On My Bookshelf: First Light: Switching on Stars at the Dawn of Time

Another astronomy book, another female scientist author. What’s the significance of this tome? Emma Chapman ponders the very first stars in the universe, before the sun first shone, and long before every star we see came into existence.

First Light gets heavy into physics, as you might expect from a study of the early universe and the forces of nature that shape stars, black holes, galaxies, and dark matter. Dr Chapman gave me the best description of the latter I’ve yet to read.

I’ve been getting over the flu the past four days, so when the other elements of this book seemed a little hazy to me, it might have been the confluence of my sinuses and a foggy brain. This book is well-written, informative, and strikes the right balance between personal story and scientific effort. It gives the reader a bar of understanding a bit higher than the astronomy books I reviewed here last summer. All but the most gifted high school students in physics would have difficulty with some of the topics covered. There’s no way to dumb it down. As a science-educated lay person, I had to take it slow.

There’s a story to tell in how things began. We live on the Earth and we see the moon, so we’re interested in how these worlds came to be. Scientists had a lot of mistaken ideas about the sun and other stars until partway through the last century. That astrophysicists seem to be a bit behind in their understanding of these bodies isn’t so surprising.

My take? Very good read. Worth the brain effort, especially if you like to learn about the origin of the first bodies in the universe. Watch the news these days, too. History is being made, or rather, discovered. Like here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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