Review By Angele Mott-Nickerson
As astronomers we often remark about the largeness of space, the vastness of distances and sizes, the massive numbers that seem to accompany any talk of the universe. Astronomers Lowe and North wanted to take the overwhelming nature of space data and put it into a visual form. Importantly, they wanted a visual take on the universe that also reflected space accurately, but fit into the size of a book. While their resulting book is slightly oversize, they have managed to successfully pack an overwhelming amount of data into a visual, easily comprehensible format.
The authors have broken down their book into nine sections covering such areas as space travel, the planets, galaxies, and miscellaneous. Each two-page spread of the book contains a short paragraph or two explaining the accompanying visual diagram. And the visuals are the key to this book. There are graphs of every imaginable shape and format, timelines, drawings representing size, maps, and new, novel ways of exploring data visually. All of the visuals have a feeling of 1960s space-age artwork to them, making simply looking at the book an experience in itself without digesting the data.
This is not a book which is read all in one sitting. You can easily take a great deal of time exploring only a page or two each evening. Lowe and North also extended the value of the book by creating a website to allow for interactive data, updates and revisions, and a place to discover the sources of their information. Overall, the authors have given us a new way of exploring the cosmos even on cloudy Vermont nights.