The Disappearing Spoon – Sam Kean

9413837This book is much more than a rambling, collection of stories,  facts and quirky science knowledge. It is a history of  adventure, betrayal, and obsession. The book follows every element on the periodic table and their parts in human history, and in the lives of the scientists who discovered them.
It had enough science in it to both keep scientifically minded person interested and not scare off the scientifically illiterate. A great read for a source of trivia and improving your knowledge of elements if you have no clue as to what the difference between copper or bronze is.
Its title comes from the lab prank of molding spoons out of Gallium, which is solid at room temperature, but melts at 28 degrees Celsius ( 84Fahrenheit for those crazy imperials). So when you give a gallium spoon to someone with their tea, it will melt as they stir it, man those scientists are a crazy bunch. It’s a book I think everyone should read (might help raise our poor education standard for STEM)

Bang! The Complete History Of The Universe – Brian May, Patrick Moore & Chris Lintott

Bang! The Complete History Of The Universe – Brian May, Patrick Moore & Chris Lintott
Brian May of Queen fame was actually studying a PhD in Astrophysics before his music really took off. Queen became one of the greatest bands of all so Brian abandoned his studies to focus on the music. Fast forward to 2006 and he decides to finish the PhD he started many years ago.
In 2006 as he was getting into the swing of Astrophysics again, he released a book with sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott. This book essentially reviews the timeline of events from the formation of the universe to its potential end. It is rather basic in its approach and doesn’t talk of equations or any hard science. For someone who has no knowledge of this topic its a great introduction to cosmology but a little too basic for my tastes.

What If? – Randall Munroe

What If? – Randall Munroe

Man this is one hilarious book, it is a collection of answers to absurd and weird hypothetical questions he has been sent via his website for his comic strip. Having a degree in physics and previously working for NASA before leaving  to work on his XKCD comic strip full time leaves Randall in a unique position to answer these questions

There is an assortment of hilarious hypothetical questions such as

  • what would happen if the entire human population met at one place and then jumped all at the same time
  • From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hits the ground
  • Is it possible to build a jet pack using downward firing machine gun
  • If a ten metre wide drain opened at the bottom of the ocean how long would it take to drain all the oceans

There are many more hilarious questions many of which he adds his signature stick figure drawing too. He takes the time to detail his research into these questions and walks the reader through the process to find the answer.

Good for a laugh and an informative read, best of both worlds!

 

 

 

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait
This was an interesting book, i actually got it because while i have quite a passion for Astronomy it gets rather repetitive during conversations having to constantly debunk silly ideas people have about Astronomy. Ideas such as is their sound in space? to the most infuriating, confusing it with the ridiculous hogwash that is Astrology.   I thought if i could find a book that answered all these i could just give them out.
Turns out (obviously) its much more fun to share knowledge and talk to people and debunk silly or misleading ideas than to simply hand over a book. Nothing to do with the fact there are people who simply just don’t like reading – a concept i just cant fathom. Interesting point i noticed was that many of the people who don’t read are also the ones who believe in Astrology
But this book does serve a purpose. It has a wonderful collection of ideas and misleading things popular culture has about science. From bad science in movies featuring explosions and sounds in space and lasers that can be seen and dodged once fired . To dispelling rumours about why the moon looks bigger on the horizon or what causes the tides.
Its a great quick reference guide to helping understand the reality behind some situations.  While anyone with a science background will already understand the reasons behind most of the issues, like why is the sky blue, Does water really spin opposite directions when draining in different hemispheres, Did the moon landings actually happen and why astrology is complete hogwash. There are a few unique surprises in there such as my favourite. The optical illusion of the moon looking bigger when its near the horizon, actually disappears and it looks normal when you bend over and view it between your legs. I so have to try this!!!
It is definitely a book for all types, a fun and yet informative read.

The Collapse of Western Civilization – Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The Collapse of Western Civilization – Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Quite a different  read. This book is based from the point of view of an historian living in 2393 looking back on the 20th-21st centuries  and the lead up to some drastic  climate changes.
The authors do a good job of using hindsight to highlight how greedy capitalism is and how stupid the nay Sayers are for saying climate change isn’t happening even when its right in your face.
I have always felt that the naysayers are like a frog in boiling water. Put a frog in hot water and it jumps out. But put a frog in cold water and slowly heat it the frog boils to death. And the nay sayers are those frogs
An interesting  point in the book is how it essentially  has the historian as Chinese person as they are one of the only nations that were  minimally  affected and reacted best to the changes.  Authors even postulate that it was a result of its government type – communism that it survived the drastic changes
Good read that gives some food for thought and makes you reflect on your views on the topic

How the States Got Their Shapes – Mark Stein

How the States Got Their Shapes – Mark Stein

Boredom and Wikipedia can lead to long nights in front of the PC. Sometimes you can start looking into one subject and proceed to change subjects over the course of a few hours. Ah the Wikipedia wormhole trap. Needless to say one such adventure led me into trying to find why the US State borders are so weird. Much of the research kept referencing this book so I bought it.

This book solely is a reference for how each of the US States got its borders, which to some may sound quite boring but it can be an interesting tale

Naturally starting in alphabetical order we proceed through each of the states. Discussing the reasons for the peculiarities of its borders. For a non us citizen this was quite interesting but most US citizens probably take this info for granted.

Rivers, wars, treaties and charters, these reasons are far more interesting than the reasons behind Australia’s state borders probably because we only have a few of them

A great reference book good for brushing up on some trivia knowledge

If only my own countries state borders were as interesting