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First Light: The Search for the Edge of the Universe (1987)

de Richard Preston

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208599,675 (4.24)16
Seven years before Richard Preston wrote about horrifying viruses in The Hot Zone, he turned his attention to the cosmos. In First Light, he demonstrates his gift for creating an exciting and absorbing narrative around a complex scientific subject--in this case the efforts by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains of California to peer to the farthest edges of space through the Hale Telescope, attempting to solve the riddle of the creation of the universe. Richard Preston's name became a household word with The Hot Zone, which sold nearly 800,000 copies in hardcover, was on The New York Times's bestseller list for 42 weeks, and was the subject of countless magazine and newspaper articles. Preston has become a sought-after commentator on popular science subjects.… (mais)
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Exibindo 5 de 5
Good example of immersion journalism where Preston picks up the fine details of his subject's lives by nearly moving in with them. Makes a story easy to read, particularly science. A spoonful of sugar. ( )
  Mark-Bailey | Jul 1, 2017 |
Good example of immersion journalism where Preston picks up the fine details of his subject's lives by nearly moving in with them. Makes a story easy to read, particularly science. A spoonful of sugar. ( )
  torreyhouse | Jun 25, 2016 |
Brilliant! Preston perfectly balances the science, technology and human aspects of the story and conveys the tedium and joy of taking astronomical observations, without ever becoming dry. I enthusiastically recommend it. ( )
  hildretha | Jun 23, 2011 |
The universe is a big place filled with unfathomable sizes and infinite possibilities. When I read about the vast depths of the universe and all the magnificent curiosities it contains my mind buzzes with unbounded fascination and my imagination sparks with the brilliant white radiance of the brightest star imaginable. Who isn't instilled with child-like wonder when staring at the night sky? Who hasn't pondered the meaning of it, where it came from, how it started, and how it all got so big? But what do we really know about it? If there is anything we can be certain of, it's that the sky is shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding.

The problem is astronomy and cosmology are scary topics. The science behind them is complex and mind-boggling, they are not topics you can just dive into. Many a laymen such as myself has been bitten by the incomprehensible cosmology book, filled with equally unfathomable mathematical equations and mind-melting theory. It's a topic many such as myself are weary of, and equally frustrated with, burdened with intrigue and a brain incapable of grasping the math and science.

I am happy to say that Richard Preston's First Light is perfectly readable! First Light is many things, astronomy, cosmology, literary nonfiction, astronomical and telescopic history, but most importantly, it's a fantastic book. Richard Preston blends the difficult topic with highly readable and enjoyable "storylines," following the lives of man and machine alike. The book chronicles the life of the Hale Telescope, from its conception (by a hallucinating man who held conversations with an imaginary elf), to its construction (it took 10 years to build the 200-inch, 14-ton lens, which had to be shaped to at least 2 millionth's of an inch from perfection), and its role in finding quasars, giant sources of light that are believed to be on the edges of the universe and from the beginning of time itself.

Preston has also introduced us to some very interesting characters. The scientists in the book range from gadgeteers, including some people who would dig through trash cans and find parts for the telescope that would have cost $50,000+ to order through a catalogue, to the woman who has discovered the most comets in human history. The author does a great job of letting you get to know these people, and this is the aspect that makes his books so readable.

In the end, you get a fascinating book that is a pleasure to read and a source of fuel for that rusty imagination we all stopped using past the age of 12, and I can't recommend this highly enough to anyone who is interested in the topic. If you are weary of the complexities of cosmology, it's a great way to dip your toe in and test the waters. I also think seasoned veterans will love this as a relaxing, leisurely read discussing the hale telescope and the discoveries that have been made with it. Ultimately, I think everyone can enjoy this book. Highly, highly recommended. ( )
12 vote Ape | Jun 9, 2010 |
This book is the very best book that deals with the way scientists pursue astronomy research. The book gives the reader the excitement of closing in on a discovery, and of all the details that can be involved in pushing technology and knowledge past the present.

The author set out to portray the excitement and motivation of people who push the knowledge of the universe forward and he has done a great job at that. ( )
  billsearth | Aug 31, 2008 |
Exibindo 5 de 5
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Seven years before Richard Preston wrote about horrifying viruses in The Hot Zone, he turned his attention to the cosmos. In First Light, he demonstrates his gift for creating an exciting and absorbing narrative around a complex scientific subject--in this case the efforts by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains of California to peer to the farthest edges of space through the Hale Telescope, attempting to solve the riddle of the creation of the universe. Richard Preston's name became a household word with The Hot Zone, which sold nearly 800,000 copies in hardcover, was on The New York Times's bestseller list for 42 weeks, and was the subject of countless magazine and newspaper articles. Preston has become a sought-after commentator on popular science subjects.

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