Apollo's Fire: A Journey Through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day

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Overview

It's the oldest story on Earth. You relive it every day.

So much of our shared daily experience in the world is shaped by the sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle effects of the Earth's spin, its tilt on its axis, the alternation of light and darkness, the waxing and waning of the moon, the seemingly capricious growth of clouds. The ancient rhythm of the day and night was shaping life on Earth before there were even human beings to appreciate it. It rules our bodies and weather ...

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Apollo's Fire: A Journey Through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day

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Overview

It's the oldest story on Earth. You relive it every day.

So much of our shared daily experience in the world is shaped by the sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle effects of the Earth's spin, its tilt on its axis, the alternation of light and darkness, the waxing and waning of the moon, the seemingly capricious growth of clouds. The ancient rhythm of the day and night was shaping life on Earth before there were even human beings to appreciate it. It rules our bodies and weather and calendars, and sets the tempo for our work and play. Each of us awakens each day to relive this primordial narrative.

With his signature blend of science and poetry, history and mythology, Michael Sims serves as tour guide on an unforgettable journey through the wonders of an ordinary day, from dawn to nighttime. Long before we had the tools of knowledge to explain what we observed in the skies overhead, we built mythologies and folklore around these occurrences, immortalized them in poetry and art, created special places for them in our collective imagination and even our language. In Apollo's Fire, Sims explores the celestial events that form our days, fusing lively explanations of these phenomena with a richly layered history of what they meant to us before we knew how they worked. He explains the colors of sunrise, the characteristics of shadow, the mysteries of twilight. Characters in this vital drama include Galileo watching sunrise on the moon, Eratosthenes measuring the Earth with a noontime shadow, and Edgar Allan Poe figuring out why the night sky is dark instead of glowing with the light of a million suns. Our story ranges from the movie High Noon to Darwin's plant experiments, from The Time Machine to the afternoon rise in air pollution.In the witty and elegant style that has earned him the designation 'science raconteur,' Sims weaves a dazzling array of strands into a single tapestry of daily experience- and makes the oldest story on Earth new again.

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Editorial Reviews

The Tennessean
Sims' enthusiasm is infectious....Charming. Those who look back fondly on those late-night undergraduate conversations that seem to encompass the whole world would do well to pick up Apollo's Fire.
Nashville Scene
Sims, a writer with a particular gift for explaining the natural world...[weaves] it all into a coherent whole that's greater than the sum of its parts....His book offers readers a taste of...comfort, humility, and wonder.
Seattle Times
A witty and erudite field guide to what he calls the ‘oldest story on Earth,' the primordial cycle of the rising and setting sun... Sims' writing is both engaging and knowledgeable... [A] delightful book that will make you think and, I hope, encourage you to go outside and consider the world around you.
Bookslut
Sims has a rare gift for showing the most taken-for-granted basics of human life as radical, mystical, and strange....His prose is so illuminating that science becomes poetry and poetry, science....Hypnotic and charming....This book is a magic carpet for the armchair traveler....Readers of Apollo's Fire will suddenly experience today – this ordinary day, like any other – as grand and momentous.
Adam Begley
Wordsworth had a nice line about our inescapable human fate: ‘Rolled round in earth's diurnal course/ With rocks, and stones, and trees.' It just keeps happening willy-nilly, whether we pay attention or not. If you want to see the world turn with fresh eyes—or better yet, if you want to register the progress of earth's diurnal course with all your senses, acquire a copy of Michael Sims' lyrical and learned Apollo's Fire: A Day on Earth in Nature and Imagination.
New York Observer
Pittsburgh Magazine
Apollo's Fire is a literary wunderkammer, a cabinet of curiosity that collects snippets of Greek myth alongside images from High Noon and juxtaposes Japanese prints with the Muslim calendar. . . . [Sims is] a genial and exceedingly well-informed guide, able to talk comfortably about the difficulties inherent in building an accurate sundial, various remedies for jet lag, and the etymology of the word 'twilight.' . . . Sims has gone to great lengths in the effort to make us stop and pay attention—at least for one day.
James Trefil
[Sims's] weaving together of science and the more humane aspects of nature is what makes this book so interesting. . . . The sort of book . . . you'd keep at your side on a lazy summer day, dipping in occasionally as you undertake a leisurely contemplation of the world around you.
Washington Post Book World
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143114413
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/25/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Sims

Michael Sims is the author most recently of In the Womb: Animals (adapted from two National Geographic Channel documentaries); he is also the author of Apollo's Fire: A Journey through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day, which NPR chose as one of the best science books of 2007; Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Science Book; and Darwin's Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts. For Penguin Classics he also edited The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel and Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, and he is currently editing The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime. He has written for many periodicals, from the Washington Post to New Statesman.

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