Moon Book Summary - Moon Book explained in key points
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Moon summary

Ben Moore

Past, Present and Future

4.4 (67 ratings)
25 mins
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    The ancient world abounded with supernatural myths about the moon, but the Greeks saw things differently.

    From the moment that human beings began to gaze up at the night sky, the moon captured their imaginations. From the Eurasian steppes to the African plains, it shone brilliantly over the vast, dark Earth.

    The longer they gazed at the moon’s pale face, the more these ancient people sought an explanation for it. Lacking advanced maths and physics, they assumed for millennia that the spectacle above them was the work of powerful spirits and gods.

    For example, the Mahabharata, a fourth century BC Indian epic, explained eclipses with a story. Gods and demons, it says, once agreed to work together to produce an elixir of immortality. However, the gods betrayed the demons and stole the elixir. During the ensuing quarrel, the demon Rahu snuck into the gods’ camp and tried to steal it back. But the Sun and Moon warned the god Vishnu, who woke and beheaded Rahu. Rahu’s headless body and bodiless head were then fated for eternity to chase the Sun and Moon angrily through the night sky. An eclipse happens when Rahu’s head catches one of his betrayers and swallows it, causing a darkening of the sky. However, because he’s only a severed head, the Moon or Sun slips back out through his disconnected neck!

    The first attempts to move away from supernatural explanations for the mysteries in the sky began around the sixth century BC in ancient Greece, a time when human ingenuity and thought flourished. Most importantly, the Greeks were the first to break from the idea that gods controlled the cosmos and events on Earth. Instead, they perceived a world of material objects acting under strict laws.

    There were many important thinkers, but a few stand out. Pythagoras of Samos, who lived around 570-495 BC, determined that the earth was spherical by observing the way that light reflects on the moon. This was a vital step in understanding the cosmos. Then, in the fifth century BC, Parmenides discovered that the Moon reflects light from the sun. Later on, in the third century BC, Aristarchus correctly identified our place in the solar system, and attempted to gauge the moon’s distance from Earth. Using a system of geometry that measured the time it took for the moon to cross a shadow, he arrived at some fairly accurate estimates, that would be refined and improved upon by later astronomers.

    However, with the Romans, superstition and mythology crept back. The early light of Greek science was extinguished for many centuries.

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    What is Moon about?

    Moon (2019) is a biography of the moon. It traces our relationship with our nearest interstellar neighbor – from early lunar rituals and mythology to the stunning revelations of the ancient Greeks; from the science fiction reveries of the nineteenth century all the way to the Apollo landing in 1969.

    Best quote from Moon

    I did not sense any great invitation on the part of the Moon … I sensed that it was almost a hostile place, a scary place. – Michael Collins

    —Ben Moore
    example alt text

    Who should read Moon?

    • Budding astronauts and astronomers
    • Buffs of human history and its relation to the moon
    • Anyone who has gazed in wonder at the night sky

    About the Author

    Ben Moore is the director of the Center for Theoretical Astrophysics and Cosmology at the University of Zurich. His research is focused on cosmology, gravity, astroparticle physics, and planet formation. He’s also a musician, releasing electronic music under his artist name Professor Moore and with the electro-rock band Milk67.

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