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The Human Cosmos: A Secret History of the Stars

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  20 reviews
An historically unprecedented disconnect between humanity and the heavens has opened. Jo Marchant's book can begin to heal it.

For at least 20,000 years, we have led not just an earthly existence but a cosmic one. Celestial cycles drove every aspect of our daily lives. Our innate relationship with the stars shaped who we are--our art, religious beliefs, social status, scie
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by Dutton Books
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Krista
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Looking back over the history of our relationship with the cosmos shows how we’ve banished gods, debunked myths and written our own, evidence-based, creation story. Stripping out subjective meaning and focusing on quantifiable observations has given us an epic power to understand and shape the world that dwarfs anything that has gone before. But unchecked, it has the potential to be a cold, narcissistic, destructive force. This is a book about how we closed our eyes to the stars. The challeng
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Natalie (CuriousReader)
The space-themed books of 2020 continues. Jo Marchant’s The Human Cosmos looks in a wider sense at human’s connection with what is ‘out there’ both from a historical point of view (how this relationship has evolved over time) as well as the multi-disciplinary effect the connection has had. Marchant sets out to explore how humans viewing off, studying, wondering and marvelling at the stars and space has influenced our lives; ranging from politics, time keeping, technological innovations, ideas of ...more
David Wineberg
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For all of Man’s time on Earth, the skies have played an outsized role. In a remarkable and engrossing book called The Human Cosmos, Jo Tarant has gathered evidence from all of history and before, demonstrating the deep penetration and influence of the cosmos on the way Man thinks, behaves, and believes. The result is a literary journey unlike any other I have read. It is so varied and yet so deep, it makes the reader want to plow into each subject she tackles even more. Whether it’s archaeology ...more
Ian
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mind Blowing!

What a wonderful read and was excited to learn so much more about the cosmos than I did before.

There were a small number of names, dates, inventions, discoveries I knew about from watching Discovery Channel, Science & History channels, National Geography books and TV shows, but there was so much more I did not know.

I thought the placement of the chapters was excellent as they flowed into each other with ease and simplicity.

And, now I know where the Barenaked Ladies got the idea fo
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Victoria Young
Oct 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cool introduction to a lot of history and philosophy of science concepts. Marchant uses humankind’s relationship with the cosmos as a neat vehicle to explore how we know what we know, covering topics like the beginnings of mathematics and measurement, the shift from humanism to enlightenment thinking and the interplay between our sense of self versus an infinite indifferent universe. The socio-political factors that contribute to society’s acceptance of different ways of understanding the univer ...more
Caroline Middleton
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This ambitious cultural study of humanity's connection with the celestial landscape is an astronomical treat!

Marchant's passion for the stars is clear, her ability to connect disparate anecdotes from history - much like a constellation - and formulate them into insightful, utterly original arguments is what makes this book such a success. My favourite chapters were Time and Power - how the lunar and solar cycles were reconciled into a multitude of different calendars, how clepsydras (water clock
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Kee Onn
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In the days before lamps and clocks, the night sky is an ever-present entity looming above our ancestors, its variegated displays and steady repetition inspiring creation myths and timekeeping practices. Seeking to understand the cosmos and our place in it, humans have devised increasingly complex models of mathematics, clocks, and abstract geometry - which brought us closer to understanding the universe, but at the same time detached our everyday lives from the source of inspiration. This book ...more
Felicia Edens
Nov 14, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
I used to be able to read long, comprehensive books such as this one that cover a lot of history and biography, however, it doesn't seem right for where I'm at in my life right now. There are so many fascinating themes and topics within the book (such as the positions of the planets and their orbits, the different ways people understood the cosmos from ancient times to today, and the importance of ancient art in showing how the cosmos influenced humanity's understanding of creation) but I'd pref ...more
DRugh
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A great reminder that we are just a small part of a much much larger ecosystem. The chapters on life, consciousness, and myth interested me the most.
Ben Rogers
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Lots of history (not my favorite).

Some good parts though (yay).

But still lots of speculation instead of science (hmm).

2.7/5
Autumn
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathleen
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Funny, I see how science has taken away our personally experiences, how we are more disconnected from nature than ever before. Yet, I don’t see the universe as only science— I see us humans as “evolved” but just as connected to the rest of the universe than any other aspect of our galaxy. I’m an atheist. I don’t agree with Christianity is that we are above or better than nature. We are nature. We are equal to all animals and aspects of life. When I look at the stars, I feel the most connected to ...more
IvanOpinion
An interesting perspective on the interaction between human beliefs and our beliefs and knowledge of the world beyond the Earth. Although Marchant is arguing that hard science is not the be-all-and-end-all, she is not anti-science and gives a fair account of how and why scientific beliefs evolved. I'm not necessarily convinced by all of the arguments for giving greater weight to our experience and feelings, but I was pleased to learn more about some current ways of thinking. I thought the argume ...more
Bryce Wojo
Nov 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Marchant takes us on a trip through human history to see how the cosmos has influenced our thoughts and behaviour; from our cave dwelling ancestors to Russian avant-garde artists to our increasingly isolated lives today looking at screens under a sky full of light pollution. And I was hooked on every chapter.

This is predominantly a history book and I learned of many stories and people I’ve never known. There are 55 pages of citations so this is well researched work. The only drag for
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danny ramos
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
* Humans have always been fascinated by the night sky and for millennia, celestial objects were the basis of society
* As western society evolved, we lost our reliance on the cosmos. instead if it being interwoven into our lives, science reduced the physical world to a mystery of Objective Reality to Be Revealed
* The same science that separated us from the cosmos has introduced new mysteries in the 20th-21st century, reviving questions about whether we live in an interconnected cosmic universe
David
Dec 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, kindle
An interesting discussion of our view of the Universe - from myths to astrology to our current scientific perspective. Merchant argues that we’ve lost touch with the Universe - even astronomers rely on sensors and computers rather than their eyes. Finding a way to be truly awestruck by Universe might be the antidote to the problems in our world, so say some of the philosopher-physicists that Marchant interviews. Maybe: stargazing is an awesome hobby and having one’s head in the stars isn’t such ...more
Eileen Gebbie, Reverential
I so enjoyed the first few chapters that it is hard to believe I'm not even going to finish the book. But the absence of illustrations (and thus the need to look up the core issues of the book elsewhere), the repetitive structure of the chapters, and the substantial, multiple-dissertations-worth of claims put me off. While the the end matter shows substantial research, and I know this is a text for general readers, it did not work for me. ...more
Gregg
Great book on the intersection of humanity and the cosmos.
Ian Wilson
Dec 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked this book - It wasn't life changing but was interesting. ...more
Beth
Oct 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Fascinating. Well researched. Engaging.
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JO MARCHANT is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about cutting-edge science. She has worked as a staff reporter and editor for Nature and New Scientist, where she is currently a consultant. She lives in London.

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