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Showing posts from February, 2007

Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? – Mick O’Hare (Ed.) ****

I have to be honest, I started reading this book in a negative frame of mind. It’s yet another book of collections of answers to puzzling, and often slightly strange, science questions, a type of book that is highly enjoyable, so why the negativity? In part it’s the same feeling I had many moons ago when the original Star Wars movie first came out – I didn’t want to like it because it was so hyped. This book was splashed all over the bookshops at Christmas 2006 as a great gift, and that immediately put up the defence antennae. Was this because it was dumbed down, or just over-marketed? No – luckily I was wrong. It’s a collection from the Last Word section of New Scientist magazine, and works wonderfully well. The questions are interesting, the answers a mix of the erudite and amusing, and only occasionally stray into dull pedantry. The format is a question posed by a reader followed by one or more (sometimes two or three) answers from other readers, with the occasional remark from the…

Chaos: A Very Short Introduction – Leonard Smith ****

Chaos theory is one of those subjects that pretty well everyone has a vague idea about, but few understand what it really does. Most of us will think “butterfly flaps wings and causes storm the other side of the world” or “Jeff Goldblum as crazy mathematician in Jurassic Park watching water ripples caused by T. Rex stomping”… but don’t really have a good picture of what chaos is all about. It’s great to see this book because it really fills in the final segment of a four part jigsaw of the understanding of chaos theory for beginners (as far as I’m concerned). If you are a chaos virgin and want to find out more, I’d recommend the following path to enlightenment. First read the weird and wonderful Introducing Chaos. You won’t get any great insights from this book, but it will lay a little groundwork and acts as a brilliant teaser for reading further. Then read Chaos by James Gleick. This is a biography of the opening up of chaos theory with a brilliant portrayal of the key characters in…