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Book Reviews


Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context
Editors: Steven J. Dick & Mark Lupisella

Publisher: NASA History Series

ISBN: 978-0-16-083119-5

Price: $ 61 (Hb), 612pp


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Fourteen of the world’s leading astronomers and scientists have come together to produce what could be the most important of the many volumes America’s space agency NASA has produced in the study of cosmic evolution following 50 years of human and scientific spaceflight. Many are deeply involved in SETI, the search for life on other worlds, and one of them, Howard Bloom, says evolution is shouting a message at us: get as many species as possible of fish, reptiles  and mammals ‘off this dangerous scrap of stone and find new niches for life’ before the whole experiment of life dies in some perfectly normal cosmic catastrophe.

Others are not quite so extreme, though astronomer Seth Shoshak refers to the need for humans to migrate to nearby realms of the Solar System within the next 100 years. He argues that humans “may pass through a short self-destruction bottleneck and survive for very long time periods after dispersal in space, giving rise to many long-lived civilizations throughout the Galaxy”.

Steven J Dick, NASA’s former Chief Historian, astronomer and historian of science at the US Naval Observatory, has edited this study of human ideas from Greece’s Heraclitus through Darwin, H G Wells, Gerard O’Neill and Carl Sagan, who first spoke of ‘the Cosmic Connection’. His contributors include two women, one of them Susan Blackmore of Bristol University, a parapsychologist who practices Zen. The other, also British, is Kathryn Denning, an anthropologist/archaeologist at York University.

The studies include Russia, but China is mentioned only once for its energy consumption.  It is a difficult but immensely worth while read, and one wonders whether the predicted ‘bottleneck’ might be the US government’s recent decision to abandon human spaceflight to private enterprise, leaving a space vacuum which China may decide to fill.

Cosmos and Culture is delightfully illustrated with superimposed images of colourful globular star clusters, an array of atoms, and the complex stained glass window of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral.تتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتتت

Reg Turnill

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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