On 6th of June 2012, people in many parts of the world will witness a rare and breathtaking spectacle - the planet Venus passing across the bright disc of the sun.
Today's observers can watch in comfort, but in past centuries astronomers, priests and sundry adventurers risked their health, sanity and even their livesfor a few minutes' view of this extraordinary event - undertaking long, perilous journeys and experiencing unimaginable privations.
From Lapland to Madegascar, these expeditions expanded the known world, and often led to the first encounters between indigenous peoples and so-called 'civilisation'. In one of the most momentous, in 1769 Captain James Cook, on the tiny barque Endeavour, sailed halfway around the globe to observe the transit, and to try and find the Great Unknown Southern Continent. It was the first of the great scientific expeditions into the Pacific.
This marvellous collection of essays will make you look with fresh eyes at our planet, the cosmos, and above all, the astonishing and unstoppable power of human curiosity.
I must admit to having a long standing interest in all things astrophysics and astrology related. As such, this book caught my eye as it passed across the lists...
Keeping in mind that this is the compiled transcripts of a series of Radio NZ shows, each chapter is a separate broadcast by an expert, across a range of fields from Paleontology to Maori Studies.
This book has special relevance to Kiwis... it explains and puts an interesting point of view on the journey undertaken by Captain Cook, under orders from King George the Third to find the Great Southern Continent and make observations of Venus passing across the face of the sun, that brought him down here where he discovered our fair land.
Those observations, when combined with others taken around the world, allowed some great minds to lay down some astronomical theories, many of which have borne fruit. Some key basic standards were calculated from those observations, but just as importantly, the ramifications of the discoveries made along the way helped redefine the world as it once was, setting the stage for the development of the world we live in now.
Overall, this book is a wonderful addition to any knowledge-junkie's library, and well worth considering. For what it is, the price may be a tad high, but if so, not by much, and certainly not too high to make one take it off the shopping list.
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