Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Review: Icarus at the Edge of Time

Wednesday night the famous string theorist Brian Greene was at Politics and Prose talking physics and signing his new book.

I knew it was called "Icarus at the Edge of Time" and that it was about a generation ship heading for a new planet and that one of the kids on the ship, a boy named Icarus, stole a shuttle craft to explore a black hole that the main ship was maneuvering around. And that when he got back Icarus found out that while he was capable of maneuvering around a black hole he'd forgotten about the time dilation effect and found himself in the distant future.

What I didn't know was that it's a kids book. A really small kids book. The pages are made of cardboard. So I was a bit surprised when I showed up to buy a few copies. I'd already told my dad and El Cid that I'd get them autographed copies. I got them one of his other books autographed instead and got a few copies of his new book autographed for the kids of some friends.

The book is great. It was illustrated by the Hubble Telescope. Of course, the stuff in the pictures are definitely not located between Earth and Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to our sun and their destination). But aside from that the science was rock solid. It takes light 4.5 years to travel from the Proxima Centauri/Alpha Centauri system. To take a ship there would require several generations. And the time dilation suffered by young Icarus is true. If you'd like I can present you more detail about time dilation in a gravitational well.

The book is sturdy and colorful enough for very small children and readable enough for Bernstein Bears age readers up to physics professors.

And probably greatest of all was getting to see a group of 1st graders sitting around the feet of a famous physicist.

You can watch his 3 part NOVA special online at

1 comment:

Mike Rhode said...

Ah, you made it - good! P&P sells recordings of it's events for $8, I think.