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Bang!Review - Bang!
How We Came to Be
by Michael Rubino
Prometheus Books, 2011
Review by Bob Lane, MA
Dec 20th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 51)

This children's book is dedicated to the author's kids. "Kids" not children. That dedication catches something important about the book. It is informal, but chock full of good science. The headnote is:

From so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. -- Charles Darwin

I think the best way to review the book is to point to some key quotes:

·         Before time began… The entire universe was squeezed to a point so tiny that it could have gotten lost in the palm of a child's hand.

Immediately the focus of the book has been made personal and understandable -- "the palm of a child's hand." From there to the Big Bang and the first of several marvelous illustrations that support the text and in addition are beautiful as standalone images. Starting some 13 billion years ago the story of our universe and how we came to be is unfolded page by page and stage by stage until we have hands and brains and the ability to make decisions about the pale blue dot we call home.

·         In the bloom of expanding gases and cosmic dust, brilliant galaxies of stars were born.

From the palm of a child's hand to the immensity of the countless planets in the universe we can see the results of the Big Bang and how deep time has provided a canvas for evolutionary forces to produce everything that is.

·         Next "planet Earth finally cooled. The scum upon its surface hardened into crust."

·         Lightning struck, volcanoes erupted, and radiation poured from the sun.

·         Simple organic molecules are formed from the chemicals in the Earth's oceans.

·         And so it was that WE made our first appearance -- as single-celled organisms.

Notice that "WE" -- from here on to the present day Rubino uses that first person plural pronoun to refer to all living organisms as we evolve from single-celled to multi-celled organisms. Each step of the process from 13 billion years ago to the present is described in clear terms with a minimum of jargon and illustrated with stunning pictures. I cannot over-emphasize the power of the images in this book, and the way in which they are married to the prose story of how we came to be.

The book is an "eloquent blend of art and science that tells the most important story so far known." What a perfect gift for all the kids on your Christmas list. The kids will, as Richard Dawkins writes on the back cover "use it to educate their parents."

 

© 2011 Bob Lane

 

Bob Lane is an Honorary Research Associate in Philosophy and Literature at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia.


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