At this year’s World Science Festival, I attended numerous lectures and panels about outer space, most notably World Science U’s class where Sara Walker told us how astrobiologists look for alien life in the universe, and where Andrea Ghez told us how the military helped out the astronomers, mainly because the government wanted use of the technology, too. Both of these topics are discussed in books just published this month. There’s a couple stellar titles for youth space explorers, too. Let’s face it, outer space is pretty cool no matter if you’re seven or seventy.
Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Avis Lang
In this fascinating foray into the centuries-old relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer-researcher Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war.
“Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it’s a laboratory for one and a battlefield for the other. The explorer wants to understand it; the soldier wants to dominate it. But without the right technology―which is more or less the same technology for both parties―nobody can get to it, operate in it, scrutinize it, dominate it, or use it to their advantage and someone else’s disadvantage.”
An amusing and informative illustrated guide to life beyond our own planet that covers everything from training for and living in space to the future of space travel and tourism. (Smithsonian Books, on sale September 25th)
“For every expected topic—such as how to use a microgravity toilet—Stuart offers another that’s less predictable, like space law. Suitable for space-happy tweens as well as nonscientist adults, Stuart’s captivating handbook has something to amaze and entertain every reader.” —Publishers Weekly
Dispatches from Planet 3: Thirty-Two (Brief) Tales on the Solar System, the Milky Way, and Beyond by Marcia Bartusiak
Marcia Bartusiak shares the back stories for many momentous astronomical discoveries, including the contributions of such pioneers as Beatrice Tinsley and her groundbreaking research in galactic evolution, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the scientist who first discovered radio pulsars. An endlessly fascinating collection that you can dip into in any order, these pieces will transport you to ancient Mars, when water flowed freely across its surface; to the collision of two black holes, a cosmological event that released fifty times more energy than was radiating from every star in the universe; and to the beginning of time itself.
Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzalez
Aimed at 10- to 14-year-olds, Countdown has been counting down all over Twitter this year. I’m glad to see it’s finally here. Award-winning author and mechanical engineer Suzanne Slade joins up with New York Times best-selling illustrator Thomas Gonzalez to tell the powerful story of the successes, failures, triumphs, tragedies, and lessons from Apollos 1 through 10 that led to the first Moon landing.
“Elegant and informative, this is sure to attract casual browsers and true space nerds alike.” —Booklist
Astrobiology: The Search for Life Elsewhere in the Universe by Rhodri Evans
New from Icon Books’ “Hot Science” series, astronomer Rhodri Evans gives an expert overview of our current state of knowledge, looking at how life started on Earth, considering other places in the Solar System that might harbor life, then discussing possible Earth-like ‘exoplanets’ orbiting stars further out into our galaxy—and what future missions and studies will tell us about extraterrestrial life there. Also available as an e-book.
Personally, I’m a big fan of any job title that is a mash-up of two seemingly unrelated sciences, like biology and astronomy. Also, check out Fahrenheit’s post on astrobiology here.
Exoplanets: Hidden Worlds and the Quest for Extraterrestrial Life by Donald Goldsmith
Another book on astrobiology! Astronomer Donald Goldsmith presents the science of exoplanets and the search for extraterrestrial life in a way that Earthlings with little background in astronomy or astrophysics can understand and enjoy. Exoplanets shows how astronomers have broadened our planetary horizons, and suggests what may come next, including the ultimate discovery: life beyond our home planet.
Also available on audio.