Skip to main content

Science for Life - Brian Clegg ****

It's always difficult to know what to do about a review for books by our editor - we can't just ignore them. In this case we have borrowed an independent review from Good Housekeeping. (N.B. given the source, the review concentrates most on personal health/diet advice, but the book also has a lot to say about the way the media communicate science.)

Much of what you hear and read about health can feel contradictory and overwhelming, and it can sometimes be hard to know which diet we should be on, how much exercise we should be doing, what’s said to be causing serious illnesses this week, or to keep track of the latest advice to make sure you lead a happier and healthier life.

At GH we believe in rigorously putting any claims to the test, and that’s why we love Science For Life by GH contributor Brian Clegg. It gives definitive answers to the kind of questions we ask ourselves regularly – is red wine really good for us? (science says it’s not, sadly) And should we avoid artificial sweeteners? (research actually shows that they haven’t been linked to as many health problems as sugar).

The book provides no-nonsense, straightforward advice, all backed up by scientific research. And, unlike others, Science For Life doesn’t claim to have all the answers. It acknowledges where there isn’t enough hard evidence – such as whether too much TV is bad for kids.

Clegg’s writing is informative and entertaining, with a welcome lack of irritating jargon. Divided by subject, the scope of the book is remarkably broad – everything from whether e-numbers are bad for us (they’re not), to how likely it is we’ll be visited by UFOs (science is highly sceptical).

What Science For Life does best is help you make informed health choices – from how much exercise to do a week to which supplements to take – so you can make small changes with maximum impact. It also gives some peace of mind on the science behind medical treatments and what we should really be doing to help the environment. Best of all, Clegg will continue update his findings online at scienceforlife.info as new research comes in. 


Paperback 

Kindle 
Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Simon Cocks
Please note, this title is written by the editor of the Popular Science website. Our review is still an honest opinion – and we could hardly omit the book – but do want to make the connection clear.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Patricia Fara - Four Way Interview

Patricia Fara lectures in the history of science at Cambridge University, where she is a Fellow of Clare College. She was the President of the British Society for the History of Science (2016-18) and her prize-winning book, Science: A Four Thousand Year History (OUP, 2009), has been translated into nine languages. An experienced public lecturer, Patricia Fara appears regularly in TV documentaries and radio programmes. She also contributes articles and reviews to many popular magazines and journals, including History Today, BBC History, New Scientist, Nature and the Times Literary SupplementHer new book is Erasmus Darwin.

Why history of science?
I read physics at university, but half-way through the course I realised that had been a big mistake. Although I relished the intellectual challenge, I was bored by the long hours spent lining up recalcitrant instruments in dusty laboratories. Why was nobody encouraging us to think about the big questions – What is gravity? Does quantum mechani…

The Idea of the Brain: Matthew Cobb *****

Matthew Cobb is one of those people that you can’t help but admire but also secretly hate just a little bit for being so awesome. He is professor for zoology at the University of Manchester with a sizable teaching load that he apparently masters with consummate skill. He’s a scientific researcher, who researches the sense of smell of fruit fly maggots; I kid you not!  He’s also an attentive and loving family father but he still finds time and energy to write brilliant history of science books, three to date. His first, The Egg and Sperm Race, describes the search for the secret of human reproduction in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and is one of my favourite history of science books, on the period. His second, Life’s Greatest Secret is a monster, both in scope and detail, description of the hunt to decipher the structure and function of DNA that along the way demolishes a whole boatload of modern history of science myths. The most recent, and the subject of this review, is

The Big Ideas in Science - Jon Evans ***

The starting point of a review like this has to be to congratulate the author on his achievement, Jon Evans, because getting all of science into one relatively short book is a massive (and thankless) task. Although inevitably the result is a fairly hectic dash through the material, with limited space for subtleness, Evans manages to make the experience readable and has a light touch that is effective without becoming too simplistic.

There is only one reason this book doesn't get four stars - it's not the quality of the writing but rather the selection of the contents. Of course, there is bound to be plenty of stuff missed out - how else could you get all of science into 269 pages? But the balance is strangely skewed. Chemistry is pretty much omitted, though aspects of chemistry occur under other headings. But for me, the real problem is that physics is really under-represented. It's interesting to use Jim Al-Khalili's recent excellent physics summary title The World Acc…