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He Said She Said: Heart of Darkness


In this He Said She Said, Guest Writer Leon Y (11) and Juliana C (12) debate over this year’s summer reading book, Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe.

She Said: Heart of Darkness was UNBEARABLY bad

In the past years, the summer reading book was a chance for the entire Upper School community to collectively examine an important topic: the meaning of success (Beetles and Angels), the question of whether or not leaders should be feared or loved (The Prince), and most recently, the importance of acceptance (The Laramie Project). While on the surface these books seem very different, I believe the summer reading book has always been an opportunity for the school to teach us something, to make us think.
This year, that opportunity was wasted.  Instead of being thought-provoking and interesting, Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe was dense, dull, and incredibly disappointing. While Heart of Darkness covered a topic considerably more scientific than any of our past summer readings, I approached the book with an open mind, prepared to study the web of laws that govern our universe and to…well, to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Instead, I was met with a 400 page list of confusing facts that someone had blindly decided to bind into a book and sell on Amazon.  The book failed to live up to its intriguing topic and title, and ended up being nothing more than an unnecessarily complex prep guide for our upcoming visiting scholar. A one page “Guide to Cosmology” handed out before the scholar’s visit would have worked just as well.
I understand that it’s difficult to be scholarly and entertaining at the same time, but Heart of Darkness didn’t even try. Instead of keeping me up at night with unanswered questions about the universe, Heart of Darkness was the reason I fell asleep before eleven for three weeks straight (pretty sure this book can be marketed as an alternative to sleeping pills). It failed to excite in me an interest in what is potentially one of the most fascinating topics in the universe.
There’s nothing wrong with assigning a science-oriented book for summer reading, but Heart of Darkness is not the type of book you give to high school students (with little to no knowledge of cosmology) to read independently. College students, maybe. Guided reading during the school year, might have worked well. But as a TAS summer reading book, Heart of Darkness has failed in every way.
For the past few years, I’ve been able to read the summer reading once and then write about the book, no guiding questions or prompts needed. This time, not only did I have to take notes on the reading, I had to spend a good hour or so brainstorming what I would write about for the test.
Now that’s how you know something is wrong.

– Juliana C (12)


He Said: Heart of Darkness was informative and interesting

I was puzzled when I found out the required summer reading was going to be a book on physics. Certainly, the school would not make us read a textbook discussing Newton’s laws would they? Shortly after, I borrowed the Heart of Darkness from my friend and embraced the universe.
I always enjoy looking up at the stars and wondering what else is out there in the universe. I now know the answer to that is: largely nothing. However, even in the vast empty space of the universe, there are thousands of stars, nebulas, and planets, each one unique in its own way. In fact, everything is unique. Although astronomers classify them into pulsars or quasars, neutron stars and blazars, astronomy is always changing or at least was changing.
Heart of Darkness explorers the universe and tells its story. It shows how creative mankind has been in the past. It shows how we have always strived to understand the heavens. Most importantly, it opens the reader’s eyes.
I like Heart of Darkness because it documents interesting scientific discoveries and experiments and shares it with the reader. I find astrophysics to be the most interesting of all of physics and Heart of Darkness is yet another book to teach me more. Astrophysics intrigues me because I have heard it is not an ordinary science. It is the study of time. The observable universe is dictated by how much time has passed so that the light has reached us. These ideas that seem ridiculous but rational are what draw me to astrophysics.
To imagine the possibility of a giant explosion at the start of time that caused elementary particles to emerge and form protons, neutrons, electrons which then became atoms, stars, and fusion reactors is seemingly crazy. However, scientists designed their experiments and collected evidence for the Big Bang.
Since astronomy is not a required class, reading Heart of Darkness is a great idea. It allows us to learn about why the universe is what it is. However, it also lets us know that there are a lot of unknowns out there, and we still have the opportunity to make discoveries that change the world.

 – Leon Y (11)

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