A Cosmic Perspective

I have previously posted here about a couple of topics that are of great interest to me; how we are seemingly losing our connection to nature, and the wonder of space.  I have come across some great science books that suggest a “melding” of those two things that in this post I have dubbed, “A Cosmic Perspective”.  I believe children and adults alike sometimes fail to see the connection we all have to the world (and universe) around us. I don’t know the origin of the “Cosmic Perspective” phrase, but I borrow it from one of my favorite contemporary scientists…Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  He is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and one of the more personable science advocates out there.  He often talks about the “big picture”, which he refers to the Cosmic Perspective.  He defines it on his website as many things, a few of which are most pertinent to my blog post:

  • The cosmic perspective shows Earth to be a mote, but a precious mote and, for the moment, the only home we have.
  • The cosmic perspective finds beauty in the images of planets, moons, stars, and nebulae but also celebrates the laws of physics that shape them.
  • The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we’re told.

Here are some great new titles for all ages that will help you understand and appreciate the universe, perhaps from a new perspective:

A Black Hole is NOT a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano and Michael Carroll (ill.). February 2012. 9781570917837. Gr. 5-8.

Understanding the concepts of physics and astronomy is sometimes difficult, but luckily we have titles such as this one by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano, a science education consultant.  She, along with illustrations by Michael Carroll, gives great examples that make it easier to visualize the concept of black holes, since we would be “spaghetti-fied*” if we actually visited one (*An actual scientific term…see page 51!).  DeCristofano compares a black hole to a whirlpool to explain how a black hole works, pulling in everything that strays too close.  She follows this up with chapters on gravity, black hole creation, properties, and location within our cosmic “neighborhood”.  Complete with other goodies like sidebars, a timeline, glossary, and more, this is an essential addition to your collection.

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. June 2012. 9780547478814. Gr. 4-8

It is easy to feel connectedness to Earth, since we can walk outside and use all of our senses to explore it.  But, for all of us who aren’t astronauts, we will always be tethered to Earth.  Fortunately, the good people at NASA are helping us experience space by their incredible photos of the universe, and their missions into space.  The Mighty Mars Rovers chronicles the amazing journey of Spirit and Opportunity on their journey to Mars and the exploration they have done on the Red Planet.  This book centers on the mission’s lead scientist, Steve Squyres.  Squyres lead a vast team of brilliant scientists that took the mission from concept to reality, despite so many obstacles along the way.  For example, the rovers endured getting stuck in a deep crater, trapped in a sandy soil up to its hubcaps, a global dust storm, and more.  Despite all of this, the rovers remained functional far beyond what scientists expected.  They thought they would be returning data to Earth for three months, and they are still going strong after six years! This is an amazing tale of science, perseverance, ingenuity, and adventure.

You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Kim Soyeon (ill.). September 2012. 9781926973357. PS-1.

This summary of this picture book begins with the declaration, “Kids are nature.” This is followed by the idea that the elements that make up our body were created when a star exploded.  This poetic concept matches the poetic text of the book, and is beautifully paired with diorama-style artwork. An author’s note at the end of the book assures readers that all of the concepts outlined are firmly rooted in science, and encourages readers to visit the publisher’s website, where there are more details on this, as well as lesson plans for educators, crafts, and more.  This book is a wonderful celebration of life and our connectedness to nature.

You Are A Star by Michael Parker and Judith Rossell (ill.). September 2012. 9780802728425. K-2.

Although this has a very similar-sounding title as the one above, the tone is quite different.  You Are A Star uses the same premise that part of the universe is inside of us all, but also features the reassuring theme that darkness is not scary, it is the “cradle from which you came.”  Its title and opening pages cleverly plays upon words and explains that, while children may aspire to be a sports star or movie star, they are already a star, in the cosmic sense.  This is a great title to read aloud to youngsters to allay fears about darkness and encourage children to feel connected to our universe.

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