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review 2017-12-08 05:00
The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen
The Science Of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

TITLE:  The Science of Discworld

 

AUTHOR:  Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  Revised edition published in 2002

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780091886578

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From the blurb:

"When a wizardly experiment goes adrift, the wizards of Unseen University find themselves with a pocket universe on their hands: Roundworld, where neither magic nor common sense seems to stand a chance against logic.  The Universe, of course, is our own.  And Roundworld is Earth.  As the wizards watch their accidental creation grow, we follow the story of our universe from the primal singularity of the Big Bang to the Internet and beyond.  Through this original Terry Pratchett story (with intervening chapters from Cohen and Stewart) we discover how puny and insignificant individual lives are against a cosmic backdrop of creation and disaster.  Yet, paradoxically, we see how the richness of a universe based on rules, has led to a complex world and at least one species that tried to get a grip of what was going on."

 

 

This is not a book that tells you how Terry Pratchett's Discworld works.  This is a book that tells you how Earth as we know it was created with an inserted Discworld narrative.

 

I found this book to be entertaining and the science bits to be accurate (for what is provided) with pithy observations and witty sentences.  However, the science is a rather basic summary in a somewhat erratic order of the creation of the universe and evolution on planet earth.  I started to get a bit bored with the science chapters, though this is possibly due to having read too many books about the universe and evolution to get  excited about a repeat.  The alternate chapters that deal with the Wizards of Unseen University get more amusing as the book progresses, especially after Rincewind, the Luggage and the Librarian (Ook!) make an appearance.  There is nothing like a wizardly outside commentary of Roundworld to show us how crazy life on Earth really is.  

 

This was a fun read.  I highly recommend this book to fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, especially those who aren't too clued up about general science.  The alternate science and fantasy chapters of this book might even appeal to younger school children and encouraging an interest in reading and science.

 

NOTE:  This books was read as part of the Rogue Flat Book Society Buddy Read for December 2017

 

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review 2017-12-07 06:50
Science and the City by Laurie Winkless
Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis - Laurie Winkless

TITLE:  Science and the City

 

AUTHOR:  Laurie Winkless

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9781472913234

 

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Science and the City is a rather superficial, but interesting look at how cities function. Topics covered include the physics and materials required for building skyscrapers; the generation and transmission of electricity; water purification and transport; sewage systems; roads; bridges; trains and train tracks; cars; and the various means that humans connect to each other (internet, satellites, food distribution, finances, time). A rather useful aspect of the book was the division of each chapter into a "today" section and a "tomorrow" section. The "today" section covering how cities function currently, and the "tomorrow" section covering new research and future technologies. So there are a fair amount of interesting future "goodies" to look up and research further.

 

The author's enthusiasm and bubbliness make this book an entertaining and informative reading experience provided you aren't expecting too many technical details and don't mind an informal writing style. Thankfully there is no running fashion commentary or excessive interviews!

 

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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

 

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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 SPOILER ALERT! 2017-11-03 07:21
Bring Back the King by Helen Pilcher
Bring Back the King: The New Science of De-extinction - Helen Pilcher

TITLE:  Bring Back the King:  The New Science of De-Extinction

 

AUTHOR:  Helen Pilcher

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2016

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:   978-1-4729-1228-2

 

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In this book, Helen Pilcher takes an introductory look at the science of de-extinction, covering such topics as the de-extinction of dinosaurs, neanderthals, mammoths, a variety of extinct birds, the thylacine, Elvis Presley, as well as some other random questions, ethics and concerns.

 

The book reads more like a collection of excessively padded magazine articles stuffed into one package. There is also an excessive amount of "cutsie" humour (also bad jokes) in this book which simply falls flat; as well as too many personal intrusions from the author. The discussions of the actual de-extinction science are uneven - some animals are lucky enough to get their situation and the science explained in a fair amount of detail, others will get an over-simplified explanation. The ethics, challenges and if the whole things is a good idea is glossed over in one chapter.

 

For example:
The majority of the chapter on Neanderthals involves too much author speculation and personal emotion in her speculative story of a neanderthal baby. The chapter on Elvis is just silly and self-indulgent. Pilcher could have found a better way to discuss general genetics and epigenetics, and she oversimplifies what she does write about the topic. The chapter about the white rhino gastric brooding frog are informative, and better written than the others.

 

This book is easy to read, funny (to other people) and would probably make a good introduction to the subject for people who aren't too particular about the amount of hard science in their popular science books. Teenagers might like it too.

 

Otherwise, there are a selection of other books on the same topic that are better written:

 

-Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things by M.R. O'Connor [Deals more with the conservation angle]

 

-How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro [Includes more physical science involved in de-extinction and all the ethics and possibilities]

 

-Rise of the Necrofauna: A Provocative Look at the Science, Ethics, and Risks of De-Extinction by Britt Wray [Focus on the ethics, risks and possibilities of de-extinction science]


- How to Build a Dinosaur: The New Science of Reverse Evolution by Jack Horner & James Gorman

 

 

For those interested in epigenetics:

 

-The Epigenetics Revolution by Nessa Carey

 

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review 2017-10-30 08:21
The Science of Why by Jay Ingram
The Science of Why: Answers to Questions About the World Around Us - Jay Ingram,Jay Ingram,Audible Studios

TITLE:  The Science of Why:  Answers to Questions About the World Around Us

 

AUTHOR:  Jay Ingram

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  2016

 

FORMAT:  Audiobook

 

 

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I haven't had much luck with audiobooks.  They tend to put me to sleep or my mind wonders or the reader doesn't appeal to me.  Anyway, I decided to give audiobooks another try by selecting a book with short, non-related chapters.  The Science of Why looked like a perfect book for this trial.  Unfortunately, I'm still not convinced audiobooks will work for me, and I wasn't impressed by the book either.

 

This is a collection of a few interesting, but mostly silly questions about a variety of topics and their scientific answers. I enjoyed the few topics that interested me, but the majority of the topics were frivolous and thus not enjoyable. After a while, the book started to get tedious.  However, due to the nature of the questions, this book may appeal to teenagers.

 

In terms of the audio book, the author reads fairly well, though he did sound like he could use a drink and pronouncing "te" instead of "to" got really annoying after a few chapters.

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