Skip to main content

Hubble: the mirror on the universe – Robin Kerrod & Carole Stott ***

I was asked to review this book as I also looked at a book with a scarily similar title, Hubble: window on the universe. Both are coffee table books that depend on pictures from the Hubble telescope for their appeal. Both have 224 pages of big colour pictures, using those stunning images that Hubble has provided over the years.
I can’t fault the image selection in either. Here, after a quick look at the telescope itself we progress through stars, stellar destruction, galaxies, the big bang, the solar system and planets. Of the two, the text is definitely better in this book, while the other title has the edge on the photos because of the sheer size of the book – 37×30 to this book’s 28×23. That extra size means that ‘window’ really wows you visually.
However the bigger pictures here are still stunning, and it is noticeably easier to hold. You can just about read this in your lap, where ‘window’ probably needs to be on a table to have a chance.
This is an excellent choice, and in its 2011 third edition the more up-to-date of the two. I also significantly preferred the text here. But this isn’t going to be the sort of book you read cover-to-cover, and as such, for the sheer scale of the photos, the other book just has the edge. And if you want a book that’s more manageable to read with a stronger concentration on the text, I’d probably recommend our editor’s Exploring the Universe instead. It doesn’t stop this being an excellent book, though – and this book would make a great present for anyone interested in astronomy.

Paperback 
Review by Jo Reed

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The AI Delusion - Gary Smith *****

This is a very important little book ('little' isn't derogatory - it's just quite short and in a small format) - it gets to the heart of the problem with applying artificial intelligence techniques to large amounts of data and thinking that somehow this will result in wisdom.

Gary Smith as an economics professor who teaches statistics, understands numbers and, despite being a self-confessed computer addict, is well aware of the limitations of computer algorithms and big data. What he makes clear here is that we forget at our peril that computers do not understand the data that they process, and as a result are very susceptible to GIGO - garbage in, garbage out. Yet we are increasingly dependent on computer-made decisions coming out of black box algorithms which mine vast quantities of data to find correlations and use these to make predictions. What's wrong with this? We don't know how the algorithms are making their predictions - and the algorithms don't kn…

Infinity in the Palm of your Hand - Marcus Chown *****

A new Marcus Chown book is always a treat - and this is like a box of chocolates: a collection of bite-sized delights as Chown presents us with 50 science facts that are strange and wonderful.

The title is a quote from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence: 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand, / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, / And Eternity in an hour.' It would seem particularly appropriate if this book were read on a mobile phone (so it would be literally in the palm), which could well be true for ebook users, as the short essays make excellent reading for a commute, or at bedtime. I found them distinctly moreish - making it difficult to put the book down as I read just one more. And perhaps another. Oh, and that next one looks really interesting...

Each of the 50 pieces has a title and a short introductory heading, which mostly give a feel for the topic. The very first of these, however, briefly baffled me: 'You are a third mus…

How to Invent Everything - Ryan North ****

Occasionally you read a book and think 'I wish I'd thought of that.' This was my immediate reaction to Ryan North's How to Invent Everything. The central conceit manages to be both funny and inspiring as a framework for writing an 'everything you ever wanted to know about everything (and particularly science)' book.

What How to Invent Everything claims to be is a manual for users of a time machine (from some point in the future). Specifically it's a manual for dealing with the situation of the time machine going wrong and stranding the user in the past. At first it appears that it's going to tell you how to fix the broken time machine - but then admits this is impossible. Since you're stuck in the past, you might as well make the best of your surroundings, so the aim of the rest of the book is to give you the knowledge you need to build your own civilisation from scratch.

We start with a fun flow chart for working out just how far back in time you are…