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Radar, Hula Hoops and Playful Pigs: 67 Digestible Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life Paperback – Jun 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Company (Jun. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071674600X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716746003
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,458,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
An extremely enjoyable book that would appeal equally to expert or a novice in the field of Chemistry. Dr Schwarcz's passion for his subject is very much in evidence and is very infectious. He challenges the perception that chemistry is a dull or complex subject best left to scientists by providing a number of short and easy to read commentaries about the chemistry of everyday life, the title of the book being three topics he explores.
Although the book is arranged into catagories, you could open it at any page and start reading. The short essays are however, strangely addictive and having read one you may find yourself compelled to continue. His common sense approach and liberal use of humour is a huge asset throughout; at the time of reading the book I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that it was only upon completion that I realised how much I had learnt from it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Fun and illuminating for the chemist and non-chemist alike 18 Nov. 2002
By Craig MACKINNON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Dr. Schwarcz is well-known throughout Canada (and especially, the University of McGill in Montreal) as being the consummate chemistry lecturer. His courses are filled with anecdotes, demonstrations, and humour. He has translated his infectious interest in chemistry to the written word, and the result is a fascinating book that you will enjoy reading, and likely refer to again and again when someone asks, "I wonder why....?" As the title promises, the book is a series of short anecdotes about a variety of chemical subjects. For example, the titular "radar, hula hoops, and playful pigs" gives the connection between these three items (airborne radar, hula hoops, and pig playtoys are all made from the same polymer). The majority of the essays revolve around health, probably reflecting both the author's training (as a carbohydrate chemist) and society's bias.
Schwarcz has two underlying, scientific themes. Science in general, and chemistry in particular, is neither good nor evil - it's the context/use of chemistry that gives a moral distinction. Likewise, chemical effects are generally driven by amount - arsenic is not poisonous in low enough concentrations, while water is deadly under certain conditions (if inhaled, for example). The second point is to make the reader a skeptical consumer. He gives numerous examples of good science vs. bad science - a product trotting out "testimonials" is not evidence that it will work in all cases (or even in the majority of cases!). That's not to say the book gets bogged down in details. His writing style is sharp, witty, and concise. The book can be picked up and read from any point, and you'll still learn something interesting.
I am a chemist, and can assure the chemists considering this book that the science is accurate. It's not the standard sugar-coated fare that appears on television. Likewise, a non-scientist will be able to easily understand the material because Schwarcz never resorts to lingo without first explaining it (for "proof" I point to my mother, who was an English major in university and who enjoyed the parts of the book she's read). Therefore, this book can be recommended to the widest audience, and all will find it informative and enjoyable.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Great Science for Non-Scientists 11 May 2000
By Don Platt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The sub-title says it right: "Digestible Commentaries." The writing style is informative, entertaining and always illuminating. The narratives on diet, in particular, are very applicable to daily life. He does an excellent job of debunking the myths of "chemical content" in our lives and consistently makes the point that "chemical" is not a dirty word! A great and easy read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Excellent all-round entertaining read. 1 Aug. 2004
By Robin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Surprisingly, a book about science that is unbiased, very informative and an easy and enjoyable read! I would most definitely recommend this book to anybody with an interest in not just science and chemistry but also to those who wonder how modern society got to where it is. You'll find information about everyday items found around the house and in the workplace that is insightful, interesting and applicable to everybody. Not to mention the added bonus of being able to surprise your acquaintances with fascinating small talk! A surefire pleasing read for anyone.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely wonderful!!! 6 Aug. 2003
By ----neal M. Shaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is perfect for anyone interested in how various products were developed, health aspects of chemistry, or the history of various chemical discoveries. As a high school science teacher I am always looking for anecdotes regarding various science topics. This is perfect!! Lots of fun!
Thanks Joe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Entertaining and Informative Read 27 Dec. 2007
By mdw3437 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've read several books by this author, and I'm always impressed by his way of making chemistry (a subject I never understood in school) interesting and fun. This book did not disappoint--it was as good as his other books. You don't have to read this book in one sitting, either. I tend to read a chapter a night, and since each section is on a different topic, I don't feel like I've lost my place.
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