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Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
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Book Club 2014 > December 2014 - Origins

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message 1: by Betsy, co-mod (new)

Betsy | 1703 comments Mod
We will be reading Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution for December 2014. Please use this thread to post questions, comments, and reviews, at any time.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Just started it. Sometimes I read the negative reviews (1 and 2 star) on Amazon and GR before reading a book just to see if they have any merit. Often these low reviews are a bit off the wall, as some were with this book (which were probably brought on by jabs at religion,)

One comment that I am finding has some merit is the that the authors can be a bit redundant at times as they are in the case of the matter/antimatter imbalance.

David Rubenstein | 900 comments Mod
Steve, I agree somewhat. I am 2/3rds of the way through the book. I think that the two authors dealt out the chapters ahead of time, and wrote them without carefully reading what the other author wrote and modifying accordingly. I can see clear differences in the style of writing between chapters.

Still, it is a very good book. I can recommend it to everybody.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments That makes sense, David. I'll bear that in mind as I continue reading.

David Rubenstein | 900 comments Mod
I finished the book, and posted my review. I especially like how the title of the book, "Origins", truly describes the central theme. The book describes how important structures--and life--originated in the universe. By keeping to this theme, the book has a coherent organization. The writing style(s) is engaging, not overly technical, and the book contains some beautiful photographs.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Nice review, David. I am also enjoying the humor, such as when after stating that an asteroid of a certain size would most likely wipe out most of land-based life, the author states: "That would be bad."

For those interested in the latest on the cosmic microwave background, check this out:

The Planck satellite has gone the WMAP satellite one better and the details are stunning. The photographic interpretations of small areas look like beautiful Van Gogh paintings.

message 7: by Avik (new)

Avik | 10 comments @Steve
thanks for the link to the Planck results. You are spot-on about the analogy with van Gogh's works! Planck's bold strokes does remind one of Gogh's sunflower fields, or starry night, or potatoes :)

I wonder how the Planck detected the impression on photons due to interaction with neutrinos. These bloody particles are notoriously shy and requires huge experimental set-ups to detect to any reasonable accuracy. The Planck satellite cannot be that big to house a conventional neutrino detector. It must be some new technology they are using, or an indirect away (as with the Higgs' boson at the LHC); I would have to wait till Dec 22 for the entire paper in order to know.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Avik, please let us know what the paper adds if you care to.

David Rubenstein | 900 comments Mod
Woah! It really does look like a van Gogh painting!

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Careful, or we'll start another conspiracy theory.

message 11: by Avik (new)

Avik | 10 comments You mean Dan Brown shouldn't read this thread?!?! ;) :D

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Just read the first chapter in the origin of life section. The authors may have created a false dichotomy between the "pondists" and the "ventists" as those of us who read last month's selection, Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins should know. There may well be other origin scenarios that don't involve warm tidal ponds or deep sea hydrothermal vents. But I have more to read.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Just finished. I found myself looking at the stunning photo of spiral galaxy NGC 3370 (image #10), which is very similar in size and shape to the Milky Way, and wondering: Is it possible that there is a being, at home, somewhere in one of those spiral arms, sitting in his comfortable reclining chair, with something similar to my Samsung Galaxy (!) Tablet in his lap, looking at an equally stunning photo of the Milky Way Galaxy taken by a space telescope orbiting his planet? I hope so.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments This book reminded me of one I read probably 30 years ago, The Collapsing Universe by Isaac Asimov. I still had a copy and decided to read it again. Carl Sagan called Asimov "The Great Explainer" and this book by him is a good example. Anyone who read this month's selection might also enjoy Asimov's book and may be surprised at how much he got right when he had to go out on a limb. Here's my review of Asimov's book:

Tomislav | 14 comments Just read the chapter on "The Origin on Structures" where the authors mention that at the time of writing, the James Webb Space Telescope was scheduled to go into operation in 2011. It looks like the launch is now set for 2018. Here's the official website

message 16: by Tomislav (last edited Dec 30, 2014 12:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tomislav | 14 comments I'm reading sections of this book in between other books, and it seems well suited to that.

I just read Part IV on The Origin of Planets. This book was published in 2004, about 10 years ago. At that time, 100 exoplanets had been identified by measuring Doppler effect on spectra. At this date, there are several thousand known exoplanets, some identified through direct observation with the Keplar Space Telescope (launched 2009). The smallest known are less than 1 Earth in size. Have those tenuous theories of planetary origin evolved? I think this section needs a re-write.

Tomislav | 14 comments Finished the book today. Even though there doesn't seem to be much discussion going on, my updates on the last section are that the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft has been exploring Saturn for the past ten years now. The Huygens Lander has photographed the surface of Titan in 2005 and confirmed theories about a landscape of solid ice eroded by liquid methane. Hydrocarbon lakes on the surface have been surveyed and even named. Secondly, a fly-by of Enceladus, a smaller moon of Saturn, has identified that it has an under-surface body of water, complete with geysers spewing salty water-ice into space. A list of potential sites of life in the solar system should now include Enceladus.

In summary, I found this to be a very introductory and somewhat aged overview. But still inspiring enough to drive me to further reading.

Steve Van Slyke (steve_van_slyke) | 376 comments Either Universe Today was eavesdropping on us here or they came up with the same idea about the Planck images looking like Van Gogh's Starry Night, or they simply came up with the same idea.

See here how they morphed the Planck image into Van Gogh's painting:

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