Good art and science are rarely paired enough. So when you’re scouring the science section at Brilliant Books and run into a volume entitled, The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science, you kinda have to buy it.
I know I did and I was apparently not the only one. I was told that they kept selling out and the copy I bought had only been on the shelf for an hour.
Inside these covers are a beautiful match of science education and art. Each chapter is based on a question (seventy-five in all) that covers the spectrum of the origins of life to the mundane fascination with yawns. For example:
- What existed before the Big Bang?
- Why do we hiccup?
- How much can parasites change the social habits of their host?
- Do squirrels remember where they bury their nuts?
- What triggers puberty?
- Why do placebos work?
- Why do we blush?
- Why do we fall for optical illusions?
- How do cells talk to each other?
- Are there more than three dimensions?
Each response is written by a scientist in the field who is paired with a fantastic illustrator who can capture the subject. While these are obviously not complete answers, they are enough to get any child or adult to want to look further. Both art and science explore the reality of life, and in The Where, the Why, and The How they are an energetic team that connects with the reader with every turn of the page. Below are a few examples of what you’d find inside.
What does “chickadee” mean to a “Chickadee?”
The chickadee, one of our commonest backyard birds, may have one of the most interesting of animal languages. Its simply chickadee call is used as an alarm—and the number of “dees” in the chickadee call gives the size of the predator….
Do immortal creatures exist?
…Recently, scientists discovered a spore that was about 250 million years old within a salt crystal…
What is dark energy?
…A recent survey of more than 200,000 galaxies appears to confirm the existence of this mysterious energy…it is estimated that 73 percent of the universe is made up of dark energy…
Why do we age?
…evolution is a powerful force, but it acts to guarantee the transmission of genetic material by reproduction, rather than to preserve our individual lifespans…
How long can trees live?
…In the White Mountains of California, bristlecone pines more than 4,800 years old definitely look the part, with gnarled and contorted trunks…
NOTE: Periodically, we will be reintroducing relevant book reviews from our previous blog, The Discarded Image. In the spirit of celebrating science, above is a review of The Where, the Why, and the How, which came out in 2014 and is a masterful teaming up of scientists and illustrators.