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Hey, there's science in this - Eva Amsen ****

In this slim collection of what were originally blog posts, Eva Amsen takes us around the scientific world looking for interesting stories where science crops up in unexpected places. It combines entertainment and information effectively, and because each article is short, it is satisfyingly moreish. I read the book in three short sittings - and each time I ended up reading more sections than I intended, as it's very tempting to read just one more.

To give an example of some randomly enjoyable entries, we get 'Rubber ducks and Lego' about the way that containers of floating goods (accidentally) dropped in the sea have helped with studies of ocean currents, 'Manhattanhenge' on cityscapes that line up with the low Sun (like Stonehenge, though less purposefully) and 'Songs about Science', exploring how science turns up in songs, whether it's as a subject of an original or a comedy song changing the words of a classic, a trend started with Lehrer's periodic table song. I do think in that example that Amsen is a bit hard on the word-changers as being often lame - some are far more interesting that original songs that happen to mention science - such as the excellent Bohemian Gravity, which doesn't even get a mention.

It can occasionally feel more like a conversation with Siri than a book, as each article has a subtitle in the format 'Hey, there's science...', such as 'Hey, there's science in this Chicago World's Fair artist's future' or 'Hey, there's science under this parking garage'. Amsen tells us that the post were written between 2006 and 2023, and some of the articles feel a little lacking in writing style - perhaps the earlier ones. There were also a few small details of content that might be disputed. For example, Stranger Things is described as science fiction, where I would say it's fantasy and we are told that Robert Bunsen invented the Bunsen burner, where it generally thought now most of the credit should go to Peter Desaga.

Though I wish it was about twice the length - the actual content only runs to 93 pages - overall, I found this collection both fun and surprising in its variety and informative content.

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Review by Brian Clegg - See all Brian's online articles or subscribe to a weekly email free here


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