Skip to main content

How to Fossilise Your Hamster – Mick O’Hare ****

After a couple of successful books such as Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze spun off from the Last Words column in New Scientist, editor Mick O’ Hare has now turned to the more practical aspects of the questions there, with a whole range of practical experiments to try using mostly household items, and explaining the science behind them. Just occasionally there’s a ‘no you can’t’ where the suggested experiment is an old wives’ tale, which adds to the fun. For me this works even better than Sean Connolly’s Wholly Irresponsible Experiments, because they are much more varied and more oriented to the adult reader (quite a lot seem to involve alcohol).
As for the title, yes, it does kind of tell you how to turn your hamster into a fossil… but the approach is a bit disappointing as it does involve waiting millions of years. There’s even that most famous of DIY experiments – the Mentos in cola fountain – very satisfying.
The only thing I would say is, enough, thank you. These books have been great but they aren’t really decent popular science books as they don’t have any narrative flow. The approach has been milked to death now – let’s see something different. (Oh, and I’m glad to see the US version spells fossilize correctly – shame on you, New Scientist.)

Paperback:  
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The God Game (SF) - Danny Tobey *****

Wow. I'm not sure I've ever read a book that was quite such an adrenaline rush - certainly it has been a long time since I've read a science fiction title which has kept me wanting to get back to it and read more so fiercely. 

In some ways, what we have here is a cyber-SF equivalent of Stephen King's It. A bunch of misfit American high school students face a remarkably powerful evil adversary - though in this case, at the beginning, their foe appears to be able to transform their worlds for the better.

Rather than a supernatural evil, the students take on a rogue AI computer game that thinks it is a god - and has the powers to back its belief. Playing the game is a mix of a virtual reality adventure like Pokemon Go and a real world treasure hunt. Players can get rewards for carrying out tasks - delivering a parcel, for example, which can be used to buy favours, abilities in the game and real objects. But once you are in the game, it doesn't want to let you go and is …

Peter Wothers - Four Way Interview

Dr Peter Wothers is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow and Director of Studies in Chemistry at St Catharine's College. He is heavily involved in promoting chemistry to young students and members of the public, and, in 2010, created the popular Cambridge Chemistry Challenge competition for students in the UK. Peter is known nationally and internationally for his demonstration lectures and presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, titled The Modern Alchemist, in 2012. In 2014, he was awarded an M.B.E. for Services to Chemistry in the Queen's Birthday Honours.. His new book is Antimony, Gold and Jupiter's Wolf.

Why chemistry?

I’ve been pretty much obsessed with chemistry from about the age of 8.  I built up quite a substantial home laboratory with all sorts of things that are (quite rightly) banned now (such as white phosphorus) and also used to go to second-hand bookshops to find chemistry texts.  Eventually I boug…

Where are the chemistry popular science books?

by Brian Clegg
There has never been more emphasis on the importance of public engagement. We need both to encourage a deeper interest in science and to counter anti-scientific views that seem to go hand-in-hand with some types of politics. Getting the public interested in science both helps recruit new scientists of the future and spreads an understanding of why an area of scientific research deserves funding. Yet it is possible that chemistry lags behind the other sciences in outreach. As a science writer, and editor of this website, I believe that chemistry is under-represented in popular science. I'd like to establish if this is the case, if so why it is happening - and what can be done to change things. 


An easy straw poll is provided by the topic tags on the site. At the time of writing, there are 22 books under 'chemistry' as opposed to 97 maths, 126 biology and 182 physics. The distribution is inevitably influenced by editorial bias - but as the editor, I can confirm …