Book Launch: The Stardust Revolution by local author Jacob Berkowitz

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by Mary and Terry Lumsden

Have you ever wondered what it means when we say “we are stardust?”. Join local author Jacob Berkowitz and celebrate the launch of a book that uses “extreme geneaology” to show how we’ve come from stars to us: The Stardust Revolution: The New Story of Our Origin in the Stars.

October 25th at 7:30 at the Barley Mow in Almonte.

“Delightfully readable…illuminates the greatest scientific story of our time.” Steven J. Dick, former NASA chief historian.

For further information, please contact Mary Lumsden at Mill Street Books 613-256-9090

Further information about the author can be found on his website <http://www.jacobberkowitz.com> .

Here’s some bio info:

For the past two decades, writer Jacob Berkowitz has told the story of science at its frontier. He’s taught high-school biology to fundamentalist Christian students, been the press officer for the Canadian Museum of Nature, and a science writer and journalist readers know for topics from donut invention to Canadians’ propensity for vasectomies.

Berkowitz is the best-selling author of Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (and Others) Left Behind, winner of a 2007 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award. His book Out of This World: The Amazing Search for an Alien Earth was selected as a SkyNews best astronomy book for 2009.

Berkowitz lives in Almonte, ON, with his wife, the painter Rosemary Leach, and their two children. <http://www.jacobberkowitz.com>

The following book review was written by Professor Don Wiles, who arranges the Almonte Lecture series.

The Stardust Revolution by Jacob Berkowitz

This is a very exciting book to read. It is not light reading, but is readily accessible to any who have high school education and are willing to spend a little effort. A bit of chemistry and physics will help, but are not necessary. The author follows the discoveries and ideas of many individual scientists and philosophers – both to successful discoveries and to failed ideas. There are frequent analogies which bring ideas and magnitudes closer to our own experiences.

The author sets up three major revolutions of thought: The Copernican Revolution, which recognized that the earth is not the centre of the solar system; the Darwinian Revolution, which led to the understanding that life evolved from a small start over many millions of years; and the Stardust Revolution, the study of interstellar dust particles, which helps us begin to understand the creation of the atoms from which we and our universe are made.

The author takes us on a tour (or several tours) through centuries of observations and observers, through many early and more advanced observational methods, from the invention of the Bunsen burner and the prism up to optical spectroscopy, from the invention of the telescope through radar up to microwave spectroscopy and the radiotelescope and finally up to the collection of actual interstellar dust from the comet Wild 2. The chapters are, in most cases, stories of people and their discoveries, some stories leading to others and then leading to the unravelling of another mystery of our cosmos. The stories mostly start with a person, whose discoveries have led on to more discoveries, perhaps by other scientists and to still others, always pursuing the same question, and often using more advanced methods whose developments also form part of the story. The questions pursued are fundamental: the origin of the chemical elements, the origin of the molecules from which life developed, and the origin of the sun and the earth.

The book is well organized, with a clear development of ideas and understanding. It would perhaps have been useful to see a sketch or diagram showing the progress of the creation of a new sun through its becoming a red dwarf to its final spectacular end (when it becomes the dust). However, this doesn’t take away from the excitement that the book develops in each of its chapters. There is a lot of detailed information which adds to the excitement of an informed reader, but won’t diminish the interest of a less informed reader (like myself in many spots) who can simply skip over the details while being nonetheless impressed by the author’s thoroughness.

This is a book to be highly recommended.