**spoiler alert** If I had to summarise I's say "didn't live up to expectations". A good judge of a book is how you feel towards the end - and this on**spoiler alert** If I had to summarise I's say "didn't live up to expectations". A good judge of a book is how you feel towards the end - and this one I was thinking "don't put it down now, or you'll never bother to pick it up again".
My wife brought it home from the library and said "I thought you might like this". A quick review of the covers and discovered it was "allegedly humourous writing from Scientific American". My first thoughts were "I enjoy reading Scientific American, although New Scientist is better" and secondly "humourous scientific writing is usually pretty good!".
It was only much later that I thought "in all the Scientific Americans I have read I don't recall the "Anti Gravity column these articles come from!" A quick check of the magazine to discover that it fits within the Opinion section - which I have to say I usually flick over pretty quickly to get to the meaty stuff.
This was apparently the best of this column over a period of 10 years. The articles were apparently arranged into general topics eg "Wild and Wacky", "In Sickness and in Health", etc. This meant that you were jumping around in time a fair bit, which you usually didn't notice until there was reference to a world event that you knew, followed in the next article by one 5 years earlier.
I agree with a previous reviewer that it was particularly American. I can get American humour (too much US TV I'm afraid) - but the references to obscure US D-grade celebrities, TV shows and sports stars did miss the mark for me on numerous occasions.
Like all of these books based on accumulated work (eg blogs, magazine articles, etc) I would recommend having a read of the work on which it is based: Anti Gravity
It is a quick read, and there are some genuinely humourous bits (but nothing laugh out loud) - so not a complete waste of time!...more
This book is a great introduction to the world of science for a young child.
It is inspired by the story of the original "Eureka" moment, when ArchimedThis book is a great introduction to the world of science for a young child.
It is inspired by the story of the original "Eureka" moment, when Archimedes stepped into the bath - the displacement of the water gave him the idea of how to solve a problem for the king.
In this picture book version the problem is that that the bath keeps overflowing. Who is causing the problem - is it the goat, the kangaroo, the wombat or Mr Archimedes himself? The Eureka moment is that Mr Archimedes discovers (through a series of experiments) that the overflowing is simply caused by having too many animals in the bath - not any one animal as was originally hypothesized....more
This book is essentially a rather eclectic popular science book centred around "hot air". Each chapter has a theme which loosely links with hot air -This book is essentially a rather eclectic popular science book centred around "hot air". Each chapter has a theme which loosely links with hot air - from hot air balloons to political waffling, World War I aerial combat to climate change. More than most popular science books the author features strongly - there are many references to his life in Brisbane, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Memphis throughout the book.
If you want to get a general taste of Peter Doherty's writing then have a read of the autobiography he wrote when he won the Noble Prize.
A few things irritated me about this book.
Firstly I think he targetted it at a weird audience. It is unlikely that someone not at least vaguely interested in science would even pick up a semi-autobiographical popular science book by a Nobel Prize winner. Even so he felt the need to bemoan the lack of scientific education and proceed to give a very basic chemistry lesson early on in the book.
Secondly like many brilliant people I know he seems to be unable to maintain a consistant train of thought, an example: Hot Air (the general background topic of the book) The history of the hot air balloon The fact hot air balloons go over his house and land in Royal Park The fact that in Royal Park is a memorial to the ill-fated Burke and Wills expedition Burke and Wills were not as successfull as Lewis & Clarke in the US Australia is drier than the US Climate change is impacting the Australian landscape More needs to be done to promote green energy Burke and Wills should have carried a hot air balloon to help navigate.
From one paragraph to the next you never know where you are going - which makes my head hurt!
It could really have done with a powerful edit - or even a shadow writer to bring all the ideas into line.
The disjointed nature together with its semi-autobiographical nature emphases another irritating aspect - the "look at who well read and travelled I am". Lots of the book seems to be "when I was in [not very exotic location]..." or "as [author] examined in [book]...". When well written this type of name-dropping can be interesting, in fact lead you to other books or travel locations. But with such a disjointed narrative it just seems the author had a list of cool references and wanted to link them together to produce a book!
Peter doesn't hold back in letting us know his strongly-left-leaning political views. While Peter and I probably agree, in general, on most issues his presentation of these political views in this book were an unwelcome intrusion. My basic problem is that I don't care what his views are on the topics he covers in this book - if he were commenting on political support of medical research or epidemiology then maybe I would.
Like all good scientists he lists his references at the end of the book. For a popular science book I was pretty disappointed. There were basically no primary sources referenced. Most of the references were to popular science or popular history books, with the occasional "I'm well read" classic novel. The book climaxes with a chapter on climate change - after many references to it throughout the rest of the book. He highlights his lack of scientific background in the realm of climate change here - and this is highlighted in his references with the vast majority coming from the easy-to-read-and-understand Science and Nature magazines.
I was really looking forward to reading this book - having loved Longitude.
Unfortunately I was disappointed. Had I not had high expectations this mayI was really looking forward to reading this book - having loved Longitude.
Unfortunately I was disappointed. Had I not had high expectations this may have made 3 stars, but having been disappointed it gets 2.
The first rumblings of discontent occurred on Pg 29 at the end of Genesis (The Sun), where Dava comments on the amazing coincidences that allow a total solar eclipse when viewed from Earth - "Or is this startling manifestation of the Sun's hidden splendour part of a devine design?".
This came to its apogee at the end of Astrology where Dava suggests the communications issues with the Galileo mission to Jupiter could have been foreseen throught the use of astrology.
I love the idea of a book plotting the sum of human knowledge about each planet from early identification and mythology through to today's modern hard scientific knowledge. But the above examples highlight my feelings that Dava should have left the mythology and astrology in the time-period when it represented our best knowledge of the planets (or significantly influenced the key researchers).
I liked that Dava attempted different methods of presenting the information in each chapter - I particularly liked the letter format of Discovery (Uranus and Neptune). However I did need to flip pages around a bit to work out who the letter was from and to.
I thought that the Details chapter needed to be better incorporated into the main text. As a standalone chapter it was almost unreadable, simply a series of disjointed thoughts and references. Using the details chapter as end-notes would have allowed reference during the course of reading. (This would mean there would have been both end-notes and foot-notes which would have needed to be worked through).
I welcome the inclusion of the Bibliography, however I feel that in a popular science book such as this an annotated bibliography is more useful. Or if an annotated bibiography is too much work, at least separating out the references for each chapter would have been some help.
Extra-solar planets (planets around stars other than the Sun) where mentioned briefly a couple of times through the book. I felt that there was enough material there to produce a short chapter on these - after all proof of their existance has been major news over the past decade. Dava could have started with the first references to the idea that other stars could have planets, then moved to the theoretical work on solar system creation that suggested it was possible (or even probable), then finally on the innovative techniques used to find such small, dim, distant objects....more
Who hasn’t thought about the possibility of digging a hole through the centre of the earth, then all the way to the other side? It’s a pretty cool ideWho hasn’t thought about the possibility of digging a hole through the centre of the earth, then all the way to the other side? It’s a pretty cool idea – but one which was successfully explored nearly 150 years ago by Jules Verne in Journey to the Centre of the Earth (or more correctly Voyage au centre de la Terre). It seems like this book is a picture book adaption of the Verne classic – but without any acknowledgement.
The main attraction of this book is the novelty of the large holes in the pages getting smaller and smaller as you get deeper and deeper into the hole. It’s a gimmick, but it worked for The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
The story itself is pretty short and simple – a quick introductory page, then basically one line per double page spread, and a conclusion page. Each double page spread represents a level as you fall down the hole, first rubbish, then later dinosaurs and the red hot core of the earth. Surrounding the double page spread are interesting ‘facts’ about the level you are on – my favourite is “Fossils are even older than your parents!”.
I disliked the inane text “’Flaming volcanoes! It’s the red hot molten middle of the earth. Cor!’”. I also disliked the ‘facts’, many of which were simplified to the point of being wrong. But the main issue I have with the ‘facts’ is their inclusion suggests that the sequence of ‘layers’ which Charlie and Doggo (and later his Dad) fall through are factual rather than fantastic.
But I suppose I’m not the target market (too old), and X-man isn’t either (too young). Also I support anything which gets kids interested in science (especially geology). These are the only reasons that this didn’t get 1 star. ...more
This book provides fantastic insight into the world of human fertility from a prominent researcher and science communicator...
The book begins by explaThis book provides fantastic insight into the world of human fertility from a prominent researcher and science communicator...
The book begins by explaining the complexities in achieving a viable pregnancy... I've been through the process, and never really gave much thought to the intricate series of elements that needed to align to make it happen. In explaining this many of the common causes of infertility become obvious. Then Robert Winston discusses some of the treatments for these problems, in particular provides significant detail on IVF. Then he discusses some of the advances possible through the use of IVF - freezing of embroyos, eggs and sperm, and surrogacy (including non-IVF surrogacy). Then he continues into elements that cause much public debate - Pre-implantation diagnosis, cloning, stem cells and the creation of transgenic animals.
In the introduction Robert Winston explains he needed to write the book quickly to match the timetable of the accompanying BBC TV Series (which I have not viewed). In places this is obvious with mentions of people yet to be introduced and language yet to be defined - but these really do not hinder understanding.
**spoiler alert** This book is about a quest by Louis Pasteur (of pasteurization fame) to win a lucrative prize finding an effective biological contro**spoiler alert** This book is about a quest by Louis Pasteur (of pasteurization fame) to win a lucrative prize finding an effective biological control to Australia's rabbit plague in 1888.
The first half of the book takes an incredibly long time to explain a pretty simple concept - Pasteur critically needed the money from the prize to fund his Institut Pasteur which was in its formative stages. The commission set up to judge the prize displayed significant conflict of interest and bias. The second half of the book seemed less laboured and was a significantly easier read.
In the interests of maintaining the Pasteur camp as the "good guys" in the story Stephen Dando-Collins seems to excessively play down some seemingly ligitimate concerns of the commission. Since the Rabbit Commission Australia has had a checkered history with biological control, so stringent (unbiased) testing and the use of the precautionary principle seem justified to me.
It is interesting to contemplate the alternate history if Pasteur had won the Rabbit Prize and the chicken cholera microbe had been introduced in th 1890s. The first biological control for rabbits was introduced in 1950 (Myxomatosis), which was highly successful at the time with an estimated 90% of rabbits destroyed. Resistance has developed over time and rabbits continue to be a problem in Australia.
I generally am not a huge fan of Eric Carle - but he does do the novelty book well. The little-finger-sized holes in The Very Hungry Caterpillar wereI generally am not a huge fan of Eric Carle - but he does do the novelty book well. The little-finger-sized holes in The Very Hungry Caterpillar were true genius - and in this book he takes the fold-out-page to another level.
I also like the text-to-picture sizing - with 95% of the page taken up by illustrations.
It could be a really useful book to start a conversation about the moon and astronomy in general.
What I don't really like is the plot - which is, like most of Eric Carle's books, paper thin. Promoting the ideal that you will get everything you request - no matter how outlandish - risks a very real possibility of finding yourself with a child browsing Forbes magazine's list of the world's most expensive toys - or even worse responsible for a pony!...more
The idea of "learn to read, read to learn" does appeal to me. But I'm always wary of famous characters being used after the death of their creator. TrThe idea of "learn to read, read to learn" does appeal to me. But I'm always wary of famous characters being used after the death of their creator. Traditionalists will not like this series - Thing 1 and Thing 2 look different, and the brother from the The Cat in the Hat actually has a name. The illustrations, of course, look different from what Dr. Seuss would have produced.
But these issues seem pretty minor when the book produced is of reasonable quality, such as this. The rhyme and rhythm so typical of Seuss is there - maybe not Seuss at his best, but still acceptable. The illustrations are not Seuss, but the illustrator Aristides Ruiz has produced a nice compromise. He doesn't slavishly follow Seuss' style, but then again he manages to ensure that the Cat and other characters do fit in with the rest of the illustration.
I love the references to other books at the end!
Space is a topic which enthralls kids - and they'll enjoy even more with this easy to digest book. ...more
Yes, sometimes scientific explanations for the layperson are so simplified they become wrong. But surely this simplification process should at the verYes, sometimes scientific explanations for the layperson are so simplified they become wrong. But surely this simplification process should at the very least result in an answer the question... An example of this is the answer to the question "Why does your blood look blue when it is in your body?" obviously referring to the blue veins that are visible (most familiarly on your wrist). So the answer (paraphrased): So you know blood is red, right. Well oxygenated blood in your arteries is bright red, while the deoxygenated blood in your veins is a darker red. So the veins you see on your wrist are thus blue. Does anyone else notice that the question hasn't actually been answered here? For a decent (although infinitely less accessible) answer read this paper. The fact I could find this article (along with a number that summarise it for the layperson) in less than 30 seconds on the internet does suggest that the utility of this book is more in prompting the questions rather than in the actual answering...