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The Physical Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy (Series of Books in Astronomy) Hardcover – January 1, 1982

ISBN-13: 978-0935702057 ISBN-10: 0935702059

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 584 pages
  • Publisher: University Science Books (January 1, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0935702059
  • ISBN-13: 978-0935702057
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 8.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A truly astonishing book, invaluable for anyone with an interest in astronomy and surely the bargain of the year." -- Physics Bulletin

"Just the thing for a first year university science course." -- Nature

"This is a beautiful book in both concept and execution." -- Sky & Telescope

About the Author

Frank Shu is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 1968. Shu has written a number of expository articles for the lay public, and is the author of The Physics of Astrophysics, Volumes I and II.  He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Academia Sinica.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Yes, I nicknamed that book like the well-known The Feynman Lectures on Physics. With regard to Feynman, I have no doubt that if Richard Feynman himself is to write a book and give lectures on Astrophysics, he will end up wrote a book similar to this book.
I am a graduate physics student working in experimental high energy physics, but I have always found myself curious about astrophysics. Back in my home country, the literature on astronomy is so rare that I only can manage to borrow and read an old edition of Abell's Exploration of the Universe. It was a good book, but I need more physics to cater my curiosity in astrophysics.
I've heard about this book quite some time, but not until I arrived in USA that I can buy this book through Amazon and start to read it. With my background in graduate level physics, this book is quite an easy read for me.
The book was written with multiple audience in mind: humanities and liberal arts majors who are interested in astrophysics but don't want to use too much mathematics; freshman students with great curiosity but not much mathematical skills; biology, life-science, and pre-med students with interest in astrobiology and the origin of life; general science and engineering students with strong math and physics background but have no intention to have a career in science; and ultimately to those thoughtful, astronomers-astrophysicist-physicist-wanna-be students. Perhaps those are exactly the same kind of audience Shu ever has in Berkeley: Berkeley is famous for diversity.
The book is self-contained, in the sense that (almost) all the necessary scientific concepts and backgrounds are explained: mechanics, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, microbiology, genetics, even there are some discussions in supersymmetry and grand unification.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on December 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This was a superb textbook when it appeared over twenty years ago. It begins with some introductory material about microscopic and macroscopic laws of physics. After that, we learn about stars and their evolution. And binary stars. Next are galaxies and galactic clusters. And cosmology and the hot big bang. Then our planetary system. And we finish with life and intelligence in the universe.

I read this book when it first came out and truly enjoyed it. But I do want to warn folks that it is getting a little out-of-date and definitely needs a new edition. In the past twenty years, we have made plenty of new discoveries. Topics such as dark energy, the accelerating expansion of the universe, cosmic microwave background anisotropies, gamma-ray bursters and soft gamma repeaters, supernova 1987A, ultraluminous infrared galaxies, extrasolar planets and planetary migration, the Big Splat theory of the origin of the Moon, and inflationary models of the big bang are too new to be in this book. Plenty of work on formation of galaxies is too new as well. Descriptions of and recent results from deep space probes and telescopes are not included. That leaves us with much less to discuss about Uranus or Neptune, not to mention recent in situ observations of Mars or questions about water under the icy surface of Europa. And even topics such as artificial intelligence are discussed without the benefit of the past twenty years of perspective.

I still recommend the book. But I wouldn't be able to teach a class on astronomy or astrophysics from this text without supplementing it with a substantial amount of extra material.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is the book I used in my first year of grad school to make the transition from a physics major to an astronomy grad student. The problems range from very simple (algebraic) to those using calculus, but all are elegant and chosen to illustrate important ideas. This book will give you a back-of-the-envelope acquaintance with a very broad sweep of research areas in astronomy. This book also convinced me that Frank Shu is not only a great researcher, but a great teacher as well.
I bought a new copy recently -- my old one wore out. I use it to introduce physics majors and colleagues interested in interdisciplinary work to astronomy. I have also used it to teach extra-bright (TAG accelerated college entrance program) 11-to-14-year-olds some fundamentals of astronomy and physics, and they loved it, too. Good for bright, interested people of any age who are not afraid to try.
Subject matter is still up-to-date, as it is theoretical (although based solidly on observations), and does not rely, as many introductory texts do, on the "latest results from The Current Gigantic Telescope Project" for material.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I have owned The Physical Universe for 10 years. While the book is out of date in many ways, it still serves as an excellent overview of many of the basic concepts that astronomers need to learn at the undergraduate level.
The book starts with a basic introduction to physical concepts such as dynamics, thermodynamics, and relativity, then proceeds to overview many of the fundamental concepts about stars, the interstellar medium, galaxies, cosmology, planets, and life in that order. At some times, the book's organization seems a bit eccentric, especially with the last chapters, which stray away from astronomy too much to be used in an astronomy undergraduate class. The book was written so that it could be used with students at various educational levels, so the book uses both written descriptions and mathematics to explain various astronomical concepts. Unfortunately, students without a strong background in mathematics will not benefit from the book as much. The problems, distributed throughout the text of the chapters, are very good at walking students through deriving mathematical equations; I myself consider problem sets I wrote for these problems to be reference material that is as important as the text itself.
The Physical Universe is good for understanding many of the basic concepts of astronomy. I still use this book to look up simple equations, such as magnitude and redshift equations. Nonetheless, the book is out of date. Important new science, especially many space-based observations by IRAS, Hubble, Chandra, ROSAT, and COBE, are missing. New fields of study, such as extrasolar planets, deep-field cosmology, and ultraluminous and luminous infrared galaxies, are unmentioned.
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