Thursday, 24 March 2011

Lucinda's Reading Challenge: Now for the Science Bit...

Obviously, ANYTHING on the
Mr B's science shelf is going to
be a good read, but I have to
say Michael Brooks' 13 Things
That Don't Make Sense
is a
bit of a find. In addition to
(paraphrasing Donald
Rumsfeld) some 'known
unkowns': What's really
out there in our universe?
and What is the elusive
difference between kiving and dead matter? Michael Brooks also covers some intriguing 'unknown unknowns': Does cold fusion exist? Do we have free will? and intriguingly, Homeopathy - does it have any scientific grounding? The chapters are cunningly linked together, so one big question flows seamlessly into the next and occasionally some of the concepts you've just read about are carried over too. This means that you get the chance to apply your new knowledge as you make your way through the book - which allows you the luxury of feeling a teensy bit clever! Mr Brooks is pretty adept at explaining some fairly advanced physics, biology and chemistry to a science novice like myself, but to stop there would make this sound like a useful, but dry, little textbook. What I really loved were the back stories describing how scientists have pursued answers to these questions throughout the centuries. Brooks provides insight into both the personalities and politics involved, describing successes and failures with equal verve and all topped off with a dollop of humour. The human aspect weighs up nicely against all those theorems and hypotheses. I now have a passing interest in the progress of scientific investigations I didn't even know existed! With Brian Cox et al bringing science back into the media spotlight, before long we'll all be talking about string theory and genomes - arm yourself with this little volume, however, and you'll be able to tell your quarks from your eukaryotes with confidence.

Sport next and I've chosen 'Just Sea and Sky' by Ben Pester. This is a decidedly low tech affair: Ben and crewman Peter sail from Plymouth to New Zealand in the 1950s minus any mod cons like electric lights or radios or GPS. I am expecting some hiccups!

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