Skip to main content

Too Much Information - Dave Gorman ****

It might seem odd to feature a book by comedian Dave Gorman on a popular science site, but this is a book about information, information technology, media and its impact on us as people - so entirely deserves its place here.

Admittedly, the book can often seem like a specialist version of the TV show Grumpy Old Men on the topic of information, IT and the media - and there certainly are some funny parts to it - but just as the subtitle suggests that Gorman is trying to think in a deluge of often unwanted 'information', itself of dubious nature, so it gives the reader the chance to do the same.

What comes through, as is usually the case with Gorman, is an obsessive fascination with detail (which, if you're a geek like me, you will probably share). He picks up on a piece of information and pulls it apart to destruction. So, for instance, he riffs (there is really no other word for it) about the oddity of the band Scouting for Girls putting out a 'greatest hits' album in which clearly (and he has a chart to prove it) most of the tracks weren't hits at all.

Some of the content of Too Much Information is pure grumpiness, as in the plea for Twitter users to gain some perspective and stop thinking it's funny or clever to change words by prefacing them with 'tw' to make them special-to-Twitter. People, he assures us, remain people, not 'tweeple' or (shudder) 'tweeps'. Elsewhere he comes up with a fascinating analysis of why all HTC mobile phones show a particular time in adverts, uncovers the bizarre ways that celebrities are exploited by (and exploit) the media and ponders the social impact of the 'next customer' separators we use on supermarket conveyor belts.

The stories, as they effectively are, range in length from just one page to at least ten, and often hit the spot, though with 40 different, loosely collected topics, the book can feel too bitty and lacking cohesion as you read through it. Even so, I found many of the subjects fascinating, some informative and almost all of them enjoyable. 

If you've never taken the time to step back and think about what being in such a connected, information rich world does to us - and how people and companies try to manipulate us through that information - it really is time you did so. And Dave Gorman is here to be a grumpy guide to that voyage of discovery.


Paperback 

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

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Lucy Jane Santos - Four Way Interview

Lucy Jane Santos is an expert in the history of 20th century leisure, health and beauty, with a particular interest in (some might say obsession with) the cultural history of radioactivity. Writes & talks (a lot) about cocktails and radium. Her debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium was published by Icon Books in July 2020.

Why science?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of science especially our daily interactions with and understandings of science – especially in a beauty context. I could spend hours pondering the labels of things on my bathroom shelf. What is 4-t-butylcyclohexanol (as a random example)? Do I really understand what I am putting on my face and spending my money on? Would it change my purchase habits if I did?  

Why this book?

This book came from an accidental discovery – that there was a product called Tho Radia which contained radium and thorium. I found out about it because I actually bought a pot of it – along with a big batch of other produc…

Rewilding: Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe ****

Those who are enthusiastic about saving the environment often have a mixed relationship with science. They might for example, support organic farming or oppose nuclear power, despite organics having no nutritional benefit and requiring far more land to be used to raise the same amount of crops, while nuclear is a green energy source that should be seen as an essential support to renewables. This same confusion can extend to the concept of rewilding, which is one reason that the subtitle of this book uses the word 'radical'.

As Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe make clear, though, radical change is what is required if we are to encourage ecological recovery. To begin with, we need to provide environments for nature that take in the big picture - thinking not just of individual nature reserves but, for example, of corridors that link areas allowing safe species migration. And we also need to move away from an arbitrary approach to restricting to 'native' species, as sometimes…

Is Einstein Still Right? - Clifford Will and Nicolas Yunes ***

If there's one thing that gets a touch tedious in science reporting it's the news headlines that some new observation or experiment 'proves Einstein right' - as if we're still not sure about relativity. At first glance that's what this book does too, but in reality Clifford Will and Nicolas Yunes are celebrating the effectiveness of the general theory of relativity, while being conscious that there may still be situations where, for whatever reason, the general theory is not sufficient.

It's a genuinely interesting book - what Will and Yunes do is take experiments that are probably familiar to the regular popular science reader already and expand on the simplified view of them we are usually given. So, for example, one of the first things they mention is the tower experiments to show the effect of gravitational red shift. I was aware of these experiments, but what we get here goes beyond the basics of the conceptual experiment to deal with the realities of d…