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Venus Revealed


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Table of Contents

* Venus Before the Telescope: Goddess at the Edge of Night * Venus Through the Telescope: Earths Twin * In the Time of Spacecraft: Descent into Hell? * Chance or Necessity?: Sizing Up the Planets * Long-Lost Sister: Magellan and the Rediscovery of Venus * Life on Venus: A Barren World?

About the Author

David Harry Grinspoon is assistant professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Since 1990, Professor Grinspoon has studied Venus as a Principal Investigator for NASA's Planetary Atmospheres and Venus Data Analysis Program. He lives in Denver.


Perhaps outshone of late by headline-grabbers like Mars and Jupiter, our sister planet seems ovedue for some attention. Grinspoon (astrophysical sciences, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, and a principal scientist on the Magellan space probe mission to Venus) has fashioned his book as a kind of prolonged undergraduate lecture, loosely organized and accessible. His talky-cutesy approach, however, works against him. That is unfortunate, as the book offers considerable information on the orbital, geological, and atmospheric processes of Venus gathered through Earth-based observations and various U.S. and Soviet probes. Grinspoon's discussion of Venus in light of comparative planetology is easy enough to understand, touching on acid rain, plate tectonics, and cometary impacts; yet one quickly tires of the professor's effort to charm with his enlightened politics and his impulsive, largely frivolous footnoting. Patient readers may find it useful; impatient ones will do well by skipping about the text; libraries may prefer to wait for a less exasperating treatment.‘Patrick Dunn, East Tennessee State Univ. Libs., Johnson City

University of Colorado-Boulder planetary scientist Grinspoon clearly loves the subject of this exemplary work, the unfolding of our knowledge of "Earth's Twin." As a principal scientist on the recent Magellan mission to Venus, he quite naturally focuses on that project's discoveries, but his book is rich as well in anecdotes about correct and incorrect speculations, blind alleys and spectacular surprises as human knowledge of our sister planet grew over the centuries. Grinspoon himself winds up speculating about non-carbon-based life on Venus and about the possibility that carbon-based life began there and migrated here on meteorites four billion years ago. Though some might view this concept as outrageous, his irreverent style and his admission that he is indulging in a flight of fancy with serious intent make his final chapter, like all his others, great fun as well as greatly informative. At important points in the book, Grinspoon leaves Venus and returns to Earth, highlighting the way people do-and love-science, the relationship between big science and national defense projects, the vagaries of government funding and, most important, our role as custodians and manipulators of our fragile environment. His book is full of quirky facts, references to popular culture, clever similes and inventive and revealing metaphors and analogies. Even the footnotes are entertaining. But Grinspoon remains true to his serious purpose, concluding that "the most important benefit of planetary explanation will be self-knowledge.... We should treasure every bit of knowledge and insight Venus can provide. It's the only twin we've got." Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)

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