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The Physics of Christmas

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  221 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Why might Rudolph's nose have been red? Why do we actually give Christmas gifts? Why has smell become an important component in the Christmas shopping experience? Roger Highfield, science editor of London's Daily Telegraph and co-author of the highly acclaimed The Arrow of Time, has taken a long-overdue look at our most cherished holiday from the rigorous (but highly enter ...more
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Published December 14th 2008 by Back Bay Books (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Dec 18, 2007 Dustin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-science
Normally, the goal of a "The Science of..." book is to entertain and educate. There was lots of education, but not necessarily a lot of entertainment...

Now, its possible that since I read a lot of it while having extensive, expensive repairs done on my car's engine coolant system (for the 3rd time in as many months), I wasn't in a fully receptive, holly jolly mood. Personally, I think a little too much time was spent on some rather picayune points, which pretty much killed the enjoyment, renderi
T. Finley
This book covers a lot of material, but does so in a way that is accessible to the average reader, for the most part. There were a few places where the science explanations were a little harder to understand. Personally, I thought a portion of the chapter titled Christmas Spirit where the author discusses efforts to recreate ancient Egyptian brewing techniques was particularly interesting.
Did I like it? Yes.
Would I reread it? Maybe.
Would I recommend it? Yes.
Nancie Jirku
Dec 12, 2012 Nancie Jirku rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extremely enjoyable read for those of us who enjoy science as well as the magic of Christmas. What I love most is how the scientists interviewed for this book use their knowledge not to disprove Christmas and it's lore, but to think up plausible explanations for everything about it. In no way does this ruin the holiday; on the contrary, it makes it even more believable. (Apparently, Richard Dawkins used science to prove to a six year old child that Santa does not exist - what a miserable a**h ...more
Tom Schulte
Dec 27, 2015 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
i obtained this a few Xmases ago, but put off reading it thinking it would be cheesy. it is actually quite good and the author puts off the most ridiculous topics like mach 6500 santa and flying quadrapeds for the final two chapters. before that is much science and most not physics. "The Science of Christmas" would be a more appropriate title. this includes the chemistry of cooking, brewing and its medical effects and much history including the role Coca-Cola had in shaping the appearance of San ...more
Aug 31, 2009 White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is, literally the most entertaining physics book I have ever read. This was actually a gift for my son when he was into the space program hype a few years back. But I had to read it so I borrowed it and asked him if I could put it on my shelf of books in the physics section. He gladly obliged.

This is the physics of Christmas. From weather and the chrystal formation of snow to how it is, after all, possible for reindeer to fly to the time warp of gravitational power that could really g
Nov 26, 2012 Regina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While reading, I thought this book was misnamed, and should have been titled: The Chemistry of Christmas. When I got to the last page, I understood why; the author has a PhD in Chemistry. He referred to other books I have enjoyed with similar titles of "The Science of _____" but this book is not at all as informative or interesting.

The author does break down complex scientific phenomenon into understandable layperson's language, but it then becomes boring. In addition, he gives a one-sided view
Oct 02, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Are you a science buff who loves learning tidbits of information on miscellaneous things? If you love Christmas too, this is definitely the book for you. Although some of the book's sections are only a few pages long, there are some that seem to roll on for several pages, and seem quite wordy. I like the way the author talked about those things that makes Christmas-Christmas, such as the Christmas lights(including the history of the use of them on a Christmas tree) to Christmas trees in general ...more
Sep 18, 2015 Ladonda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you are a science geek, this book is for you. However, I don't fall into that category. While it was interesting reading about the first Christmas card, why Rudolf's nose is red, speculation on what exactly was the star the wise men followed and how the abbreviation Xmas came about, the deal associated with how our bodies metabolize alcohol at a cellular level and all the formulas to show exactly how Santa could deliver so many gifts to all those houses in one night just gave me a brain cramp ...more
Holden Attradies
I enjoyed the book but felt that it could have been better written. My biggest complaint was that a lot of what was written was written in very repetitive manners, although I assume that comes from this book being based on the authors long history of science writing.

The science writing it self was also pretty hit or miss. At times it was really entertaining and easy to follow and at other times it felt very dry and hard to follow, almost like reading two different authors writing.
Catherine Thompson
Fascinating... this is the third time I've read this book, and it still fascinates me. The chemistry and thermodynamics of the simple act of cooking a turkey... how alcohol takes its toll on the body... and best of all, how Santa gets to all those chimneys in one night by using quantum mechanics, quantum physics, and possibly even bioengineering! The science is solid, if the subject is ethereal. Great fun!
Apr 24, 2012 Wes rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I want to stress that two stars means "It was OK." The subject should have led to a more "fun" read, (I can only imagine what Bill Bryson would have done with this,) but this was a pretty dry book. I learned quite a few things, but I probably spent years picking this up when I didn't have anything else to read and then putting it down again. So yeah, just ok.
Nov 09, 2012 Mickey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book. It was informative, well-written and entertaining. My favorite part was discussing the search for the "Bethlehem Star". The section on snowflakes was also very good. I liked the variety of topics. It seemed like we went through every possible branch of science and some of the so-called soft sciences as well. This would make a great gift for science lovers.
Jan 08, 2014 Mirrordance rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Probabilmente mi aspettavo qualcosa di differente. Nell'insieme ho trovato questo libro inutile. Un mischiettone di nozioni di fisica, biologia, chimica e scienze varie che prende come spunto le tradizioni e i simboli del natale. Nozioni varie ammassate senza un filo. Un genere troppo "generico" e poco organizzato per il mio gusto personale.
Jan 04, 2012 Sfahrney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting overview of various symbols and associations with Christmas. Using physics, logic, science and history to learn about traditional customs from a different perspective. I enjoyed the read.
The first few chapters were fun and enlightening. The whole book is a bit of whimsy, actually. But Highfield obviously had a lot of fun writing and researching this book. But I don't know if you can really call it science. Not my favorite but a good holiday read.
Bryan Beaty
Dec 27, 2010 Bryan Beaty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you like reading about all things science, you will like this book. My only complaint is that it talks a lot about science with sometimes thin connections to Christmas. Once I accepted this as a literature review of science attempting to be fun I really enjoyed it.
Aug 15, 2014 Celest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a somewhat dry read insections, but utterly fascinating overall. The title misleads one into thinking this was a physics book, but there are a broad array of scientific fields represented here.
Dec 21, 2007 Ellis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction
This book is full of a bunch of "gee-whiz" facts related to Christmas. Some of it is pretty interesting some of it not. I was really happy when, after three years of half hearted reading at Christmastime, I finished it.
Jul 08, 2014 Kaethe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction, xmas
It's fun with physics. I love this sort of thing, especially when it is holiday-themed. Plus, it makes a nice change from all the holiday books telling you to do more, or to do less, although I also like those.
Feb 29, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: geeks
Thanks to this book, I now understand the relationship between Santa Claus, flying reindeer, and the hallucinogens in fly agaric mushrooms.
Dec 16, 2009 Jef rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some good, like the biochemistry of food and drink. There is some stuff of questionable research like the faith-makes-you-well section.
Jan 09, 2010 Tisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book, but I just can't get that into it now that Christmas is past. I will bring it out in December and try again.
Jan 16, 2015 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slight misnomer since it also goes into chemistry, sociology, and biology. A fun and interesting book however.
Abraham Ray
I registered a book at!
Dec 25, 2007 Rosa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: read during thanksgiving and the month of december.
Borrowed this book from the public library. Very interesting to read and it is good to read just to get in the thanksgiving and christmas season.
Kimberly rated it really liked it
Jun 01, 2014
Brian rated it really liked it
Aug 30, 2008
Gavin rated it really liked it
Dec 25, 2013
Colleen rated it it was ok
Nov 19, 2015
John Strubhart
John Strubhart rated it it was amazing
May 31, 2014
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