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The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin…
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The Cloudspotter's Guide (2006)

by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

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English (23)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
The Cloudspotter's Guide is an interesting premise, and one that I hoped would equip me ably to glance heavenwards and confidently see what was what, working as I do outdoors in all weathers - and yes - even perhaps "amaze my friends" (as neat tricks in my childhood always promised)!

The book starts well: copiously illustrated and nicely laid out with good summary introductions of each major cloud type encountered chapter by chapter. The author's style is necessarily informative and somewhat entertaining, though this latter trait becomes a trifle tiresome in places as I got the impression he was trying just a bit too hard to be funny. I enjoyed these early chapters (on the low altitude clouds) as I genuinely felt I was learning something (as was my hope) and the subject matter was all quite digestible. But as I progressed through the book, I felt by the midway point that it was all becoming a bit of a blur. I felt bogged down with the confusing explanations of physics, and convection, and.... other stuff. It seems that one cloud began to roll into another, and I found it challenging to tell my Nimbostratus from my Stratocumulus.

I think it's probably me - physics and chemistry were never my strongest subjects, and pretty much all of the science I've learnt as an adult has been tree-related. (But I have read popular science books with trees as the main subject matter that were well-written and not toobamboozling... So I know it can be done.) Finding myself becoming bored with the book, I've abandoned it to the bathroom window sill, where it will doubtless remain until our next epic storm or other freak weather event pushes me to reconsider just why Cumulonimbus occur! ( )
  Polaris- | Sep 21, 2013 |
A lot of good information, but too many dumb jokes. A book about rainbows should be next ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
Super charming premise. Appallingly dull execution. ( )
  wirehead | Jul 9, 2013 |
Reading this book is like panning for gold: hard work, time consuming, with occasion flakes of treasure to keep you motivated. This took me months to read, but I finished because I kept hoping to find some more of those treasures hidden in this book. I will say that I look at the clouds differently, but the way this book is written did not help me retain very much knowledge about them. I would rate this one-star, except for the few really good bits that shined. Those parts (perhaps 10% of the book) are 4-1/2 star material. ( )
1 vote ASBiskey | Feb 24, 2011 |
As a popular science book, this is obviously supposed to be jaunty fun. I mean, it's a cloud spotters guide right, and everyone knows that there are a few basic clouds. There's cumulus, cumulonimbus, er, stratus and, er, white, black and…grey. How can you spin a book out of that?

You can't, so it's lucky that there are actually many different types of cloud, starting with a ground mist that clings to your ankles when you are tromping across a deserted moor all the way up to those vapor trails that jet aeroplanes full of tourists leave as they criss-cross an otherwise pristine sky. And then there are the sub-sets of the different clouds. Looking up has never been so complicated.

The message here is that clouds are fun and interesting, much more interesting than dull old blue sky. They add drama and excitement and romance and rain and snow and sleet and hail and, as long as you like white, black and every shade of grey in-between, colour. OK, they go pink and red too at dawn and sunset. And yes, yes, I know about rainbows.

I certainly do, because what this book is not short on is facts. Fun facts to be sure, but facts just the same. And science too. There's a lot of science in the book. The only issue is that once you get past the basic science of clouds (which is essentially moisture and temperature) you're into the more esoteric and brain-hurtee stuff. This is where the book starts to unravel a little.

Because this is popular science and the author is trying to make the science fun. More than that, he is enthusiastic about his subject. Science can be fun, ask any chemist who makes his own crystal meth, but it's something of an art. Organised fun is never fun. And the people who try to organise fun are about one step below war criminals in the 'threat to mankind' stakes.

Science is fun when your science teacher is a scrumpy drinking nutter who thinks it is a great idea to set off the sort of explosion that would register on a seismograph as an introduction to his class and, while a schoolroom full of traumatised kids are busy screaming, bleeding, sitting in pools of their own wee, says 'who can tell me what made that compound unstable?'. This book, I fear, is a little too much like the sort of science teacher who has a badge that says 'science is fun' and tries just that little bit too hard to be matey, so coming off as just a wee bit creepy.

The science and the fun never mixed. Maybe that was why I found this such hard going, which is a shame because I was prepared to like it. It's a lovely edition, with some beautiful, atmospheric (ho ho) illustrations. But the author isn't a good enough teacher to convey the advanced stuff in a sufficiently straightforward manner, and the matey stuff just grates after a while.

There are two redeeming features. The first is that something must have gone in somewhere, because I now have a much greater understanding of what's happening over my head and that understanding has greatly aided appreciation. Not only can I now see shapes in the clouds, I can pretty much know what sort of precipitation they will bring. This is a huge leap forward in the appreciation of the natural world and gives one a bit of an insight into what motivates, say, birdwatchers, or storm-chasers. And this beauty is transient. I didn't quite appreciate just how short lived a cloud is. I mean, who actually looks at the sky? One glances up and that's it. Now, My glance lingers.

The second saving grace is the last chapter, the story of the search for the 'morning glory', a particular sort of cloud native to Australia and which glider pilots surf in, in the same way that surfers surf the ocean. It was fascinating stuff and got to the heart of what being a cloud spotter is actually all about. More stories like that, men (it’s always men) in search of atmospheric phenomenon, would be something. ( )
3 vote macnabbs | Sep 11, 2010 |
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Leonardo da Vinci once described clouds as 'bodies without surface', and you can see what he meant.
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無論是蓬蓬如棉花糖般的雲朵、纖薄如薄紗的雲層,甚至風狂雨驟的暴雨雲,總為廣闊的天空平添不同風貌。除了把天空妝點得多采多姿,雲也跟我們的生活息息相關,你可知道孫悟空自在騰駕的是哪種雲?陰鬱到讓人得季節性憂鬱症又是什麼雲搞的鬼?魚鱗狀的雲到底像哪種魚鱗?而什麼雲會讓飛機引擎失靈、逼得飛行員得在一萬公尺高空彈射跳機?更神奇的是,從雲的形態真的可以預測地震嗎? 從小愛看雲的作者為大力推廣雲的美好,於2004年發起「賞雲協會」,並在眾所期待下寫出這本精采的「賞雲指南」,本書以雲的十大分類為基礎,包括積雲、積雨雲、層雲、層積雲、高積雲、高層雲、雨層雲、卷雲、卷積雲和卷層雲,也搜羅各種奇特的雲、飛機的凝結尾、晨光雲等,就每一種雲的特色講述不同的故事。 作者不只介紹各種與雲相關的科學原理,隨手拈來更有許多雲的神話故事與傳說,以及和雲有關的社會與歷史事件,並收集數百張提綱挈領的圖表協助說明,包羅萬象,趣味橫生。就讓我們帶著這本書,一起賞雲去吧!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399533451, Paperback)

Now in paperback: the runaway British bestseller that has cloudspotters everywhere looking up.

Where do clouds come from? Why do they look the way they do? And why have they captured the imagination of timeless artists, Romantic poets, and every kid who's ever held a crayon? Veteran journalist and lifelong sky watcher Gavin Pretor-Pinney reveals everything there is to know about clouds, from history and science to art and pop culture. Cumulus, nimbostratus, and the dramatic and surfable Morning Glory cloud are just a few of the varieties explored in this smart, witty, and eclectic tour through the skies.

Illustrated with striking photographs (including a new section in full-color) and line drawings featuring everything from classical paintings to lava lamps, The Cloudspotter's Guide will have enthusiasts, weather watchers, and the just plain curious floating on cloud nine.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:20 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Discusses the history, types, and cultural fascination with clouds and explains what they mean in terms of climate and weather.

» see all 2 descriptions

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