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WIFE DOTTIE RECOGNIZES me as an inquisitive sort, as shown by two gift books under our Christmas tree. By the way, just in case you’re inquisitive as well, here’s our Victorian Christmas tree.
The two books are part of DK Publishing’s Smithsonian series: Picturepedia: an Encyclopedia on Every Page and Knowledge Encyclopedia: The World as You’ve Never Seen It Before. They are similar in format, oversize, 10 in. x 12 in., each more than 350 pages, each largely pictorial with descriptive text, each intended for the kids’ market, but oh so interesting for adults as well.
Just For Fun. As something of a comparison test, Wife Dottie and I picked two topics to research: One was the Crusades, because she and I had recently watched Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the backstory of which has Robin (Kevin Coster) returned from a Crusade with his Moor sidekick (Morgan Freeman). The other topic for our book searches was Earthquakes, because Californians like to be knowledgable about Terra Firma being less than firm.
The Crusades. Picturepedia has a lot on Medieval Europe, its society, its castles, its clothing, its music, but only a brief item on the four Crusades, 1096–1099, 1147–1169, 1189–1192, and 1202–1204. It shows a map of routes by land and sea.
By contrast, Knowledge devotes a two-page spread to Wars of Faith. It notes the first four Crusades are sometimes called the Principal Crusades; there were five more Minor Crusades in later years. In 1291, for example, Al-Ashraf Khalil captured the Crusader’s last major stronghold of Acre.
As the book titles suggest, both presentations are heavily pictorial. On the other hand, illustrations are well captioned, and there’s always the Internet for amplifying on things of interest.
Earthquakes. Both books give two-page spreads to earthquakes. Indeed, several of the illustrations appear in both, though each book offers things that are new to me. Knowledge, for example, offers the tidbit that 0.3 in. (1 cm) is “the distance that the whole planet vibrates back and forth in space during the very larges earthquakes.” Its chief illustration is one describing a tsunami.
Picturepedia offers this same illustration and caption at reduced size, and its editors include more earthquake information: The Taipei 101 skyscraper, for example, resists earth movements through a huge mass damper, the operation of which is described. Also, a timeline recounts French inventor Jean de Hautfeuille’s earliest quake quantification in 1703: measuring the swish of mercury in an open bowl. In 1751, Italian teacher Andrea Bina used a pendulum tracing its quake-induced movements in sand.
The I-XIII Mercalli scale, invented by Italian scientist Giuseppe Mercalli in 1902, measures the intensity of a quake in terms of its effects on surroundings. American seismologist Charles Richter devised his scale of measuring quake energy in 1934.
On Serendipitous Learning. Both books are great for serendipitous learning: Just open to any page, admire the graphics, and glean tidbits from the captions.
These two books remind me of a similar one featured here at SimanaitisSays: What’s What: A Visual Glossary of the Physical World. My particular edition of What’s What enhances the learning process, what with most of its text being in Japanese.
On Familial Pronouncemenets. By the way, mentioning Wife Dottie as giver of today’s books reminds me of a spousal interaction generated while watching the Presidential Inauguration.
This came during one of my extemporary preachings to the TV about Pence, McConnell, and other potential VINOs, vertebrates in name only. I also cited mom’s advice about avoiding eye contact with guys ranting on street corners.
Wife Dottie said, “Good advice.” She was looking away from me at the time. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021
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