A debut science book explores the physical and geometric aspects of surfaces.
In this work, Lulashnyk opens with a clear demonstration of the power of a surface area. A cube 10 centimeters on each side has a surface area of 600 square centimeters. But if that cube is sliced into a thousand 1-centimeter cubes, its area is 10 times larger. The author takes readers through examples of small and large surface areas in the natural world, the human body, and technological innovations. Lulashnyk shows how the relationship between surface area and volume allows the intestines to extract nutrients, solar panels to produce electricity, and diamonds to shine brilliantly. Simple line drawings by Baines (Daddy’s Blue Eyes, 2018, etc.) appear throughout the book to illustrate the concepts, such as a comparison of the different glasses used for wine, Champagne, and brandy, or the tendency of superhero costumes to include surface area-expanding capes. Although the author focuses primarily on the empirical aspects of surface area—why small animals have high metabolism; how gills extract oxygen from water—the work occasionally takes a more whimsical turn, like its description of dance costumes: “Feathers, fabric and other materials are utilized to increase surface area and provide the entertainer with a larger-than-life sense of self.” The volume does a good job of drawing connections between different examples of the same principles, like branching, which occurs in lungs as well as trees in order to maximize surface area within a given space. The book’s topics are wide-ranging, though many are treated only glancingly, with intriguing tidbits (spherical tanks are the most efficient way to store liquids; dust particles can remain airborne for weeks) presented without significant discussions of why these facts matter and how readers can apply them to other contexts or practical applications. Lulashnyk is knowledgeable and has provided an intriguing perspective on observing the world through the idea of surface area. But the work would benefit from a stronger sense of the conclusions readers can draw and why understanding surfaces is a crucial element of scientific inquiry.
A broad and engaging examination of surfaces and their roles in nature and technology.