So far not many authors came up with the idea to publish a graphic novel about science – but this is not the only reason why I admire Jens Harder’s ALPHA… directions. It is simply beautiful and perhaps the most inspiring science artbook I’ve seen so far.
In over 2000 panels and drawings Harder depicts much of Earth’s ancient history; from the birth of our universe to the first galaxies, the formation of the solar system and eventually earth itself, covering the origin and evolution of life on our planet. The book ends with the appearance of the first hominids and leaves room for the sequel Beta… civilisations, which was published earlier this year. That amounts to the impressive number of 14 billion years illustrated and explained in one book.
Alpha… has a dazzling way of drawing you in and making you aware of all the complexity and overwhelming dimensions of evolution. It boasts a meticulously researched visual presentation guided by current scientific findings in astronomy, physics, paleonthology and biology. However, the author is aware that newer findings might contradict some of his illustrations (yes, in his version of the solar system our lovely Pluto is still a planet) and he also freely admits to select for events that were comparatively easy to visualise. Still, this can certainly be regarded as a factual book.
If you’re looking to reawaken that sense of wonder and fascination for the stunning world we live in, then take a look at this book. I’ll attach a few excerpts to give you a feeling of how the story is unraveled. However, for the real effect I do believe the images have to be seen in context. The only downside is that Alpha… directions is currently only available in the languages German and French. But since it is a graphic novel and speaks mostly in images, I think this might be tolerable.