Reviewed by Jean Worsley
Retired Biology Teacher
This book introduces readers to a topic that has fascinated philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians through the ages. A unique timeline of experiments, theories, and inventions in man’s quest to learn about this mystery is presented. Current and future research topics are also explored.
The text includes an introduction, four chapters, four asides, web sites, endnotes, bibliography, and an index. The title page is striking because it has all of the symbols in the series and the diagram representing energy is highlighted. Colorful photos of scientists and inventions and the skillful use of color on pages, titles, and captions will appeal to young readers.
The author brings to the forefront the forms of energy we need every day. The fundamental theory is that energy and matter coexist and that energy can be changed from one form to another. Unlike matter, energy is intangible, but we can sense things which produce energy and its effects. Several sources of energy are listed and nearly all of these can be traced to the sun. Vivid examples of kinetic and potential energy are delineated in addition to differences in endothermic and exothermic animals.
A historical timeline begins by explaining how early humans used muscle power to gather food and protect themselves from predators. As civilizations advanced, humans harnessed animals and made tools to enhance muscle power. The Greeks concluded that the motion of four elements, earth, air, fire, and water moved in the universe according to their weight. Many questions persisted about this mystery such as how does the earth receive its energy, what happens to energy when objects are not in motion, and how does the sun produce its energy. Finally, experiments by several scientists proved that energy in matter is bound in atoms and the nuclear age came into being.
A concise explanation of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion is included. It was found that the sun and other stars produced energy by nuclear fusion. One of the "Energetic Asides" describes how electricity, the most important source we use today, is produced using fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Again, history is revisited as the author lists contributions of Joule, Maxwell, Watt, Einstein, and others. They include the invention of the steam engine, discovery of the electromagnetic spectrum, the law of conservation of matter, discovery of gamma rays, X–rays, radio waves, and solar panels.This discussion is significant because it shows how scientific progress is made as scientists examine the credibility of experiments of others and formulate new experiments based on prior knowledge.
The author states that one of the major mysteries today is “dark energy”. Several projects have been initiated to study this mystery. With increased use of fossil fuels, there is an urgent need to find alternative sources of energy. Solar energy is one of the fastest growing fields. Other sources described include wind power, tidal power, geothermal, nuclear, biofuels, and green energy. It is noted that these alternative fuels should be safe and should not pollute the atmosphere.
This is an excellent book to introduce the mystery of energy and processes involved in establishing scientific concepts and theories.
Review posted on 9/6/2012