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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

SolderSmoke Book Review: "The Day We Found the Universe"

    I find myself reading a lot of books about telescopes and cosmology.  I guess this is related to the desire to pull weak DX signals out of the noise. And I like the descriptions of the gear used to pull info out of the star light.  These are, after all, big antennas.   
    I really enjoyed this book by MIT's Marcia Bartusiak. She describes humanity's effort to find our place in the cosmos.  As she points out, the conventional wisdom seems to be that until Edwin Hubble came along everyone thought that the Milky Way was the universe.  As it turns out, it is not that simple -- going back to the time of Kant, there were scientists who suspected that the nebula that were showing up in telescopes were in fact "island universes."  Bartusiak takes us through the ups and downs of this idea, and in the course of the book provides some really great descriptions of the astronomers involved in the struggle to understand the nebulae.  Most of them were great people.  Others, well, not so great.  George Ellery Hale comes out as one of the heroes, and Bartusiak seeks to refute the notion that Hale was schizophrenic -- he was clearly suffering from depression, but Bartusiak says that the story about him being advised by a "little elf" was just an oft-repeated myth. Edwin Hubble gets a decidedly mixed review.   

My guess is that the title was selected by the publishing company's marketeers, and I think it was a poor choice:  the whole point of the book was that we didn't find the universe in one day.  It took a lot longer than that!      

Anyway, if you are looking for a good summer read, I recommend this book.  You can get a copy through the link above. 

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm Our coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmoke Our Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20

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