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Book Review: Near-Earth Objects – Finding Them Before They Find Us

Princeton University Press/Detler van Ravenswaay

Near-Earth Objects – Finding Them Before They Find Us by Donald K. Yeomans; Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey; $24.95; 2013.

This is a superb book that brings the reader up-to-speed on those menacing denizens of the deep – Near Earth Objects, or NEOs for short. Moreover, this book is good bedtime reading for those that stay awake at night awaiting a celestial calamity.

Donald Yeomans is a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and is manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office. His expertise in NEOs is unquestionably top-drawer given decades of work in this arena.

Yeomans also gives a healthy NEO nod to a number of key experts in the community.

As the book suggests, finding them before they find us is key. Yeomans details the nature of NEOs, both asteroids and comets, as well as the techniques now in place to find and track these objects.

This great read of a book is divided into 10 chapters, discussing not only the nature of asteroids and comets, but NEOs as both the enablers and destroyers of life. You’ll find well-written text about NEOs as threats to Earth, as well as predicting the likelihood of an Earth impact.

The author does use that famous quote attributed to baseball great, Yogi Berra: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

To be sure, the book goes into detail about NEO land impacts, air blasting breakups, ocean impacts, including various schemes to fend off a NEO that’s found to have Earth in its cross-hairs.

Included in the volume is a ballistic bonus. Yeomans has long been an advocate of keeping an eye on how nature’s natural resources can bolster the outreaching spread of humanity in deep space. He points out that there’s “need to transplant self-sustaining human communities on celestial bodies besides Earth to maintain the species against catastrophe – either celestial or self-inflicted.”

In summary remarks, the author gets to the nub of the matter: “While these objects are critically important for our future, if we don’t find them before they find us, we may not even have a future.”

For more information on this book, go to:

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9817.html#reviews

By Leonard David

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