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A History of the Solar System

sfyjThis an unusual book, packed with information, and a difficult one to review. Rather than discuss the evolutionary history of the solar system (as I expected), Vita-Finzi chooses to talk about the history of some ideas that have come about and developed through the study of our planetary neighbours. Each idea is assigned a chapter followed by a list of references.

To explain what the author’s approach is all about, we must go back to 1584, when Giordano Bruno first suggested our planets revolved around the sun. Now, we know there is a multitude of planets orbiting similar stars to ours in our galaxy. That’s a pretty good, and relevant, idea!

In another chapter, the author explores the idea that the solar system is still changing. External ingressions must have had an influence.  Vita-Finzi discusses a variety of potential influencers and our present ability to measure their effect.

This is a challenging read. Long sentences are common. They are replete with subsidiary clauses, which make parts of the text difficult to absorb. I often found I had to read a sentence several times to fully understand the gist. And, sometimes a word had obviously been dropped, which made me feel uneasy about my comprehension overall. Such blemishes are irritating and detract from the underlying value.                                                                                                                      

Despite these criticisms, the book is cleverly conceived and a useful addition to any scientists bookshelf. It should provide a challenging read to students and graduates alike. Many seasoned scientists may enjoy taking a stab at it too.

In many ways, I understand and admire this brave attempt to conjure up a fresh and more interesting way to examine our local system. I hope there are better books to come.

David Edwards

A HISTORY OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM by CLAUDIO VITA-FINZI.  2016 Springer.  100pp, sbk ISBN: 978-3-319-33848-4  ISBN ebook: 978-3-319-33850-7.  W: