Beautiful Basics of Science

Posted on December 12, 2008  Comments (0)

Natalie Angier’s recent book, The Canon, is a great overview of the world of science. The book gets a bit too carried away with being cute (A top-of-the-line radar can pinpoint the whereabouts of a housefly two kilometers away, although clearly this is a radar with far too much time on its hands), but overall is excellent. Such lines are find, in moderation, but this book has too many by a factor of 10 or 100. Some gems from the book:

page 19: Science is not a rigid body of facts. It is a dynamic process of discovery.

page 47: true happenstance bears a distinctive stamp, and until you are familiar with its pattern, you are likely to think it messier, more haphazard, than it is… it often makes people uncomfortable by not looking random enough.

page 92: while the different atoms are all about the same size – a tenth of a billionth of a meter across – they diverge in their mass, in the number of protons and neutrons with which their nucleus is crammed.

page 99: If you drag a comb through your dry hair, the comb will strip off millions of electrons from the outermost shells of the atoms of you coiffure.

The details are great (about a trillion electrons are involved when you get a small static electricity shock) and it is an excellent book for those interested in an overview of science that does not require in depth science education to follow. And yet with a good background in science the material presented is still plenty interesting.

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