An “atomic field guide to yourself” and your surroundings.
Stager (Biology/Paul Smith’s Coll.; Deep Future: The Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, 2011, etc.) takes us on a restless, rangy tour of the hidden connections “that physically link our bodies as well as our very thoughts and feelings to the atoms of the earth.” As he notes, this is the tween world that doesn’t get as much attention as the sub-subatomic particles or the cosmological, middle ground that the author promises will amuse, delight and enrich our appreciation of being alive. Stager also delivers what might be called a human-scale look at atoms and molecules: where they came from; what they do, particularly inside of us; and where they go and how they leave. His approach is close to what Albert Einstein called “thought experiments,” or visualizations, of a handful of atoms and molecules he has selected, around which he orbits much like an electron—busily, with diversions and multiple covalent bonds with various associations. In Stager’s hands, the atomic world is diverting and constantly in motion. He travels along with oxygen as it hitches a ride on the atom of iron held in hemoglobin, and he explains how your tears are only degrees of separation from long-dead seas and fluttering moths and why hydrogen is the “ancestor of all.” If you thought the reason the sky is blue is simple, think again—“The motion of the electrons relative to the nucleus generates an electromagnetic disturbance whose wavelength or color is related to the wavelength of the incoming light”—but it is a testament to Stager that you will understand that sentence by the time you reach it.
A wondrous exploration of how our interconnections are vast and abiding, past, present and future.