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Stardust: Supernovae and Life: The Cosmic Connection 1st Edition Thus Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300090970
ISBN-10: 0300090978
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"All manner of fascinating historical anecdotes fill the book." -- Literary Review

"An excellent book." -- Choice

"Astonishing . . . fascinating." -- New Yorker

"Stardust is a stunning little book, poetic in feeling, as vast as a voyage through outer space." -- John Cornwell, Sunday Times (London)

About the Author

John Gribbin is visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex and a best-selling author.


Mary Gribbin and John Gribbin are among the best-known current popular science writers. Together, they have written many acclaimed books, including Ice Age, FitzRoy, Stardust, and Big Numbers.
Mary is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sussex, and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with a special interest in plants and exploration. John is also a Visiting Fellow at the University of Sussex, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and the author of books including The Universe:
A Biography, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, and Science: A History.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st Edition Thus edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300090978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300090970
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,409,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What is the nature of the relationship between the Universe and life? If this sort of a question piques your interest, then you should read John Gribbin's "Stardust."

The four chemical elements most important to life as we know it include: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. How did these elements - the prerequisites for complex, organic molecules - come into existence? The Big Bang produced mainly hydrogen and helium (in addition to a smattering of a few other light elements). But what about the heavy elements required for life? They are the products of stellar nucleosynthesis - a process that happens in the interiors of stars. The atoms lodged in your body now, the nitrogen that is part of your DNA double helix was once `cooked' inside stars and then scattered into cold clouds of interstellar dust. If that does not give you a sense of (cosmic!) wonder, then you have not paused to let the information sink in.

John Gribbin reviews the long, intellectual road that led to this startling discovery. Before one could say that we are made of stardust, scientists first had to answer many other questions, like what stars are made of. Besides being a good science book, "Stardust" is also a good book about the history of science, showing, for example, what a vital role the development of photography and spectroscopy played in 20th century astrophysics. One of the especially interesting historical lessons here concerns our understanding of what goes on in the Sun (and the other stars for that matter) to generate heat. Before arriving at the answer that stars generate energy by nuclear fusion, which converts hydrogen to helium, there were many failed hypotheses, such as the gravitational collapse hypothesis.
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Format: Paperback
John Gribbin, a masterful popular science writer, has written an excellent book on how we literally are all stardust. Of course, the theme of his book bears more than a little resemblance to Carl Sagan's famous "we are all starstuff" phrase, and it would have been nice if Gribbin had acknowledged that. But still, this is a more than worthwhile book.

Gribbin gives a detailed explanation of how, after the big bang, a mixture of hydrogen and helium coalesced into the first stars. Due to the high temperature of the stars, a process known as nucleosynthesis occurred, creating the elements crucial to life, including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon, among others. When stars reached the end of their lives, there are novae and supernovae explosions, which carry the new chemical elements into the reaches of space, eventually creating new stars and planets. All of the amino acids necessary for life in the DNA "alphabet" are made up of what Gribbin calls CHON- Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen. So we really did come from stardust. I find that very profound and inspiring.

Of course, there's quite a bit more in the book than what I just outlined. Gribbin also discusses the history of how we know how stars can burn for so long, the structure of DNA, the development of the Big Bang Theory, and is very detailed about chemistry and the processes of star formation and nucleosynthesis. "Stardust" is an excellent book for any reasonably educated layman, and will assist in understanding how we are all connected to the universe and each other.
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This book has helped me to get a more comprehensive view of how all of this stuff around us came about. I always wanted to know more about the internal structure of stars and this does the job well.
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