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A Bee in a Cathedral: And 99 Other Scientific Analogies [Hardcover]

Joel Levy
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 17.67
Price: 17.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

16 Jun 2011
Prepare to be amazed and educated! A Bee in a Cathedral explains basic scientific truths and principles using the power of analogy. Using classic comparisons (including 'bee in the cathedral' which dramatically conveys the size of the atomic nucleus in relation to the atom as a whole) you will learn: how whirlpools and hurricanes help us understand the formation of galaxies; how DNA chains act just like a zipper; how much blood is produced by a body each day.

Written in an entertaining style, A Bee in a Cathedral will appeal to anyone with a thirst for knowledge and an appreciation for science. The aim of the book is to convey basic principles of science in new and exciting ways, describing the unbelievably massive, the inconceivably tiny, and the unfathomably complex in terms that we can all understand, and comparing them to everyday objects and experiences with which we are much more familiar.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Firefly Books (16 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554079594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554079599
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 23.1 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,531,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Serious but engaging look at scientific facts and principles using analogy. Angels and Urchins --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Joel Levy is a writer and journalist specializing in science and history. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including Newton's Notebook, Scientific Feuds: From Galileo to the Human Genome Project, Poison: An Illustrated History, and The Bedside Book of Chemistry. He has also written features and articles for the British press, and has appeared on national television and numerous local and national radio shows. A long-term student of the history of science and medicine, Joel has a BSc in Biological Sciences and an MA in Psychology. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not all the analogies work for me 6 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading a New Scientist review I am rather disappointed. Some analogies are great but not all the analogies work for me. Maybe thats a personal thing but its definitely not 5 star IMO.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A busy book, and with errors! 6 Dec 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I'm sort of disappointed at the busy layout of the book, but it's a delightful concept overall. I'm Very disappointed at the error in 'Ham sandwiches and stoichiometry,' where there are too many electrons in the CO2 molecule - 20 electrons in the outer rings of the CO2 molecule but only 16 electrons in the outer rings of the non-bonded C and 2O's. Errors like this are such a problem for people who are trying to learn something. Also, on the pagers about the apple as big as the earth, the basketball-coin analogy doesn't seem to add anything. On the same pages, a 200 micron Paramecium IS visible with the naked eye - that's 0.2 mm - about the width of the millimeter line on a ruler, so that's another bad bit of science, even without the accompanying math: enlarging a ~6 mm water drop to 6 meters would enlarge the Paramecium from 200 microns to 20 cm, by my calculations. Where is this guy coming from?!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it 16 Jan 2012
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book's great review in Science magazine stirred my interest, so I went ahead and got it. I rationalized that it would be a gift for soemone I had in mind, but it was OK if I read it first. That I did, and quite enjoyed its mind-bending analogies between the spectacular and the mundane. It explores quantum entanglement, the energy released by hurricanes, the length of a strand of living DNA, and many other wonders of the natural and man-made worlds. Along the way, sidebars and insets add background information and factoids, like the temperature of the Boomerang Nebula (the coldest spot in space) or the time it takes for the atoms in a human body to be replaced by natural growth and turnover.

Early on, though, a few things started to nag. Page 21, for example discusses realtivity. A sidebar mentions the cumulative effects of acceleration at 1g - increasing your speed at that rate, you'd reach the speed of light in just under a year. The thing is, though, you wouldn't. Relativistic effects would kick in long before that, preventing any material body from reaching that speed. Page 43 refers to "1 kilowatt per hour" - a unit of measurement nearly meaningless in that context, since kilowatts already have a "per hour" term silently built in. P.93 asserts that "Even the biggest molecules are microscopic on a human scale." A DNA molecule, although it might have a macroscopic length of several centimeters, remains invisible because of it atomic-scale width. But diamond is covalently bound carbon, so a single diamond crystal of visible size really is one molecule. Likewise, molecules of phenolic plastics (like "bakelite"), which polymerize promiscuously, can grow to visible size. A bakelite dinner plate, for example, might be one huge, branched, winding molecule. P.103 equates temperatures of 113C to 171F and 121C to 186F - obvious bloopers, since 100C (212F) is the boiling point of water.

The list doesn't end there, but I hope you get the idea. A book like this has value only to the extent that it gets the facts straight. This one fails just often enough to leave me uneasy about the rest. If I saw that many outright errors (and lots more points that require careful interpretation), how many did I miss? I really wanted to like this book and did like big parts of it. Now, though, I hesitate to give it to a child who might not be able to read it as critically as it needs to be read.

-- wiredweird
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mindboggling fun read! 21 Aug 2011
By K. Gill - Published on Amazon.com
If you've ever struggled to understand exactly how small an atom is, or how large the universe is, or how long the human genome is, this is the book for you. Science is full of numbers that are inconceivably tiny, or astrologically immense, and most of these numbers are beyond what the average human mind can readily comprehend. Analogies allow us to scale these numbers down (or up) to something meaningful, and give us a way of understanding the relative lengths, sizes, capacities, and distances of the natural world.

As a lay person with a casual interest in science, I found this book to be full of clever explanations for sometimes complex topics. As a tutor, I was delighted to discover new ways of presenting challenging concepts to students. There are often multiple analogies for the same idea, so if one example doesn't "click", another one probably will. This would be an excellent gift for any science teacher.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointed. 19 Dec 2011
By Chris Reich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was hoping for a book filled pages like the first few...simple analogies that I can use to convey science ideas in my business speeches. The book is pretty to look at but some of the analogies are a bit vague and some of the material is presented in a very confusing way.

I loved the billiard table in the dark. It analogizes that if a ball moves in a particular direction, we could figure out that something struck that ball and from what direction it was struck. But the rocket and the elevator is a mess---a subject I well understand yet I could barely make sense of the words.

I was amused for about an hour. Now, it might be picked up up occasionally or a "fun fact". My main criteria for a 5 star book is this: Would I buy a few as gifts? In this case, no.

Look for Physics for Future Presidents. (5 stars!)

Chris Reich
5.0 out of 5 stars Science nerds delight! 16 Jan 2014
By printinfool - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great book! It's a great read for anyone who thinks too much and enjoys the what ifs of science! They want me to say way too much for a simple review!
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