Probing the depths of the universe is getting easier with the help of theoretical models, telescopes and, more recently, supercomputers. In the new book “Cosmigraphics” (Abrams, $50), Michael Benson chronicles the history of representations of space, from the Bronze Age to today’s digital simulations. We’ve come a long way. Looking through archives at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other libraries, Mr. Benson found maps from the Middle Ages featuring the Earth at the center of the cosmos and drawings of imagined Martian canals from the early 1900s. With the rise of increasingly powerful computer processing in recent decades, scientists can assemble data to produce images of even faraway phenomena, like distant planets and galaxy clusters. “There’s something very human about attempting to create meaningful depictions of such extraordinarily vast and complex subjects…in two dimensional pictures,” writes Mr. Benson.

Comments are closed.