Astronomy for Entertainment

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The Minerva Group, Inc., Apr 1, 2000 - Science - 200 pages
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Astronomy is a fortunate science; it needs no embellishments, said the French savant Arago. So fascinating are its achievements that no special effort is needed to attract attention. Nonetheless, the science of the heavens is not only a collection of astonishing revelations and daring theories. Ordinary facts, things that happen, day by day, are its substance. Most laymen have, generally speaking, a rather hazy notion of this prosaic aspect of astronomy. They find it of little interest, for it is indeed hard to concentrate on what is always before the eye.Everyday happenings in the sky are the contents of this book, free from professional terminology with easy reading. Its purpose is to initiate the reader into the basic facts of astronomy. Ordinary facts with which you may be acquainted are couched here in unexpected paradoxes, or slanted from an odd and unexpected angle solely to excite the imagination and quicken your interest. The daily aspect of the science of the skies, its beginnings, not later findings that mainly form the contents of Astronomy for Entertainment. The purpose of the book is to initiate the reader into the basic facts of astronomy. Ordinary facts with which you may be acquainted are couched here in unexpected paradoxes, or slanted from an odd and unexpected angle. The theme is, as far as possible, free from "terminology" and technical paraphernalia that so often make the reader shy of books on astronomy.Books on popular science are often rebuked for not being sufficiently serious. In a way the rebuke is just, and support for it can be found (if one has in mind the exact natural sciences) in the tendency to avoid calculations in any shape or form. And yet the reader can really master his subject only by learning how to reckon, even though in a rudimentary fashion. True, he has taken care to present them in an easy form, well within the reach of all who have studied mathematics at school. It is his conviction that these exercises help not only retain the knowledge acquired; they are also a useful introduction to more serious reading.This book contains chapters relating to the Earth, the Moon, planets, stars and gravitation. The author has concentrated in the main on materials not usually discussed in works of this nature. Subjects omitted in the present book, will, he hopes, be treated in a second volume. The book, it should be said, makes no attempt to analyze in detail the rich content of modern astronomy.Unfortunately Y. Perelman never wrote the continuation he had planned for this book, as untimely death in war bound Leningrad in 1942 interrupted his labours.
  

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Contents

Preface
7
Degree of Longitude and Degree of Latitude
16
Duration of Daylight
22
The PocketWatch as Compass
28
When Do the Seasons Begin?
34
Three Ifs
40
When Are We Nearer to the Sun Noon or Evening?
46
Unearthly Time
52
Something We Cannot Draw
104
A Planet or Minor Sun?
111
Pigmy Planets
118
Why Do Stars Look Like Stars?
133
The Eye and the Telescope
141
Stellar Magnitude of Sun and Moon
142
How Were Stellar Diameters Measured?
150
Why Are Stars Called Fixed Stars?
156

The Moon on Flags
58
The Riddle of the Lunar Phases
59
A Second Moon and the Moons Moon
67
Lunar Heavens
78
Why Do Astronomers Observe Eclipses?
85
Why Do Eclipses Recur Every Eighteen Years?
92
What Is Lunar Weather Like?
98
The Scale of the Universe
163
With Compasses Along Planetary Paths
170
The Boundaries of the Solar System
176
Weight and Density of Planets and Stars
183
Lunar and Solar Tides
190
Copyright

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About the author (2000)

Published in 1913, a best-seller in the 1930s and long out of print, Physics for Entertainment was translated from Russian into many languages and influenced science students around the world. Among them was Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman, the Russian mathematician (unrelated to the author), who solved the Poincare conjecture, and who was awarded and rejected the Fields Medal. Grigori's father, an electrical engineer, gave him Physics for Entertainment to encourage his son's interest in mathematics. In the foreword, the book's author describes the contents as "conundrums, brain-teasers, entertaining anecdotes, and unexpected comparisons," adding, "I have quoted extensively from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain and other writers, because, besides providing entertainment, the fantastic experiments these writers describe may well serve as instructive illustrations at physics classes." The book's topics included how to jump from a moving car, and why, "according to the law of buoyancy, we would never drown in the Dead Sea." Ideas from this book are still used by science teachers today. Yakov Isidorovich Perelman died in the siege of Leningrad in 1942.

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