Monday, August 30, 2010

The Heavens Proclaim His Glory

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The Heavens Proclaim His Glory:
A Spectacular View of Creation Through the Lens of the NASA Hubble Telescope

Hardback: 176 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Sept. 2010

Source: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program.

Book Description from Publisher Website:
Our world displays the handiwork of God all around us—in the land and sea, the animals and the plants. But in respect to the sky, the heavens, the universe…there’s a realm of beauty and creation man has not been able to witness, until now. The Heavens Proclaim His Glory is a compilation of stunning photography taken by NASA’s Hubble® Telescope capturing striking images of stars, galaxies, cosmic events, planets, and more. Vivid up-close photographs are paired with a romantic Psalm or quote, as well as a short description of the image. The Heavens will open up a whole new world of worship and praise for our God.

Contributors include: Francis Chan, Mike Huckabee, John MacArthur, Stephen Mansfield, Sarah Young, Max Lucado, Jenna Lucado, Henry & Richard Blackaby, Robert Morgan, Kirk Cameron, Homer Hickam, and more.

The Heavens Proclaim His Glory is a coffee-table type book full of full-color photos taken in space accompanied by poems, Psalms, and quotes from Christian authors. Each picture was labeled as to what it was and often had a short explanatory paragraph about what it showed.

The photographs were of galaxies, nebula, stars, planets in our solar system, regions of space, the Hubble telescope, and a few other space objects. The pictures were lovely, especially the full-page ones. There were also a fair number of photographs that were smaller--only about one-fifth of a page in size. Sometimes the smaller size was used to allow room for multiple pictures of different views of the same object.

There was a poem, Psalm, or quote on the page opposite of the photograph with a space and "God created the universe" theme. The text didn't take long to read. The photo information was usually on the same page as the photo. This meant text sometimes obscured part of the picture in the full-page photographs.

Several times, the labels referred to "galaxy evolution" and "star evolution." A few of the author quotes also touched on the origins debate. All of the quotes gave God the credit for creating the universe, but there was one quote explaining why the Big Bang fit with the Bible and proved God exists (which, according to Danny Faulkner in Universe by Design, is a flawed argument if you fully understand the Big Bang model and when you compare the order to the Genesis 1 creation account). There was also a quote explaining how there could be literal 24-hour days of creation before God created the sun, moon, and stars.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I did wish that all of the photos had been full-page since that's what I was mainly interested in. I'd recommend this book to Christians who'd like easy access to printed photos of the beauty found in space.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Universe by Design by Danny Faulkner

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Universe by Design
by Danny Faulkner

Paperback: 143 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: September 2004

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
Written for high school students and adults who are interested in cosmology, this book explains the developments in human understanding of the universe starting with ancient Greeks and ending with the latest ideas in modern cosmology. Dr. Danny Faulkner explains what evidence led to the development of these various ideas and what new information caused them to be replaced. For the modern models (Big Bang, Steady-State, and Plasma models), he explains their strengths and weaknesses in terms a layman can easily understand.

He then explains why some criticisms of modern cosmology aren't valid because they misunderstand the concept or model. Finally, he discusses the few Bible-based, young earth ideas that have been proposed (along with their strengths, weaknesses, and other possible areas that might be explored in the future).

Universe by Design is an educational book about the developments in cosmology from the ancient Greeks to modern times. The author explained why these various ideas were developed (what evidence they were based on), so it was easy to follow the reasoning and remember the idea. He then explained what evidence overturned those ideas and what new ideas replaced them.

He also briefly explained, among other things, quantum mechanics, general relativity, the string theory, the cosmological constant, the Hubble constant, dark matter, and dark energy. For modern cosmology, he discussed the Big Bang in detail and, more briefly, the Steady-State model and the Plasma Universe model. He maintained a respectful tone and was careful to accurately represent the model even when he didn't agree with the idea.

The author started by making it quite clear that he holds to a "God created about 6,000 years ago" view. He presented current Bible-based cosmological ideas--both their strengths and weaknesses--and suggested possible ideas to explore in the development of future models. He also spent a chapter explaining common misunderstandings about what modern cosmological ideas say so that the reader can intelligently discuss these models with those who hold them.

Overall, the information was clear, easy to follow, and easy to understand and remember. However, I did have to re-read and think over the sections on the constancy of the speed of light before I understood it (apparently, all it means is that the speed of light through space is always the same--it's not influenced by the speed and direction of the source or of the observer). I also never understood his argument for how Inflation worked since matter would move (in relation to itself and other matter) even if it's space that's expanding.

Black and white pictures illustrated the text, and the author defined the scientific terms in the text. The book kept my interest throughout, and I found it very informative. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to high schoolers and adults interested in the history of cosmology, modern cosmology, and the strengths and weaknesses of current universe-origins models.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Historical Atlas of the Medieval World by John Haywood

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Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, AD 600-1492
by John Haywood

Hardback: 96 pages
Publisher: Barnes and Nobles Books
Released: 2002

Source: Bought used through Amazon.

Book Description from Book Flap:
The Historical Atlas of the Medieval World offers a fascinating guide to the history of humanity from the emergence of Islam to the voyages of Christopher Columbus. Combining superbly detailed maps with a wealth of supporting narrative and an invaluable A - Z historical encyclopedia, it provides not only unique perspectives on the broad sweep of world history but also detailed coverage of regional developments, presenting hard facts and expert interpretation in a form that is both readily accessible and visually exciting.

Central to the atlas is a series of world maps that present an overview of the grand themes of history at key dates between AD 600 and 1492. They chart the shifting patterns of human settlement and the rise and fall of empires and states, reviewing in addition the spread of trade and exploration on a world scale. These snapshot surveys are then followed by regional maps that look more closely at the great events of each era--the flowering of medieval Europe and the Renaissance, the far-flung Islamic empire of the Arabs, Tang and Song China, and the dynamic Mongol and Inca empires. Equally illuminating insights are also given into the less familiar history of medieval Japan, the empire of Harsha in India, the first African empires, and the Thai state of Nan Chao. All the maps are supported by a wealth of annotation, succinct accompanying essays, and summary timelines, and they are also backed by a network of useful cross-references, an index, and a substantial encyclopedic section that provides an A-Z guide to the people, places, and events that made their mark on history.

Planned with both the expert and the amateur historian very much in mind, the Historical Atlas of the Medieval World forms a highly accessible, beautifully presented survey that will prove ideal for quick reference or more leisurely browsing.

Historical Atlas of the Medieval World gives an overview of world history for 600 AD - 1492 AD. It didn't give much information on any one event but instead showed the shifting of power on a world scale.

Each 2-page spread had a map, a timeline, and text that tied the timeline and the map together. The text also explained how events in individual empires or countries interacted with the whole to affect overall power shifts. The full-color maps were packed with information but were also easy to read.

The altas divided the world into five areas: Americas; Europe; Middle East; Africa; and East & South Asia. The first series of maps and timelines gave an overview of the major events in all of these five areas at once as well as other details (like were they a nomadic society, a empire, a state, etc.). Then the altas focused on each of the five major areas in turn and covered their major events in more detail. At the back, there was a A-Z guide to the people, places, and events that were mentioned in the text. It gave a summary about the subject and references to where it was mentioned in the text.

Overall, I found this atlas interesting, visually appealing, easy to use, and easy to understand. I'd recommend it to those who are interested in an overview of world history during this time period.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from "Viking Age Europe - 793-1050"
In eastern Europe, Swedish venturers known as Rus pioneered trade routes along the rivers of Russia to the Black and Caspian Seas, giving their name to the Russian state which developed at Novgorod around 862.

The Viking raids and settlements were prompted by developments within Scandinavia itself. By the late 8th century, power was becoming centralized, creating an intensely competitive society. For many, pirate raids overseas became a means to acquire wealth, a reputation, and an armed following to support their ambitions at home. Others, denied the chance to rule at home, sought to conquer lands for themselves and their followers abroad. Trade and land hunger, caused by a rising population, were other important factors in the Viking phenomenon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Life of Washington by Anna Reed

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Life of Washington
by Anna Reed

Hardback: 290 pages
Publisher: Attic Books
Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description:
Anna C. Reed, niece of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, authored this biography of George Washington's life for the American Sunday-School Union. It was originally published in 1842 and then translated into over 20 languages within a few years. The book was among the most widely-read biographies of Washington of the time.

ASSU missionaries carried books published by the mission in saddlebags to leave with the fledgling Sunday schools they had started, promoting literacy, education, and the very best in Christian moral values.

This biography of George Washington covers his life from his childhood to his death and was written using his journals, letters, and other records.

Life of Washington is an interesting biography of George Washington from his birth (1732) to death (1799) that was written in 1842, not long after his death. There were many quotes from Washington's own journals and letters as well as from other people's journals and letters (comments about incidents involving Washington). It was very interesting to see his life based on his own words and those who knew him. The book used formal language, but it was very readable and written in a way that kept my attention. This was also partly because it brought out interesting and often exciting events in his life that I hadn't known about before.

The book spent about 45 pages on his early life (1732-1763), and most of that was new to me. There were about 145 pages on the events leading up to the Revolutionary War and the war itself. A fair amount of that was about the various battles and troop movements, but woven throughout were antidotes about how Washington treated his men, made decisions, and the "behind the (battle) scenes" efforts that he had to engage in. About 52 pages were about the forming of the Constitution and his election as President. Very little was said about what he did as President. The focus was more on how he conducted himself during that time. And about 16 pages were about his retirement, how he almost was called to service again, and his death. At the back of the book, there was a sample of "rules of proper conduct" that Washington had copied out as a child, the text of the Declaration of Independence, and a few other things about Washington.

Since the book was written for the American Sunday-School Union, it highlighted Washington's Christian faith and his admirable actions and morals. Since it was written by a niece of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, it's also patriotic (though not in a way that glorifies war). There were a few black and white drawings to illustrate the text. Overall, I'd recommend this book to those who enjoy biographies and who want a unique look into George Washington's life and his faith.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from page 25-26
...when [Washington] was nineteen years of age, he was appointed one of the adjunct generals of Virginia, with the rank of a major. At that time, the French nation had large settlements in Canada, and in Louisiana, and they determined on connecting those settlements by a line of forts; in doing this they took possession of a tract of land which was considered to be within the province of Virginia. The governor of Virginia (Mr. Dinwiddie) thought it was his duty to notice this, in the name of his king; and it was very important that the person whom he employed in the business should have resolution and prudence. Young Washington was worthy of his confidence and willingly undertook the perilous duty; as it gave him an opportunity of being actively employed for the advantage of his native province. The dangers which he knew he must meet did not, for a moment, deter hm from consenting to set out immediately on the toilsome journey, although winter was near. He was to take a letter from the governor to the commanding officer of the French troops, who were stationed on the Ohio river; and the way he had to go was through a part of this country that had never been furrowed by the plough or, indeed, marked by any footsteps but those of wild animals..."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to Grow Fresh Air by B. C. Wolverton

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How to Grow Fresh Air:
50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office
by B. C. Wolverton

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Penguin
First Released: 1997

Source: Bought from Amazon.

Book Description from Back Cover:
How Pure is the Air You Breathe?

Plants are the lungs of the earth: they produce the oxygen that makes life possible, add precious moisture, and filter toxins. Houseplants can perform these essential functions in your home or office with the same efficiency as a rainforest in our biosphere.

In research designed to create a breathable environment for a NASA lunar habitat, noted scientist Dr. B.C. Wolverton discovered that houseplants are the best filters of common pollutants such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene. Hundreds of these poisonous chemicals can be released by furniture, carpets, and building material, and then trapped by closed ventilation systems, leading to the host of respiratory and allergic reactions now called Sick Building Syndrome. In this full-color, easy-to-follow guide, Dr. Wolverton shows you how to grow and nurture 50 plants accessible and trouble-free as the tulip and the Boston fern, which includes many beautiful but commonly found varieties not generally thought of as indoor plants. He also rates each plant for its effectiveness in removing various pollutants, and its ease of growth and maintenance.

Studies show that Americans spend ninety percent of their lives indoors, which means that good indoor air quality is vital for good health. How to Grow Fresh Air will show you how to purify the environment that has the most impact on you.

How to Grow Fresh Air is a nonfiction book about plants' ability to remove common office and household toxins from our indoor air. The book had two parts: 31 pages on how plants purify the air and what the research said about which plants are best at removing common air pollutants; and 100 pages with details about the 50 house plants.

The first part discussed indoor air pollution and the health problems caused by it (with a chart showing what sources--like carpeting, paint, and plywood--gave what harmful air pollutant). The author then described how plants produce oxygen, put water into the air, etc. He then talked about studies done on the effectiveness of using houseplants to remove harmful air pollutants and what they found. He included charts showing the results for the ability of various plants to remove four different harmful air pollutants and charts for other findings. The last seven pages were a basic plant care guide on light level, planting medium, watering, and pest management.

The plant listing had a 2-page spread for each plant listed. The first page had a small, full-view picture of the plant, the plant's name (common and official), and some information about the house plant, its selection, and its care. Along one edge of the page, the following information was briefly given: name; origin; how much light it likes (full sun, semi-shade, etc.); preferred temperature range; pests and problems; care; and what to plant it in. A chart at the bottom of the page rated the plant on its ability to remove chemical vapors, ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insect infestation, and the amount of water it puts into the air. The second page was a full page, close-up picture of the plant's leaves.

I bought this book several years ago because my house just "felt sick" to me. I had only three small house plants since I was growing so many plants outdoors. I found this book very interesting and immediately bought several more houseplants. They flourished, and my house stopped feeling so "sick" to me--plus I stopped getting sick all of the time. So I do think this information helped. I'd recommend it to people who feel mildly sick most of the time or are concerned about their indoor air purity.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.