Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Where the Why and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science

The Where, the Why and the How is a whimsical book for curious minds. Artists, illustrators and graphic designers were invited to illustrate the brief answers provided by scientists to puzzlers like "What is antimatter?" "Why do cats purr?" "What causes depression?" and "Why do we have fingerprints?"

The editors are Jenny Volvovski, Julia Rothman and Matt Lamothe. From the introduction: "Today we're spoiled with an abundance of information. We carry devices that fit in our pockets but contain the entirety of human knowledge. If you want to know anything, just Google it." I know exactly what they mean, since I love being able to whip out my iPod to look up stuff in the midst of book reading.

The questions in this book are not the sort that have easy answers, however. The editors encourage readers to "enjoy reflecting on the mysteries themselves." I followed their advice and spent time studying each colourful, full-page illustration before reading the text on the facing page. The text itself is in a small font that discourages the eye from quickly skimming the contents. There is so much white space around the text -- plenty of room for a larger font -- that this must have been on purpose in order to focus attention on the art. (Or maybe my eyesight is just getting really bad.)

The answer that surprised me most was to the question "Do immortal creatures exist?" Apparently, there are some. Huh!

Most of the artwork is quite abstract, which suits the questioning nature of the book. Although adults are the primary audience, I think some younger readers will also find it interesting.

Readalikes: A History of the World in 100 Objects (Neil MacGregor) and, especially for younger readers, You are Stardust (Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim) and Big Questions from Little People (compiled by Gemma Elwin Harris).

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