Branley, Franklyn M(ansfield)
Franklyn M(ansfield) Branley 1915–
American nonfiction and fiction author and editor.
Branley is best known for the many science books he has written for young adults. He began writing in this genre when, as a young primary school teacher, he found few science books suitable for his young students. Branley also discovered that many instructors were not teaching science at all. Believing that young people are entitled to accurate and comprehensible scientific information about the natural world, Branley collaborated with an associate to produce a pamphlet that advised teachers on how to begin the teaching of science in the primary grades. He then began contributing articles to periodicals, and in 1947 published Experiments with Science, written with Nelson Frederick Beeler. Although Branley later taught college and served as the astronomer for the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, he continued to write science books specifically for a young adult audience.
Branley has been praised for respecting the young person's desire and ability to understand and apply complicated scientific concepts. Many of his early books, such as Experiments with Electricity and Experiments with a Microscope, both written with Beeler, are commended for their clarity and usefulness. These books let the young reader learn by active participation in and observation of cause-and-effect relationships. Many of his books, such as The Earth: Planet Number Three, present factual information and explore many scientific concepts while conveying a sense of wonder at the beauty and complexity of the subject. In books like The Mystery of Stonehenge and The Christmas Sky, Branley is able to combine scientific knowledge and legendary speculation and demonstrate that although science can answer many questions, it cannot answer them all.
Branley's books are considered by many critics to be well organized, precise, and comprehensible without being overly simplistic. His subject selection is almost unanimously praised. In spite of some criticism of occasional factual errors, Branley is generally acknowledged to be a thoughtful, conscientious scientist and a versatile, committed writer. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed., and Something About the Author, Vol. 4.)
The mothers of America better get what rest and peace of mind they can right now, because after the boys of America get a good look at "Experiments in Science," home isn't going to be the same any more…. [Here] are fifty simple experiments, which should be absolutely fascinating to any child, all in one book, and the urge to go right out to the kitchen and start messing around is irresistible.
The Messrs. Beeler and Branley are true scientists, and all on the children's side. They never flinch or turn away, although when making coke from coal they suggest, "you better hold your nose when you do this because the smell is awful." However, most experiments are innocent enough, and all are entertaining. "Experiments in Science" should prove a god-send to any teacher or parent faced with the problem of holding a pack at bay during a rainy afternoon.
Creighton Peet, "Books for Younger Readers: 'Experiments in Science'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1947 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), August 3, 1947, p. 18.
Teen-agers, summer counselors and just plain parents, who have to face long, irritating, wet days indoors, will welcome [Branley and Beeler's "Experiments With Electricity"]. For with a little patience and with material that is lying around the house or that can be easily and inexpensively bought, a host of ingenious contraptions can be rigged up and made to work…. A good deal of information is nicely blended in with the instructions…. A scientific-minded youngster will find this volume a cornucopia of knowledge and enjoyment.
Thomas Lask, "Among the New Books for Younger Readers: 'Experiments with Electricity'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1949 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 10, 1949, p. 18.
[Branley and Beeler call "More Experiments in Science"] a "doing book," not a reading book, one that proves again their motto, "Try it and see for yourself." Their former experiment books have been popular in homes and schools.
This time the thirty-seven experiments range all over the house and garden, kitchen and garage, for materials. Each has a list of things needed…. Some start you on collections, as the insect trap, the butterfly net, the wild-flower press. Some give you tricks to play, as the dancing moth-balls. Some offer useful things to make for your home, as the foam fire extinguisher, the telegraph set, the water-drop microscope. Most satisfy that ranging curiosity of the boy of twelve to fourteen, giving him answers about the corrosion of metals, colloids and molecules, erosion, water pressure and what makes the electric refrigerator work. Very interesting.
Louise S. Bechtel, "Books for Young People: 'More Experiments in Science'," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review, June 4, 1950, p. 10.
[Experiments in Optical Illusions is a] fascinating little book with lots of tantalizing "now you see it; now you don't" home experiments. Beginning with a discussion of the physiology of the eye, [Branley and Beeler] … investigate the phenomena of image reversal, focus, light and dark, space and line arising from the peculiar construction of the eye. Such famous diverting illusions such as the deceiving size of the rising moon, mirages, after-images, color tricks, and light "ghosts" are also explained in lucid, informal style. Pleasant supplementary material for science courses, for intrepid "experimenters" and fun for the whole family.
"Twelve to Fifteen: 'Experiments in Optical Illusions'," in Virginia Kirkus' Bookshop Service, Vol. XIX, No. 11, June 15, 1951, p. 298.
Beeler and Branley have had a fairly stable record of good information and safe experiments in their past books … though they have been occasionally weak in organization and explanation. [Experiments with Atomics,] as far as we can tell upholds that standard, though we'd advise checking with a science teacher or some other authority—as would doubtless be necessary due to the advanced nature of the material. Definitely it will need grounding and pre-established interest or a combination of both. Topics discussed—with simpler experiments and projects outlined to illustrate theory—include basics of atomic structure and electrical charges, the atomic family, discovery of radioactivity, natural and...
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[In "Experiments with Atomics",] Messrs. Beeler and Branley present the facts needed to understand the basic elements of nuclear physics. They describe atomic weapons, atom-powered submarines, and recently developed atomic reactors, the precursors of the furnaces that will provide heat and power in the future. They indicate how "hot" radioactive materials are used to study the effectiveness of drugs and fertilizers, the operation of automobile engines, the quality of steel castings, and the blood circulation of patients selected for special surgery. These and other matters become clear with the aid of simple models and apparatus which can easily be assembled at home. Beeler and Branley are experts at imparting...
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Another "experiment" book by Nelson Beeler and Franklyn Branley is welcome, especially one dealing with the use of the microscope. ["Experiments with a Microscope"] is useful for those fortunate young people who have a microscope and all who are beginning laboratory science. There are excellent chapters on the instrument itself, its construction and how it works. Then as "the world is yours for observing" many are the suggestions for things to look at, inanimate objects, plants, protozoa, yeasts, blood and bacteria. Wise advice is given on careful observation and the keeping of records as well as on ways of mounting specimens, staining colorless ones, and even on photo-micrography with a Brownie Hawkeye camera…....
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["The Nine Planets"] is a solidly packed reference book … which yields an exceptionally rich harvest of information per page.
Mr. Branley writes sincerely, accurately and with no attempt at glamorizing the facts. Any references he makes to things that are speculative are clearly identified with qualifying words…. Impressive also are the tables of statistics which have been included in the body of the text rather than in an appendix.
Near the end of the book the author has suggested nine titles for further reading. I wish he had listed twice as many because I believe he will stir in his readers a wider range of interest than is encompassed by these few titles....
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[Experiments in Sky Watching] can be recommended for young people from the upper elementary thru high school age and is worthwhile adult reading also. The proposed experiments are designed to lead to discovery instead of routine learning…. The material is presented in an unusually clear manner which suggests investigations and simple studies which one may make in order to comprehend the "stars," their positions, and motions.
M. B. Sailsbury, "Basic Knowledge for the Science Minded," in Chicago Tribune (© 1959 Chicago Tribune), November 1, 1959, p. 42.∗
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[In The Moon: Earth's Natural Satellite] Franklyn Branley, authority in the field, sorts out the various conventions and theories regarding the moon, separating fact from fancy, and, by his enthusiastic style, manages to render the factual study of the moon as exciting as any less rigorous analysis. In an atmosphere geared to the launching of man-made satellites, this account of earth's dazzling natural satellite is both revealing and profitable.
"Books for Younger Readers: 'The Moon: Earth's Natural Satellite'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXVIII, No. 5, March 1, 1960, p. 186.
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The daring program that is Project Mercury—its hardware, personnel, methods, and objectives—is vividly presented by Dr. Branley [in "Exploring By Astronaut: The Story of Project Mercury"]…. The program's goals and purposes, hazards and procedures, are all here in what is far and away one of the best of the recent spate of books produced on the subject.
William J. Wallrich, "Adventure of Space Travel in Fact and Fiction," in Chicago Tribune (© 1961 Chicago Tribune), November 12, 1961, p. 45.∗
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Many books have been written about man's attempt to land on the moon, but, for once, this new book [Exploration of the Moon] is an agreeable surprise, for Dr. Branley … has a refreshingly easy style and a gift for clear explanation. The standard of the work is quite elementary and begins with an account of the nature of the moon, including a very fair description of the controversy over its origin. Methods of exploring the moon with unmanned and manned probes are then discussed (with results up to the end of 1964), and the third part describes some of the plans for the future establishment of permanent bases on the moon. This is popular science writing at its best.
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[The Earth: Planet Number Three is a] stimulating account of man's present knowledge of planet Earth. The author considers three large topics: the atmosphere, sea, and land. He explores theories concerning the origin and age of the earth and tells how scientists study the motion, size, and shape of the planet, and how they probe the problems of gravity, geomagnetism, radiation belts, etc. At times the text is difficult, but the careful presentation of the subject matter, within historical perspective, brings to the reader a sense of excitement and wonder at man's endeavor to learn more about the universe. (pp. 160-61)
Elizabeth F. Grave, "Junior High Up: 'The Earth:...
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The composition of the earth and its atmosphere, its origins and age, its motions, shape, the force of gravity, and a discussion of geomagnetism are the major topics of this readable account that is packed with solid scientific data [The Earth: Planet Number Three]. An appendix, "Some facts about the earth," contains a summary of the mathematical data. In addition to its direct value as a source of factual information, it contains historical material and descriptions of the process of scientific inquiry. A reading list and an index are appended.
"Book Reviews: 'The Earth: Planet Number Three'," in Science Books (copyright 1966 by the American Association for the...
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[In "The Christmas Sky", the] Star of Bethlehem is … sought by reason. Page by page in this clear and gentle book the possibilities are explored. It was not a meteor, because it endured; it was not a comet, because it was welcome; it was not a nova. The birth of Jesus is carefully and convincingly dated from the circumstances of history.
Philip Morrison and Phylis Morrison, "Books: 'The Christmas Sky'," in Scientific American (copyright © 1966 by Scientific American, Inc.; all rights reserved), Vol. 215, No. 6, December, 1966, p. 141.
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[The Christmas Sky is] a rather dry and conservative look at possible astronomical explanations for the "Star of Bethlehem". Personally, I find the astronomy too conservative in places, and the author makes argumentative statements without showing his evidence for them. In all, the book is a good example of what happens when you try to dissect a fairy tale.
Benjamin W. Bova, "'The Christmas Sky'," in Appraisal: Science Books for Young People (copyright © 1968 by the Children's Science Book Review Committee), Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring, 1968, p. 3.
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Taking much-explored topics [in The Milky Way: Galaxy No. 1], Mr. Branley manages the usual range with ease: the known "facts" of our universe and galaxy; the historical dilemmas which have plagued sky watchers; the chronological history of great astronomers and their achievements relevant to galactic understanding. But he goes further: with the ease of a teacher, one very good at his trade, he leads the reader into the fascinating area of how we estimate some of our facts and in so doing presents more science than all of the "facts" taken together. The reader is introduced to the assumptions upon which total concepts are placed, often rather cautiously. He comes to realize that the great debates of science may...
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We may sooner know the secrets of the moon than of Stonehenge…. Setting up ["The Mystery of Stonehenge"] as an informal inquiry, Franklyn Branley carefully sifts through archeological findings, scientific data and informed speculations, picking out the clues that shed a little light on Stonehenge's shadowed past. How did Stone Age men haul granite slabs, weighing 40 tons, without the wheel? And without metal tools, how did they cut and carve and then erect them vertically and horizontally? Was the site an ancient sun temple, or a sepulchral ground, or an astrological observatory? Mr. Branley doesn't come up with final answers to these centuries-old questions nor does he take a stand on present-day controversy. Still...
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[The Milky Way: Galaxy Number One is a] clear, logically ordered treatment covering historical progress in the understanding of the solar system, methods of determining astronomical distances, specific facts about the Milky Way, radio astronomy, and the evolution of galaxies…. Both advanced young readers and persons wanting to enlarge upon a casual acquaintanceship with astronomy can profit from this….
Phillip W. Alley, "'The Milky Way: Galaxy Number One'," in School Library Journal, an appendix to Library Journal (reprinted from the October, 1969 issue of School Library Journal, published by R. R. Bowker Co./A Xerox Corporation; copyright ©...
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All of [Branley's books are] remarkably informative. A Book of the Milky Way Galaxy for You gives a fascinating and understandable explanation of how vast distances are measured. The Sun: Star Number One and The Earth: Planet Number Three are fuller and more advanced than books on similar subjects by [Herbert] Zim, but the style … [makes] them comprehensible and fascinating…. The Branley books are well written and have made a brilliant contribution to children's science interests, especially in the field of astronomy. (p. 292)
May Hill Arbuthnot, "Informational Books," in her Children's Reading in the Home (copyright © 1969 by Scott, Foresman and...
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[The Mystery of Stonehenge] is a very readable account of this marvellous workmanship of mysterious origin. The author notes the efforts of many specialists including anthropologists, astronomers, engineers and others, using their knowledge and modern "know-how" even to the extent of computerizing this information, to try to bring forth some evidence as to the probable origin and methods of constructing this wonder and perhaps some reasons for its purpose of erection in the now lush area of Salisbury Plain in southwest England. Whether or not any authentic conclusions were found this slim book about Stonehenge is an intriguing piece of writing [and] a fascinating book for all ages.
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EDMUND R. MEŠKYS
[A Book of Venus for You] gives an excellent, extremely up-to-date survey of what is known about Venus. Every recent discovery about the planet by United States and Russian space probes and United States radar observations is included. The explanations are very clear and concise, and the book is quite readable. There is one quibble, however. Dr. Branley says a "day" on Venus is 247 days long, while a year is 225. "Day" is an ambiguous word in astronomy but most people would assume the author meant time from sunrise to sunrise. On Venus a Solar Day is only about 120 days long, while it is the "sidereal day" which is about 247 days long. Other than this little inaccuracy the...
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[The Milky Way: Galaxy No. 1] could have been an excellent book. It is up-to-date, well-organized,… and for the most part is well written. Most of the technical explanation is clear and particularly good. However, the several places in the text having mathematical or geometrical descriptions are needlessly complex, confusing, not always relevant, and often wrong. The volume would be ever so much better over-all if these parts were removed. It would be excellent if a competent scientist helped the author make the needed repairs. In spite of these serious flaws, this is a worth-while science book about optical and radio astronomy explaining what we know and how we know about our galaxy: the Milky Way....
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With just enough appreciative comment and historical background to keep [Man in Space to the Moon] from being arid, Franklyn Branley gives a detailed and accurate report of the Apollo 11 mission. There is some discussion of the importance of the data gathered, but the book is primarily devoted to what happened: the stages of flight and the manipulation of modules; how the three astronauts ate, slept, disposed of human waste; the mechanics of landing and communication with Mission Control; investigation of the moon, and the details of the return flight, re-entry, and recovery. One of the best books on the subject, it is dignified enough for slow older readers….
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EDMUND R. MEŠKYS
[Man in Space to the Moon is a] brief history of man's wonder and dreams of travel to the moon, space travel from Sputnik I to Apollo, and detailed description of the flight to the moon by Apollo 11. Much of the information is a straight repeat of what the fifth or sixth grader has already seen during TV coverage of the moon flights, but here and there the author makes some excellent points…. This book will give the child a good summary of what has happened—he should find the list of all manned space craft interesting—and should inspire the imagination of the curious. I believe every public and grade school library should have this. (pp. 7-8)
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[The Nine Planets's] strong advantages are its easy readability, coherent story design, and relative absence of ambiguity or equivocation. Its faults probably are not too important, but a few are worth mentioning. The explanation of mean value (p. 4) is wrong. An alternate symbol (p. 8) for Uranus is still used by some astronomers. The term "minor planets" (p. 11) is not correct as a substitute for "terrestrial planets." Once again, Isaac Newton's illustration of orbital and suborbital speed is reproduced (p. 18) without credit. The geometric utility of Venus transits (p. 39) is no longer relevant, because the same information is available to much higher accuracy by modern means. The mass of Pluto is now known...
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Regretfully, this revised edition [of Nine Planets] did not benefit from a few corrections and clarifications which prevent the book from being rated far better. For instance, defining "mass" as "giving information about the relative number of molecules contained in a subject" leaves much unsaid and conveys little accurate information. Similarly, the author produces confusion in the concepts of force and motion and has difficulty with some of his geometric descriptions. But on balance, much is very good and some parts excellent in his concise, systematic historical and descriptive treatment of each of the planets in the solar system.
David G. Hoag, "'The Nine Planets',"...
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Youthful space scientists will be fascinated by Franklyn Branley's careful and often dramatic examination of the earth's newest "rock collection" brought back by the lunar astronauts of Apollo 11, 12 and 14. Early chapters [in Pieces of Another World: The Story of Moon Rocks] discuss the methods and tools used to collect moon rocks, the techniques used by scientists at the Lunar Receiving Laboratory in Houston to analyze them, and what they have discovered about the various rocks, dust, and crystals. A scant chapter is devoted to the few questions tentatively answered by moon rock findings, while subsequent chapters (over one-third of the book) explore the many questions these findings have raised about the...
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Jules Verne himself would revel in [Pieces of Another World: The Story of Moon Rocks, a] fascinating account of the moon rocks. There is a sense of real discovery on every page. An absolute must for the young geologist, astronomer or space scientist, the book gives insight into the interplay of the most precise scientific work and the theories this work promotes.
Douglas B. Sands, "'Pieces of Another World: The Story of Moon Rocks'," in Appraisal: Science Books for Young People (copyright © 1973 by the Children's Science Book Review Committee), Vol. 6, No. 3, Fall, 1973, p. 9.
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First published in 1960, Franklyn Branley's The Moon has been revised to include the findings of recent lunar exploration: moon rocks, temperature, gasses, etc. The book cannot be handled by anyone younger than junior high. It is rather dry and quite scholarly, but crammed full of serious information, as well as the history, folklore and myths that have been connected with the moon for centuries…. This is a very comprehensive study, carefully documented…. (pp. 8-9)
Heddie Kent, "'The Moon: Earth's Natural Satellite'," in Appraisal: Science Books for Young People (copyright © 1974 by the Children's Science Book Review Committee), Vol. 7, No. 1, Winter, 1974,...
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The original copyright date for [The Moon: Earth's Natural Satellite] predates the adventures and discoveries of the manned lunar landings of Apollo. This edition has been updated with only a cursory and superficial acknowledgment of Apollo. This is not bad, however, since it leaves room for much of the fundamental coverage of lunar science and the earth moon system which would otherwise be displaced by material covered elsewhere in many new books about Apollo. However, although the organization is logical …, the text has many serious flaws. On page 24, the author identifies the intersection of the ecliptic with the horizon as being in the constellation Aries. It hasn't been there since ancient times. On page...
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[Comets, Meteoroids, and Asteroids: Mavericks of the Solar System is a] compact, up-to-date review of some intriguing astronomical odds and ends. Besides investigating the origin and makeup, paths and habits of the meteoroids, comets and asteroids of the title, Branley explores the possible genesis of the puzzling glasslike tektites which may or may not result from the impact of meteorites on the earth or moon, evaluates evidence of organic molecules in space, and discusses such recently studied phenomena as the "zodiacal light," solar wind (mostly hydrogen ions racing out from the sun), the Van Allen belts, and cosmic rays. Authoritative but properly tentative, and to the point.
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How frustrating it is to review a book [Comets, Meteoroids, and Asteroids] so close to being excellent but damaged severely by carelessness. If only the author or publisher had insisted on a quick review by any careful engineer or scientist. For example, the statement on page 38 that all asteroids melted together would make a globe less than 500 miles diameter contradicts the table two pages earlier. On page 43 the book says very small tektites are "a millimeter or so across, and weigh only a few grams." By this, these strange objects found on earth would have a density 50 times that of uranium! And so on for at least several more outright errors. Yet, there is a lot of excellent material for a student in these...
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Lest we do ourselves in first with some nuclear holocaust there are any number of ways our planet can end—all perhaps as terrible, some more fascinating and beautiful to contemplate than others…. There is only one certainty: the world will end.
In order to understand why we can be so assured of an end, [in "The End of the World"] Franklyn Branley traces the evolution of the earth, sun and moon from their hypothetical births to the present and predicts possible futures, none of which are optimistic. [The text is controlled and clearly developed.]…
Branley consoles us with the knowledge that each of these potential catastrophes is billions of years away. Perhaps by then...
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[In his The End of the World,] Branley speculates on a number of possible ways in which the earth will eventually become uninhabitable. He has been only moderately successful in digesting a very complex subject…. He has not managed to avoid being dogmatic. He has also followed a couple of standard mistakes. It is about four million tons of mass, not of hydrogen, which the sun's fusion reaction consumes (the hydrogen loses only about a third of one percent of its mass in the reaction, so over a billion tons of hydrogen are used). The Roche limit value is that for a satellite of equal density with its primary; for a less dense body like our own moon the value would be larger. Granting that the distinction is...
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Pointing out the alarming rate at which man's demand for energy has grown and will continue to grow, Branley examines possible methods for getting the most out of the fast dwindling fossil fuels which will nevertheless have to provide all our power for the next few years, then reviews the drawbacks, advantages and relative likelihood of nuclear fission and fusion, solar installations, and geothermal, wind, hydroelectric and tidal power [in Energy for the Twenty-First Century]. Considered too are problems and possibilities of storing energy, and Branley even mentions some intriguing though admittedly far out ideas such as laser-lithium fusion and using the gravitation of a black hole to generate electricity. The...
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Without launching into arguments for the advisability of America's going metric, the author does state [in Measure with Metric] that most of the world uses the metric system. He then involves his readers in a series of simple projects to learn and absorb metric measures…. It is all so clear and practical, moving in such orderly sequence, that reluctant Americans of any age could profit from this introduction to the inevitable.
Ethanne Smith, "'Measure with Metric'," in Appraisal: Science Books for Young People (copyright © 1976 by the Children's Science Book Review Committee), Vol. 9, No. 1, Winter, 1976, p. 11.
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[In How Did We Find Out About Energy?] Isaac Asimov gives us a history of the development of man's intellectual concept of energy; [in Energy for the 21st Century] Franklyn Branley confines his discussion of the basic concept to a brief first chapter and devotes most of the book to a consideration of practical energy sources. (p. 182)
Since Branley discusses the abstract concept of energy only in the first chapter, the idea does not come across too clearly. For example, the discussion of energy as work done against a force field (such as gravity) is rather weak; the distinction between recoverable and irrecoverable energy is missed. In the rest of the book, the history of man's...
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I like Branley's approach of describing the earth as it would be seen from another part of the universe [in A Book of the Planet Earth for You]. He contrasts what would be obvious to a distant observer with what would be obscure when one is too close—such things as the shape, the rotation, and the other motions of our planet. In the process, he does a good job of making clear how we actually did learn some of these facts.
There are some errors, mostly arithmetical, which even a young reader should be able to spot if he has been trained to read critically. On page 71, the figures given for Earth's distance from the sun suggest that there are 16 kilometers in a mile instead of 1.6; on page 78...
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[In Astronomy, cowriters Franklyn M. Branley and Mark R. Chartrand, III and illustrator Helmut K. Wimmer] have taken a refreshing approach in their presentation of astronomy and astrophysics for the nonmathematically oriented undergraduate student. Traditionally, the beginning student is asked to suffer through a lengthy introduction that details the historical development of astronomy….
Astronomy begins with the contents of the universe and the cosmological implications of recent important observations. The reader is thus able to approach the remainder of the text with a clear view of how the microscopic components, such as planets, stars, and galaxies, are related to the macroscopic...
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The imaginative manner of presenting astronomy in [A Book of Planet Earth For You] is clever; but unfortunately, the execution of it is careless. A hypothetical astronomer on a fictitious planet "Omega," elsewhere in our galaxy, describes his observations of earth and our solar system. The astronomer observes that our earth "turns 365 1/4 times while it goes around its star." Actually he would see it turn 366 1/4 times (adding one extra turn to the number of days in our year for the one revolution about the sun). Perhaps the author could be excused for this somewhat subtle point. But, he cannot be excused for saying on page fifty-four that the Foucault pendulum would always "be lined up with the same stars."...
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[Energy for the 21st Century] is about the most intelligent, most sophisticated, most clearly-written book for children about energy I have yet to see. The author does an outstanding job of describing just about every scientific and technological aspect of the present debate about energy use in this country (and, maybe, the world). My only concern is that no attention is given to the political, social, economic, and ethical issues involved in energy production and use. I can hardly criticize an author for a book he didn't intend to write, but anyone who takes such a sophisticated and intelligent approach to this topic perhaps might at least consider the enormous non-scientific factors involved in energy...
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Though the subject is mind-boggling and still vastly unsettled, [in Black Holes, White Dwarfs, and Superstars] Branley comes through once again and gives us a splendidly clear, totally non-mathematical presentation of what is currently known about the life cycles of stars…. Whether the question is how we know T Tauri [stars] are young; why stars move as they do and some of the older ones pulsate; what makes novas explode; or how, in "neutron stars" and then black holes, atoms themselves can collapse until volume becomes zero and density reaches infinity—Branley is always on hand to explain the process of discovery, review rival theories, or, in the end, admit that neither "ordinary laws of science" nor "the...
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Stars are not the steady, eternal beacons we short-lived groundlings once believed them to be. Our own sun, average yellow main-sequence star that it is, was once an RR Lyrae variable, will be a nova, a red giant, a white dwarf, and possibly end as a black hole—incredible changes which will take millions of years or a few seconds, depending on the stage in its life cycle…. [In Black Holes, White Dwarfs, and Superstars] Branley gives a clear and concise account of current theories (the word is continually stressed) on the nature and significance of these intriguing stellar objects and of stellar evolution in general…. This book requires some background, but for those interested in the newer horizons...
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An author has to be really brave to write about this subject nowadays. Information about our solar system is arriving fast and furious, and it's fairly certain that anything in a book dated 1978 will be somewhat incomplete or out of date by the time it appears in print. That's the case with [The Nine Planets, the] latest revision of a book that first appeared twenty years ago. The author has obviously made an effort to incorporate the latest information on the planets, and has been successful to a limited extent. Still, information obtained in the last five years does not seem to have made its way into this revision to the extent that it might have. In the case that would have been of most...
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[In The Electromagnetic Spectrum] Branley brings his trademark of good scientific writing, clear, accurate and concise, to bear on a difficult albeit interesting subject: the spectrum of invisible radiation that abounds throughout the universe from radio waves, light waves, infrared and ultraviolet radiation to x-rays and gamma rays…. Hard-to-grasp concepts, such as the invisibility and speed of light, are defined in context. Equations and formulas are frequent and require effort to understand as well as some mathematical background. But Branley has succeeded in presenting a complex topic with clarity, while stimulating curiosity and encouraging experimentation and study. Little on the subject for any age...
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There have been several books on the space shuttle project lately…. Franklyn Branley's contribution [Columbia and Beyond: The Story of the Space Shuttle] is distinguished for going more deeply than most into the future missions in which the shuttle is expected to play a part. His descriptions of the shuttle itself and of the projects and operations are clear and generally accurate, though if the diameter of the space rescue ball is really 86.36 centimeters (34 inches), as he states, the human figure in the diagram is certainly a midget. The author gives many good reasons for taking some of our industries into space, though no very new ones.
Harry C. Stubbs, "Views on...
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[The Electromagnetic Spectrum: Key to the Universe is a] fine summary of the history of observation and reasoning which led to our present understanding of the phenomenon by which we see, communicate over long distances, and investigate both the largest and smallest parts of the universe. Mr. Branley nicely covers the connection between electricity and magnetism investigated by Faraday, the theoretical handling of that relationship worked out by James Clerk Maxwell, and even the rather difficult concept of radiation as being both wave and particle at the same time. The ways in which the behavior of radiation helped elucidate the structure of the atom is clearly explained, allowing for the nonmathematical...
(The entire section is 176 words.)
Beginning with a simple, cursory description of each of the 12 zodiac signs and their alleged characteristics, this coherent, if somewhat lifeless, discussion [Age of aquarius: you and astrology] offers an explanation as to how the belief in astrology developed and spread from ancient Babylonia through the Eastern world. There is a thorough account of various symbols and meanings that are involved in astrological forecasting, and detailed instructions are presented for readers who want to try their hand at casting their own horoscopes. Although Branley consistently treats the subject in an objective fashion, he dismisses belief in astrology at the end of the book by stating, "Astrology will continue to be...
(The entire section is 199 words.)
This disappointingly slight offering from Branley [Age of Aquarius: You and Astrology,] is nevertheless an improvement on [Larry] Kettelkamp's Astrology (1973), which made over-much of "the scientific basis of astrology." After the usual profiles of Leos, Cancers, Scorpios, and so on, the usual survey of astrology in history from the Babylonians on, and the usual explanation of how horoscopes are cast using signs, rising signs, houses, planets, and aspects of planets, Branley does answer the question "Do objects in the sky really affect our lives" with a mild negative. The stars and planets are too far away to affect us, he says; ancients made up astrology because they didn't understand why the planets...
(The entire section is 194 words.)
Although marred by an apocalyptic start, in which an alternative future of feast versus famine is limned, [Feast or Famine? The Energy Future] does a creditable job of presenting a melange of information on energy—its uses, sources and forms. The child reading this might wonder how that view fits with what is actually happening now: reduced oil consumption, vigorous energy conservation, in short, a future in which the manner of our lives is basically retained, albeit with energy thrift becoming a norm of transportation planning, housing design and industrial manufacturing. There are occasional gee whizzes ("within a few decades, people will not need to 'go shopping'") and some asides spurious to the intent of...
(The entire section is 216 words.)