Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Whole Shebang

Having no money, I seldom buy books.  And a disagreement with my beloved local library means I cannot take out books.  Fortunately, I have a substantial personal library that includes books I bought in the old days (when flush), and neglected since, and I have taken to reaching for these when I need a good read.  

His Coming of Age in the Milky Way introduced me to Timothy Ferris, an engaging and absolutely crystal clear writer on subjects astronomical.  He it was that taught me where the chemical elements everything is made of come from--a thrilling story that gives special meaning to Walt Whitman's line, "A leaf of grass is nothing less than the journey-work of the stars."  (That line should be emblazoned across a wall in every science classroom.)

His earlier book, The Whole Shebang, is a history of cosmology--the study of the biggest questions: what is the universe like? where does it come from? how did it get to be the way it is? where it it going?  It is lucid, filled with discoveries and brief but telling sketches of the scientists who made it happen--many of whom he knows personally.  It is almost two decades-out-of-date, but if you keep up with science news at all, that adds its own flavor: I have the benefit of knowing, for example, that the rate at which the universe is expanding is speeding up--something no one anticipated at his writing.

I was reading at the kitchen table this morning when I found the sun shining through cut glass on the window sill cast a rainbow on the book.  The physics embodied in that rainbow falling on a book of cosmology tickled me so much I reached for my camera.

No comments:

Post a Comment