Skip to main content

Near-Earth Objects – Donald K. Yeomans ****

As I write this there has just been a meteor strike in Russia leaving hundreds injured, so it is very timely to be considering, as the subtitle puts it, how we can find ‘them before they find us.’
Donald Yeomans’ book introduces us to the origins of the solar system (including a relatively recent update on the traditional model with the ‘Nice model’) and explains why there is so much debris out there that has the potential of crashing to Earth from the tiny bits of dust and pebble sized rocks that burn up harmlessly as meteors to the impressively large and scary kilometre scale asteroids and comets.
While in no sense scare-mongering, Yeomans makes it clear just why we need to be on the look out for incoming material, explains what the risks are and explores the opportunities for intervening and preventing potential disaster. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as Yeomans also gives us chapter and verse on the potential to make use of relatively accessible near Earth objects, either to get hold of scarce materials, to act as a way station en route to a distant destination like Mars, or both (when, for instance a NEO way station could be mined for water on the way to Mars).
Unlike many books involving space exploration I didn’t get the feeling of fantasy, wishful thinking or sabre rattling. Yeomans just gives us good, reasoned arguments, presented in the main in a likeable, friendly fashion. The only major irritation is that Yeomans does occasionally flip into ‘astronomer cataloguing mode’, giving us long tedious lists, foe example when describing where the near Earth objects come from. Be prepared to skip a page or two – but the focus on readability soon returns.
Overall, if you are interested in astronomy, the solar system or the survival of the human race, this is a book that should spark your interest.
Hardback:  
Kindle:  
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dialogues - Clifford Johnson ***

The authors of science books are always trying to find new ways to get the message across to their audiences. In Dialogues, Clifford Johnson combines a very modern technique - the graphic novel or comic strip - with an approach that goes back to Ancient Greece - using a dialogue to add life to what might seem a dry message.

We have seen the comic strip approach trying to put across quite detailed science before in Mysteries of the Quantum Universe. As with that book, Dialogues manages to cover a fair amount of actual physics, but I still feel that the medium just wastes vast acres of page to say very little at all. This is brought home here because quite a lot of the sections of Dialogues start with several pages with no text on at all, just setting up the scenario.

As for using a discussion between two people to put a message across, Johnson makes the point that, for instance, Galileo's very readable masterpiece Two New Sciences is in the form of a dialogue (more accurately a discu…

Liam Drew - Four Way Interview

Liam Drew is a writer and former neurobiologist. he has a PhD in sensory biology from University College, London and spent 12 years researching schizophrenia, pain and the birth of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain. His writing has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian. He lives in Kent with his wife and two daughters. His new book is I, Mammal.

Why science?

As hackneyed as it is to say, I think I owe my fascination with science to a great teacher – in my case, Ian West, my A-level biology teacher.  Before sixth form, I had a real passion for the elegance and logic of maths, from which a basic competence at science at school arose.  But I feel like I mainly enjoyed school science in the way a schoolkid enjoys being good at stuff, rather than it being a passion.

Ian was a revelation to me.  He was a stern and divisive character, but I loved the way he taught.  He began every lesson by providing us with a series of observations and fact, then, gradually, between …

A Galaxy of Her Own - Libby Jackson ****

This is an interesting book, even if it probably tries to be too many things to too many people. I wondered from the cover design whether it was a children's book, but the publisher's website (and the back of the book) resolutely refuse to categorise it as such. The back copy doesn't help by saying that it will 'inspire trailblazers and pioneers of all ages.' As I belong to the set 'all ages' I thought I'd give it a go.

Inside are featured the 'stories of fifty inspirational women who have been fundamental to the story of humans in space.' So, in some ways, A Galaxy of Her Own presents the other side of the coin to Angela Saini's excellent Inferior. But, inevitably, given the format, it can hardly provide the same level of discourse.

Despite that 'all ages' comment and the lack of children's book labelling we get a bit of a hint when we get to a bookplate page in the form of a Galaxy Pioneers security pass (with the rather worrying…