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Most Helpful Favorable Review
4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.
Fun and easy read.
@ Pbaum: You make valid points about some of the errors in the book (Thor being one) but you must consider who the target audience is for this book. This isn't a scientific draft, this is a book that laymen and older children can read and actually grasp. If the title and cover art didn't get that accross to you I don't know what would. Lastly, when you reference Keck not being the largest telescope, you are correct but with a caveat. You fail to mention that at the time Mike Brown made his discoveries Keck WAS the largest telescope(s). The GTC didn't come on line until July 2009, almost five years after the discoveries were made. You're splitting hairs where it isn't necessary.
posted by CFHinLA on October 9, 2011Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Most Helpful Critical Review
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.
Detailed Review Including Factual Errors
posted by pbaum on February 17, 2011Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2011
Detailed Review Including Factual Errors
This book reflects the degree to which the general public disregards real science and scholarship. It starts off as a wonderful read. We quickly are drawn into a story. Brown describes personal experiences, such as living in a cabin, meeting his future wife, going on their honeymoon, the gestation and birth of his first child, confrontations with bloggers and with fellow scientists, and other adventures. Sometimes the author broods under the dome of a famous telescope. References to science seem to be thrown in to provide a nice title, give the story a little flavor, and make sure that the protagonist appears very successful at some chosen profession. For this reader the spell was broken on Page 19, as I read, "And it is no wonder that all our basic units of time are based on the sky." Most scientists know that the basic unit of time is the second, and its astronomical connections were severed more than 50 years ago. The book continues with ".A year traced the time it took for the sun to go all the way around the sky to reappear at the same location again." The description is for what is called the sidereal year, and it differs from what is known as the tropical or solar year that we use in our ordinary calendars. Next are the sentences, "The seven days of the week are even named after the seven original planets. "Thor was the Norse king of the gods, like Jupiter, and Friday is the day of Venus in the guise of the Norse Frigga, the goddess of married love." The proposition that Thor was the "Norse King of the gods" will be noted as an error both by scholars of Norse Mythology familiar with the Prose Edda and probably by anyone who has read the Marvel Comic Thor. Thor is not even the ruler of Asgard. That is the role of his father, Odin. The Norse name for the planet Venus was Friggjarstjarna which can be translated as 'Frigg's star'. Saying that Friday is named for the goddess Frigg is different from saying it is named for Frigg's star or a planet. Within a single page of the book my feelings had gone from enjoyment and trust to wondering whether or not anything I read was true. I winced at grammatical and typographical errors and inconsistencies. On page 74 I read "I was flying out to Hawaii to use one of the the (sic) Keck telescopes-the largest telescopes in the world-to take a first really good look at Object X." The Keck telescopes on Hawaii are 10 meter instruments. Larger still are the 10.4 meter Gran Telescopio Canarias and 11.9 meter Large Binocular Telescope. Issues of care and scholarship turned out to be systemic. I found the most interesting and disturbing idea on pages 242-243. Here Mike Brown states that he would never write down a precise definition of "planet." Instead he believes that there should be only an imprecise description of the concept of a planet. Essentially he worries that a precise written definition is legalistic, flawed, and would require adjudication for any conflict regarding its application that might arise. I believe there are flaws in all of our definitions and concepts, and discussions about these flaws are important. Having nothing written in precise form tends to hide important issues. Books that accurately portray scientific investigation are important. Although this is not such a book, they are available. Examples include the works of Richard Feynman, Bernd Heinrich, and Donald Kroodsma.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 27, 2011
Posted June 26, 2011
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