How Many Moons Does the Earth Have - Brian Clegg *****
Science and fun go together like… well, like things that don’t often go together at all. So it’s no mean feat to find that Brian Clegg has managed to combine the two so skilfully in How Many Moons Does the Earth Have.
The book is in the format of a pair of pub quizzes, but unless you’re drinking in a pub favoured by geeky academics in either Oxford or Cambridge (I would have just said Oxford, except that Brian went to the other place!) I would say that 99.99% of readers (I can say that confidently as no one can check it) will just read the book through like I did, to entertain and test themselves.
Each question is cleverly laid out, in that each is posed in the form of a puzzle, problem or brainteaser, augmented with a few related ‘while you wait’ fun facts on a single page; giving the reader the space to test themselves. Once done, the reader then turns the page to find the answer - complete with a detailed explanation. This makes each question an interesting standalone read in its own right. For those who want to go further, each answer also has a ‘read more’ suggestion of a book that expands on the topic.
The biggest problem with this book is being able to put it down, as each item is very short, it’s tempting to go for just one more… and another until you’re half-way through in a single sitting.
The subjects are widespread, though all encompass science and technology; from the title question of the book (not as straightforward as it seems) to who invented the gramophone (ditto) - there are also some great picture and puzzle sections. In fact the majority of the questions have a little twist or surprise that mean they continue to delight all the way through, and I must say that I don’t believe that I’ve ever uttered ‘Well I never’ so many times and in such a short space of time before.
If you like QI or the New Scientist books like Why Don’t a Penguin’s Feet Freeze, you’ll just love this one! It’s a great book for anyone with an interest in science and at a really good price that makes it an excellent stocking filler. I am certainly going to be buying a whole stack as Christmas presents for my Oxford chums.
Review by Pete Morris
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.