Apollo's Fire: A Journey Through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day

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Penguin, 2008 - Science - 296 pages
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It?s the oldest story on Earth. You relive it every day.

So much of our shared daily experience in the world is shaped by the sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle effects of the Earth?s spin, its tilt on its axis, the alternation of light and darkness, the waxing and waning of the moon, the seemingly capricious growth of clouds. The ancient rhythm of the day and night was shaping life on Earth before there were even human beings to appreciate it. It rules our bodies and weather and calendars, and sets the tempo for our work and play. Each of us awakens each day to relive this primordial narrative.

With his signature blend of science and poetry, history and mythology, Michael Sims serves as tour guide on an unforgettable journey through the wonders of an ordinary day, from dawn to nighttime. Long before we had the tools of knowledge to explain what we observed in the skies overhead, we built mythologies and folklore around these occurrences, immortalized them in poetry and art, created special places for them in our collective imagination and even our language. In Apollo?s Fire, Sims explores the celestial events that form our days, fusing lively explanations of these phenomena with a richly layered history of what they meant to us before we knew how they worked. He explains the colors of sunrise, the characteristics of shadow, the mysteries of twilight. Characters in this vital drama include Galileo watching sunrise on the moon, Eratosthenes measuring the Earth with a noontime shadow, and Edgar Allan Poe figuring out why the night sky is dark instead of glowing with the light of a million suns. Our story ranges from the movie High Noon to Darwin?s plant experiments, from The Time Machine to the afternoon rise in air pollution.In the witty and elegant style that has earned him the designation ?science raconteur,? Sims weaves a dazzling array of strands into a single tapestry of daily experience- and makes the oldest story on Earth new again.

 

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Apollo's fire

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Readers who enjoyed science writer Sims'sAdam's Navel andDarwin's Orchestra will find themselves embarking on another marvelous adventure uniting nature and human knowledge and imagination. Sims ... Read full review

Contents

Morning
1
CHARIOT
23
DANCE
54
HIGH NOON
72
Afternoon
106
THE SILENT CONCERT
140
FEEDING TIME AT LOCH NESS
159
Night
176
PALE FIRE
202
INFINITE
227
Amber
259
Sources Notes and Selected Further Reading
265
Index
285
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About the author (2008)

Michael Sims is the author most recently of In the Womb: Animals (adapted from two National Geographic Channel documentaries); he is also the author of Apollo's Fire: A Journey through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day, which NPR chose as one of the best science books of 2007; Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Science Book; and Darwin's Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts. For Penguin Classics he also edited The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel and Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, and he is currently editing The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime. He has written for many periodicals, from the Washington Post to New Statesman.

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