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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Solar System With Infotrac 4th edition by Michael A. Seeds (Brooks Cole) offers an introductory text for nonscience majors which features many colorful diagrams, sidebars, and two-page art spreads tackling subjects like the structure of Saturn's rings. The first set of chapters covers the scale of the universe; the motion of the Earth, Moon, and planets; the history of astronomy; light and telescopes; and starlight and atoms. The CD-ROM contains the student edition of The Sky, a planetarium program.

Astronomy is about us. Although an astronomy course covers planets and stars and galaxies, it is really about you and me. Astronomy helps us answer the ultimate question of human existence: What are we? Great minds like Plato, Beethoven, and Hemingway have tried to give their personal answers, but we must each find our own answer. Astronomy helps us understand the meaning of our own existence.

Of course, part of our personal answer must include philosophical and cultural issues. We define ourselves by what we create, what we worship, what we admire, and what we expect of each other. But a major part of our answer is embedded in the physical universe. We cannot hope to find a complete answer until we understand how the birth of the universe, the origin of galaxies, the evolution of stars, and the formation of planets created and brought together the atoms of which we are made. A basic understanding of astronomy is fundamental to knowing what we are. Astronomy is exciting because it is about us.

Part of the excitement of astronomy is the discovery of new things. Astronomers expect to be astonished. That excitement is reflected in this book in the form of new images, new discoveries, and new understandings that take us, in an introductory course, to the frontier of human knowledge. Here we explore the new evidence of an ancient ocean on Mars and a modern ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa. We will study the newest images of comet nuclei, and we will struggle to understand new evidence of water on Mars. The Hubble Space Telescope, space-craft orbiting Mars and Jupiter, the Chandra X-Ray

Observatory, and giant Earth-based telescopes on re-mote mountaintops provide us with a daily dose of excitement that goes far beyond sensationalism. These new discoveries in astronomy are exciting be-cause they are about us. They tell us more and more about what we are.

I hope you will share in the excitement and satisfaction that scientists feel as they puzzle out nature's secrets. That is why I have created 16 special art spreads located throughout this book. Each presents a carefully selected subject visually, not only to make it exciting but to challenge you to synthesize your own undersanding. Rather than memorize facts and pre-digested descriptions of nature, you can create your own understanding through the guided-discovery design of these special features. The understanding we create ourselves is the most exciting and the most durable learning that we will ever experience.

In addition, I have used the principles of guided discovery to create over 22 new figures that will guide you to discover for yourself some of nature's most interesting secrets.

As a teacher, my quest is simple. I want you to understand your place in the universe—not just your location in space, but your location in the unfolding history of the physical universe. Not only do I want you to know where you are and what you are in the universe, but I want you to understand how we know. By the end of this book, I want you to know that the universe is very big, but that it is described by a small set of rules and that we have found a way to figure out the rules—a method called science.

The most important concept in introductory astronomy is the process of science, the process by which scientists ask questions of nature and gradually puzzle out the beautiful secrets of the physical world. You should not memorize facts or believe principles because some astronomer says it is so. Of course not! To be a participant in the adventure and not a mere observer, you need to understand how evidence and hypotheses interact to create new under-standing. Those who understand how science works are part of the adventure.

Another reason you need to understand how science works is that you live in a technological world that is changing rapidly through the practical application of new scientific discoveries. To control your life in such a world, to guide and care for others, you need to understand the power and the limitation of scientific study.

Science is based on the interplay of evidence and hypothesis, and that interplay is the principal organizing theme for this book at every level—from the individual sentences to the order of the chapters. We will deal with each topic by surveying basic observational facts, synthesizing hypotheses, and then discussing further observations as evidence that supports or contradicts those hypotheses.

When we compare evidence and hypotheses, we make science logical and easy to understand, and that approach is reflected at every level of this book. At the highest level, the order of the chapters introduces us to theories for the origin of our solar system in Chapter 19, and prepares us to explore further in later chapters. Then we can understand our world and our solar system as we discuss life on other worlds in the final chapter. At a lower level, individual chapters, such as Chapter 8, The Sun—Our Star, are organized to describe basic observations and compare those with theories to build understanding. Look at the section on Jupiter's rings and notice how it, like most of the sections in this book, discusses observations compared with theories. Even at the level of single paragraphs, this book avoids a dry recitation of facts and instead compares observations with hypotheses.

Part of the logic of science is understanding how we know what we know. Rather than asking you to remember that Jupiter's rings are made of dust, this book explains how we know that fact. We can't use facts if we can't depend on them, and we can't depend on facts if we don't know how they were understood. Notice how this book helps you under-stand how we know.

I want you to understand that science is nothing more than a logical attempt to understand nature.

Scientists think in logical arguments, and this book presents the usual facts in carefully organized logical arguments, not because the facts are easier to re-member that way, but because the real goal is under-standing nature, not remembering facts.

To help you grasp the logic of astronomy, I have created a number of features within the book.

Special art spreads, mentioned earlier, provide an opportunity for you to create your own understanding and share in the satisfaction that scientists feel as they uncover the secrets of natural processes.

Guided discovery figures illustrate important ideas visually and guide students to understand relationships and contrasts interactively.

Windows on Science provide a parallel commentary on how all of science works. For example, the Windows point out where we are using statistical evidence, where we are reasoning by analogy, and where we are building a scientific model rather than a scientific hypothesis.

Guideposts on the opening page of each chap-ter help you see the organization of the book. The Guidepost connects the chapter with pre-ceding and following chapters to provide an overall organizational guide.

Review/Critical Inquiry at the end of each text section is a carefully designed question to help you review and synthesize concepts and understand the scientific procedures used in the section. A short answer follows to show how scientists construct logical arguments (from observations, evidence, theories, and natural laws) that lead to a conclusion. A further question then gives you a chance to construct your own argument on a related issue.

End-of-Chapter Review Questions are designed to help you review and test your understanding of the material.

End-of-Chapter Discussion Questions go beyond the text and invite you to think critically and creatively about scientific questions. You can think about these questions yourself or discuss them in class.

Critical Inquiries for the Web conclude each chapter by challenging you to use the World Wide Web to explore further and to think creatively and analytically about astronomy.

Exploring The Sky are experiments you can perform with the software TheSky, experiments that will allow you to see the sky and celestial bodies in new ways on your own computer screen.

As additional aids, be aware that this book also includes, free of charge, the following electronic enhancements:

Virtual Astronomy Laboratories. This set of 20 online labs is free with a passcode included with every new copy of this textbook. The labs cover topics from helioseismology to dark mat-ter and allow you to submit your results electronically to your instructor or print them out to hand in. The first page of each chapter in this textbook notes which labs correlate to that chapter.

AceAstronomy. Take charge of your learning with the first assessment-centered student learning tool for astronomy. Access AceAstronomy free via the Web with the passcode card bound into this book and begin to maximize your study time with a host of interactive tutorials and quizzes that help you focus on what you need to learn to master astronomy.

TheSky Student Edition CD-ROM. With this CD-ROM, a personal computer becomes a powerful personal planetarium. Loaded with data on 118,000 stars and 13,000 deep-sky objects with images, it allows you to view the universe at any point in time from 4000 years ago to 8000 years in the future, to see the sky in motion, to view constellations, to print star charts, and much more.

InfoTrac® College Edition. You receive free unlimited access for one academic term to this online database of complete articles and images from more than 700 popular and scholarly periodicals of the past four years, updated daily. An online student guide gives you tips for using InfoTrac and correlates each chapter in this book to InfoTrac articles. (Check with your instructor for availability outside North America.)

The Brooks/Cole Astronomy Resource Center (www.brookscole.com/astronomy). Thousands of students and instructors visit this free Web site every week. The Astronomy Resource Center offers—among other things—online study aids, virtual field trips, and links to other sites.

Do not be humble. Astronomy tells us that the universe is vast and powerful, but it also tells us that we are astonishing creatures. We humans are the parts of the universe that think. The human brain is the most complex piece of matter known, so as you explore the universe, remember that it is your human brain that is capable of understanding the depth and beauty of the cosmos.

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