(And Then I Wrote...) In order to let my backlog of "Across the Universe" columns build up a bit, I am republishing a selection of other articles that I have written and published in various places...
This was one of my favorite book reviews... I got to be snarky and still give the book an enthusiastic thumb's up! The review ran in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences in 2001.
I have to admit, I had every reason to hate this book before I even cracked open a page. As the co-author myself of a bestselling astronomy book called Turn LEFT at Orion (published more than ten years ago by Cambridge University Press, with a new edition just out), I obviously have my own opinion about how to find one’s way around the galaxy! And the plot device of this book, a sort of “manuscript-found-in-a-bottle” travelogue through the galaxy by some future astronomer, is either time-honored or hoary with age depending on your perspective. Who is this author, Mitchell Begelman, anyway?
This being the internet age, I checked out his curriculum vitae on the web. Turns out Begelman is an astronomy professor at the University of Colorado and Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, and the co-author (with Sir Martin Rees) of a prize-winning popular science book, Gravity’s Fatal Attraction. Digging deeper, I also found that he graduated from Bronx Science High in 1970. Hey – that makes him a classmate of my old MIT roommate, Paul Mailman. I dashed off an e-mail to Paul.
“Small world,” said Paul, “I was just chatting about Mitch the other day with another classmate.” Paul checked out Dr. Begelman’s web page, though, and hesitated on his identification. “Gee, the guy I remember was skinny, and had a lot more hair!”
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