Worlds beyond reach but not beyond imagination

Cycles of Fire: Stars, Galaxies and the Wonders of Deep Space, by William K. Hartmann and Ron Miller (with Pamela Lee and Tom Miller). New York: Workman. Full-color illustrations, glossary, and index. 189 pp. $27.50 hard cover, $14.95 paperback. ``Cycles of Fire'' shows, by the light of the infrared spectrum and the glow of red giants, how wordsmiths' worlds take shape. Because science is not just hard facts, but soaring extrapolation from them, we learn from artists as well as telescopes. Ice crystals in the light of Pamela Lee's double suns shimmer alongside computer-enhanced photos of star-formation in the constellation Orion; quasar and black hole updates accompany William K. Hartmann's haunting vision of a blue-violet star illuminating a doomed planet. Cogent explanations and stunning visualizations take us to worlds beyond our reach but not beyond our imagining.

``Cycles of Fire'' could turn more students on to science and the future than poor textbooks now turn off. Offering inspiring glimpses of the grandeur of the universe, this beautiful book is a bargain in art and information and a prize at any price.

Frances Deutsch Louis teaches at York College, CUNY.

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