Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Top 5 Science & Astronomy Books

Going out for studies soon, and I thought hard on what books I want to bring along for the trip. After much choosing I settled on these 4 – excluding the last one. Nevertheless I find them to be the 5 best books I had for my interest in science, engineering, astronomy and space exploration.

40 Nights to Knowing The Sky by Fred Schaaf
Topics : Astronomy, Stargazing

This is my very first book on truly serious stargazing, it was from a second hand book store. The author, Fred Schaaf of Sky & Telescope taught the early skywatchers the techniques and skills to naked eye skywatching, as well as gradually introducing the arcane astronomy of Messier objects, deep skies and others. As a young boy I don’t find his writing too daunting, in fact the introductory part – “Nights of the Heaven in Motion”, serves well to explain and clear any doubts on why are the stars moving, why is the Moon sometimes not up at night, et cetera.

The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman
Category : Science, Astronomy

This is a science book on a class of its own. The ever-familiar Sun gets a image makeover from talented Astronomy magazine writer Bob Berman that you will never look at the Old Sun the same way again. This book answers very unexpected questions – Why are highway boards green? Why does a pirate has an eye patch? As well as providing fresh insights on how the great ball of nuclear fire has already infiltrated our daily lives since time immemorial.

I particularly enjoy this book for its independent chapters. On the sleepless nights, I can just grab it and flip to any random chapters, then start reading! At RM90 it was one of the most expensive books I had, but it is certainly worth the money (It was paid by the government anyway, lol)

Atom by Piers Bizony
Category : Science, with a pinch of History

Enter Piers Bizony, ace documentary writer. You might have heard of the names Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Rutherford from the sleepy physics classes of old – this book brings the characters alive, back into the heady days of atomic research when Man has just discovered a whole new world in the subatomic realm. Rutherford was boisterous and has a bellowing voice, while Schrodinger claims his womanizing helps him in his discoveries in quantum mechanics. Or have you ever heard of the epic fights and debates on the Solway conferences, or experiences the tension of the moment during the Manhattan Project where they realized the monstrous power of the atomic bomb? Scientists are also human, science and history go hand-in-hand, and Piers Bizony will bring you into a realm of physics your average physics teacher will not lead you to.

The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin
Category : Space Exploration

This is written for a slightly more focused audience group, but nevertheless if you have a passing interest on why aren’t we building Habs on Mars now, this book will show you the ways how can we do it now, using present technology know-how and some ingenious thinking.

In this book Robert Zubrin proposes a plan called the ‘Mars Direct’, which involves several launchings of manned and unmanned spacecraft to the Red Planet, and in the plan how many redundant systems are also incorporated for the aspiring astronauts to fall back on. The Mars Direct plan is now very popular and is featured in some documentaries, one of them being ‘The Mars Underground’.

Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
Category : Space Exploration

Okay, I’m big on space exploration. Haha.
Why is this book excluded from my trip? Frankly, it’s because it’s too thick, and I have limited space in my luggage. However, this is also a contender for one of the great books I’ve read in my non-fiction collection.

In the same spirit of Atom by Piers Bizony, Mr.Nelson brings alive the moments of the Greatest Adventure in the History of Mankind, the Apollo programme. From the early days of rocketry where German, American and Russians are fighting for missile supremacy, to the era of the Cold War where the Space Race may have prevented an all-out nuclear war. To the details of the men involved in the programme, the strong but sometimes wavering camaraderie of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. To how their journey to a place no man has ever been changed their lives forever, for better or for worse. This book, although a bit heavy in words at the beginning, is a very good time machine in bringing you back to the glorious days of Apollo, where science and technology develops at breakneck speed and the world has never felt as proud as we had ever since.

You might’ve noticed that there are none of the usual fare, of Stephen Hawking, or Michio Kaku. I’ve read some books on Michio Kaku and have the full collection of Hawking, but to me these are the best books on science. For me, the good books are where they are easily approachable by novices, but will also elicit interest from the ones who are already familiar with the subject by bringing a fresh insight. It is also very important for me, to present science as not just another subject, but a driving force that brought us to where we are today. To let the generation now appreciate science and the contributions of our forefathers towards their development.

So yeah, to each their own. Nevertheless, these are truly recommended reads from someone who has hundreds, if not thousands of books to his reading experience. So, I really urge you to get a copy, and read =)

Next : Top 5 fiction

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