Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Cosmos for Beginners

In a bookstore in London, I just happened to notice and buy this brand new book, The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide. For educational outreach purposes, I'm always looking for new material and books to recommend. Although it's written to accompany a new BBC series which I haven't seen, the book stands on its own as a brief, highly readable, nicely illustrated introduction to the universe as we now know it today. I like the way it integrates space exploration and astronomy and includes some of the latest information on the search for "exoplanets" (planets outside our solar system) and on the latest ground based as well as space based astronomy instruments. It's very up to date with references and pictures from early 2007. The book also does a nice job of connecting other science fields (e.g., particle accelerators and "extremophiles," bacteria and other life forms found in extreme environments on Earth) with space and astronomy, as in the quest to understand the universe just after the big bang, and the search for life beyond Earth.

I have many space and astronomy books, but this is one of the few that I have read from cover to cover (many in this genre are closer to reference books). I believe adults as well as older children (say 12 and up) will enjoy this book. It's written in a lighthearted style with excellent explanations and analogies to help readers understand the complexities of astronomical discoveries. I believe the book will be available in the US soon. There's a companion web site for the TV series, but I haven't had time to look at it.

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