Top 40 Under 40, he uses many of the world's largest telescopes to explore planetary origins and diversity. He is the co-author of over eighty papers in scientific journals. His discoveries have made headlines worldwide, including in Newsweek, Washington Post, New York Times, Globe and Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, BBC, NPR and CBC, and have led to numerous accolades such as the Steacie Prize, the Steacie Fellowship, the Early Researcher Award, and the Vainu Bappu Gold Medal. He is an award-winning writer whose articles have appeared in The Economist, Scientific American, New Scientist, Astronomy, and Sky & Telescope. He is also a popular speaker, a frequent commentator for the media, and creator of innovative outreach programs such as CoolCosmos, featuring 3000 ads in Toronto's subway cars, street cars and buses to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is the best exoplanet pop-sci book i've read so far.
Nick Cowan
All in all, and excellent book that goes into depths deep enough to include a glossary of terms.
jhenry922
He has done a tremendous service in popularizing this subject with the publication of this book.
sksrilanka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nicolas Kassis on March 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Strange New World is a great title for this book. It gives a very up-to-date and good overview of the search for planets of the last century and more. It describes the failure and successes of the search for planets around the stars. This book was very enjoyable. I bought this book because I was interested in the subject at the time, I had just finished watching a 9 part BBC series on netflix called the Planets and wanted to know more .I'm had no background in astronomy before picking up this book. None of the information in the book was complex or hard to understand. The science behind most discovery technique is explain just enough for the reader to follow the story

. In all I breezed through the book really fast and now I'm starting to look for a telescope on ebay :)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nick Cowan on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best exoplanet pop-sci book i've read so far. It covers all the major aspects of exoplanet research and gives nice historical perspective to these endeavors. The book is a bit too detailed when covering topics close to Jayawardhana's own research, but that is to be expected in a book written by an active scientist. The upshot of this is the author's solid understanding of the science covered in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
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"At the crux of the astronomers' pursuit is one basic question:

Is our solar system--with its mostly circular [planetary] orbits, giant planets in the outer realms, and at least one warm, wet, rocky world teeming with life--the exception or the norm?

It is an important question for every one of us, not just scientists. Astronomers expect to find alien Earths by the dozens within the next few years, and to take their [light] spectra to look for telltale signs of life before this decade is out."

The above comes from this fascinating book by Ray Jayawardhana. He is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

Jayawardhana, among other things, offers us a good look at the "cutting-edge" science used by modern-day planet hunters, the terminology needed to understand this young science (about 15 years old), our prospects for discovering "alien Earths" and alien life (including alien intelligent life), and the controversies and debates inherent in extrasolar planet (or exoplanet) research. All of this was put into historical context (which I appreciated).

(Note that an extrasolar planet or an exoplanet is a planet not of our solar system.)

This book also has, peppered throughout it, illustrations, pictures (black and white), graphs, and tables. All of these enhance the narrative.

My favourite picture, by far, is of a star and its planets. It has the following caption:

"Image of the three planets orbiting the young star HR 8799."

My favourite table has the following title:

"Directly Imaged Extrasolar Planets"

What's a "Hot Jupiter?" How about a "Super-Earth?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on October 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Harvard's professor Ray Jayawardhana does it.

In this slender volume he accomplishes three missions:

1) He gives readers a brief history of exoplanetary studies from the very early middle ages when the possibility was first advanced to the clunky 19th century when the first (scientifically baseless) claims were made.

2) He explains the various methods by which extra solar planets were being discovered circa 2010. And finally

3) He provides a survey of then discovered (this book was published in 2011) 400 plus extra solar planets together with some description of their properties.

For readers interested in learning more about Earth like planets I would heartily recommend Super Massive Earths by Dimitar Sasselov.

In his book Harvard professor Dimitar Sasselov examines what we know about life on Earth and what these newly discovered planets tell us about its likelihood elsewhere.

In short Sasselov says:

1) Far from being less hosbitable to life Super Earths are more likely to harbor it than our planet. Why this is so amazingly has to do with another interesting disclosure by Sasselov.

2) Life on Earth has a lot to with the fact that Earth has plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is the process by which continents slowly move around Earth and in so doing reshape the way the Earth looks and suffle environments to better give life a chance to arise. According to Sasselov Super Earths have better plate tectonics because they are more likely to have it than planets that are small as ours is.

3) Most importantly, when he crunches the numbers Sasselov's estimate of the likelihood of planets with life in our galaxy is somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Russell S. Milland on September 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I titled my review this way because I feel that Ray Jayawardhana has done a masterful job of weaving the people story surrounding the search for extraterrestrial planets into the book. The technical side of the search is also explained in layman's language so that I, as a non-technical person in their field, could easily follow and understand the approaches that were used to find these elusive planets. The book certainly filled in a lot of really interesting knowledge not found in the newspaper reports on the discovery of extra solar planets. A great read!
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