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Book Reviews


About Time
Author: Adam Frank

Publisher: Oneworld Publications

ISBN: 978-1-8516-8909-5

Price: £12.99 (Pb), 406pp


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There are two parallel narrative streams in About Time. One relates how our human experience of time has evolved from a Palaeolithic bone etched with lunar phases through sundials, clocks, electric telegraph and the invention of time zones to make railway timetables workable. The other unfolds our scientific understanding of time; essentially a history of cosmology from Ptolemy and the Copernican revolution, through Newton's absolute time, its overthrow by relativity, the short-comings of the standard inflationary hot big bang and some alternatives: the multiverse and ekpyrotic universe models.

The central thesis of Frank is that these two streams are inextricably coupled, that our science of time has been moulded by social time and vice versa. The links between the two stories are artfully made so although I was sceptical about the author's approach when I opened the book, by the end I felt he had made a prima facie case.

About Time is not as comprehensive as I would have liked. Frank tells us nothing about how time was viewed by philosophers (e.g., Aristotle, Kant, Mach), nor does he stray from the western tradition. There is nothing about atomic clocks, nor about why we now use UTC, which distances us from the age-old astronomical measure of time by the Earth's rotation. Nor is there anything about time travel. Frank is at his best when he discusses how modern cosmology has developed. His broad-brush exposition is uncluttered by technical details, yet he introduces critical and difficult arguments, such as those about entropy and the Universe, easily and painlessly.

About Time is not the last word on time, but it is a novel, popular level approach, and for anyone wanting to explore cosmology for the first time, this would be a good place to start.

Alan Longstaff

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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