Saturday, May 2, 2015

Galaxies: The Quaint and Quizzical Cosmos by Natalie J del Favero

Title: Galaxies: The Quaint and Quizzical Cosmos
Author: Natalie J del Favero (no website found)
Publisher: Amazon
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Orsolya Orbán.

I wasn't sure if I would like this book when I first began reading it, but it grew on me. It's written in poetic form, with dark images of space. The images are populated by fairy-like characters, which was perhaps the main reason I had doubts about it, but in the end I decided children would probably like this, and decided to let it go. If you like this, there's also one about planets, and one about the so-called Big Bang by the same creative team.

What impressed me was how scientific it was without going into any real scientific detail. It described how galaxies came to be, and then went further to talk about the massive black holes that all evidence shows are at the heart of galaxies. It didn't even stop there, but went further, to talk briefly about dark energy and dark matter, so this was a really pleasant surprise for me, and was what won me over to rating this positively.

Few people realize that the massive majority of the matter and energy in the universe is entirely invisible and almost undetectable. We can't see it directly, which is why it's called "dark". We can only discover it by observing the effect it has on the matter we can see. It's entirely possible that there is some other explanation for what scientists observe, but right now the best candidate is the dark twins - energy and matter.

Maybe you've been to an aquarium or a pet shop and seen those "glass" fish - the ones which have no pigmentation and you can see right through them apart from the occasional internal organ. You can find pictures of them online. Imagine trying to see one of those in the water in the wild, especially if the water is deep or murky. If you could measure currents in the water, you could track the fish even if you couldn't see it. Another way to track it would be to observe its predators - they would be drawn to it. In the same way, matter is drawn to, and bound together by, dark matter. This is how scientists 'see' it.

I think author Natalie del Favero, and artist Orsolya Orbán have done a worthy job here of finding a way to present fascinating, if sometimes counter-intuitive information in a form that children can appreciate, and I recommend this book.