By: Fred Bortz
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: February 2011
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: January 2011
In the blink of an eye technology can change the way we have been thinking about our universe for years, even hundreds of years. Galileo Galilei's seventeenth century observations of the heavens through his telescope drastically challenged the geocentric views of his peers who adamantly claimed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Conversely other scientists of renown have had their work challenged and sadly dismissed as fallacy once newer technology has made startling discoveries. Take for example the work of Percival Lowell. In 1894 he "knew that Mars was closer to Earth than it would be for several years" and he set out to closely observe the planet in his observatory. He saw an amazing array of logically placed lines that indicated, to him at least, that there was intelligent life on Mars. Sadly for him, his assumptions were proven wrong in the 1960s when what he saw as interconnecting lines that looked like "canals" proved to be a series of craters when close-up pictures were taken.
The difficulty of selecting technological wonders is a daunting task at best as "We know that by selecting only seven, we are leaving out hundreds of other remarkable tools and machines used to explore the secrets of the universe." The young reader will be astounded as his imagination soars with the innovative technology that is now allowing us to see into the far reaches of our universe. Specifically Dr. Bortz has chosen to explore the Great Observatories, the International Space Station, some "down-to-earth" satellites, Moon bases (including water), Mars rovers, the "New Horizons" spacecraft, and futuristic technology.
Stonehenge England and Chichén Itzá were "probably the great observatories of their time. The four Great Observatories, The Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO), the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope have "changed the way we look at our future." You'll learn about their astonishing contributions to astronomy as they examine specific parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Did you know that "Scientists think that a GRB [gamma ray burst] anywhere in the Milky Way Galaxy would produce gamma rays strong enough to wipe out most of life on Earth?" Hmmmm!
Perhaps you've recently heard about how the Moon and the International Space Station and the double eclipse. You'll learn about the amazing history of the ISS and what we hope will be accomplished by the "the largest and most expensive satellite in history," a satellite that "has changed the way we look at our future." Satellites closer to the Earth give us essential day-to-day information such as our GPS coordinates, but the "most important use of artificial satellites is studying and predicting Earth's weather and climate." Do you know what the acronyms GOES, NOAA, TIROS-N (or ATN) mean?
You'll fly to the Moon in an effort to determine if there is enough water in its craters to create a "permanent human base" there. The Moon Minerology Mapper "detected water on the Moon" in 2009, but was it enough? Then you'll rocket off to Mars, the Red Planet, to check out the rovers. If you're a real rocket scientist you'll certainly recognize the names "Sojourner," "Pathfinder," "Spirit" and "Opportunity." You'll learn how they make their way across the surface of the planet and what they are searching for. You will also learn about "New Horizons" as it explores the Kuiper Belt and makes its way to Pluto for a 2015 arrival. Lastly, you'll be checking out what the future of technology is now alluding to. Do you think we'll make it to Alpha Centuri? You'll have to read the book to find out!
This amazing book will keep the young science student exploring its technological wonders for hours. I was mesmerized as I read through this expert selection of Dr. Bortz's "wonders." Perhaps my hands down favorite was the exploration of the moon as scientists searched for water. I, like many students will, had my own hypothesis as to why the craters proved to be smooth and if there was indeed sufficient water to support human colonists. The book marvelously lays out scientific fact, but also subtly asks the reader to think, assimilate material, and "work" with the scientists as they attempt to solve mysteries. There was one editorial error in a caption, one in which Dr. Bortz had no control over. He is challenging the young reader to be a science detective and contact him through his website when he or she finds it. There are well-chosen photographs, numerous informative sidebars, and art reproductions scattered throughout this marvelous book. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a timeline, a selected bibliography, source notes, and additional recommended book and website resources to explore.
Quill says: If you have a future scientist or astronaut in your classroom or household, this is one you'll definitely want to add to your collection!