In the chapters of How to Fake a Moon Landing, Cunningham takes on homeopathy, chiropractic, creationism, and other movements that defy the scientific worldview. A final chapter is dedicated to explaining why the self-correcting process of science provides us with a superior understanding of our world, and how science denialism can have disastrous effects.
Of course, Cunningham’s relatively slim graphic novel isn’t going to provide the level of detail found in a longer prose treatment, but for young adults and others curious about the subject, How to Fake a Moon Landing provides an entertaining and enlightening introduction. A bibliography suggests further reading for each chapter, with titles from authors like Richard Dawkins and Ben Goldacre.
Although the foreword by David “The Way Things Work” Macaulay might seem to imply the sort of exploded diagrams and exhaustively detailed explanations that made his books so popular in the 90s, the execution of The Where, the Why, and the How is much more Beasts-like. That is to say, you won’t walk away with any clearer sense of what’s behind some of science’s greatest mysteries (for instance how stars are born, or why do whales beach themselves) but you will be introduced to each concept by a specialist in that field and a graphic artist’s exquisite interpretation of said mystery.
Some illustrations are charmingly direct—for instance “Do Squirrels Remember Where They Bury Their Nuts” is accompanied by a picture of a squirrel studying a road map—and others are as evocative as they are clever—an elephant using a feather to fly in “Why Do Placebos Work?”. In the end, despite the cross section on the cover, The Where, the Why, and the How is no good at dissecting anything with great certainty, but it excels in showing that there is great beauty and possibility in all the things we do not yet know.
Ever since the god-awful documentary The Dungeon Masters, I’ve been wary of journalistic investigations of gamer culture, and I had serious reservations about Lizzie Stark’s Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games. Even though I had no pony in this race — I’ve never LARPed before, and still have little intention to — I don’t like seeing others’ harmless hobbies held up for ridicule.
Mercifully, Stark’s examination of the LARP world does no such thing, nor does it commit the opposite annoyance of inflating a recreational activity into some grandiose human endeavor (though, in her description of the high-concept art gaming of the Nordic LARP scene, she does come close, but with good reason). Stark presents the LARP world with a careful, measured hand, varied in its scope from self-conscious silliness to serious art, and all the while maintaining the consciousness that LARPers are real people with genuine human complications. Continue reading Review: Leaving Mundania
I stumbled upon this book while contemplating the ways the world might end for a library display on “Recommended Reading for the Post-Apocalypse,” that is, books on small-scale farming, food preservation, general off-the-grid living, and the like.
Before having read Brockway’s book, I thought myself pretty savvy to various end-of-world scenarios, but I learned a few new ways to be terrified. For example, I knew vaguely about supervolcanoes, meteorite strikes, and greenhouse gas, but this was my first exposure to the hat trick of global disasters that combines all three: the Verneshot is a hypothetical event in which a massive build up of subterranean gas launches a big ol’ piece of continent into low orbit, which reenters the atmosphere elsewhere in the manner of a massive meteorite. Meanwhile, all that built up carbon dioxide that caused the initial eruption is released into the atmosphere, pretty much wiping out whatever’s left. Oh, and there’s also a massive earthquake as the hole vacated by the explosion collapses in on itself. Lovely.
The other day, I read a recent article on this year’s Diagram Prize for oddest book title, and as fascinating as this year’s winner may be, I don’t personally have much use for dental-practice management tips inspired by a thirteenth-century Mongol warlord. I imagine that’s quite a niche audience.
I was intrigued, however, by an allusion to last year’s winner, Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes and immediately place a hold on our library’s copy. The author, Daina Taimina, is a Cornell professor of mathematics who uses crocheted models to illustrate various concepts of non-Euclidean geometry. The weirdness factor alone was enough to pique my interest, but since I also do a bit of knitting and crocheting myself, the idea struck me as extra full of win.