Top positive review
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Be Sure to Work the Problems
on May 22, 2010
Galaxies in the Universe is an absolutely wonderful book. That being said, it is the type of textbook written so that the problems are an integral part of the text. That's not my personal preference because my schedule is such that I don't always have time to work them. The other problem with that style is that if you get stuck on any one problem, you run the risk of getting very little out of the rest of the book. Even so, most of the problems are very fun and not so difficult that someone who is strong in math and physics won't be able to get through them.
It is very definitely an introductory text intended to get one started on the basics before going to a different book to tackle harder material. By the end of the book you'll have done things like calculate the amount of dark matter that must exist within a given galaxy. My favorite part of this book is the section on gravitational lensing and dark matter. A long time ago I tried to decipher the original Kaiser and Squires article on the topic, and never really succeeded. This book explained the material with wonderful clarity.
The mathematical content of the book is relatively simple. Anyone familiar with multivariable calculus should be able to work through it without too much trouble. Some of the key results and ideas will be familiar to physics majors who've already taken a classical mechanics course or a thermostatistics course, but applied in a sufficiently different context that they don't seem redundant. This would be a good book for someone who has strong basics in general physics, is strong in undergraduate calculus, and has an interest in galactic astrophysics.