The Mystery of Nothing and Infinite Snot

From the Big Bang to Einstein’s theory of relativity, and from supernovas to reverse gravity: in this book, non-fiction writer Jan Paul Schutten and illustrator Floor Rieder manage to present the most complex of subjects in an accessible and appealing way, one step at a time and with a great sense of humour.

Original title
Het mysterie van niks en oneindig veel snot
Jan Paul Schutten

‘When you’ve finished this book, you’ll know a bit more about how the world works,’ writes Schutten. That’s reassuring. Understanding everything is obviously quite a challenge, so knowing ‘a bit more’ sounds pretty good. Particularly when you read later in the book that even the greatest geniuses don’t always understand everything and that plenty of their questions remain unanswered. By having the occasional ‘pause for thought’ and asking the reader to keep on questioning everything, Schutten rightly points out that not all science is based on facts, but on insights that have been proved – for now – and so it is never finished.

Jan Paul Schutten’s special gift lies in his ability to serve up complicated science in an attractive and easy-todigest way.

NRC Handelsblad

Schutten, along with the reader, takes part in all kinds of scientific thought experiments, the kind of thoughts that preceded all those pioneering insights into how our universe was born, the qualities of matter, the forces of magnetism and electricity, and why time and space form a whole. He succeeds in guiding the reader through all this material because of his direct style of writing and his captivating and often amusing use of language and imagery. He sends the reader off on a ‘journey through time’, goes for ‘a tour of space’ and explodes frozen cola in order to explain the rapidly expanding universe.

Rieder’s playful illustrations are an essential element, clarifying the thought processes while allowing lots of space for the imagination. The lively pictures that pile up with details, zooming in and out like a microscope or a telescope, are particularly effective, like the one of a line that is expanded to such an extent that you begin to grasp the notion that there might be an infinite number of dimensions.

This constantly changing perspective on life makes it a ‘golden book’.

Rieder surpasses the work she did in The Mystery of Life, for which she won the Gouden Penseel, with illustrations that are even more enlightening and amusing, and so they hit the target perfectly.

NRC Handelsblad
Jan Paul Schutten
Jan Paul Schutten (b. 1970) is one of the Netherlands’ most celebrated writers of non-fiction for children. His work, in which the emphasis is on history, nature and science, has twice been awarded the Gouden Griffel for the best children’s book of the year.
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