From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of Our Solar System

John Chambers and Jacqueline Mitton. Princeton Univ., $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-691-14522-8
Planetary scientist Chambers and astronomy consultant Mitton trace the development of Western theories about the makeup of the solar system, from the Earth-centric model—which couldn’t account for such problems as the retrograde movement of the planets—to the current eight-planet model. They admit that “the jigsaw is not yet complete” (celestial bodies like asteroids, meteors, and comets remain imperfectly understood) but are convinced that science has come far enough to be certain of a great deal. Their painstaking explanations for lay readers outline the methods used for gauging such things as planetary age, as well as major theories about how our moon formed—the most widely accepted being that it broke off from Earth as a result of a collision with a giant meteor. They also briefly address the evolution of life on Earth and why we’re not likely to find complex forms on other planets in our vicinity. While the book is intended for general readers, an understanding of basic physics and geology is helpful. Despite the authors’ best efforts, some sections are not clearly explained, such as the one on “resonances” in the asteroid belt. Still, there is much solid information to be gleaned from careful reading. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/14/2013
Release date: 11/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4008-4835-5
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-691-17570-6
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4008-8556-5
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