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review 2018-02-06 06:10
Geography for Dummies by Charles Heatwole
Geography for Dummies. - Charles Heatwole

TITLE:  Geography for Dummies

 

AUTHOR:  Charles Heatwole

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2002

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780764516221

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Geography for Dummies provides a brief overview of the geography you should have learned in middle-school.  Topics covered in the book include Mapwork; Physical Geography  (e.g. volcanoes, earthquakes, climate, etc); Population Geography (movement and distribution of people); and Economic Geography (resources, economic activities, urban geography, environmental issues, etc).  The book also provides many diagrams and lists of organizations for geographic information (useless unless you live in the USA), geographical occupations, geographical websites, and a chapter on oddball topics like the Bermuda Triangle or how "Democratic Republics" are usually anything but democratic.

This book provides a basic, superficial outline of the listed topics, using simple words, a chatty writing style and many examples (most of them from the USA) - I suppose this is what one should expect from a book subtitled "for Dummies".  Personally I found the chattiness rather long-winded and the simplistic explanations annoying (I wanted more information!).

In short, an informative, albeit basic, book if you know nothing about geography, rather superficial if you want something more detailed.

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review 2018-02-02 05:46
The Accidental Scientist by Graeme Donald
The Accidental Scientist: The Role of Chance and Luck in Scientific Discovery - Graeme Donald

TITLE:   The Accidental Scientist: The Role of Chance and Luck in Scientific Discovery

 

AUTHOR:  Graeme Donald

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2014

 

FORMAT:  Hardback

 

ISBN-13: 9781782430155

 

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This is a rather short, but interesting, book that takes a look at the history behind various scientific discoveries and inventions.  All of the topics were chosen because chance or luck were involved in their discovery/invention.  Each chapter is a separate unit that covers a particular topic, such as botox, explosive cellulose, synthetic dyes, penicillin, post-it notes, lobotomies, the cellphone, LSD etc.  This book isn't in-depth science or history but is entertaining and informative without being boring.  The writing style is particularly conversational and witty.

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review 2018-01-29 10:14
Animal Kingdom by Jack Ashby
Animal Kingdom: A Natural History in 100 Objects - Jack Ashby

TITLE:  Animal Kingdom:  A Natural History in 100 Objects

 

AUTHOR:  Jack Ashby

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2017

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  978 0 7509 8613 7

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This book does exactly what it says on the cover - it provides a natural history of the animal kingdom in 100 objects.  The objects in the title refer to museum objects - specimens of various animals found either on display or in the museum's storage facilities.

The book is divided into 4 parts:  (1) Understanding Diversity; (2) Life's Turning Points; (3) Natural Histories; and (4) Displaying Nature.   Each part has a variety of very short animal/object chapters highlighting various scientific concepts, observations and historical anecdotes.  The narrative at the beginning of each part is rather useful and informative in tying all the separate objects and concepts together.  Each chapter also includes a photograph/illustration of the object as well as additional illustrations or diagrams as required.  The writing is clear, concise and easy to read, without bogging the reader down in too much scientific jargon.  

Ashby starts off by discussing the diversity that exists in the animal kingdom by using 18 different museum objects that represent 18 major groupings of the animal kingdom.  These 18 selective objects don't generally receive a great deal of attention, so there was generally something new to learn for each short (extremely short) chapter on each animal.   

Life's Turning Points takes a look at 10 objects that represent 10 points of evolution that lead to mammals:.  This section includes the Cambrian Explosion, jawless fishes, cartilaginous fishes, ray-finned fishes, lobe-finned fishes, tetrapods and vertebrate life on land, amphibians, amniotes (e.g. reptiles), mammal-like reptiles, and modern mammals (e.g. the horse).


The Natural Histories section deals with how evolution works.  So objects/animals have been selected to discuss such concepts as:  natural and sexual selection; convergent evolution; biogeography; processes underlying animal adaptations; animal senses; genetic systems underlying animal ecology; symbiotic and parasitic relationships; how humans are affecting the world today; etc.



The final section of the book takes a look at how museums obtain, preserve, display their specimens and represent nature.  It also examines the purpose of museums and their relationship with the public.  This is a particularly interesting section since the subject of preserving and displaying specimens that aren't always in a good condition is a fascinating subject (how do you preserve a jellyfish?). 

The author manages to condense a variety of biological concepts and extras, in plain language, in 100 short, illustrated chapters without being boring.  His selection of objects to represent various concepts is interesting and provides an opportunity to highlight several uncommon animals, as well as provide fascinating information about each animals.  This book lends itself well to reading a chapter or two at a time.  The expert zoologist or biologist will probably not find very much new information in this book, but the general interested public may find a great deal they haven't come across before.

 

 

SOME OTHER BOOKS:

 

-The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History by David Beerling

 

- Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

 

- Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

 

- Restless Creatures by Matt Wilkins

 

- Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf

 

-  When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time by Michael J. Benton.

 

-  Tales From The Underground: A Natural History Of Subterranean Life by David W. Wolfe.

 

-  The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions by David  
Quammen.

 

- What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe.  

 
-  Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth by Richard Fortey.
    
-  The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins

 

 

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review 2018-01-15 06:55
The Science of Everyday Life by Len Fisher
The Science of Everyday Life: An Entertaining and Enlightening Examination of Everything We Do and Everything We See - Len Fisher

In this book, Len Fisher discusses the science of "everyday life", covering such topics as:  dunking cookies in coffee; boiling eggs; the physics of tools; adding up supermarket bulls; the physics of boomerang throwing; ball catching in baseball; foam; taste and aroma; and the physics of sex.  The book includes a few equations

While the book is enlightening it is not particularly entertaining.  I found the text in general to be somewhat long winded and the author discussions about his own experiments to be tedious.  I was also not particularly interested in most of the topics covered in this book.  Storm in a Teacup by Helen Czerski, is in my opinion, a more entertaining and interesting books that covers many more topics than this book.

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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

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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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