Ossus Library Index Non-Fiction Index


By Bob Berman (1998, William Morrow and Company, Inc)

A guide to try and clear up some astronomical misunderstandings and little known facts using humour and personal experiences.



2 stars

Read February 15th to 18th, 2000  
    I felt like I was reading columns from a magazine, day after day.  Maybe I was.  The author claims in the introduction that in the book he is able to expand his columns.  I should have been warned. 

The problem is that he babbles, on and on. 

I was expecting astronomy turned fun, with some anecdotes and some humour.  That's what I got, but the anecdotes were too personal (to the author) and seemed mostly irrelevant, and the humour was too short. 

What annoyed me the most, however, was the consistent use of degrees Fahrenheit!  Sure, the average American (probably more than just that) uses that unit of temperature, but no astronomer does.  The subtitle to this one was A Renegade Astronomer's Guide to Astronomy.  In this, he's just too renegade for me.  Miles I can understand, as that's still used even in scientific places.  But Fahrenheit?  Ew!

His topics ranged from time, to excitement, to compulsions, to a wonderful piece about the Moon.  He lists the five most exciting things in the sky, and I think I have to agree with them, though I've only seen two (a solar halo, and aurora). 

I liked some of the chapters, which were almost completely independent of each other, and I disliked some.  But most were simply there, neither waiting for me to like them or to dislike them.  Mostly it was stuff that I knew already.  Presented well, I could sit through them, secure in verifying my knowledge.  But one goof right at the end makes me wonder how well he's done his research.  He describes how the province of Ontario was completely blacked out by the March 1989 solar flare, when actually it was Quebec.  How I remember it well.  That's when I saw the most amazing aurora I've ever seen. 

I would say this book is a good read for someone casually interested in astronomy.  After all, it did make me go outside and look up after reading it.


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