Book Review | “Kepler and the Universe: How one man revolutionized Astronomy” by David K. Love

Posted Monday, 8 August, 2016 by jorielov , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in [2016] as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction. I received a complimentary copy of “Kepler and the Universe” direct from the publisher Prometheus Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Why Astronomy and Space Science interest me:

I positively am fascinated by Quantum Physics & Mechanics as much as everything connected to Astrophysics, Cosmology and Astronomy. Kepler is well known by name for his contributions but this is the first time I saw a biography that true went to the heart of who the man was behind the name.

My fascination with the Solar System began quite innocuously at a young age, when I became quite wicked curious about the universe. Casting my eyes skyward to breathe in the evening skies, whilst the stars were twinkling their magical glow back towards Earth was quite the fascination for me as a child. Learning how to recognise the constellations was fuelled by a concentrated focus workshop I took at my local Science Center; a place I would hang my hat every Summer til my thirteenth year. You could say, I grew up with dual passions firmly rooted in both the Arts & Sciences; exploring what interested me and developing my own curiously curious pursuit of knowledge as a result.

Space Science has re-defined itself since I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s; as so much has become known since then, whilst new frontiers to explore have constantly kept scientists and layreaders happily on the ‘edge’ of understanding everything that could draw their curious eyes to become giddy with excitement! I have a cross-love of different topics of interest which have the tendency to overlap each other and cross-relate as well, as if your parlaying your interests into Astronomy, AstroPhysics & AstroBotany are close in pursuit whereas any of the realms pursuant to Quantum Physics is not going to be overlooked but happily followed as well. I can still recollect wandering the Science sections of bookshoppes – wherein I would simply move title to title, seeking new threads of interest to keep tabs on whilst sorting out which topics I might one day like to read for a deeper understanding of insight.

At the heart of where my heart lies in all of this, is Albert Einstein, and by osmosis everyone who arrived at their moment of enlightenment within his generation, prior to his birth or in the decades since his death. There is a lot of history within science and the wicked sweet part for a girl whose mind has a fever of curiosity about ‘all of it’ is that when you stumble across a release such as this, you cannot help but become genuinely interested in devouring it’s contents!

I also felt this would start the shift to seek out more books of this nature, where the scientists who have left me wanting to better understand them could perhaps be sought out on a more regular basis than a haphazard spontaneous focus such as I have done in previous years.

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Book Review | “Kepler and the Universe: How one man revolutionized Astronomy” by David K. LoveKepler and the Universe
Subtitle: How one man revolutionized Astronomy

A contemporary of Galileo and a forerunner of Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a pioneering German scientist and a pivotal figure in the history of astronomy. This colorful, well-researched biography brings the man and his scientific discoveries to life, showing how his contributions were every bit as important as those of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton.

It was Kepler who first advocated the completely new concept of a physical force emanating from the sun that controls the motion of the planets—today we call this gravity and take it for granted. He also established that the orbits of the planets were elliptical in shape and not circular. And his three laws of planetary motion are still used by contemporary astronomers and space scientists.

The author focuses not just on these and other momentous breakthroughs but also on Kepler’s arduous life, punctuated by frequent tragedy and hardships. His first wife died young, and eight of the twelve children he fathered succumbed to disease in infancy or childhood. He was frequently caught up in the religious persecutions of the day. His mother narrowly escaped death when she was accused of being a witch.

Intermingling historical and personal details of Kepler’s life with lucid explanations of his scientific research, this book presents a sympathetic portrait of the man and underscores the critical importance of Kepler’s discoveries in the history of astronomy.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

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ISBN: 9781633881068

on 10th November, 2015

Pages: 255

Published By: Prometheus Books (@prometheusbks)

Available Formats: Hardcover and Ebook

About David K. Love

David K. Love

David K. Love is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society and holds a BSc honors degree in astronomy from University College London. After a career as an accountant at British Telecom, he took early voluntary retirement to pursue his scientific interests and writing. He lectures frequently on the history of astronomy and on the origins and evolution of our universe.

Listen to the author on a podcast about Kepler and the Universe

Converse via: #Kepler, #Space, #Astronomy + #ScienceBooks

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On beginnings and forewords:

Through my years of researching topics in Science with a heavy concentration on the Quantum realms and Space Science (including Astronomy and Cosmology) in particular, I have threaded an interest through following in the path of Einstein, Galileo, Newton and Copernicus – which is one reason why I felt reading about Kepler might be equally on par with where my personal concentrated studies are leading me.

Having read a duology of science biographies featuring women earlier this year, it does not surprise me to learn through this biography, how forward-thinking Kepler was and how his mind was working several generations of thought ahead of where Science was on the forefront of understanding (his concepts)! For starters, most of what is discovered through scientific exploration is cross-explored by multiple scientists across centuries, generations and continents; for each singular thought cast into the world as a working theory in which to experiment and expound upon by honing in on how to develop a new concept to explain it, there is someone else (or multiple someones!) doing the exact same work! This is most interesting if you consider how seemingly random that would occur and how wondrously wicked it is at the same time!

Therefore, when I was reading about how Kepler has been cast aside in historical recollections of where his focus was concentrating in direct relation to his peers, I was not surprised! Too often, those who stumble across something first are not the ones who are regaled later for having the daring grit to pull the pieces together. Sometimes I think History has a funny way of telling it’s story, because too oft-times it overlooks the people who have something to share and say that is quite as important as what has already been said!

I was most interested in finding out how Kepler moved forward from a failed logical conclusion to the rightful passageway that not only fuelled his research to step through a new line of theory, but how his courage to continue to pursue what fascinated him, led to some of the most remarkable scientific discoveries of all-time. Part of what was starting to endear me to Kepler, was how Mr Love was lamenting about his life being muddled by gutting adversity and personal tragic losses, erstwhile alongside his academic pursuits! It sounded to me that his work ethic ran counter-current to his personal crises and that in of itself was incredible if you consider the fortitude of spirit it would take to re-adjust your focus after life kept giving you so much to work through on a personal level!

My Review of Kepler and the Universe:

Blessedly, Love begins at the very beginning – retracting the historical archives for those of us whose educational backgrounds in Science were either limited or underdeveloped by schooling.

Early Astronomical History:

It did not surprise me to have learnt a man who lived in 570 BCE (Pythagoras) was responsible for curating a thought about how the Earth functioned and how our orbital motions were ‘affected’ by a fiery point of reference. What perked my interest, however, was how he sorted out the hidden secret to most things understood in both Science and Life are mathematically inclined! It is most curious, as next to how important thoughts and our imaginations are to the lifeblood of our internal cycles of wellness, so too, is the understanding of how the language of the universe is coded through a numerical heritage!

I was delighted in finding out more in-depth knowledge of the contributions on behalf of Plato and Ptolemy as both men were under-acknowledged whilst I was in school. Of the two, Plato I turnt to reading about to stem out a feel for his thoughts on Logic & Philosophy whereas I deferred to Ptolemy to wanting to seek out more about how his mind electrified his observational instincts whilst grounding his theories on experimental data. Ptolemy thereby won me over as a man keenly invested in Space Science whereas Plato less so. Although, in hindsight this might have been a fallacy on my part to ascertain as I did not have as much information to hedge how I was gauging the contributions by both men!

Finding out more about how Copernicus (a nickname I gave one of my cats) routed his theory of how we live in an Sun-centred universe was quite interesting, as he was not only discovering the metrics of how to calculate the distances per each planet revolving around the Sun, but he was devising a better method of deduction for calculating a better framework of proportion for gravitational distances. I agree with Love about Copernicus’s rightful place in scientific history, as I have for years, earnestly defended his position as well. It is quite interesting to see how quickly he’s dismissed but I have long since observed a bit of a bias when it comes to discussion of scientifically historical discoveries.

There is a passage from Copernicus’s writings I had not previously stumbled across and was blessed Love felt it was relevant to share with us now. It is such a poetic expose on behalf of the Sun and the role the Sun plays whilst granting a creative look into a man in the 16th Century would project his creative thoughts through prose on it’s behalf. Very eloquently stated and incredibly insightful to use a known metaphoric adjective to state it’s purpose! Such a treat! Talk about heart-breaking though! Copernicus exited his death bed hours after receiving the very first copy of his published works on behalf of his scientific discoveries! I agreed with Love about how this eloquoy on behalf of the Sun could have been the impetus start on how Kepler chose to pursue his own findings of a Sun-centred universe!

I have known the study of Science can forestall a few to pursue it’s interior walls of intellectual thoughts as there is always the position that Science debates Religion and vice versa. However, what I felt was more interesting is how Mr Love approached this fragile topic with bonefide insight backed through evidential support but also, an interesting layer of moral oversight. This is relating in direct regard for how there are Biblical passages which refute the known reality of how the Earth is not flat, but circular in scope and how we are orbiting around the Sun rather than living in a universe ruled by the Earth’s presence independent of the Sun. This was cross-referenced by passages being quoted from the Old Testament and by the thoughts of those who would fight to uphold what the Bible is testifying to reveal rather than to entertain the thoughts of emerging science which sought to better understand what was being slighted by Biblical observational data. The mortality Love brought to the surface was how Martin Luther carried more for defending what the Bible foretold about all of this rather than the horrors of how one group of people felt systemic removal of native dwellers was justified. I felt it was quite ironic myself!

The origins of Kepler:

What was quite fascinating is that when relating Kepler’s own thoughts on behalf of his family’s personality quirks, he’s using Astrological references in relation to how his relatives were reacting during pivotal celestial moments based on where the planets were aligned. A man of humble origins with a fiercely unique childhood where if he wasn’t trying to avoid a foul mood of a loved one, he was attempting to avoid his peers. Love included a photograph of Kepler’s statue, which presented us with the portraiture of his stately presence. Similar to the graphs and the pictorial references throughout the context of this book, it was lovely to see an image of the man of the hour!

Reading the supposition of Kepler’s awareness through his own written dissertation on ‘self’ was extraordinarily insightful towards understanding the fuller scope of how Kepler felt he was uniquely walking a life outside of his peers. He was fully engaged with how his mind was viewing the world, whilst noting certain characteristical differences that set him apart from others. The interesting bit to contemplate here is how he preferred not to speak in first person narrative and how most of what he is saying is nearly ‘asking a question’ rather than stating ‘honest facts’ about himself. I felt he was searching for understanding as he was writing as if he were attempting to view himself outside of his normal perceptive lens from afield rather than from internally processing his thoughts directly. If he could sup-propose a contrast, he could in theory formulate a better definition of how he was living.

Relating the back-story on Kepler’s life’s work:

It isn’t hard to realise how wicked it would have been to live prior to Kepler’s timeline and during his living era to purport a direct understanding of how keen it would have been to be on the verge of discovering how the planets and our calendar days were tied together. There is a lot of back-history fuelling the understanding of how we keep an earmark on our days (through designated hours and collections of ‘months’) as there was once a period of time of heavily felt emotions tied to how we organise our ‘time’. This was an extension derived from two different theories of how time is measured but it was more than that, as most of the origins of how Science evolved forward in both thought and understanding was closely tied to what a person could take as a leap of faith. This of course, would prove to be both positive and negative depending on your point of view. Most of what is known now was mere supposition without a physical trail of evidence to back-up the compounding theories that could only be invented through imagination rather than having anything tangible or observational to convict it’s existence.

It is further interesting to denote that Kepler moved in research circles similar to Ptolemy, of which both men utilised the works of men who understood certain components of their continued work to explain the previously unexplainable. They would continue where others left off and thus expanding on the collective scientific body of work which had undergone the explanation of the universe; cementing into the forefront of knowing the best way to understand the cosmos is to thread it through Physics & Mathematics without limiting it solely through one vein or the other. It is also with a proper understanding of how everything in orbit interrelates to each other and reacts to each other, that proved to be the hardest to conceptionalise when men were used to only trusting what was previously believed to be accurate or could be seen with the naked eye. To stretch the theories further meant trusting one’s own instincts and the path one set for oneself to follow. This is what gave Kepler a bit of an advantage over his community of peers – he continuously sought out to better himself and the manner in which we approach Space Science.

Whilst reading passages straight out of Kepler’s journals or letters, I felt as if we were gaining entrance into his personal world of confidence. His words still stand true today, however, it’s the closeness of knowing his exact thoughts on his research and his exploratory theories to understand where curiosity led him to run is quite remarkable; especially if you pause a moment to consider the year in which his writings were first committed to ink! He had such a wonderful way of composing his thoughts, as his observations are humbling as they are keenly insightful for projecting what he was feeling as his observations led him closer to his goals.

What kept standing out to me about Kepler’s personality is his unwillingness to make concessions on behalf of his personal beliefs (in Science or Religion) simply due to the pressures of society or organised religions who took grievance with him. He stood strong against oppositional criticism, whilst endearing himself to counteract the grievances with his own assertive definitions to explain where his beliefs were directed. It’s a mark of an independent mind and a champion of freedom of thought, speech and the right to live a life one yields as their own making. However, for the fact he was alive during the 16th Century, true freedom such as the one he employed was not without it’s difficulties!

Post-Kepler Space Science Research Continues to Advance:

Conclusionary results of the discoveries of Kepler’s legacy are reflective in how we’ve advanced since his research by understanding certain attributes about the universe’s life cycle. In the latter bits of the book, Love tackles one of the most controversial subjects of our modern age: the Big Bang Theory! It is quite interesting reading about what constitutes the theory and how it originated to become explored, as it’s something that I found especially easy to decipher previously as most of it’s explanations were from voices who were already self-inflicting their bias on the discussion. The bones of theory’s framework is rooted in how the universe ‘reacts’ to it’s environment and how over millennia it can contort itself into an expanded state from it’s beginning.

I’ve been on the cusp of understanding most of what is expressed and happily digestible inside this biography for most of my life. Even the field of Optics (credited to Kepler’s discoveries) is highlighted for a bit of time, which was most fascinating as I find Optics to be generally awe-inspiring as it pertains to how we perceive Light and how Light is able to refract itself against what it comes into contact. When you start to research the Quantum realms, a cursory understanding of the origins of mathematics and cosmology due help in order to continue to build your baseline knowledge of them. Previously, I could attest I was flying a bit more blind than I would want to admit, as my elementary knowledge on these subjects was only partially understood.

I feel Mr Love has given all of us a healthy discussion on Cosmic History and Exploratory theorems wherein scientists for centuries have been in full pursuit of the truth lying amongst the stars.

On conscious design & the origins of the universe through a religious lens:

There is mention about the multiverse wherein if you go through the lens of the scientists it will expressively explain how the universe and all life forms therein were not necessarily created by one singular entity (here this refers to God) but was definitively projected to occur without any interference at all, as it was writ to exist all along. It’s a theory of how expansive the breadth of time can be viewed if you ponder how explosive the universe is by it’s metrics of inclusivity of continuing to reach for higher goals of it’s framework. The universe by even causal observation can be noted for being especially large and not entirely centric on our ‘niche of life’ here on this end of it.

Where those of us who live faith-based lives might differ in thought is how the universe originated and by how the origins of the universe can define who we are whilst we’re alive. This is where Science & Religion will always have to be dealt with a healthy appreciation for two sides of thought and for not exclusively writing out one or the other as a result of differing opinions.

Having said this, I still believe those of us who walk in faith can accept most of the research results from the scientific community with one minor difference: how the universe was created. The curious ending in this biography is how dimensionally larger the universe is known to be right now and what this means for our understanding of intelligent life! I must say, this truly gave me that ‘gobsmacked moment of clarity’ for conceptionalising what was once known to being true and what now technically is our ‘new’ reality of insight on the cosmic planetary planes of knowledge!

On the gift of insight Love has given us all:

Normally, I find moving between the text (of a non-fiction work) and the notes in the appendixes are quite tiresome as they are not oft-times collated in a moving thread of converting the originating mark and the disclosure of what it’s referencing in a stream of moving thought. What surprised me herein is how well you can move between reading Kepler and the Universe and keeping a finger-grasp on the appendixes as you read. Your not having to guess how to find the further informational bits, nor are the extensions of notes hard to decipher – it’s simply read concurrently and accurately. This is an unexpected bit of random joy for this reader!

Certain tidbits stood out to me as I read this tome of beauty:

  • there are harmonic melodies in celestial bodies of interest
  • something called an ‘equant’ held a secret history of insight towards understanding orbital space
  • all data discovered by the Greeks and stored for centuries by the Persians were as good as sealed in a vacuum of unknown dimensions before being re-discovered
  • there is an ancient published version of a Wikipedia variant of learned thought
  • our skies are blue due to how light is reflectively splintered against the Earth’s atmosphere
  • listening to Euclid, Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus and others gathered within sharing their scientific thoughts was quite a luxury
  • simplicity vs complexity will have the tendency to yield in favour of the shorter route
  • Kepler was on the brink of Newton’s universal understanding of gravity
  • our interplanetary lives are not necessarily the only one’s in existence
  • the universe is older than you can imagine if you consider it’s currently tracking at 13.8 billion years

Love wrote a fluid exploratory work of engaging the reader into the timefolds of where Science and original thought co-merged to create a legacy of expanding our horizons by the conviction of grasping the unknown through the portal of imagination, observational experimentation and a firm commitment to proving theory through mathematical evidence to support the conjunctive theorems.

I do wonder though, if planetary harmonic symphonies have been attempted to be drawn out of experimenting with the sounds threading through ambient and trance electronica? Especially in regards to projects such as Hearts of Space, of which I have been supportive of listening for nearly two decades!? The synchronicity of how the layers within electronica soundscapes are produced and how they nearly trick a sensory recognition out of their listeners towards a more ancient awareness of the present is what eluded me to re-consider their actual purpose in our auditorial lives.

Mr Love inter-fused his re-collective memoir on behalf of Kepler with quotations from published works by both Kepler and his contemporaries as well as bits of letters or correspondences between the men as well. Herein we are privy to the thoughtfulness of how each man re-inspired the other to move forward with their own individual pursuits and how wonderful it was to find each other as it oft-times felt like a singular sport of the minor few who dared to carve out working hypothesis’s that might go against conventional wisdom, logic and perceived truth. This is where it grows even more dynamic if you consider we’re reading the honest thoughts on behalf of men like Galileo of whom, I fear, might not be as inclined to understand our curiosity on his behalf! Except to say, he might, if he remembered how much his own joy was sparked by reading Kepler’s theories!

The true beauty of this volume of knowledge is how Mr Love was able to break-down the components of scientific historical artifacts to a working conversation amongst layreaders and the scientific community. He endears you to become excited about his subject because he’s written this book in the vein of Creative Non-Fiction wherein he remembers to ground his collective vision on an emotional connection of one man’s journey towards understanding the universe. This is important because his book isn’t droll to read nor is it uninspiring from the stand-point your devouring a lot of heavy concepts within a short expanse of time! He provides a lighter approach to where your mind engages with what it’s been told through consistent explanation through the apposition of what was beneficial to understand outright.

I was quite thankful for the photographic inclusions on behalf of giving us a pictorial introduction to our key subject [Kepler] whilst also devouting a bit of time to his environs and other pertinent bits of information granting us a living presence within a historical biography. The richness of the photographs are blessed with a sharpness of their hues and the way in which they translated well against the pages of the book. Aside from the depictions of the science models and historical artifacts of Kepler’s research, the photographs I felt best gave us the perfect window to understand the man directly!

It should be known, despite my love of the appendix notes, there was a moment where I simply overlooked the markers to read them and became wholly absorbed into the context of this book!

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This book review is courtesy of:

Prometheus Books

whilst being featured in conjunction with #FuellYourSciFi:

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 8 August, 2016 by jorielov in #FuellYourSciFi, #JorieLovesIndies, 16th Century, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Cosmology, Johannes Kepler, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Popular Astronomy, Prometheus Books, Quantum | Mechanics Physics Theory, Science, Space Science

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