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Stars have fascinated humankind since the dawn of history and have allowed us to transcend ordinary lives in our literature, art, and religions. In fact, humans have always looked to the stars as a source of inspiration and transcendence that lifts us beyond the boundaries of ordinary intuition. In the tradition of One Two Three... Infinity, Pickover tackles a range of topics from stellar evolution to the fundamental and awe-inspiring reasons why the universe permits life to flourish. Where did we come from? What is the universe's ultimate fate? Pickover alternates sections that explaining the mysteries of the cosmos with sections that dramatize mind-expanding concepts through a fictional dialog between futuristic humans and their alien peers who embark on a journey beyond the reader's wildest imagination. This highly accessible and entertaining approach turns an intimidating subject into a scientific game open to all dreamers.
Told in Clifford Pickover's inimitable blend of fascinating state-of-the-art science and whimsical science fiction, and packed with numerous diagrams and illustrations, The Stars of Heaven unfolds a world of paradox and mystery, one that will intrigue anyone who has ever pondered the night sky with wonder.
|Ch. 1||Stellar Parallax and the Quest for Transcendence||1|
|Ch. 2||The Joy and Paschen of Starlight||14|
|Ch. 3||Spectral Classes, Temperatures, and Doppler Shifts||39|
|Ch. 4||Luminosity and the Distance Modulus||58|
|Ch. 5||Hertzsprung-Russell, Mass-Luminosity Relations, and Binary Stars||71|
|Ch. 6||Last Tango on the Heliopause||90|
|Ch. 7||Stellar Evolution and the Helium Flash||117|
|Ch. 8||Stellar Graveyards, Nucleosynthesis, and Why We Exist||142|
|Ch. 9||Some Final Thoughts||188|
|App. 1||Stars in the Bible||212|
|App. 2||Updates and Breakthroughs||217|
|About the Author||226|
A few years ago I was walking in a field when I came upon a large skull. It was probably from a bear, although I like to imagine it was part of the remains of a prehistoric mammal that once roamed Westchester County, New York. I'm a collector of prehistoric skulls. In my office, I have a skull of a saber-toothed tiger. This killing machine had huge, daggerlike canine teeth and a mouth that could open 90 degrees to clear the sabers for their killing bite.
When I run my fingers lingeringly over the skulls, I am sometimes reminded of stars in the heavens. Without stars, there could be no skulls. The elements in bone, like calcium, were first created in the hot stellar furnaces and then blown into space when the stars died. Without stars there would be no elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, and, therefore, life would never have evolved. There would be no planets, no microbes, no plants, no tigers, no humans.
In my book, you'll do a little armchair space travel, rub elbows with alien life forms, and glimpse the furthest corners of our uncharted universe. Stars have fascinated humankind since the dawn of history and have allowed us to transcend ordinary lives in our literature, art, and religion. Where did we come from? What is the universe's ultimate fate? Are there other universes we can never see? Was our universe designed by a god?
In about 5 billion years, the hydrogen fuel in our sun will be exhausted in its core, and the sun will begin to die and dramatically expand, becoming a red giant. At some point, our oceans will boil away. As Freeman Dyson once said, "No matter how deep we burrow into the Earth...we can only postpone by a few million years our miserable end." Where will humans be, a few billion years from now, at the end of the world? It seems so sad. However, I don't think we have to mourn for humanity. In a few billion years, humans will probably have downloaded their minds to computers, left the solar system in some great diaspora, and sought their salvation in the stars.
You can tell that my book is an amalgam of science fiction, science fact, religion, art and science. It's also a serious astronomy primer covering all the basics of stellar structure and evolution and also on creative theories about our place in this grand universe. I've touched on similar cosmic topics on the borderlands of science before, and I hope you'll take a look at some of my other books, for example: Black Holes: A Traveler's Guide, Time: A Traveler's Guide, Surfing Through Hyperspace, The Science of Aliens, and The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience. Please visit my web page, Pickover.com, and join our discussions on The Stars of Heaven and all my other books. I leave you with an appropriate Serbian proverb to get your mind in gear: "Be humble for you are made of dung. Be noble for you are made of stars." (Clifford Pickover)
Posted November 28, 2001
This book is a great introduction to stars in science, art, and religion. The illustrations help the reader to understand complicated concepts. My favorite parts of the book deal with the anthropic principle. These sections address the question: Was the universe designed? I also liked the sections on the evolution of multiple universes. Even though the book has sections on art (e.g. Van Gogh) and religion (e.g. stars in the Bible), the book could certainly be used as a hard-core stellar astronomy textbook because it covers everything you would want to know about all the variety of stars in outer space (evolution, nucleosythesis, stellar anatomy, spectral classes, black holes, etc.) Science-fiction buffs will enjoy the very strange and very interesting tale about an oddball set of characters who journey to the end of the universe to make investigations. A cool book.
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