An up-to-date excursion past the boundaries of Newtonian physics: “Crazy!” as the author aptly puts it.

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BLACK HOLES

THE WEIRD SCIENCE OF THE MOST MYSTERIOUS OBJECTS IN THE UNIVERSE

A fresh look at some of the universe’s weirdest astronomical phenomena and the people who study them.

Observations in 2015 proved that black holes create gravitational waves when they collide—but, as Latta points out, that’s hardly the only string in their bows, because they also sing, dance, belch, and blow bubbles! Along with lucidly explaining the significance of said waves in our relativistic universe, the author describes how black holes are formed and how they behave, at least to our current understanding. She does this in such lively language that attentive readers will come away with firm grasps of a host of cosmically slippery notions, from the Chandrasekhar limit and the Schwarzschild radius to Fermi Bubbles and “spaghettification.” She also gives “major props” to the scientists who imagined and then actually found black holes, and she profiles five researchers (all white, but three are women) who are currently engaged in probing their secrets. The photos, graphics, and diagrams are small but sharp, clear, and helpful. The black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, Sagittarius A* (pronounced “A-star”), headlines a closing gallery of “All-Star Black Holes,” and annotated lists of recommended reading and viewing provide deeper dives into the topic.

An up-to-date excursion past the boundaries of Newtonian physics: “Crazy!” as the author aptly puts it. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-1568-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure.

CRISPR

A provocative report on world-changing developments promised by a dawning breakthrough in biotechnology.

Ridge first goes over the ins and outs of chromosomes and genomes, then explains how certain clusters of “palindromic repeats” found in the DNA of single-celled creatures can be employed to edit with precision any cell’s genetic “instruction manual.” Though just missing the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she goes on to explore the technique’s current and potential uses and misuses. The former include creating better medicines, cures for cancer and other systemic diseases, new plant varieties, and better livestock; the latter, scrambling ecological balances, cooking up frightening bioweapons, and “Playing God” with human germlines to make designer babies. In general she comes down on the positive side (if for no other reason than that it’s too late to get the cat back into the bag) but doesn’t skimp on laying out complications and quandaries for readers to chew over in formulating their own views. She leavens the hefty informational load as best she can (“The genetic similarity between a human and a banana is 60%”), and Boersma supplies a generous array of staid but lucid diagrams, schematics, and infographics in support. Though it is marketed as a book for readers 14 and up, both graphic design and complexity of language seem to suit it better for middle schoolers. 

Science literally on the cutting edge, offering prospects of wonder and terror in equal measure. (sources, resource lists, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-424-5

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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It’s a lot to take in at one sitting, but this anatomical extravaganza really gets to the heart of the matter. Not to...

HUMAN BODY THEATER

A theatrical introduction to human anatomy, as well-choreographed as it is informative.

In 11 “Acts” hosted con brio by a skeletal impresario (“Bring out the lungs!”), Wicks parades a revue of body systems across a curtained stage. It’s a full program, with a teeming supporting cast from Dopamine to Diaphragm, Golgi Body to Gastroenteritis joining more-familiar headliners. The presentation opens with a zoom down to the cellular and even molecular levels to lay foundations for later macro and micro views of digestion, infection, and disease. Following this, the five senses (only five), the “dance of the oxygen fairies,” allergic reactions, and other anatomical processes that make up each system’s major components, most sporting cheery emoji-style faces, expressively demonstrate their respective functions. The reproductive system’s named parts deliver a frank but visually discreet turn with descriptions of erections and fertilization but no direct depictions, and it stops with the onset of puberty. The performances are enhanced by labeled diagrams, pitches on relevant topics from the importance of immunization and proper nutrition to synonyms for “fart,” and lists of important words and further resources. A few miscues aside (no, the speed of sound is not invariant), it’s a grand show, with a logically placed intermission following a peek into the bladder and a literal “wrap” at the end as the emcee puts herself together from inside out.

It’s a lot to take in at one sitting, but this anatomical extravaganza really gets to the heart of the matter. Not to mention the guts, nerves, veins, bones…. (glossary, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62672-277-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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