four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
By: 
Chet Raymo
user_rating: 
0

Discovering Cosmic Space and Time Along the Prime Meridian

A-Walking ZeroHewing to the zero longitude line, Chet Raymo trekked through England to tell the story of how that same meridian came to be fixed in the late 19th century. Though Walking Zero is ostensibly the story of that trek, its true purpose is a deeper inquiry into how people comprehend the universe. Raymo’s walk’s proximity to the homes and workplaces of some of the prime movers of science, including Newton and Darwin, aids his investigations. This illustrious intellectual company helps to expand this short tome into an exploration of "the way our sense of time … turned from the cosmic rhythm of the heavens to the assembly-line products of the industrial era" (Los Angeles Times).
Walker & Co. 194 pages. $22.95. ISBN: 0802714943

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"In less than 200 pages, he walks us through the history of this hard-won realization: that our planet, the epicenter of our imagination and the archive of our evolution, is a minute speck in a vast universe. But he doesn’t feel diminished by the mote’s unimportance—he feels exalted by the grandeur of the setting." Michael Sims

Scientific American 4 of 5 Stars
"He uses an actual walk along the meridian as a ‘thread on which to hang’ a history of astronomy, geology and paleontology. … A walk with this delightful writer is the best exercise a reader could have." Matt Ridley

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Raymo is at his best when he is writing of his wide-eyed excitement with science and the people who have advanced our understanding of the world. … Although less of a story about a walk than a reason to string together a series of observations, Walking Zero helps reveal many connections between science and humanity." David B. Williams

Critical Summary

When Chet Raymo sets out for a walk, it’s rarely an idle jaunt. In The Path ( 4 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2003), the daily jaunt to his office opened up into a series of ecological musings. Climbing Mount Brandon was an opportunity to explore Western thought while scaling the title’s mass. He is up to his old circumambulatory tricks again in Walking Zero, to high praise from deskbound reviewers. That the harshest criticism leveled at Raymo is that the book is too short strongly indicates that, wherever he rambles, this Stonehill College professor and former Boston Globe science columnist will have plenty of eager companions.