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Galileo's New Universe : The Revolution in Our Understanding of the Cosmos
The historical and social implications of the telescope and that instrument's modern-day significance are brought into startling focus in this fascinating account. When Galileo looked to the sky with his perspicillum, or spyglass, roughly 400 years ago, he could not have fathomed the amount of change his astonishing findings--a seemingly flat moon magically transformed into a dynamic, crater-filled orb and a large, black sky suddenly held millions of galaxies--would have on civilizations. Reflecting on how Galileo's world compares with contemporary society, this insightful analysis deftly moves from the cutting-edge technology available in 17th-century Europe to the unbelievable phenomena discovered during the last 50 years, documenting important astronomical advances and the effects they have had over the years.
On the occasion of the telescope's 400th birthday, author and former NASA scientist Maran (Astronomy for Dummies) and physics professor Marschall (The Supernova Story) examine how Galileo's invention led to ground-breaking discoveries and the confirmation of the heliocentric Copernican hypothesis. Alternating between Galileo's perspective and that of 21st century astrophysics, Maran and Marschall dramatize the "profound novelty" of Galileo's first steps and the enormous distance we've come since: astronomer s now collect more information in an "eyeblink" than Galileo could in three years of systematic observation. Though a Dutchman fashioned the first rudimentary telescope ("two disks of glass and a piece of lead pipe"), the improvements Galileo developed in 1609 turned the humble spyglass (a military and shipping aid) into a precision instrument for studying the heavens. Galileo's first astonishing discovery was that the Moon, previously thought to be an ethereal body entirely unlike the earth, had a landscape. Just two years later he was observing sun spots and tracking Venus. A charming peek into astronomy's "family album," this lively history is ideal for armchair scientists and stargazers.
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February 28, 2009
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