OATs 2020: Titles about Astronautics & Astronomy

This week's sneak peek from our 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list: Books about Astronautics & Astronomy

Image of An Intro to Radio Astronomy Book Cover

Enjoy this week’s select snippet from the Choice 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list.

1. Introduction to radio astronomy
Bernard F. Burke, Francis Graham-Smith, and Peter N. Wilkinson Cambridge, 2019

The fourth edition of this standard work by Burke (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and colleagues Graham-Smith and Wilkinson (both, Univ. of Manchester) includes enough additional material that it is effectively a new book. As before, the first half of the text introduces technical considerations in the use of radio telescopes, interferometers, and image processing. Of great assistance in achieving an understanding of the sometimes challenging concepts is that the derivations of mathematical expressions are accompanied by scholarly explanation of the physics underlying the equations. Recognizing that there are new applications of interferometers and synthesis arrays requiring high dynamic range and image fidelity, the authors include comprehensive discussion of correlation, digitization, and modern techniques of image restoration. The book concludes with a masterful summary of the recent extraordinary advances in our knowledge of the universe and its constituents.
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Image of Astrophysics of Planet Formation Book Cover

2. Astrophysics of planet formation
Armitage, Philip J. Cambridge, 2020

More than four thousand exoplanets, meaning planets beyond our solar system, had been discovered by March 2020. Many are of different types than our eight planets, and they exist in planetary systems of many different kinds, including binary star systems, illuminated by two different “suns.” Exoplanets often are found to follow orbits quite unlike those of our local planets. These diverse circumstances are even harder to explain than the origin of the Earth and its near neighbors, a process still incompletely understood. This work is a highly mathematical textbook, drawing on many subdisciplines in physics, chemistry, and geophysics, and designed to train specialists in this complex and rapidly evolving discipline. Armitage (State Univ. of New York at Stony Brook) is an expert on computational astronomy who has written and lectured widely on planetary formation. The field is rapidly changing, with continuing discoveries and theoretical advances, justifying this second edition, and no doubt future editions to come. View on Amazon

Image of The Cosmic Revolutionary's Handbook Book Cover

3. The cosmic revolutionary’s handbook: (or: how to beat the big bang)
by Luke A. Barnes and Geraint F. Lewis Cambridge, 2020

The general educated public has heard about many key terms of modern science: “evolution,” “virus,” “quantum theory,” and the “big bang,” for example. But the framework and methodology of science are barely understood by most. This situation prompts outsiders to speak, write, and publish rash and nonsensical claims about science and its limitations. Here, Barnes (Western Sydney Univ.) and Lewis (Sydney Institute for Astronomy) inform the general reader about many fascinating aspects of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. The book is full of scientific facts and clarifying figures. More importantly, it clarifies the routes that lead to major scientific results as well as the traffic rules governing those routes. Readers will gain a more than nodding acquaintance with the basics of astrophysics, including magnetic monopoles, dark matter, the inflationary model, and related key concepts. It is unlikely that this book will silence the many anti-science and dissatisfied-with-science grumblers who will continue churning their own interpretations of the natural world.
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Image of The Little Book of Cosmology  Book Cover

4. The little book of cosmology
Page, Lyman A. Princeton, 2020

Page, an experimenter who has contributed much to the field of cosmology, here superbly summarizes existing knowledge on the nature of the universe. He provides clear and accurate explanations of cosmic evolution from the origin of the universe to the present state. Understanding the text requires minimal mathematics, but the reader needs to be at ease with physics. The role of gravity, the constancy of the speed of light, the expansion of space itself, and measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) are stressed, along with the less familiar concept of quantum fluctuations in “empty space,” in both the early universe and that of later times (i.e., the one we inhabit at present). The book will reward a faithful reader, whether a trained astronomer who wants to bone up on cosmology or a bright high school physics student who reads above grade level. Having described the standard model of cosmology, in conclusion Page admits that “… we do not know what space is.” In fact, since this book was written a new controversy has surfaced involving highly precise but conflicting measurements of the expansion of the universe. Perhaps this “little book” will inspire that young student to go out and resolve the dispute.
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Image of Lectures of Astrophysics Book Cover

5. Lectures on astrophysics
Weinberg, Steven. Cambridge, 2020

Professor Weinberg (physics and astronomy, Univ. of Texas at Austin) is well known as joint recipient (with Sheldon Glashow and Abdus Salam) of the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics and a prolific author whose works include the 1972 classic Gravitation and Cosmology as well as more recent titles addressing educated lay audiences—for example, the retrospective collection Third Thoughts (CH, Feb’19, 56-2405) and two historical accounts of the development of physics (To Explain the World, CH, Aug’15, 52-6367 and The Discovery of Subatomic Particles, CH, Mar’04, 41-4104). He describes this current book as “an introduction to the more traditional nuts and bolts aspects of astrophysics: the properties of single and binary stars, the phenomena associated with interstellar matter, and the structure of galaxies.” It is based on lectures delivered in 2016 and 2017. In a text that is clear and concise, and supported by analytical equations that do not require a computer to solve, Weinberg frequently offers the reader insight into the essential physical concepts by doing approximate calculations.
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