Book review – ‘101 Facts You Didn’t Know About Space’ by Mark Thompson

Thanks to the team over at Pen & Sword Books, I’ve been given the opportunity to review one of their publications – 2020’s ‘101 Facts You Didn’t Know About Space’!

Written by Mark Thompson, best known as one of the presenters on the BBC show ‘Stargazing Live’, the book – as the title suggests – dives into 101 facts about space, mainly science-based but with a few history ones included too.

Each of the 101 facts is given one or two pages maximum – accompanied by some amazing images courtesy of NASA – and, aside from a few that expand upon or mention a concept explained in a previous fact, can be read in pretty much any order.

The science behind each fact is succinctly explained and digestible, despite dealing with some concepts that would otherwise be almost beyond comprehension, including black holes, dark matter and neutron stars.

The writing style struck me as being almost like a transcript of something Thompson would say on camera, as if it was meant to be spoken aloud rather than read. It’s a style that, admittedly, did take me a while to get used to, but once I got my head around it, it made the book very conversational and easy to dip into.

‘101 Facts You Didn’t Know About Space’ is accessible and humorous, assuming no previous scientific knowledge and therefore ideal for a wide range of demographics. It would make for a great coffee table book, sure to spark conversation and to get people talking.

These are my five favourite facts from the book:

  1. Oceans of liquid diamond may exist on Neptune
  2. There is a hurricane on Jupiter nearly 3x the size of Earth
  3. The Kessler effect suggests one day we might get cut off from space (a very timely fact to read given recent events involving a Russian anti-satellite weapon test and the International Space Station)
  4. A gas cloud called G34.3 contains enough alcohol to produce 300,000 pints of beer for every person on Earth, every day for a billion years
  5. Dung beetles use the Milky Way to navigate

To find out the science behind these facts, you can get a copy of the book for yourself from Pen & Sword’s website! Thanks again to them for giving me the opportunity to do this review.

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