In short, this 275 page little gem is one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. For deep-divers into cosmos information and isotopes, it's really "meaty," but it is chock-full of flat-out interesting and easy to read stuff as well.
The bottom line is that Universe as we know it started with the "Big Bang" around 15 Billion years ago, and our own planet Earth in our own solar neighborhood, centered around our "Sun," began around 4.7 Billion years ago. No one seems to have a theory of what caused the Big Bang ... way over my pay grade.
The author discusses how primordial clouds of "dust" from the Big Bang slowly coalesced into motes of only two elements: Hydrogen and Helium, and then little "cluster things" and finally, with gravity and nuclear attraction and eons of time, into larger and larger solid matters until extreme compressive pressures caused some to burst into flame as stars and others as orbiting things including what we call planets. The intense heat and pressures gradually forged all the rest of the table of elements as we now know them. Some are unstable.
Scientists are learning much from asteroids, which come from many different original sources, including being knocked off the Moon, other planets, and other solid items in our solar system, but as well from "pre-present solar system" origins. Methods of analyzing these items, and categorizing them, are discussed and are super interesting as well as literally a treasure chest of information. There are 60,000 known meteorites and 800,000 known asteroids at this time. The decay mechanism of uranium is a "time clock" by which these can be dated.
The book works into "things of life," including organic compounds, which are found outside our planet Earth. The author goes into the recent history of space travel and exploration, with an explosive amount of new information found in only a micro-blink of time relative to the universe, and speculates as to the future.
One fascinating account covers some of the huge and devastating impacts on planet Earth by meteors in the past. The asteroid strike 66 million years ago, which hit the Earth around the present day Yucatan Peninsula, was dramatic and horrifying. Literally, all life was snuffed out within a few hours or days, and a one centimeter thick lining of dust/stuff was left on the surface of the entire planet. In addition, the author writes of the power of other asteroid strikes on the Earth. Apparently an impact of an asteroid 300 meters in diameter in diameter (about three times the length of a football field and its end zones) occurs every 80,000 years. Each one would produce over one-hundred-thousand times as much energy and destruction as the Hiroshima atomic bomb! The meteor that struck northern Arizona and presents itself now as Meteor Crater attraction was "only" about one third the size of a football field in diameter! There are numerous asteroids circulating in the universe and some are projected to come within "close proximity" to the Earth at some time. Let's hope we never have to deal with that!
The author closes with some terrific philosophy about the need to care for our planet: "All life confined to one world is (at best) precarious and (at worst) catastrophic." All of our (mankind/humankind) eggs are in one basket. He speculates on future ventures to establish life on alternate planets, but for now, we are who we are and we live where we live. Life is precarious and if one is not an environmentalist or a philosopher to some extent, one will be after reading this wonderful book.
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Enjoy life; it's the only one we will get.
J.K. (Jim) George
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