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The Sun's Heartbeat: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316091015
ISBN-10: 0316091014
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Editorial Reviews

Review

PRAISE FOR THE SUN'S HEARTBEAT:

"This might be the last book you ever read-afterward, you can't help but stare, in wonder, directly into that fiery ball in the sky. From ancient sun worship to the latest in Sol science, Bob Berman makes THE SUN'S HEARTBEAT shine."―Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon

"Bob Berman's The Sun's Heartbeat glitters and skips with the joy and excitement of science at its best. He explains things I always wondered about without diminishing the star-gazer's sense of awe."―Mark Kurlansky, Author of Salt and Cod

"Berman directs your attention to our neighborhood ball of nuclear fire, telling its story with charm and wit....He makes a compelling case for putting on a wide-brimmed hat, stepping outside, and giving a second thought to the star that illuminates and powers our planet."―Discover Magazine

"Berman shakes readers out of a complacent understanding of his subject with startling facts conveyed in companionably witty prose....He finds much that is surprising in the relatively commonplace....making this common sight mysterious again, remind[ing] us of questions we had forgotten to ask."―Columbus Dispatch

"Berman's pitch-perfect book goes a long way to answering the questions you thought were too dumb to ask, but it does much more than simply provide facts....Berman is a master storyteller, whose passion and enthusiasm for astronomy has served the public well for decades....Read this and you will never look at the sun in the same way again."―New Scientist

"A good read....light-hearted....[and] fun...Above all, the author's enthusiasm for science shines through."―Wall Street Journal

"A deeply enjoyable book...[Berman] comes across as the world's most enthusiastic science teacher....[who] writes 'everything about the sun is either amazing or useful.' It's hard not to enjoy a book when someone says that and does their cheerful best to back it up."―Washington Post

"We won't take the Sun for granted any longer if astronomy popularizer Berman...has anything to say about it....'Everything about the Sun is either amazing or useful,' Berman writes, and then proves it, without a doubt."―Publisher's Weekly

"A quick, smart and colorful biography of 'yon flaming orb.'"―Kirkus Reviews

"An engaging consciousness-raiser that entertains as it informs about our neighborhood nuclear furnace."―Booklist

About the Author

Bob Berman is one of America's top astronomy writers. For many years, he wrote the popular "Night Watchman" column for Discover magazine. He is currently a columnist for Astronomy magazine and a host on NPR's Northeast Public Radio, and he is the science editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (July 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316091014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316091015
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Taylor McNeil on September 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
In some ancient cultures, the Sun was one of the central deities, if not the deity: I'm thinking of the Incas and the ancient Egyptians, for starters. After reading Bob Berman's The Sun's Heartbeat, you get a sense that they might have been on to something. Berman collects many facts from many angles about the Sun, mostly about how it makes all good things possible on Earth--and a few bad ones, too.

Let's start with a Sun-related factoid: not just the planet we're on, but everything we are made of, is the result of stars bursting and spilling forth through the universe, until those random wandering atoms collected together enough of their kind to form a gravitational pull, and thus gather more of their floating brethren, eventually making the planet Earth and all the atoms on it, including you and me. (Which brings up another question, the really hard question, of how material can be conscious of itself; but that's for another review, of Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey.)

Berman marches through science history, as humans slowly doped out what the Sun is made of and what it does. It was often the story of people ahead of their time, mocked for their wacky beliefs, which turned out to be much closer to the truth than that which came before. Berman details, for instance, Edward Walter Maunder, and his wife, Annie, who kept decades of lonely vigils for sunspots, and proposed the solar origin of terrestrial magnetic disturbances, spot on in their conjectures.

As the chapters whiz by, more and more bewitching information flows our way, like the magnetic particles that make up the solar wind that smothers our outer atmosphere and occasionally leads to the spectral display of auroras.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is delightful. I found myself discovering things I never knew, and with each turn of the page I felt like a wide-eyed child experiencing the wonder of the universe for the first time. Bob's writing style alternates between delightful entertainment and brilliant science. He captures your imagination with storytelling and revelation. Ever since "Secrets of the Night Sky" and "Cosmic Adventure," I've been a fan. Buy this book. Give it to your friends and family for birthdays or just for fun. They'll love you for it! I bought ten copies :)
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Format: Hardcover
Rarely in my 96 years have I come across a book that is so entertaining on so many fronts! Everyone on Earth should understand this stuff, and yet it is new and strange and fascinating and a little disturbing to learn we are bound to a star so powerful that even small fluctuations in the solar wind and flares can have devastation consequences for us. Berman's funny quips and easy style makes for entertaining and educational reading about a subject we should all know. Everyone should read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher because I was interested in the topic and knew almost nothing about the Sun. The book is both fascinating and frustrating. The fascination comes from the broad scope of the book and it's coverage of the history of astronomy as it relates to the Sun. There's a great deal of information presented in an approachable style. I particularly enjoyed the practical information (such as the changing direction of compass needles during the day caused by the Sun and what to look for in a rainbow). Equally, the book makes a strong case for seeing an eclipse and the aurora things to do before you die. And the excursions into Vitamin D and Global Warming are interesting.

But I was frustrated on two counts: I wished there had been more science and the author's never-ending chirpy, flippant style got on my nerves. The book rarely delves deeply into the scientific topics (and there are a couple of places where it meanders off: e.g. when talking about the non-relationship between birth dates and the moon) and I kept wanting more. When sun spots are first introduced they aren't clearly explained and I was left to go to Wikipedia to find out more. But I can live without the science given that this is an introductory book.

The author's style really bothered me. I can almost imagine (if he has teenage children) his kids rolling their eyes at Dad's incessant lame patter. For example: "Galileo and Schneier published digs at each other that resembled the dialogue between two neurotic Woody Allen characters", or "Yet outside a few chance school assignments, they are now as forgotten as the Broadway headliners of the Gay Nineties". Statements like that come thick and fast.
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book. Bob Berman took a subject I was only halfway interested in, and made me, by the end of the reading, think that the sun is probably the most fascinating object in the sky. Berman writes so well---with a light but not silly touch, with enthusiasm and with a gift for explaining complicated concepts in a way that makes them both easy to understand and compelling to read about.

I was vaguely aware of the importance of sunspots before reading this, due to my father being a ham radio operator, but now I realize how exceedingly important they are. I was already planning to try to see the next solar eclipse in the US in 2017, but now I am going to make it a life goal---Berman's descriptions of seeing total solar eclipses make you feel like your life would be incomplete without seeing on. I've always loved to see rainbows, but now I understand them much better.

The scary part of the book is the talk about global warming. I understand now that is is real, and why the sun's changing moods can make it seem not as bad as it is. It's extremely frightening, and anyone who doubts it should read this book.

The last chapter, about how the sun will be at the end of its life, was beautifully written. It makes me realize that what happens to Earth, although of course of extreme importance to you and me, in on a global scale not at all important. We live because of the sun, the sun doesn't depend on us in any way, and it will be here long after we are long gone.

Highly recommended!
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