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Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective


Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective Cover

ISBN13: 9781426206511
ISBN10: 1426206518
All Product Details


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Sizing Up the Universe reveals an ingenious new way to envision the outsize proportions of space, based on the work of Princeton University professors Richard Gott and Robert Vanderbei. Using scaled maps, object comparisons, and beautiful space photographs, it demonstrates the actual size of objects in the cosmos —from Buz Aldrin's historic footprint to the visible universe and beyond. The authors offer visual comparisons with astonishing precision and maximum reader-friendliness, conveying clear and understandable explanations of unimaginable vastness. Plus, as an unprecedented bonus, their 1.5-million-selling Map of the Universe is published here for the first time ever in a book—presented on an oversize foldout page that maximizes its eye-popping presentation of satellites, planets, stars, and galaxies. Based on the popularity of the map and of Richard Gott's Time Travel in Einstein's Universe, and offering innovative ways to appreciate the majesty of the universe, this new title should soar.

Book News Annotation:

Sizing up the universe is meant to be taken literally. Drawing on the latest space images and research, Gott (astrophysics, Princeton U.) and colleague Vanderbei offer an accessible method of figuring out how large and far away objects are in the sky. Starting with those that can be seen with the naked eye, they present a series of increasingly magnified stunning views and side-by-side pictures to scale of objects in the solar system. The volume includes, for the first time published in a book, a foldout version of Gott's "Map of the Universe," and Vanderbei's afterword on being an amateur astronomer. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (



About the Author

Richard Gott is Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University. A Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate in Physics from Harvard in 1969, he received his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Princeton in 1973. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology and at Cambridge University in England before returning to join the Princeton faculty. He is the author of the popular book Time Travel in Einstein's Universe (Houghton Mifflin, 2001; approx. 50,000 copies in American hard cover and paperback editions sold to date, with 11 other editions around the world).

Robert Vanderbei is Professor and Chair of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering at Princeton University. A summa cum laude graduate in Chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1976, he received his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Cornell University in 1981. As an amateur astronomer, Vanderbei has taken, from his own back yard, astonishing and very high-quality photographs of astronomical objects, rivaling the best of those shot from some of our greatest observatories.

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Jvstin, December 26, 2010 (view all comments by Jvstin)
How big is the universe and the things that are in it? You can throw around all sorts of numbers. 93 million miles is the distance to the Sun. Jupiter has a diameter of 142,800 kilometers. Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away. It is 2 million light years to the Andromeda Galaxy, the furthest object visible with the naked eye.

But what does all that really mean? How do you wrap your way around those sizes and compare them to more familiar sizes and distances? J Richard Gott and Robert J Vanderbei, in National Geographic's Sizing Up the Universe, have set themselves this tall order--explain to the reader just how big things are, and tie it to the every day so that readers can get a handle around it. Also add in a gorgeous visual guide to the heavens, from star charts to pictures ranging from Neil Armstrong to the Cosmic Microwave Background, and you have Sizing Up the Universe.

The book starts off with apparent sizes of objects in the sky, starting with the Moon and moving its way upward. While I have seen many books explain size in a more conventional manner (and the book later does delve into the real size of objects), the authors obvious interest in astronomy and backyard sky viewing give them a perspective as to the apparent size of stellar objects that was illuminating even to a astronomy enthusiast like myself. I had no idea, for example, that the apparent size of the small dim smudge of the Andromeda Galaxy is actually much, much larger than that.

The book then launches itself into viewing the night skies, as a way to bridge the previous section with the subsequent ones, and again showing the astronomical interest of the authors. The charts in this book can be used to find objects in the sky in all four seasons.

Next, the book concerns itself with the distances and sizes of objects, and goes through the routine and familiar (to me) story of Eratosthenes, who discovered (roughly) the size of the Earth, and the efforts throughout history to find the distance to and sizes of the Moon, and the Sun. The authors then use those as scales to map distances all the way to the edge of the Universe. A centerpiece of the book is a gate-fold four page logarithmic size chart of the distances from the Earth that you may have seen on the internet.

Finally, in the tradition of the "Powers of Ten", the book uses a 1:1 size picture of Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the moon, and then proceeds to pictorially move up to larger and larger scales, until the entire universe is encompassed.

Amazing pictures, comprehensive, intelligently written but not written down to the viewer, Sizing Up the Universe is eminently designed for those teenagers and adults who have ever looked at the sky and wondered just how big and how far away the stars and planets *really* are.

Highly Recommended.
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Product Details

Gott, J. Richard
National Geographic Society
Gott, J. Richard, III
Vanderbei, Robert J.
Gott, Richard J.
Astronomy - General
Astrophysics & Space Science
Solar system
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
10.31 x 10.31 x 0.91 in 3.02 lb

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Sizing Up the Universe: The Cosmos in Perspective New Hardcover
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Product details 240 pages National Geographic Society - English 9781426206511 Reviews:
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