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Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination First Printing Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0670063284
ISBN-10: 0670063282
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What could be more poetic than the bare facts of the cosmos? asks Sims (Adam's Navel), an acclaimed science writer with a flair for giving reality the luster of myth. Here he takes a single day and guides readers through the history of what we know, and what we've imagined, about sunrises, clouds and other natural phenomena. From the opening passage, which recalls a scene from Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Sims delights in drawing upon a wide variety of cultural sources. In one section, he invokes Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth to stress the importance of shadows; later, he discusses circadian rhythms in the context of Darwin's The Power of Movement in Plants. The hard science is just as vigorously poetic, as when Sims explains how sunlight bounces off the particles in the atmosphere to produce clear blue skies or the reds of twilight. His delightful tour of day and night skies will inspire many readers to look up with a marveling new perspective. (Sept. 24)
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About the Author

Michael Sims is the author of Adam’s Navel, a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Science Book, and Darwin’s Orchestra, as well as editor of The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel and other books. He is a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Book Review and has written for magazines, museum exhibitions, radio programs, and educational films. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Printing edition (September 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670063282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670063284
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,622,133 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on February 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Harnessing the power of artists and scientists, science writer Sims tells the amazing story of one day in the life of our planet. From James Joyce to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, writers have shaped big stories around our 24-hour day, painters have called on the dawn to praise God and ordinary people have found terror and awe in the night skies.

Scientists, too, have used their imaginations to construct elaborate, beautiful and utterly false theories about our planet and its environs. Ptolemy's eloquent proof that the sun and all the universe revolve around the earth guided navigation (and scientific thought) for centuries. Kepler accepted the sun as the center of the cosmos. "But as a consequence, Kepler found himself horrified at the thought of the sun cast adrift among innumerable stars," so he argued for a finite cosmos centered around our sun.

Sims ("Adam's Navel") moves from myth to science and back again as he invites us to marvel at the dawn and understand the qualities of light that color it. "For the rest of my life I will reflect on what light is," says Albert Einstein in one of the many punctuating quotes Sims sprinkles throughout the text.

The speed of light, its color spectrum and how the earth's spin, axis and rotation affect our perceptions - blue sky, rainbows, sunsets and dawns - are naturally recurring themes throughout a day that's entirely dependent on the sun. He touches too on the eventual death of our sun and other stars, greater and smaller.

The myth of Phaethon, Apollo's son, who insists on driving the chariot of fire, begins at dawn and Sims retuns to it throughout the day, accumulating disasters. This is as close as Sims gets to preaching in a book that necessarily dwells on atmosphere, pollution and weather.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Sims is one the most insightful and talented of contemporary science writers. Apollo's Fire follows Adam's Navel, his lyrical romp through the human body. This luminous new book is a journey through the planet's oldest narrative, the cycle of day and night. Sims's writing is often praised for its wit and erudition. In this new book--in the clarity and elegance of its prose and its astonishing alchemy of art, history, literature, mythology, and solid science--it's easy to see why. Shoehorning sophisticated science into fluid narrative is no easy task, but Sims makes it seem so. Reading Apollo's Fire is like walking one whole turn of day with a curious and engaging friend, impossibly well read, who asks the questions you wish you'd thought of, and then answers them in lucid, beautiful, playful language: Sun dogs and moon shadows, contrails, the strange story of ozone, the border habitat of twilight, the nature of sunlight and the physics of wind, the myth of Apollo and the story of Phaethon. Best not to fly through this book, but to saunter, musing. Then run out and buy copies for your friends and family to keep on their nightstands. They'll thank you for it.
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Format: Hardcover
Michael Sims captured the essence of the human body in "Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form" and now he is back with an equally fascinating journey through the day. His "Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination" is another gem mixing science, history, myth and folklore.

Because we are used to the cycle of the day, we generally don't think much about it. Like water, air, soil and other commonalities of life on this planet the day is often ignored except when we are late to some appointment or notice some phenomenon in the sky, such as unusual clouds or a rainbow. Sims writes of these and more, such as the legend of Phaethon, son of Apollo (from which he derived the book's name), the iconography of the movie "High Noon", the procession of the day from dawn to midnight, the starry night, and the use of the moon in Japanese prints. This is a very good read and a store of neat facts and legends about the daily cycle. In fact Sims reminds me of another very good writer on natural phenomena, Chet Raymo, who gives Sims' book praise on the back book cover.

I recommend this book highly to anyone who is interested in the day and the "enchanting journey" (as Raymo puts it) on which the author leads us. This book will make the reader more attuned to and aware of the day's passage.
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Format: Hardcover
A good book makes the reader feel more alive. By that measure, Apollo's Fire is a fine, fine book indeed. Michael Sims' prose gave me the ongoing urge to get out into the out-of-doors more often and, when I do, to see it with new eyes. It is impossible not to walk through a day, any day, differently after reading this insightful, devout and whimiscal book.
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