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review 2018-06-17 16:54
The Science of Everyday Life
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson

I had started this book with the intention to comment on each chapter - or part, as each section contained smaller chapters on the various topics of the book - but as so often, I ended up finishing the book before I could summarise my notes for each part. 

 

I much enjoyed the buddy read of this with Murder by Death, who is infinitely more patient with books than I am. Unlike her, I am not just a bit biased by my admiration for Helen Czerski's Storm in a Teacup, I fully enjoyed - and have no regrets - about Storm in a Teacup spoiling Marty Jopson's attempt here at making science accessible to the general reader. 

It is not that The Science of Everyday Life was a bad book - it wasn't! - it is just that the brevity of descriptions and eclectic selection of topics really makes an entertaining introduction to science for people who think they don't like or want to know about science. I am just not Jopson's target reader here. (But I am, evidently, Czerski's target audience.)

For what it is, tho, Jopson does an excellent job at showing how science is the basis of everything around us - from the colour of autumn foliage to the workings of toothpaste to why sheep don't shrink in the rain (despite wearing woolly jumpers) and why people shrivel up in the bathtub.

Each topic is explained just briefly enough to gather interest but not leave you bored with pages and pages of explanation.

 

Again, I wish there had been more explanation and connection between the topics, but this was not in the scope of this book.

 

I should add, tho, that there was one chapter that left me baffled and criticising its content - the part about the boomerang did nothing for me. I could not follow the description of the experiment and could not understand the explanation that was offered for how a boomerang works. I had to google the answer and explanation here.

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text 2018-06-12 22:13
Reading progress update: Part 3 - Marvels of Science Around the House
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson

This Part included the following sections:

 

- Lighting up slowly (lightbulbs)*

- End over end down the stairs (slinkies)

- Machines that can see in the dark

- Making glass one-way

- Disappearing down the plughole left and right

- Einstein, relativity and your phone*

- Different flavours of smoke alarm*

- The vanishing transistor and Moore's law*

- Wobbly crystals in your clock

- When batteries die*

- Bursting your bubble

- Bottled clothing

- Non-shrinking sheep

- Fresh air really is good for you

 

I really liked this part of the book, especially the parts with a *. 

 

The non-shrinking sheep had me at the title of the section but it turned out to nothing new. Still credit to Jopson for including sheep. :D

 

As with the other chapters before, there is nothing really new in these parts but some of Jopson's explanations worked really well for me. 

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text 2018-06-07 00:21
Reading progress update: Part 2 - The Heart of the Home and Kitchen Science
The Science of Everyday Life - Marty Jopson

Part Two of the book continues along the same lines as Part One, but I found this part a little less interesting. Partly, this was because there was not a lot of new information in this chapter, and partly I could see missed opportunities for explaining other things relating to the following:

 

- Refrigerators

- Calories

- Dribbling tea pots

- Kitchen scales and the Kilogram

- Induction hobs

- Microwave ovens

- Toasters

- Coffee rings

- Ice cubes

- Candles

 

I really enjoyed the section on coffee rings, but was ultimately disappointed that the section on the toaster focused on the bread used for toast rather than the appliance.

 

Also, I found it impossible to read the section on the candle without comparing it to the description of how a candle works in Czerski's Storm in a Teacup. I missed the mention of nanodiamonds being created inside the candle flame.

 

Also, I still want to read Faraday's "The Chemical History of a Candle". 

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review 2017-12-13 22:55
The Science of Discworld
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

"Ook?"

I usually try to start my reviews with a pertinent quote from the relevant book, but I was somewhat eager to return my copy to the library and I forgot to copy out a quotation for my review. However, it is somewhat appropriate to start the summary of my thoughts about The Science of Discworld with a quote from one of my favourite characters from the book - The Librarian.

 

Never said one word so much.

 

The Science of Discworld is an attempt to fuse the storyverse created by Terry Pratchett with non-fiction science. Through alternating chapters, we get to see how the Wizards of Discworld, with some help from Hex, create a roundworld very akin to Earth. And, yes, I smirked at the idea that book that spends a lot of time refuting creationism, is based on a story that features ... creationism.

 

(I should add that I am not a fan of or even giving credence to the theory/ies of creationism, but, equally, I am not a fan of arguments that are full of contradictions.)  

 

This is not the only aspect in which the book failed for me.

 

As much as I loved the Wizards - especially the Librarian - and Pratchett's Discworld, the science parts in this book just really did not work for me.

 

The book started out with a random discussion of quantum physics. I am not a scientist. My working knowledge of physics is basic. The opening chapters took a lot of effort because I actually found myself researching different things that the authors referred to on the internet. I don't mind do the research on topics I want to learn about if I feel that it will help me understand the rest of the book.

 

But not so here, the science parts seemed to jump from one topic to another without referring back to the previous ones. It was so confusing. And the difficulty level of the science parts differed throughout the book, too. It made me wonder what kind of a readership the authors were aiming for. Were they talking to people with pre-existing knowledge of quantum physics but not biology? Or maybe the authors just found it difficult to explain the topics they are experts in but didn't bother to go into the same depths about topics they may not be as familiar with?

 

I have no idea.

 

What is clear to me is that the authors of the science parts are not great at communicating. Apart from talking down to readers, or constantly contradicting themselves - for example, when they criticise the act of simplifying a concept to explain it to someone, which the authors decry as "lies to children", only to then use the same simplification to explain concepts to readers -, the authors of the science parts actually managed to ... and this is the dealbreaker ... they managed to make science boring.

 

And with that they made the book fail. Well, they managed to make half the book fail. The Wizard parts were delightful.

 

Previous status updates:

 

Update 1

Update 2

Update 3

Update 4

Update 5

Update 6

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text 2017-12-09 14:22
Reading progress update: I've read 136 out of 414 pages.
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

Ok, more astronomy...but at least we got:

 

- a better explanation of Einstein's theories vaguely referred to in the first part of the book

- an overview of how different theories played off or refuted each other

- stories about cats

- elemental observations

- and an offer of a variety of theories on offer rather than, as the tone of the first chapters suggested, a linear narrative of why something is not right.

 

What I am still missing is a link between the science presented in the current and following chapters and the random discussion of quantum physics at the start of the book.

 

I'm going to stop here for today, as I need something lighter or just something with a bit more narrativium

 

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