A fun, accessible introduction to a variety of scientific topics that readers can explore further. For Sanders, “everything...

EATING THE SUN

SMALL MUSINGS ON A VAST UNIVERSE

A wonder-filled excursion into the sometimes-baffling and formidable world of science.

Sanders (The Illustrated Book of Sayings: Curious Expressions from Around the World, 2016, etc.) takes readers on a lively, nonstressful journey through the world of science in short chapters or “musings,” each accompanied by her own whimsical color line drawings. Presenting information in a charming, conversational style, the author seeks to demystify science with panache. Each “muse” covers one specific topic, mostly astronomical but some natural and human sciences as well. She avoids scientific language, which “isn’t designed to appeal to human ears, isn’t especially melodic”; it “remains stubbornly inaccessible for most nonscientists.” However, she will resort to some when the need arises—e.g., eigengrau, the gray color eyes see in the dark, or chronoception, the perception of time. Sanders also enlists the services of professionals such as physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, astronomer Arthur Eddington, and physicist Richard Feynman. Sanders is quite fond of statistics and factoids, and most of them are useful. Someone who is 80 years old “may have taken more than 700 million breaths” and walked the “equivalent of Earth’s circumference five times…more than 110,000 miles during their lifetime.” Their hearts will have beat 2.6 billion times. In the titular piece, about the sun, photosynthesis, and plants, the author discusses the “digestible sun fuel that we are consuming….It’s astonishing to think that we have been solar powered since the beginning of anything at all.” Plants, scientists have discovered, possess “memory, learning, and problem-solving,” and “more than one in five is threatened with extinction.” While there are more than 3 trillion trees on Earth, “they can’t keep up with the amount of carbon dioxide that we are pouring into the atmosphere.” Planting more “seems a more important pastime than ever,” and global warming is even “having an effect on the very spin of Earth.”

A fun, accessible introduction to a variety of scientific topics that readers can explore further. For Sanders, “everything is fascinating,” and she hopes readers will agree.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313316-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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