9781400068753

Chasing the Sun: The Epic Story of the Star That Gives Us Life

Cohen, Richard

ISBN 10: 1400068754 / 1-4000-6875-4
ISBN 13: 9781400068753
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: 2010
Binding: Hardcover
Editorial Reviews for this title:
Synopsis:
In the grand tradition of the scholar-adventurer, acclaimed author Richard Cohen takes us around the world to illuminate our relationship with the star that gives us life. Whether floating in a skiff on the Ganges as the Sun descends behind the funeral pyres of Varanasi, interviewing psychologists in the Norwegian Arctic about the effects of darkness, or watching tomato seedlings in southern Spain being hair-brushed (the better to catch the Sun’s rays), Cohen tirelessly pursues his quarry.

Drawing on more than seven years of research, he reports from locations in eighteen different countries, including the Novolazarevskaya science station in Antarctica (the coldest place on Earth); the Arizona desert (the sunniest); the Pope’s observatory-cum-fortress outside Rome (possible the least accessible); and the crest of Mount Fuji, where—entirely alone—he welcomes the sunrise on the longest day of the year.

As he soon discovers, the Sun is present everywhere—in mythology, language, religion, sciences, art, literature, and medicine; in the ocean depths; even atop the Statue of Liberty. Ancient worshippers believed our star was a man with three eyes and four arms, abandoned by his spouse because his brightness made her weary. The early Christians appropriated the halo from sun imagery and saw the cross as an emblem of the Sun and its rays. Galileo was the first to espy blemishes on the solar surface—sunspots—but hid his discoveries for fear of persecution. Einstein helped duplicate the source of the Sun’s power to create the atomic bomb; while the “Sun King” Louis XIV, Chairman Mao, Adolf Hitler, and the Japanese emperors all co-opted the Sun to enlarge their authority. Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes declare that even thinking about the solar system took up too much space in his brain, while Richard Wagner had Tristan inveigh against daylight as the enemy of romantic love.

Packed with interesting figures (the Sun is responsible for 44 percent of the world’s tidal energy, and when aligned with the Moon, as at high tide, makes us all minutely taller); extraordinary myths (in India, just a few years ago, pregnant women were still being kept indoors during an eclipse, for fear their babies would be born blind or with cleft palates); and surprising anecdotes (during the Vietnam War, a large number of mines dropped into Haiphong harbor blew up simultaneously in response to a large solar flare), this splendidly illustrated volume is erudite, informative, and supremely entertaining. It not only explains the star that so inspires us, but shows how complex our relations with it have been—and continue to be.

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Book Description: Random House. 1 Cloth(s), 2010. hard. Book Condition: New. In the grand tradition of the scholar-adventurer, swordsman and publisher Richard Cohen takes us around the world to illuminate our relationship with the star that gives us life in this erudite, anecdotal, and beautifully illustrated history. Cohen reports from locations in 18 different countries, including the Novolazarevskaya science station in Antarctica (the coldest place on Earth), the Arizona desert (the sunniest), the Pope's observatory-cum-fortress outside Rome (possibly the least accessible of the lot), and the crest of Mount Fuji, where he welcomes the sunrise on the longest day of the year. He also finds the sun in ancient religions and emperor's emblems, in Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Nabokov's Lolita, and in the string of scientific discoveries that led to duplicating the sun in the hydrogen bomb."Cohen (By the Sword) visited 18 countries to gather information for this ambitious and unusual literary opus, including Peru, where he witnessed the reenactment of an Inca ceremony welcoming the summer solstice, and Japan, where he climbed a snow-covered Mt. Fuji. He hunted the mythology embedded in the works of Shakespeare, Nabokov ('I must be the only person to have read Lolita for its Sun images'), Dante, Chaucer, and other authors, and personally examined the orientation of the Egyptian Pyramids and European cathedrals. This vast effort touches on the modern age shepherded by Copernicus and Galileo, and the author labels 200 discoveries related to solar energy in the 1870s a 'scientific revolution' which would lead directly to the hydrogen bomb. He goes on to sound a cautionary note on climate change extremism, warning that there is still no consensus on the influence of solar cycles on climate (he goes so far as to raise the possibility of another ice-age). Cohen was compelled to write 'the sort of book I'd like to read,' a risky position for a writer seeking a broad readership, but one that more than pays off."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) 574. Bookseller Inventory # 20565

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Book Description: Random House, New York, 2010. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Illustrated (illustrator). First Edition. 8vo. New York: Random House, 2010. First edition, first printing. 8vo. Hard cover binding, 574 pp. An extremely interesting book that looks at the Sun in many different ways. Illustrated in color and black and white. New in new dust jacket, protected with an archival-quality mylar cover. Bookseller Inventory # 017496

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Book Description: Random House, New York, 2010. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. Illustrated (illustrator). First Edition. 8vo. New York: Random House, 2010. First edition, first printing. 8vo. Hard cover binding, 574 pp. An extremely interesting book that looks at the Sun in many different ways. Illustrated in color and black and white. New in new dust jacket, protected with an archival-quality mylar cover. Bookseller Inventory # 017497

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