Sunday, November 12, 2006

take a poetic tour of the solar system

I just can't seem to stay away from those solar system books and this week's pick is The Planets by Dava Sobel (she of Longitude and Galileo's Daughter fame). Sobel writes in a lyrical style somewhat similar to Diane Ackerman (one of my favorite authors--who Sobel in her infinite wisdom quotes in her preface, further endearing herself to me), she makes her scientific subject sound like poetry. She has NOT resigned herself to mere boring descriptions of each planet but has given each its own individual flavour beginning with the designation by chapter title: the overview is called Model Worlds; the sun, Genesis; Mercury, Mythology; Venus, Beauty; Earth, Geography; the moon, Lunacy; Mars Sci-Fi; Jupiter, Astrology; Saturn, Music of the Spheres; Uranus and Neptune, Night Air; Pluto, UFO; and the Coda is Planeteers, each chapter is a complete little tale in and of itself, told in its own voice (the one about Mars even told in the voice of the sixteen million year old Martian meteorite found in the Antarctic ice fields--if i make it sound silly it is only my own ineptitude not the book itself.) My favorite little discovery from this book? The life-span of William Herschel (the astronomer who discovered Uranus) was exactly equal to Uranus' orbital period of 83.7 years (which of course he didn't live quite long enough to figure out!). Anyway--i loved this book informative in a lovely way!
...And if i may bring up the subject, yet again, there is still a bit of debate on just how many planets (and just how to define a planet anyway) there are.

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