Zapped: From Infrared to X-rays, the Curious History of Invisible Light

Bob Berman. Little, Brown, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-31130-4
Electromagnetic radiation—light—is everywhere, but it’s not all visible to the naked eye. Astronomy writer Berman (Zoom) runs through a fascinating history of the rainbow’s invisible bands in this breezy, accessible read. Berman draws from topics as far-flung as art, gardening, relativity, and radioactivity to explain light’s intriguing nature and its influence on humans, in order “to explore the unseen energies that pervade our universe, our planet, and our bodies.” Humans only “perceive sunlight’s most abundant energies,” Berman writes; thus we regard the “universe through the sun’s eyes.” In those bounds, evolution honed our ability to distinguish green “wavelengths that differ by just one nanometer.” Berman adeptly explains the physics of light and its modern applications in studious detail. Since the discoveries of infrared radiation, microwaves, and UV rays, invisible light has made microwave ovens, cellphones, GPS, and other innovations possible. Scientists use it as a tool to examine the distant universe and search for alien life. In the style of a favorite professor, Berman injects bits of odd humor and captivating tangents into this complex but familiar topic. After the final page, readers will still be reflecting on “the unseen lights that blaze brilliantly in realms beyond what our senses can ever perceive.” Agent: Albert Zuckerman, Writers House. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/05/2017
Release date: 08/08/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-316-31131-1
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