No Small Matter is a picture book for grownups, a modern-day Alice in Wonderland where reality is not as it seems, and things can be more than one thing at a time. From the first chapter “Santa Maria,” Whitesides and Frankel lead us on an adventure into a surreal landscape where “the comfortable reality we know — the world where a book on the table is solidly on the table, and doors keep children safe inside — emerges from a most uncomfortable, deeper reality where things can be many places at once, and doors provide almost no barrier.”
Each single-page chapter (ideal for the easily distracted), faces a full-page illustration of that chapter’s concept. Felice Frankel’s elegant, luminous photography lends the extra “thousand words” to each topic. The illustrations capture what words cannot, the sense of perfect symmetry in this world that lies beyond our sight and almost beyond our grasp. The “Quantum Apple,” the glass apple that throws a square shadow is a metaphor for a world in which “a quantum apple could perhaps also simultaneously be a quantum cube.” In the world of small things, “what you glimpse depends on how and when you look. Even the act of looking changes the thing that is looked at.”
I suspect George Whitesides of reading my mind.
"We live for poetry; we live in terror of equations.
We see a poem, and we try it on for size: we read a line or two; we roll it around in our mind; we see how it fits and tastes and sounds. We may not like it, and let it drop, but we enjoy the encounter and look forward to the next. We see an equation, and it is as if we’d glimpsed a tarantula in the baby’s crib. We panic."
I’d always thought that there were either poetry people or equation people. To my husband, poems are tarantulas, equations works of art. I speak the language of Cummings, Keats, Snyder, and Thomas, but have always required a translator for equations. Yet, for the first time, I find myself invited to read an equation as a poem.??”?=h/mv” – oh dear, I can feel my mind shutting down. Then, Whitesides intervenes, “Read the equation as if it were poetry — a condensed description of a reality we can only see from the corner of our eye. The “equals” sign is the equivalent of “is,” and makes the equation a sentence: ‘A moving object is a wave.’ ” Equations as poems, hmm…