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.