The Zoomable Universe: An Epic Tour Through Cosmic Scale, from Almost Everything to Nearly Nothing

We rated this book:


People are abhorrent drivers, your neighbor’s dog barks all the time, civil rights are dissolving. We all have the problems we wade through daily like so much sucking mud. And yet our planet is but one in a small system in an unremarkable galaxy that, just within our observable universe, is the size of a bit of dust floating through your living room. Who cares about ludicrous drivers when you’re just an undetectable speck clinging to a smidge of rock swallowed up by a universe so vast you nearly can’t conceive of it? This takes a lovely concept–progressively moving through our world from the macro to the micro–and executes it very convincingly, with plenty of photo illustrations. Quite obviously, Caleb Scharf has taken on a project of ridiculously vast proportions, so he begins by clarifying that the book’s journey will take a sample of the curious things to be found at each level of The Zoomable Universe.

The book ambitiously, and literally, starts big, at the order of 10 to the 27th magnitudes, which reaches all the way to the cosmic horizon–the edge of our observable universe–and progresses all the way down to a magnitude of 10 to the -35th, the level of quantum foam (yeah, it’s a thing). My favorite portions of the book were those that dealt with the universe at a larger scale, describing distant galaxies (scientists estimate that there could be as many as a billion trillion life-supporting planets in our observable universe) and helping to quantify our own (at present, it would take us 40,000 years to travel to the other end of just our own galaxy).

The book is aimed at an adult audience, specifically those who are rather novices when it comes to astrophysics and quantum theory. So though the book is approachable, it’s not necessarily skimmable. It’s hard to skim through quantum theory.

Recommended to those curious about astrophysics and to those who need a dose of massive universe to put their problems in perspective.

Reviewed By:

Author Caleb Scharf • Ron Miller, Illustrator
Star Count 4.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 224 pages
Publisher Scientific American
Publish Date 2017-Oct-17
ISBN 9780374715717 Buy this Book
Issue March 2018
Category Science & Nature


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