Book: Disturbing the Solar System

Disturbing the Solar System

Tour of the solar system with “gravity” as its theme
362 pages, ★★★★

Watching the film”Gravity” at the cinema renewed in me a love of Physics. I downloaded the iPhone game (which is very good!) and then searched for more physics-related books and apps. Two of the best physics iPad apps are Star Walk and Solar Walk. They’re both rated five stars, both cost $2.99 and both are pictured below.

Solar Walk app for iPad (screenshot)
Solar Walk app for iPad (screenshot). Explore the solar system freely in four dimensions.
Star Walk app for iPad (screenshot)
Star Walk app for iPad (screenshot). Point iPad at the sky to see constellations, nebulae, galaxies, supernovae, meteoroids, asteroids, satellites, the ISS, the sun, moon and planets. You can even point it downwards and see the sky ‘above’ the other hemisphere!

Disturbing the Solar System was the book equivalent of these amazing iPad apps. It tours the solar system, including moons and asteroids, and focusses on the collisions and orbits that helped to for the solar system we live in today.

Two interesting observations stood out. First was the story of Titius and Bode’s Law on page 100. Bode’s Law states that the orbital distances of all the planets between (and including) Mercury and Uranus follow a pattern:

a=0.4+0.3 \times 2^m

(where a is the semi-major axis of each planet in astronomical units and m is a positive integer).

Second was the role of the moon in stabilising Earth’s climate. The book explains that without the moon, our planet’s axis would wobble wildly every million years or so resulting in unstable climates that wouldn’t allow sufficient time for adaption by natural selection. Without our moon, the author argues, evolution on Earth would have been thwarted and humans might even have not existed!

Disturbing the Solar System an interesting read and is a perfect companion to the incredible iPad apps that I mentioned earlier. Use them in tandem so you can ‘see’ what you’re reading about. Recommended for anyone interested in the solar system. (For anyone less interested, just get the apps!) ★★★★

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