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The Manga Guide to the Universe

A comic book explores the secrets of the universe

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The Manga Guide to the Universe

Cover from The Manga Guide to the Universe

No Starch Press
In this volume of No Starch Press's The Manga Guide series, the authors tackle general concepts at the heart of understanding our universe, ranging from the moon to the very size and fate of our universe to whether there may exist a multiverse of alternate realities. They combine a fictional storyline with non-fiction science education information, to create a narrative which may well be more accessible to many students - especially those who are fond of manga storytelling styles - than traditional textbooks.

The Book's Structure

The narrative structure of the book comes from the manga (a Japanese style of comic book) section, which focuses on a story about a high school drama club. The club decides to do a play based upon an ancient Japanese myth, which keeps getting derailed by scientific discussions about the nature of the universe itself.

Interspersed with these manga sections are non-fiction sections that delve more deeply into the scientific concepts. These sections are written in prose, often containing diagrams, portraits of historical figures, equations, and other useful information.

I'll be honest in that I'm not actually a fan of the manga style of storytelling, because it's a little chaotic for my tastes. Even in my comic books, fantasy, and science fiction, I prefer a more realistic narrative style. Manga is a bit manic, jumping from the mundane to the outrageous and then back again, in a manner that I find off-putting. Despite that, though, the book is laid out so that people who enjoy these portions can read them and get something from them while people who - like me - don't particularly care for them can skim, going straight to the meatier science information.

The Book's Science

The structure of the book, and it's manga storytelling style, is certainly engaging, but for most readers the question will really be very simple: How well does it teach science?

The Manga Guide to the Universe does an excellent job of addressing some of the biggest science questions out there, exploring both the history of cosmology and our the main riddles that still challenge physicists today. Anyone reading it would come away with a good understanding of the following scientific concepts:

  • Ancient (pre-scientific) creation stories/myths
  • Early astronomical discoveries of China and Greece
  • Heliocentric versus geocentric models of the solar system
  • The trial of Galileo Galilei
  • Kepler's laws of motion
  • Planets (and other bodies) in our solar system
  • Assorted information about our own Milky Way galaxy
  • The Big Bang theory, universal expansion, and large-scale structures in our universe
  • Estimating the probability of aliens in our universe
  • The possible future of the universe
  • Are we part of a multiverse?
Though this book is certainly not a complete textbook, it does contain numerical data about various astronomical objects (including the other planets in our solar system) and some basic equations, geometry, and other mathematical tools that are needed to understand the concepts. You can skim over the mathematics and still get the basic idea, of course, but for someone looking for a math-free exploration of the topics, this isn't it. As I said above, it's very easy to pick and choose which parts of this book to focus on. People who like the manga style will get a lot out of those aspects, while they can be skipped by those who want to treat it as a pure scientific reference book. (Though, if you're going to use it just as a reference book, there are certainly better options available.)

Book Statistics

Published in paperback in 2011.
239 pages, with a prologue, 5 sections, and an index
Includes a "Gallery of Astronomical Marvels" at the end - 8 pages of full color space photographs, many of them from the Hubble Space Telescope
Cover price: $19.95 US/$22.95 CDN
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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