Monday, July 15, 2019

Finding the Speed of Light by Mark Weston - ADVISABLE

Finding the Speed of Light: The 1676 Discovery that Dazzled the World  by Mark Weston, illustrated by Rebecca Evans, unpaged. PICTURE BOOK NON-FICTION. Tilbury House, 2019. $18. 9780884485452



Ole Romer, born in 1644, was the son of a sea captain and trained from his youth to read the stars. Raised in Denmark, he attended university in Copenhagen and studied astronomy. He proved himself quite capable and was invited to teach the king’s sons in Paris and be an astronomer at the France’s Royal Academy of Science. Shortly thereafter, he and his fellow scientists were able to determine the distance between the sun, earth, and the other planets throughout the year. At this time, everyone believed that light was instantaneous, including Romer. But when he discovered that Jupiter’s moon, Io, seemed to slow down and then speed up in its orbit around Jupiter, and then discovered that the change in the speed happened in a predictable pattern every six months, he eventually had an eureka moment. He realized that Jupiter was farther away from Earth every six months, and that it must be the light that took longer to travel to him rather than anything happening in the moon’s orbit. He realized that light had a speed and he could figure out what it is. Back matter includes additional information connecting this discovery to our modern understanding of the subject, highlights from Romer’s later life, and a timeline.

Romer’s discovery of the speed of light is told in white blocks of text, surrounded by cartoon panels mostly recreating the scenes being described in the text, often with humorous twists, but not essential for following the narrative. (Example, “Can anyone other than Ole answer this question?”) For such a complicated matter of math and astronomy, this book tells the tale succinctly and clearly, as well as blending facts, history, and humor in a manner appealing to middle-grade readers.

P.K.Foster, MLS, school librarian

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