Sunday, June 15, 2014

Smithsonian: Timelines of Science by DK Publishing

Smithsonian: Timelines of Science is a visual guide to "history of science and inventions". It starts with fire and progresses through time to the internet. It's packed with information and covers all branches of science from astronomy to technology.

I really liked this book, but I admit the massive amounts of information it contained was a little intimidating at first. It's not really the kind of book that I could or world read cover to cover. That would be overwhelming. Instead, it's the kind that I could leave on the coffee table so that I (or my guests) can dip into it from time to time. The gorgeous cover featuring the Vitruvian Man is terrific. It definitely draws me in, but it's the extensive content within the book that keeps me coming back for more.

I love that the book presented information in a variety of ways. There are interesting articles, quotes, side bars that highlight some of the information, as well as small annotated photographs and diagrams scattered throughout.

The main part of the book are the timelines. For each of the timelines, an accompanying article explains what happened during that time frame using text and photographs/diagrams/illustrations. While the articles are informative, I think the information is a little squished. There's too much packed into a small space with very little white space. I would have preferred some headings for the separate ideas, instead of just some highlighted words or phrases.

In addition to the timelines, the book also features many key events or discoveries. There are at least three types of 2-page spreads on a particular topic: The Story of...; Understanding...; other. Each of them is well presented and nicely laid out. I especially love the ones that teach basic concepts (like evolution, stars, and DNA), and the ones with tons of labelled photographs.

I have mixed feelings about all of the sciences being presented on one timeline. In one way it's good because I can see what else was happening in the world when a particular discovery was made. However, there's just too much information to wade through. If I want to learn about astronomy for example, I have to sift through lots of other stuff to get to it.

There's a reference section near the back of the book that will delight true science nerds. The 6 parts feature: measurements and units, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and space, as well as earth science. The sections are filled with laws, equations, symbols and the like. To me, it looked like stuff I was supposed to memorize or learn in my high school science classes. To be honest, I found it interesting, but my eyes sort of glazed over after awhile.

That section is followed by who's who in science featuring brief biographies. It's sort of like a glossary of people. It's really cool.

The book also contains a table of contents, which is presented chronologically, a glossary, and index, both of which are massive. In the index, two of the pages are printed out of order, so it might be a bit confusing for readers at first. Hopefully, this will be corrected in the next printing.

Highly recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit DK's website.

I'd like to thank Chris at DK Canada for this review copy.

Smithsonian: Timelines of Science DK Publishing, Dorling Kindersley (DK), ©2013. ISBN 9781465414342(Hardcover), 400p.

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