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review 2018-01-10 06:21
Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

TITLE:  Storm in a Teacup:  The Physics of Everyday Life

 

AUTHOR:  Helen Czerski

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2016

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-784-16075-3

___________________________________________

 

In the author's own words: 

"this book is about linking the little things we see every day with the big world we live in.  It's a romp through the physical world, showing how playing with things like popcorn, coffee stains and refrigerator magnets can shed light on Scott's expeditions, medical tests and solving out future energy needs."

 

This book is definitely a "romp" through the physical world, managing to be entertaining, energetic, accessible and educational at the same time, without bogging the reader down with too much formal detail, lengthy explanations or equations.  

 

Czerski begins each chapter with something small and familiar that we will have seen many times but may never have thought about, and uses it to explain the relevant fascinating physics phenomenon.  By the end of each chapter, the reader will see the same patterns explaining some of the most important science and technology of our time. This book provides a good deal of basic general knowledge and shows how physics laws we observe on Earth are applicable universally.  

 

Czerski has a chatty, informal style of writing interspersed with personal anecdotes she usually uses to make a relevant point (which I didn't find as annoying as the ubiquitous author interviews and fashion commentary found in other books).  Each chapter covers a theme or physics law (e.g. waves, electromagnetism, surface tension, gravity) and then discusses several useful, common or interesting real-world applications in bite-sized chunks to demonstrate the concept - everything from popcorn, fluorescent scorpions, floating eggs, toast, sloshing tea, bubbles, mail rockets, elephant trunks, steam locomotives, candles, ocean and air currents to Sputnik, the Hubble Telescope, and wi-fi etc.  I found her inclusion of experiments that anyone can do at home (e.g. all the egg experiments, the raisins in the fizzy bottle, pH indicator cabbage and the toast experiment) to be a nice addition to a general physics popular science book.

 

Czerski has an infectious passion for physics.  While her explanations aren't terribly detailed; they are accessible, entertaining, understandable, not overly simplified, and extremely fascinating.  The examples she chooses are also different - I doubt readers will look at their toasters, tea or eggs in quite the same way again! 

I found Storm in a Teacup made for an enjoyable reading experience, providing information that was new to me about how and why ordinary "stuff", and ultimately, the world works. 

 

Other books:

 

-Science and the City by Laurie Winkless

-Atoms Under the Floorboards by Christ Woodford

-Zoom by Bob Berman

-The Quantum Age by Brian Clegg

-Structures or Why Things Don't Fall Down by J.E. Gordon

-Rhythms of Life by Russell Foster & Leon Kreitzman

 

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review 2017-11-06 05:48
Forensics by Val McDermid
Forensics: An Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

TITLE: Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime

 

AUTHOR: Val McDermid

 

DATE PUBLISHED: 2014

 

FORMAT: e-book

 

ISBN-13:  978 184765 9903

 

_________________________

 

Forensics by Val McDermid takes a look at the variety of techniques and tools (forensic science) used by criminal investigators to solve a variety of crimes.  Topics surveyed in this book include: the crime scene and preserving evidence; fire scene investigation; entomology; toxicology; pathology; fingerprinting; DNA; anthropology; facial reconstruction; digital forensics; forensic psychology; and how forensics is presented in the courtroom. McDermid takes a look at how each of these techniques developed, the history behind the methods and how they are used or not used (mostly for cost reasons).

 

An interesting aspect that the author brings us is that there are no definitive rules or results. Every forensic conclusion can be stained with doubt and no single forensic test is the only conclusive evidence of guilt. Additional information can also be obtained from old evidence as scientific techniques progress, specific analyses become more refined or new techniques are developed.

 

 

McDermid has a lovely, clear writing style and makes use of a large variety of examples to elucidate the various topics she covers. I found this book to be somewhat interesting and to provide an introductory overview of the forensic techniques used to solve crimes. I did, however, want to read more about the actual science behind all the forensic techniques. This book is just too superficial.

 

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review 2017-09-11 05:57
GULP by MARY ROACH
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach

TITLE:  Gulp:  Adventures of the Alimentary Canal

 

AUTHOR:  Mary Roach

 

FORMAT:  e-book

 

ISBN-13:  978-0-393-24030-6

 

______________________________________________________________________

 

NOTE:  The Flat Book Society Book Club selected Gulp by Mary Roach as the book to read for September and October 2017.

______________________________________________________________________

 

 

When a book is titled “Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal” and marketed as popular science, the potential reader assumes they will be reading a book that discusses how the digestive system works and other interesting facts about the alimentary canal.  Well… that is NOT this book.  This book is something of an unfocused hodge-podge of breezy, superficial facts; throw-away statements (we want to know more!); and odd historical stories about the scientists and their less than savoury experiments on the digestive tract.

 

The book is divided into 17 chapters which loosely  follow the physiological structure of the alimentary canal, beginning with taste and smell, and covering such topics as organ meats, cultural food preferences, chewing, gastric acid, saliva, swallowing, being eaten alive, eating too much, intestinal gasses and flammability, extra-curricular storage functions, colonic direction, constipation, and gut-microflora transplants.  After a while I found that the chapters started to blur together due to the collection of random facts, pointless fillers, multiple side tangents, and not-so-witty footnotes. 

 

I’m not really sure what the aim of this book was supposed to be, but it is more entertaining (if you find potty humour and fashion commentary entertaining) than educational.  In any case, Roach seems to take delight in showcasing the more sensational trivia and taboos about the digestive system, while at the same time providing excessive fashion commentary of the people she interviews.  There is very little actual science in this book and a limited coverage of the functioning of the alimentary canal.  This book emphasized the strange and bizarre occurrences related to the digestive system, but never fully explained the system itself.   

 

I found the writing to be a little sloppy with odd sentence structures, interesting single sentence comments that went no-where and lack of clarity between fact and personal opinion.  In addition, the author has an irreverent, rambling style with excessive asides, puns, dodgy humour and innuendoes, and a preoccupation with toilet humour that might appeal more to a 12 year old boy trying to revolt his baby sister than someone actually looking for information about the topic.  The excessive, crude toilet humour also didn’t appeal to me.

 

The subject matter has the potential to be extremely interesting; however, this book is not.  One reviewer described this book as the “Trivial Pursuit version of the “adventures on the alimentary canal,” not the informative, organized tour designed to give insight in an entertaining way”.  I can’t really argue with that.

 

I would not recommend this book to anyone, except possibly the aforementioned 12 year old boy in the hopes of enticing him away from the computer/ TV for a while.  There is too much filler and pointless trivia; and very little actual science in this book.

 

 

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