ZOOM: How Everything Moves, From Atoms and Galaxies to Blizzards and Bees. By Bob Berman. Little, Brown and Company. 336 pages. $27.
Bob Berman is the science editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac. So "Zoom," this light-hearted expedition, combines impeccably sound science with a caustic sense of humor. This is an easy read, both enlightening and entertaining.
Berman explores how things in motion influence every part of our lives. How fast does that burger travel through our intestines? Why does a long line drive to the outfield curve to the right? He covers the entire spectrum of speed from stalactite growth to the light and everything in between, organic and inorganic.
He mixes a few things that you already knew about with facts and processes that only a few of us are aware of. And in some cases he describes the history of learning how to measure the speed of that movement.
The short opening paragraph of his foreword captures the magic Berman finds in the moving world we live in: "We are embedded in a magical matrix of continuous motion. Clouds change shape, tsunamis destroy cities. Nature's animation happens eternally. Its energy springs from no apparent source. Nor, we learn, does it ever diminish. It's tireless."
Berman drifts in and out of geology, meteorology, astronomy and biology, and he treats us to a wonderful assortment of anecdotes from the history of science.
There's no Pulitzer Prize here, but that does not detract from what is a thoroughly enjoyable and educational journey. Scientific rigor is not sacrificed for a large dose of whimsy.
Reviewer Frank L. Cloutier is a retired engineer living in Hanahan. Currently he is camped on the midcoast of Maine.