From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System

From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System

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by John Chambers, Jacqueline Mitton
     
 

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The birth and evolution of our solar system is a tantalizing mystery that may one day provide answers to the question of human origins. This book tells the remarkable story of how the celestial objects that make up the solar system arose from common beginnings billions of years ago, and how scientists and philosophers have sought to unravel this mystery down

Overview

The birth and evolution of our solar system is a tantalizing mystery that may one day provide answers to the question of human origins. This book tells the remarkable story of how the celestial objects that make up the solar system arose from common beginnings billions of years ago, and how scientists and philosophers have sought to unravel this mystery down through the centuries, piecing together the clues that enabled them to deduce the solar system's layout, its age, and the most likely way it formed.

Drawing on the history of astronomy and the latest findings in astrophysics and the planetary sciences, John Chambers and Jacqueline Mitton offer the most up-to-date and authoritative treatment of the subject available. They examine how the evolving universe set the stage for the appearance of our Sun, and how the nebulous cloud of gas and dust that accompanied the young Sun eventually became the planets, comets, moons, and asteroids that exist today. They explore how each of the planets acquired its unique characteristics, why some are rocky and others gaseous, and why one planet in particular--our Earth--provided an almost perfect haven for the emergence of life.

From Dust to Life is a must-read for anyone who desires to know more about how the solar system came to be. This enticing book takes readers to the very frontiers of modern research, engaging with the latest controversies and debates. It reveals how ongoing discoveries of far-distant extrasolar planets and planetary systems are transforming our understanding of our own solar system's astonishing history and its possible fate.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
10/14/2013
Planetary scientist Chambers and astronomy consultant Mitton trace the development of Western theories about the makeup of the solar system, from the Earth-centric model—which couldn’t account for such problems as the retrograde movement of the planets—to the current eight-planet model. They admit that “the jigsaw is not yet complete” (celestial bodies like asteroids, meteors, and comets remain imperfectly understood) but are convinced that science has come far enough to be certain of a great deal. Their painstaking explanations for lay readers outline the methods used for gauging such things as planetary age, as well as major theories about how our moon formed—the most widely accepted being that it broke off from Earth as a result of a collision with a giant meteor. They also briefly address the evolution of life on Earth and why we’re not likely to find complex forms on other planets in our vicinity. While the book is intended for general readers, an understanding of basic physics and geology is helpful. Despite the authors’ best efforts, some sections are not clearly explained, such as the one on “resonances” in the asteroid belt. Still, there is much solid information to be gleaned from careful reading. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"[T]here is much solid information to be gleaned from careful reading."Publishers Weekly

"[A] stellar read."Nature

"This is not your average tour of our solar system. Using clear, relatively jargon-free language, Chambers and Mitton provide a comprehensive examination of our current understanding of its formation, which should readily appeal to the general reader who enjoys scientific detail without getting into equations."Library Journal

"I recently built an app about the solar system, and my research would have been made a lot easier if I had possessed a copy of this excellent book. It provides a truly comprehensive overview of our solar system's origins and is written in plain, jargon-free language."—Marcus Chown,New Scientist

"Chambers and Mitton stay focused on the science in From Dust to Life: unlike other books that create narratives around the scientists, they discuss the science and the history of its development, rather than the individuals who made it possible. That's a worthwhile trade: while there have been, and are today, interesting people studying the formation of the solar system, the science is even more fascinating as we find out just how complex the process is to turn a cloud of gas and dust into a star and planets."—Jeff Foust, Space Review

"[I]ncredibly thorough and detailed, yet very accessible to non-scientists too. . . . [A] compelling overview of the evolution of the Solar System."—Katia Moskvitch, BBC Sky at Night

"Read From Dust to Life to gain a fascinating perspective on the current state of the science behind solar system formation."—David Dickinson, Astro Guys blog

"This wild ride across the cosmos and through time covers a lot of territory but isn't merely a laundry list of observations. Instead, readers will find one lucid explanation piggybacked onto another. . . . The authors, a planetary scientist and a space science writer, make celestial mechanics comprehensible even to readers with more curiosity than scientific background. Yet there are still insights for those who regularly pore over the astronomy stories in Science News. Best of all, the authors help readers glimpse the why of it all."Science News

"This book . . . is accessible to a scientifically literate general reader. . . . The author team is eminently qualified . . . one is a well-known planetary scientist and the other an experienced science writer. The result of their efforts is a highly readable book."Star Formation Newsletter

"Chambers and Mitton present a well-researched, detailed, big-picture overview of the solar system that shows how all of people's observations of its contents contribute to a coherent model for its origin. The authors place the modern theory and latest observations in historical context by beginning each chapter with an overview of the development of these scientific ideas from their beginning."Choice

"This book is up-to date, thorough, and authoritative. It revels in the latest discussions and controversies. . . . It is a joy to read and is accessible to any student with a scientific background. . . . Read this book. Join the cosmogonists and help change the cosmogony/cosmology ratio."—David W. Hughes, Observatory

"For the interested amateur with a degree of familiarity with the topics under discussion, From Dust to Life furnishes a comprehensive overview of current models for the formation of the solar system. . . . Genuinely exciting."—Cait MacPhee, Times Higher Education

Library Journal
10/15/2013
Given the subtitle, one might expect this book to restrict its subject matter to the sun, planets, and other local objects. However, after beginning with an overview of what we know about our solar system, how we came to know it, and what our scientific models explain about both the general characteristics and anomalies within the system, Chambers (planetary science, Carnegie Inst. for Science) and PhD astronomer Mitton (Titan Unveiled) provide more extensive background. The authors discuss the origin of the universe, stellar evolution, and galactic structure, while keeping everything within the context of how these phenomena help explain the formation and evolution of our own system. As they describe characteristics of different bodies (e.g., planets), they outline competing proposed scientific models in enough detail to show both strengths and weaknesses of each, along with what we do and don't know to date. VERDICT This is not your average tour of our solar system. Using clear, relatively jargon-free language, Chambers and Mitton provide a comprehensive examination of our current understanding of its formation, which should readily appeal to the general reader who enjoys scientific detail without getting into equations. Recommended.—Marcia R. Franklin, St. Paul, MN

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400848355
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/24/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

John Chambers is a planetary scientist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Jacqueline Mitton is a writer, editor, and media consultant in astronomy. Her books include Titan Unveiled: Saturn’s Mysterious Moon Explored (Princeton).

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From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DifferentOne More than 1 year ago
A very readable book, a blend of history and astronomy (more strictly, planetology), with a bit of a refresher in physics and chemistry, no math required. Chambers and Mitton present most of what we know, and don’t know, about the Solar System. It is very much up-to-date and a good catch-up for those who have fallen behind in their knowledge of our local neighborhood in the Universe. For an alternative view, supplementing “From Dust to Life”, I suggest looking at “The Fourth Source – Effects of Natural Nuclear Reactors”.