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Walking Zero: Discovering Cosmic Space and…

Walking Zero: Discovering Cosmic Space and Time Along the PRIME MERIDIAN

by Chet Raymo

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I've read most of Chet Raymo's books and have enjoyed them all. This, while it may not be my favorite (that spot's taken, with a tie between "When God is Gone, Everything is Holy" and "The Dork of Cork" -- who could resist that last title?) it's a good read.

Raymo is professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, and was at one time the science writer for the Boston Globe. The man walks a lot and observes the most wonderful things as he goes. Here he takes a six-week walk along a section of the prime meridian, each stop becoming a jumping off point for discussions on a wide range of scientific and historical subjects.

He starts off with an essay on the original debate concerning the choice of this zero-longitude line. Raymo discusses Sandford Fleming, a Canadian surveyor and engineer, and how he attempted to gain international acceptance of a prime meridian. Both the British and the french bristled with nationalist outrage at the idea the other might be selected. In the end an international delegation chose the Greenwich meridian, even though "it rather assertively sliced across France, effecting a successful cartographical invasion where centuries of British military interventions had failed."

From there, as Raymo walks, he 'talks' and his focus moves outward, until at last it comes to rest somewhere out among the stars. The man has such a diverse range of topics and such vast knowledge that it's both inspiring and humbling. From the Greek philosophers to Piltdown man, there's always something to learn and I can't imagine a better teacher.

Once or twice he gets a bit cranky on the subject of religion and I found this odd. His book, "When God is Gone, Everything is Holy" is one of the most spiritual books I've ever read (as is his wonderful "Climbing Brendan"), and I can't help but wonder if he didn't get into an argument with one of the neo-atheists as he was writing this book. There is, of course, a great difference between dogmatic religion and spirituality, but where he generally is quite comfortable with some sort of wonderful Creative Awe, here he dips a little. Still, he ends the book this way, "In knitting the history of life, including our own species, into the space and time of the geologists and astronomers, Darwin helped to accomplish what the medieval builders sought in their own way to do: to life our eyes from the confining circle of our birth and draw our attention to the light and glory of the cosmos." Ah.... there's the Chet I know and love. ( )
  Laurenbdavis | May 16, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802714943, Hardcover)

Noted science writer Chet Raymo explores how we found our place in space and time, and what it has meant to humankind.

In Walking Zero, Chet Raymo uses the Prime Meridian--the line of zero longitude and the standard for all the world's maps and clocks--to tell the story of humandkind's intellectual journey from a cosmos not much larger than ourselves to the universe of the galaxies and geologic eons.

As in his highly praised The Path and Climbing Brandon, Raymo connects personally with the story by walking England's Prime Meridian from Brighton through Greenwich to the North Sea. The Prime Meridian passes near a surprising number of landmarks that loom large in science: Isaac Newton's chambers at Trinity College, Cambridge; Charles Darwin's home at Down, in Kent; the site where the first dinosaur fossils were discovered; and John Harrison's clocks in a museum room of the Royal Observatory, among many others. Visiting them in turn, Raymo brings to life the human dramas of courageous individuals who bucked reigning orthodoxies to expand our horizons, including one brave rebel who paid the ultimate price for surmising the multitude of worlds we now take for granted.

A splendid short history of astronomy and geology, Walking Zero illuminates the startling interplay of science, psychology, faith, and the arts in our understanding of space and time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:04 -0400)

"In Walking Zero, Chet Raymo use the prime meridian - the line of zero longitude and the standard for all the world's maps and clocks - to reconstruct the story of humankind's intellectual journey from a cosmos not much larger than ourselves to the universe of the galaxies and geologic cons."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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