My 7-hour flight from Boston to San Francisco turned out to be not a terrible one after all, thanks to this book. With its maximum two-page-long chapters and cute drawings, this book is a little bundle of joy. If you are interested in learning little secrets of everything about life: from biology to psychology, from astronomy to chemistry, it is wrapped in a 149-pages long hard cover book for you!
Since the chapters are short, it is easy to leave it and come back to it later. There are more than 50 chapters in it!That’s why I won’t go into too much detail, but I will talk about some sections so that you can have an idea about this lovely book.
To be honest, I had already known 75% of the facts included in the book: It is just because I’m interested in science and I read about it a lot. But the 25% that I gained after reading this was still very important and very interesting.
The writer’s style is very sincere and she simplifies the complex topics as much as she can. Here are what I selected for you from the chapters:
Chapter: I AM MADE FROM CARBON
“… Your body is composed of the products of such cosmic events, those remnants of burning giants (dead stars). Depending on where you look, what you touch, you are changing all the time. The carbon inside you, accounting for about 18 percent of your being, could have existed in any number of creatures or natural disasters before finding you. “
Chapter: PLANTS BEHAVE BETTER
“… Trees are able to distinguish their own roots from those of other species, and even those of their relatives. They share food and help to nourish their competitors when they are sick or struggling (in winter an aspen will likely not do as well as a conifer, so conifer lends a hand) and all this apparently for no other reason than that living becomes much easier when you are helping others, rather than simply ensuring your own survival. In fact, trees’ roots can sometimes end up so connected that two often will die at the same time.”
Chapter: I’LL BE WHERE THE BLUE IS
“… A phenomenon known as “Rayleigh scattering” is responsible for both the blue of the North American Bird Cyanocitta Cristata (Blue Jay) and that of the sky. In the case of the jay, its feathers contain melanin and would appear black if it weren’t for tiny air sacs in the feathers that scatter light, and so to our eyes the bird seems rendered in endless variations of blue. And when we gaze skywards, we are observing sunlight entering Earth’s atmosphere and colliding with particles in the air – compared to the other colors contained within light, blue has a shorter, smaller wavelength, and is therefore scattered more, resulting in Blue skies. “
Chapter: CLOUDS TO BREAK YOUR HEART
“… Clouds are formed by water vapor or ice crystals hugging determinedly onto the microscopic particles in the atmosphere known as “condensation nuclei” – things like smoke and dust and salt (aerosol)- and they do so because the air is simply too saturated to hold onto all the water anymore. Put millions upon millions of these together and you have a cloud perhaps weighing, although hard to believe, the equivalent of one hundred large elephants.”
This animation shows how a cloud is formed on the particle-level. Water droplets and black soot carbon aerosols mix in the air. Water droplets cling to aerosol particles, creating a larger water droplet. The droplet becomes very large and ‘pops’ into smaller water droplets, each with an aerosol particle inside, thus creating a cloud. (Official NASA Website: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/10387 )
Chapter: DOES ANYBODY ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT TIME IS
“… Culturally, the organization of time can be quite different, and this directly affects our experience of it. In some languages, the past is referred to as behind, and the future is ahead, but in others, the past is ahead and the future behind, perhaps because the past can be seen, and in order to observe something, it needs to be in front of you, not behind. While some languages refer to time as a distance travelled, others refer to it as a growing volume – a long day, full day. In English we think of it in linear terms, from left to right, but Chinese speakers think of time in terms of over and under, and in Greek time can be large, small. So easily do we mistake a word for the thing or phenomenon it speaks of, that it represents.”
** Blogger comment here: Speaking of languages and their effects on our time perception, I remembered this interesting talk about how languages can affect our money saving skills. Have a look at it if you have time. I wonder what you will think about it!**
Chapter: YOU ARE MOSTLY BACTERIA
“… Perhaps the greatest achievement of bacteria is the gut, part of an organ system that contains the largest number of bacterial species found anywhere in the human body – an incredibly complex community of microorganisms, known as gastrointestinal microbiota, or gut flora. The gut and the brain are connected by an extensive network of neurons, chemicals, and hormones, collectively called the “enteric nervous system,” which stays in touch with the central nervous system (linking the brain and the spinal cord) but also can act independently of it.
It seems that the bacteria in yor gut are capable of wielding power over more than just your breakfast – they can influence your perception of the world, your behavior. Most of the neurons involved in brain-gut discussion are carrying information to the brain, not receiving it, and it’s strange and wonderful to think that your gut might have more of an effect on both your long- and short-term mood than anything else.
Below: Pretty looking gut bacterias! Intestinal villi. Small finger-like projections that extend into the lumen of the small intestine. Gut bacteria, flora, microbiome. 3d illustration.
There are many more interesting chapters in this book. For a fun read and many moments of enlightenment, I highly recommend ‘Eating the Sun’. Especially great for commutes, beach vacations and long trips!