A field guide to the stars and planets, 2nd Edition

A field guide to the stars and planets, 2nd Edition

Book reviews Dimensions of Darwinism. Edited by Marjorie Grene. Pp. 336. Cambridge University Press, with Editions de la Maison des Sciences de I’Homm...

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Book reviews Dimensions of Darwinism. Edited by Marjorie Grene. Pp. 336. Cambridge University Press, with Editions de la Maison des Sciences de I’Homme. 1983. f 15.00 ($29.95). It is one of the curiosities of the study of evolution that there is more interest in the history than in the scientific basis of cvolutionary theory. It was inevitahlc that Gould and Eldredgc’s new mode of evolution called ‘punctuated equilibria’ would send all concerned scurrying hack to their Darwins, Fishers, IIaldanes, .and Wrights to see it either adequately covered by classical theory or dismissed as an irrelevancy. This hook of essays beautifully captures the prevailing mood of scientists and historians on both sides of the divide. They arc all shooting from the hip and a good time is being had by all. That was in 1981. Today, I suspect that most of the essayists would subscribe to views that were less righteous and more modest as to the meagreness and general inadequacy of the factual basis from which each launches a world view on the how and why of evolution. In particular, it could not now have escaped their notice that important and unexpected new information on the irregular hehaviour of the genetic material requires some fundamental readjustments to classical theory which cannot be found in the hallowed texts, and which would he relevant to the dchate on pattern and tempo of evolutionary change. Nevertheless, this hook is a thoroughly good read-literate and entertaining-and a hargain at the price. G. A. Lkwer A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets, 2nd Edition. By Donald H. Menzel and Jay M. Pasachoff. Pp. 473. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1983. Cloth $16.95, Paper $I 1.95. Fully twenty years have elapsed since the late Donald II. Menzel produced his Field Guide to the Slurs anti 1’lanet.s. This hook was reprinted several times, latterly in 1980. However, over the years it has become more and more dated. making a new edition long overdue. Jay M. Pasachoff is well suited to update Mcnzel’s popular work. In recent years he has acquired an enviable reputation as a writer of high quality hooks on astronomy for the non-specialist and general reader. The current edition, like its predecessor, is a delightful little hook, packed with all

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kinds of information. It is profusely illustrated. mainly in monochrome, but a short section is devoted to some fine colour photographs. Charts of the constellations executed by the noted celestial cartographer Wil ‘l‘irion, arc a prominent feature. occupying more than IO0 pages of text. These are supplemented by helpful suggcstions on what to observe with the aid of binoculars or a small telescope. Solar system astronomy is, however, by no means neglected. In particular there is a useful photographic atlas of the Moon and a series of planet-finder diagrams covering each year from the present down to 1989. This is a book to stimulate the armchair astronomer to engage in some practical stargazing. It should amply fulhl its objective-to show the reader ‘around the sky’.

F. H. Stephenson Glimpsing an Invisible Universe. By Richard E. Hirsh. Pp. 186. Cambridge University Press, 1983. f20.00. This is an unusual, well written. mostly informative, hut somewhat expensive book. My sense of the unusual may stem from a personal involvement in the events described. In June lY62 I was analysing X-ray observations of Solar Flares acquired by an instrument on the US/UK Ariel I satellite and constructing a rocket payload to search for non-solar X-ray sources. Thus the announcement of Giacconi’s historic discovcry of a bright X-ray source in Scorpio was at once a delight (X-ray sources exist) and a chagrin (someone else had found one first), a mixture of emotions probably as old as Science itself. The book gives a fascinating account of the subject and describes for the non-specialist the founding and early dcvclopment of what is now one of the most important branches of astronomy. It is also a significant social document in that it chartsr the emergence of a major branch of astronomy in human as well as in technical terms. It is perhaps somewhat diminished by its concentration of US activities. giving scant and no mention respectively of the early work in the field by the Leicestcr and University College London groups. It is also a pity that a book published in lY83 was unable to follow the subject through the 1970s to the state of glorious maturity that now exists; a maturity that incidentally owes a substantial debt to the efforts of the UK groups who flew instruments on the Copernicus and Ariel V satellites. IIowevcr, the information that is presented is comprehcnsivc and accurate. J. I,. Culharte Concepts of Quantum Optics. By P. L. Knight and L. Allen. Pp. 226. Pergamon Press, Oxford. 1983. Hard cover f 16.75, flexicover f8.95. Whilst the importance of lasers in present day research programmes is heyond dispute there are nevertheless relatively few books which describe the fundamental properties

of laser light fields and their interaction with matter (‘quantum optics’) at an elementary level. This book, written by two distinguished practitioners in the field, aims to introduce the subject at a level accessible to final year undergraduate and first year postgraduate students. It is divided into two parts; the first gives a concise presentation of the basic theory in 75 pages, beginning with an historical introduction and following with chapters on the quantisation of the radiation field, absorption and emission of radiation, coherence functions, coherent states, and semi-classical versus quantumelectrodynamical theories. The second part reprints seventeen original papers: about two-thirds are chosen for their historic importance (papers by Taylor, Einstein, etc.) and the remainder for didactic reasons. None arc too difficult for beginning postgraduates mostly to understand, although average or below undergraduates may have some difficulties. The papers have been carefully chosen and some arc extremely thought-provoking, underlining a central theme of the hook-the concept of the photon. The hook will prove useful to the chosen readership. S. Swain

Combustion of Coal Liquid Mixtures. By G. F. Morrison. Pp. 51. Technical Information Service, London. Report by IEA Coal Research, 1983. Paperback, f 10.00 to member countries, f20.00 to non-members. Airmail outside Europe f2.00. Coal liquid mixtures (CLMs) are potential fuels prepared by the incorporation of finely divided coal in oil. water, or methanol. Originally of interest as replacement fuels in oil burners already in existence, they must be cheaper than oil. Longer term prospects for CLMs are in purpose-built burners where their handling and combustion characteristics may he superior to coal. This is a technical report by the International Energy Agency which reviews the subject thoroughly but uncritically. Thus it provides much information hut little advice to the potential C1.M user. No recommendation for further work is found by the research engineer. The 153 references arc drawn extensively from a series of five annual American symposia. The quality of these symposia papers varied enormously and the review should have rcfhzcted this more critically. Other sources of papers arc neglected. No reference is made to the symposia of the Combustion Institute. A whole conference on ‘Tomorrow’s Fuels’ (Engineering Foundation 1982) is ignored. The review covers the preparation of CLMs, the beneliciation of coal during preparation, transport and handling, combustion and pollution problems. It concludes that commercial use of coal oil mixtures is technically feasible and awaits an upturn in the relative price of oil and coal. Other