cover image Eating the Sun: Small Musings on a Vast Universe

Eating the Sun: Small Musings on a Vast Universe

Ella Frances Sanders. Penguin, $17 (160p) ISBN 978-0-14-313316-2

In this small volume, Sanders (Lost in Translation) beautifully personifies the universe with lyrical prose and whimsical color illustrations. Brief chapters discuss numerous natural phenomena or theoretical concepts in poetic yet scientifically illuminating ways, ranging from the life cycles of suns through Darwinian evolution to geosmin, the smell of damp earth, which “leaves a person feeling as clean as if they had been dragged backwards through a cloud.” Readers learn how blue skies exist because “blue has shorter, smaller wavelengths, and is therefore scattered more”; how the modern understanding of time “is built on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, in which time is just a coordinate”; and a little about various other science concepts too numerous to list. Sanders further outlines why scientific language is so often foreign and frustrating to nonscientists: “it takes familiar words and puts them in entirely different contexts” while also introducing “a whole other vocabulary that a person would never normally have reason to encounter.” But in her fluidly conversational style, Sanders renders that language both accessible and appealing to her audience. Even more importantly, she consistently captures a sense of awe and wonder at the universe, and ignites (or reignites) that same sense in the reader. [em]Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Apr.) [/em]