We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe

CHAM, Jorge & . illus. by Jorge Cham. 368p. bibliog. index. Riverhead. May 2017. Tr $28. ISBN 9780735211513.
Accompanied by funny cartoons, this title takes readers on a mind-expanding, exhilarating trip through everything scientists don't know about the universe, which turns out to be quite a lot. Cham and Whiteson start with the humbling fact that 27 percent of the universe is made up of dark matter—which we can't see, interact with, or measure. A staggering 68 percent of the universe is dark energy, which the authors point out is just a convenient and possibly misleading term for something we know even less about. The rest of the book explores the remaining five percent, detailing our incomplete understanding of everything from mass to space-time to gravity and more. Fortunately, Cham and Whiteson present a wealth of information about what physicists do know, and their excitement about scientific advancement and their optimism about future discoveries are infectious. Their stabs at levity are a bit grating (although they're aware how lame their jokes are) and unnecessary, since their prose is lucid, even when the concepts become almost impossible to grasp.
VERDICT An enjoyable and thought-provoking read for older teens with at least a cursory understanding of physics.

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