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The Science of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials (Laurel-Leaf Books) Mass Market Paperback – July 10, 2007

12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-9–The Gribbins are fairly successful at relating various aspects of the worlds of Pullman's series to scientific principles of our world. The discussion is less than scientific at some points. The authors relate the use of The Golden Compass to the unconscious mind and, in so doing, describe both the theories of Jung and the use of the I Ching. At other times, their science is on solid ground, even cutting edge, as in their discussion of quantum entanglement, but their comparison of this scientific principle to Will and Lyra's sharing the same Oxford park bench in different worlds is tenuous at best. The book is organized roughly by the chronology of the trilogy so readers must jump from one concept to another quite disparate idea within a few pages. Overall, though, the Gribbins introduce quite a few interesting topics ranging from cosmology to natural selection in an understandable and readable manner. This book could be used to introduce scientifically inclined readers to Pullman's works and Pullman's fans to the wonders of science.–Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-9. In a sometimes self-deprecating introduction, Pullman notes, "When I first read [this book], I was enormously impressed by how clever I was. Then, I . . . realized that if I'd got anything right in the first place, it was because of the work of writers like [the Gribbins], who explained these difficult ideas--and many others--with clarity and skill." And difficult ideas they are: string theory, space-time continuum, quantum physics. Noted science writers, the Gribbins show how concepts are the real magic of Pullman's trilogy. Each chapter begins with a quote drawn from the books, which leads to an elegantly written explanation of the science. ?A description of the Northern Lights, for instance, starts a discussion of "the magic of magnetism" that moves to a description of the magnetic earth, and on to a look at atoms. Some readers may say that the book veers off a true scientific path in a chapter that uses Lyra's alethiometer to launch into the world of oracles, Jung, and the I Ching (even with diagrams, the latter concept will be hard for young readers to grasp). ?And occasional statements are surprisingly oversimplified: "William Gilbert was the first scientist." Actually, the book is often at its best with complicated material. The authors do an amazing job teasing an introduction to string theory from Will's "subtle knife," even if concepts such as compactified dimensions seem unbelievable. Naturally, fans of the series will be the best audience, but the book offers much to readers simply interested in the advanced sciences, who then may be led back to His Dark Materials.^B Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: Laurel-Leaf Books
  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375831460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375831461
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.6 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,560,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Team LitPick on October 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As its name indicates, this book explains the science behind Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The authors refer to passages from the trilogy and then explain the science behind them using easily comprehendable examples and analogies. Chapters speak of everything from the Northern Lights to the Amber Spyglass. This non-fiction book is a reference for the fictitious His Dark Materials. The science explained, though it is complex, can be understood easily by a lay reader.

I would recommend reading the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman before reading this book to understand the references and the context of the examples given in the book. I really liked the analogies because they made the science easy to understand, even for those who either do not understand or have not yet studied Physics, Chemistry, and Astronomy behind many science fiction novels. I especially enjoyed the depth of the history that the authors gave of the different concepts, such as the explanation for the appearance of the Northern Lights. Whether you are looking to understand His Dark Materials or to better understand subjects in your science class, this book fulfills its duty to explain science. Eventhough I do not usually enjoy science fiction, I enjoyed this book for its educational value.
(...)
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Thoemmes on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The trilogy just stunned me and I worked at trying to understand its complexities. Then I read this book, and everything made sense. At first I declared that the trilogy was better than 'The Lord of the Rings' but could not explain why. This book nails it. It will be wonderful if you read the trilogy, read this book, and share everything with your children. Remember when 'expanding your consciousness' was all the rage? No? That's OK. All these books do it with a basis in science. Buy the darn books. Buy them for your friends.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Miami Bob on August 20, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Fantasy for the sake of escapism is wonderful. Explanation of the same may become problematic. To the reader who enjoys escaping reality for fantasy, explanation for what otherwise has no reason is as inviting as the many hurtful "growing up" moments: e.g. when we learn that there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny or Tooth Afairy.

One of Great Britain's greatest fantasies is the Dark Materials' trilogy - where little children take on magical odysseys to cure what adults ruin. Similar to "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" or any of the J.K. Rowling "Harry Potter" books, Philip Pullman's fantasy has been the torch which lit many of a certain generation's children's dreams. A contemporary to Rowling, his writing has been the source of discussion and movie material.

And, so it is this book that makes it so unlike interpretations of many of its peer novels. Harry Potter novels are decried as the source for the intense growth of devil worshiping satanic cults. To the contrary, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" has been accused of being a Christian lesson in mythic tale. Narnia - the land of "The Lion . . . " - is separate from our own. It is heaven or the "other world." Potter's world coexists with our own - he is different, he is the devil incarnate. Or, so critics tells us.

Pullman's world is both "other" as well as part of our own. He has Lyra and Will meet, even though they are from different worlds. With magic knife, Will cuts his way into our world. How, the authors ask, can this be?

Metaphysics. This book teaches us about the fourth dimension, string theory, dust, dark materials, quantum physics and more - and how each relates to what we thought was a children's novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Douglas M. Black on February 6, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mary & John Gribbin have created a well organized and eaily understood science guide to the authentic physics behind Philip Pullman's epic work. The Gribbins combine good, clear writing with a thurough understanding of phyisics that leads to simple explanations a layman can understand. With out this valualbe work, Mr. Pullman's fantastic tale would remain simply a 'story' underpinned by fanciful and extremely complex and difficult science that might or might not be real for our world. As it happens, much of it is real for our world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Philip W. Knopp on January 7, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
For the ordinary person, this little book has pretty good coverage of the scientific basis for Pullman's trilogy. I am no expert, but from the info in the college courses I have taken with the Teaching Company, I think the writers have done well to condense so many items in a little space. It helps to understand that many of the ideas in Pullmans's fantasy have a bit of reality to them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By sa92 on April 6, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a brilliant concept, and was executed relatively well. My main complaint is that the tone of writing is not consistent. I felt 'talked down to' in some chapters and then unexplained terms, concepts and/or examples were used that went over my head in other chapters. For example, the authors give a detailed definition of what "experiments" are, but then assume readers know what "polarized lenses" are. I don't know about others, but I knew what an 'experiment' was about a decade before I had any experience with polarized lenses, and I'm still not 100% sure I'm thinking of the right thing. Particularly toward the end of the book the authors seemed to have jumped ship on breaking concepts down with the same voracity as in the beginning.
Obviously, this is a companion to the trilogy. Although I felt the editing should've been better for this book, it really is an invaluable addition to the His Dark Materials experience.
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