NEWTON'S CLOCK

CHAOS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM

Peterson (math-and-physics editor at Science News) tells how science has unlocked the secrets of celestial motion. The puzzle is as ancient as cave men peering at the night sky: how to explain the weird (sometimes seemingly backwards) movements of moons and planets? Peterson anoints two scientists as patron saints in the quest: Johannes Kepler, who established physics as the basis for astronomy and demonstrated that planets travel in elliptical, not circular, orbits; and Isaac Newton, whose three laws of movement and study of gravity established a practical understanding of planetary orbits. In fact, to Newton and his heirs, cosmic motion was as reliable as the tick-tock of a clock. But is the solar system really God's windup toy? Mathematicians and scientists like Henri PoincarÇ discarded that idea through the development of chaos theory. Chaotic systems are not, emphasizes Peterson, truly random: Inexorable physical laws still apply. But in chaotic systems, such an enormous number of factors are involved that a tiny variation can lead to enormous, unpredictable changes down the road. Observations of planetary rings, asteroid placement, and the like seem to indicate that our solar system is indeed chaotic. And while computer models project no major disruptions in the next trillion years or so, one never knows: We live, says Peterson, not in a clockwork world but in one ``constantly changing, infinitely complex.'' A very tough subject made lucid. Not for science illiterates, but astronomy and physics buffs will lap it up. (B&w illustrations—115—not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-7167-2396-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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