Good astrophysics for committed readers.



An update on the early years of the cosmos.

In her first nonfiction book, Chapman reviews the history, including new discoveries which have overturned accepted theories on the evolution of the universe, but she reserves most of her excitement for the “dark ages”—from 380,000 to roughly 1 billion years after the Big Bang. The early universe was a superheated soup of subatomic particles and energy. After nearly 400,000 years, the temperature had dropped enough to allow electrically neutral atoms to form and photons to travel freely. There was light and gas but nothing else. As it expanded and cooled, its matter—almost all hydrogen and helium—drifted about. Eventually, some clouds drifted together, and gravity began to pull. The clouds shrank and grew hotter, and a collapsing cloud grew so hot—millions of degrees—that its hydrogen became helium in a process known as fusion, which produces titanic amounts of energy. These were the first stars, born perhaps 180 million years after the Big Bang. Mostly brighter, hotter, bigger, and shorter-lived than today’s, they ended their lives and blew up, which produced “metals” (in astrophysics, elements other than hydrogen and helium) and scattered them, a process that formed other stars and eventually planets and humans. Do any primordial, metal-free stars still exist? The big ones are long gone, but small, sunlike stars have extremely long lifetimes. Evidence for their existence is turning up in obscure regions, such as dwarf galaxies and the outskirts of the Milky Way. Detecting them requires massive observatories, high-tech spectrographs, and the soon-to-be-launched $10 billion James Webb space telescope. Clearly fascinated by her subject, Chapman works diligently to describe the early universe, gradually introducing information about the life cycles of stars and techniques astrophysicists use to search for them. Her careful step-by-step explanations delve far deeper than a NOVA documentary, so readers must pay attention, but most will find it worth the effort.

Good astrophysics for committed readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4729-6292-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.


The bad news: On any given outdoor expedition, you are your own worst enemy. The good news: If you are prepared, which this book helps you achieve, you might just live through it.

As MeatEater host and experienced outdoorsman Rinella notes, there are countless dangers attendant in going into mountains, woods, or deserts; he quotes journalist Wes Siler: “People have always managed to find stupid ways to die.” Avoiding stupid mistakes is the overarching point of Rinella’s latest book, full of provocative and helpful advice. One stupid way to die is not to have the proper equipment. There’s a complication built into the question, given that when humping gear into the outdoors, weight is always an issue. The author’s answer? “Build your gear list by prioritizing safety.” That entails having some means of communication, water, food, and shelter foremost and then adding on “extra shit.” As to that, he notes gravely, “a National Park Service geologist recently estimated that as much as 215,000 pounds of feces has been tossed haphazardly into crevasses along the climbing route on Denali National Park’s Kahiltna Glacier, where climbers melt snow for drinking water.” Ingesting fecal matter is a quick route to sickness, and Rinella adds, there are plenty of outdoorspeople who have no idea of how to keep their bodily wastes from ruining the scenery or poisoning the water supply. Throughout, the author provides precise information about wilderness first aid, ranging from irrigating wounds to applying arterial pressure to keeping someone experiencing a heart attack (a common event outdoors, given that so many people overexert without previous conditioning) alive. Some takeaways: Keep your crotch dry, don’t pitch a tent under a dead tree limb, walk side-hill across mountains, and “do not enter a marsh or swamp in flip-flops, and think twice before entering in strap-on sandals such as Tevas or Chacos.”

A welcome reference, entertaining and information-packed, for any outdoors-inclined reader.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12969-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A straightforward, carefully detailed presentation of how ``fruit comes from flowers,'' from winter's snow-covered buds through pollination and growth to ripening and harvest. Like the text, the illustrations are admirably clear and attractive, including the larger-than-life depiction of the parts of the flower at different stages. An excellent contribution to the solidly useful ``Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science'' series. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-020055-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1991

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