Don't let the large size and lush graphics fool you--One Universe
is no coffee-table book. This grand tour explores the staggering vastness of space and the incomprehensibly tiny pieces that fit together to make our bodies, our planet, comets, and cosmic rays. Astrophysicists Neil de Grasse Tyson and Charles Liu of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and science journalist Robert Irion have teamed up to put a planetarium in a book, and while you'll have to provide your own choral background music, the images are sharp and beautiful and the accompanying text is clear and engaging. The authors clearly love their subject and their work and even the most casual reader will find the book as inescapable as a black hole.
See supernovae, eclipses, and the end of the universe in all its quiet glory--but just as your eyes are drawn to the pretty pictures, your mind will seek out the explanations and elaborations accompanying them. Tyson is well known as the director of the Hayden Planetarium and has a brilliant knack for exciting people about astronomy without condescending or diluting; in fact, his respect for the public's intelligence is one of the best features of One Universe. Whether you want to get the latest on time and space, inspire students, or (dare we say it) show off your coffee table, this is well worth checking out. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Startling, sparkling color photos and very accessible explanations of the laws and history of physics make this book a treat. Its pictures, clean diagrams, spiffy typography and bite-size takes on mass and energy--from quarks to Coriolis effects to quasars--mark its origins in a celebration: the volume coincides with the reopening of the Hayden Planetarium at Manhattan's American Museum of Natural History. Tyson (who runs the planetarium), Liu (a physicist at the museum) and Irion (a contributing editor at Science) make the science they explain sound both awesome and painless. The authors begin and end at the cosmological level, with the Big Bang and the expanding universe; in between, they cover black holes, meteor strikes, spectral lines, particle accelerators, "gravity waves" (which astronomers might find soon), extraterrestrial life (we're still looking) and the elusive particle called the Higgs boson (ditto). The expanding universe (in which galaxies constantly move apart from one another) gets illustrated with ladybugs on the surface of a balloon. Zippy orange computer-enhanced photos show how a solar system can coalesce from "a disk of leftover material swirling around a new star." A "hyperkinetic unicyclist" helps explain Einstein's special relativity. And sandy beachside toes, shown next to a potholder and an iron pan, illustrate how nonconducting materials prevent, while conducting materials facilitate, the transmission of heat. This is a book seemingly designed more to be browsed than to be read straight through, and it might not mind just being admired (especially if it sends readers to the planetarium). A glossary and timeline can help readers learn, look up and remember the info so many physicists worked hard to discover. 30,000 first printing. (Mar.)
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