Read Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos by Alan W. Hirshfeld Online

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How can we measure the distance to a star? Beginning in ancient Greece, history's greatest scientific minds applied themselves to the problem in vain. Not until the nineteenth century would three men, armed with the best telescopes of their age, race to conquer this astronomical Everest. Parallax tells the fast-moving story of their contest, which ended in a dead heat. AgaHow can we measure the distance to a star? Beginning in ancient Greece, history's greatest scientific minds applied themselves to the problem in vain. Not until the nineteenth century would three men, armed with the best telescopes of their age, race to conquer this astronomical Everest. Parallax tells the fast-moving story of their contest, which ended in a dead heat. Against a sweeping backdrop filled with kidnappings, dramatic rescue, swordplay, madness, and bitter rivalry, Alan W. Hirshfeld brings to life the heroes -- and heroines -- of this remarkable chapter in history. Characters include the destitute boy plucked from a collapsed building who grew up to become the world's greatest telescope maker; the hot-tempered Dane whose nose was lopped off in a duel over mathematics; a merchant's apprentice forced to choose between the lure of money and his passion for astronomy; and the musician who astounded the world by discovering a new planet from his own backyard.Generously illustrated with period engravings and paintings, Parallax is an unforgettable ride through time and space....

Title : Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780805071337
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos Reviews

  • Lydia
    2018-10-06 22:36

    My dad gave me this book when it first came out, while I was in high school. The mathy details were over my head then, but I loved the history stuff--and it convinced me to start my first year of college with a class on science journalism. Well, that career path ended almost as soon as it began. And, it turns out, my eyes still glaze over at the math formulas and detailed specs for telescopes in this book. But, I get the general idea, and love everything else about it. Plus the author reminds me a lot of my dad, so, warm fuzzies.

  • Ari
    2018-09-28 02:34

    The first half drags a bit -- the author insists on retelling the story of pre-Copernican astronomy. Even in this part of the book, however, I learned a bit. The story gets much better in the second half. There's a lot of material I had never seen before about the evolution of observing practice from Tycho to Bessel. Several of the anecdotes were new to me.There is a chapter on Bradley's discovery of the aberration of light. (Parallax is a change in apparent position due to change in the observer's position -- aberration is a change due to observer's velocity.) He also highlights something I had never heard of before. Newton and friends managed to estimate the distance to Sirius, by an indirect process. First, they assumed Sirius and the Sun have equal apparent magnitude. Next, they estimated the relative brightness of Sirius and Saturn, and calculated the relative brightness of Saturn and the Sun by theoretical means. This ultimately got an estimate for the distance to Sirius within a factor of two -- which seems very good, given how crude the method was.Many chapters start with autobiographical asides. I assume this is to humanize the author, but I want to hear about the topic, not the author, and don't need to hear about what it's like to drive to Arecibo.

  • Aina
    2018-10-04 23:32

    A mind-boggling story of a quest (that took hundreds of years, many exceptionally brilliant astronomers and a technological revolution in the telescope making) to measure a star parallax, a change in the apparent position of a star when viewed from the opposite ends of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. "In this book, you will peer over the shoulders of these astronomers as they investigate the heavens. You will have the opportunity to commiserate with them in their crushing failures and revel in their rare successes. You will read of kidnappings, dramatic rescues, swordplay, madness, professional jealousy, hypochondria, and enough angst to fill a universe." The book also contains quite a bit of information that is not a common knowledge, so even as a seasoned astronomer you will learn something new. Even if you don't, this book is literally like a dessert for your brain, so delicious to read!

  • Daisy2
    2018-10-02 00:40

    Very interesting history. I love it that the book included names of individuals whose life of poverty did not prevent them from making their mark in science. We often hear of the poor struggling artist but when I mention the poor scientist that struggled and yet made their mark people chuckle.

  • Bird
    2018-10-19 00:35

    Another science history, this is of astronomers and the, um, well can't call it a race if it lasted a millenia, eh? But that aside, fascinating. If you don't want to name your kid, or someone else's, Tycho Brahe after reading this you weren't paying attention.

  • ben
    2018-10-20 00:15

    This book was very interesting, but for the scientifically minded. It has a bit of physics and calculus in it. Otherwise, it looked at the social impact astronomy has had on the western world in a chronological way.

  • David
    2018-09-30 19:24

    A bit verbose but enjoyable. A bit like reading a dozen biographies with a common thread. Which is wahat one would expect.

  • Sherin Samir
    2018-10-04 21:17

    Sometimes difficult to comment on the extent of admiration book and what manner the author in writing, this book from that group

  • David
    2018-10-15 23:35

    A truly inspiring story of the struggles in observational Astronomy. Great read!

  • Nevin
    2018-10-07 23:31

    Engrossing, and well written. A great historical account of astronomy.

  • Amanda
    2018-09-30 20:28

    full of good random facts for non astronomers, decent writer, a little scattered

  • Jeff Genest
    2018-10-04 03:17

    If you have any interest in astronomy you will find this book engaging as it traces the 2000 year history in search of reliable methods and increasingly more equipment to measure the distance to the stars. While the concept of how parallax works is simple, anyone with some basic trig can understand it, stellar distances are so enormous that small errors in measurement throw the calculations way off. That may seem obvious to a modern scientist but it was no so apparent to the men and women whose passion to explore the stars got us to where we are today.