Skip to main content

1001 Inventions that Changed the World – Jack Challoner (Ed.) **

It is hard to envisage how to do better at making a book that has clearly involved a lot of work, and that contains lots of interesting information, yet at the same time is quite so useless.
This book derives from the series that started as things like 1001 Places to Visit before you Die or some such. That kind of application has a clear use – dip in, find somewhere to visit, visit it. But when you start applying it to inventions, it’s a bit different.
It’s all nicely laid out with some interesting illustrations, but if you try to sit down and read through it, you will very soon give up. It’s just so dull. It doesn’t help that the inventions are in date order, so by page 100 you have only reached the pulley (750 BC).
There are lots of wonderful inventions in here, everything from the stone axe to the Large Hadron Collider. And some pretty barmy things too. But why would you possibly want to read it? It’s impossible to read end to end (apart from anything else, it weighs a tonne), dipping in feels rather pointless, and if you want a reference it’s much easier to go online.
In fact that’s the answer really. This is the book equivalent of bringing out Coldplay’s latest track on a 78 rpm record. This is a website on paper, with none of the advantages of the online medium.
It’s frustrating. There really is lots of good material here that people have sweated over producing. But there’s no point to it.
Paperback:  
Also in Hardback:  
Review by Jo Reed

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lost in Math - Sabine Hossenfelder *****

One of my favourite illustrations from a science title was in Fred Hoyle's book on his quasi-steady state theory. It shows a large flock of geese all following each other, which he likened to the state of theoretical physics. In the very readable Lost in Math, physicist Sabine Hossenfelder exposes the way that in certain areas of physics, this is all too realistic a picture. (Hossenfelder gives Hoyle's cosmological theory short shrift, incidentally, though, to be fair, it wasn't given anywhere near as many opportunities to be patched up to match observations as the current version of big bang with inflation.)

Lost in Math is a very powerful analysis of what has gone wrong in the way that some aspects of physics are undertaken. Until the twentieth century, scientists made observations and experiments and theoreticians looked for theories which explained them, which could then be tested against further experiments and observations. Now, particularly in particle physics, it…

Gravity! - Pierre Binétruy ****

I had to really restrain myself from adopting the approach taken by The Register in referring to Yahoo! by putting an exclamation mark after every word in the text when faced with reviewing Gravity! One thing to be said about the punctuation, though, is it makes it easier to search for amongst a whole lot of books on gravity and gravitational waves (the subtitle is 'the quest for gravitational waves') since their discovery in 2015.

Despite the subtitle, Pierre Binétruy gives us far more - in fact, gravitational waves don't come into it until page 160, which makes it really more of a book about gravity with a bit on gravitational waves tacked on than a true exploration of the quest. 

However, those early pages aren't wasted - Binétruy gives us plenty of detail on all kinds of background, for example plunging in to tell us about element synthesis, something you wouldn't expect in a book on gravitational waves. I also really liked a little section on experiments you can…

Brain Based Enterprises - Peter Cook ****

A quick flag on this one: it's a management/business book, and the four star rating is with that in mind. Brain Based Enterprises does contain a surprising amount of science, considering this, which is why it's here, but don't expect it to be like a four star pure science book.

This is an eclectic attack on the status quo of our ideas about business. Peter Cook suggest that much of current business simply isn't oriented to the realities of a modern, technological world, and that we need to handle things very differently in a knowledge-based economy.

The book is divided into three sections. For me, the most interesting was the first 'brainy people' part, as my own business doesn't have teams and such - but for those who do there are also 'brainy teams' and 'brainy enterprises' sections. Cook stirs together a heady mix of science - from psychology to economics - music (a passion of his and a significant part of the way he works) and business the…