The Hunt For Vulcan by Thomas Levenson

It's not very often that I pick up a popular science book. I don't know why because, when I do, I am always fascinated by the subject matter. The Hunt For Vulcan, subtitled "How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet and Deciphered the Universe" is very much the same.

I guess it tells the history of scientific discovery in the field of astronomy from Isaac Newton's gravity to Albert Einstein's relativity, through looking at the false discovery of a potential new planet, Vulcan. There are quite a few scientific thought experiments to get your head around, especially when it tries to explain Einstein's thinking. For a layman, this isn't too difficultly worded, but in terms of being able to understand the theory, it is quite a different matter. Never-the-less, the book is relatively easy to understand and it is quite short too, just about 200 pages.

It does have one flaw...when trying to compare a discovery to finding the way into Narnia or like seeing the Hogwarts Express for the first time, the writer clearly didn't know his references well enough. Everyone I know knows that train leaves from platform 9 3/4...yet Levenson is under the assumption that it is 9 1/2...I guess the scientific research was more important than the cultural references, but it is a forgiveable mistake.

On the whole, I really enjoyed reading The Hunt For Vulcan. The writing is fairly crisp, as it needs to be for a short book like this. I just wish I could have understood the maths a little better!

Star rating: 4 from 5


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