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The Science Magpie: A Hoard of Fascinating Facts, Stories, Poems, Diagrams and Jokes, Plucked from Science and Its History (Icon Magpie) [Hardcover]

Simon Flynn
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

4 Oct 2012 Icon Magpie
From the Large Hadron Collider rap to the sins of Isaac Newton, The Science Magpie is a compelling collection of scientific curiosities. Expand your knowledge as you view the history of the Earth on the face of a clock, tremble at the power of the Richter scale and learn how to measure the speed of light in your kitchen. Skip through time with Darwin's note on the pros and cons of marriage, take part in an 1858 Cambridge exam, meet the African schoolboy with a scientific puzzle named after him and much more.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (4 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848314167
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848314160
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Flynn studied chemistry at the University of Bristol and then did an MA in philosophy at York. He worked in publishing for fifteen years and is now a newly-qualified science teacher. He lives in North London with his wife and step-daughter.

Product Description


'Simon Flynn's cornucopia of curious facts, anecdotes and quotations ... is sure to entertain and surprise.' -- New Scientist 'For anyone who likes science and is a fan of Schott's original miscellany, this book is a must. It is full of quirky, interesting scientific facts and anecdotes from across science and its history ... Quite frankly, I loved it. It's great fun and doesn't take itself too seriously.' -- Chemistry World '[A] lighthearted dash through science ... offering lots of curiosities that you will be itching to tell those around you.' The Biologist 'Simon Flynn's grab-bag of stories from all branches of science exudes enthusiasm, breathing fresh life into a venerable format.' -- Physics World 'This book is a cabinet of scientific curiosities ... [The Science Magpie] will stimulate good topics of conversation for the pub.' -- BBC Focus

About the Author

Simon Flynn was a publisher and is now training as science teacher. He has degrees in Chemistry and Philosophy.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Roman Clodia TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't"

I would describe myself as fairly scientifically-illiterate: yes, the joke above made me giggle; yes, I can work out pretty swiftly what dihydrogen monoxide is - but e, laws of thermodynamics, and Einstein?... um, no. And yet I enjoyed this book.

I like that Flynn combines a scientific background with having studied philosophy, and we can sense that intellectual breadth in his approach. Indeed, there's a subtle plea in some of the pieces to precisely heal the cultural divide between `scientists' (a noun only coined, I learned, in 1833 amidst much disgust at the barbaric neologism) and `humanists'.

This isn't simply a collection of scientific `facts', though there are those here too, more a nicely random and eccentric gathering of things that are loosely connected to science in its broadest sense: stories, parodies, poems, mini-biographies and a host of other extracts.

My particular favourite is Babbage's response to Tennyson's lines `Every moment dies a man | Every moment one is born': Babbage, anxious that the maths doesn't work to reflect a constantly growing world population, writes to the poet helpfully suggesting he changes the poem in the next edition to `Every moment dies a man | And one and a sixteenth is born'. He goes on to add with care `the exact figures are 1.167, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre'!

I liked the chaotic arbitrariness of this collection and the quirky eccentricity of it. So not a book to necessarily read cover to cover, but an excellent one to dip into.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful compendium of interesting oddments 31 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I absolutely loved this book. Miscellanies like this can be very trying if poorly done, with uninspiring or patronising rehashes of familiar stories, a lot of gee-whizzery and jokes that aren't nearly as funny as they think they are. Simon Flynn has avoided all that and produced a delightful pot-pourri of science-related snippets which, for me, gets the tone exactly right. It is enthusiastic and witty without being gushing or flippant and the sheer variety of stuff here is a delight.

Each "article" is brief - the longest are five or six pages, covering things like Galileo's dispute with the Holy See, Darwin's impact or Einstein's ideas about Relativity. If you want a detailed examination of any of these things, this isn't the place to look, but for a really well-written, engaging summary of the important points with the odd interesting aside it's brilliant. For example, Flynn makes sure to mention Milton's visit to Galileo while he was under house arrest as well as giving a excellent summary of Galileo's dispute, complete with a translation of his famous Recantation - and all in four short pages. I have studied all this at university and have actually read quite a lot of Galileo's writing and I still found the section fresh and fascinating. Other bits are so varied it's impossible to give an overall flavour, but they include things like radioactive decay, a spoof of Shelley's Ozymandias, the meaning of the Richter Scale, and so on. There are even some good jokes scattered throughout the book.

Some other reviewers here have criticised the book for having too much literature and not enough hard science, and for jumping from one topic to another in a jumbled way.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are many 'fascinating science' books on the market; The Science Magpie has to be one of the best. It's not organised subject by subject or chronologically, but is an enthralling lucky dip of facts.

I liked it for the emphasis on the knowledge that isn't commonly known. I had no idea that Leicester Square was once a hub of scientific knowledge, but here it is, carefully chronicled.

There are bang-up-to-date entries with the lyrics of the 'Hadron Collider Rap' as well as Tom Lehrer's famous song 'The Elements'. Literature on science features quite heavily, with some lovely discoveries such as Siv Cedering's 'A Letter from Caroline Herschel (1750-1848).' As well as an excellent Bibliography, there's an interesting list of the best selling science books.

The blurb on this book tells us that the author, Simon Flynn, is currently training to be a science teacher. What wonderful news. With the enthusiasm for his subject that is demonstrated in this book, there are going to be some very fortunate science students out there in the future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the variety of sciences discussed and the idiosyncratic style of the write.
I defy anyone not to hum Modern Major General if they know it, to the chemical table, it works! Great reminder of. stuff we should remember, but usually don't. Along with great anecdotes and information about scientific history and innovation all in all a fun read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating dip-in science book 10 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I always enjoy a good 'toilet book'. One that you can have by the loo and dip in and out of as your having a wee rest.

This one is slightly different than the others in that it has science as its main theme. As such, the book contains information, curiosities, stories and facts all about science and the history of it.

Although I have a fascination for science and historical curiosities, I won't say that I'm an expert by any means. Having said that, this book was written in a way to make the subject interesting and understandable without dumbing it down.

Each section/story lasts no more than 2 pages which makes it ideal for dipping in and out of. It is, however, one of those books when you just want to keep reading another story, then another. This is also one of those books that, should anyone be sitting near you as you read, will find themselves regaled with stories and facts that are just too fascinating to keep to yourself.

At times this book is intriguing, at times funny - but is always fascinating. If you have an interest in science, or just like little facts and snippets of knowledge, I would recommend this lovely little book to you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I bought this for my brother for Christmas and he loves it. He's very scientific and rarely reads fiction but this had a good balance of fact and creativity.
Published 6 months ago by Emily Nash
5.0 out of 5 stars A real mix
This is what I would describe as a toilet book. You really only want to dip into this from time to time. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Colin Murtagh
4.0 out of 5 stars QI has (genre specific) competition
I love titles that throw facts and miscellany at you. The Science Magpie has this in spades, and is a great one to throw out in parties. Read more
Published 14 months ago by zombielover
5.0 out of 5 stars More science than you may care to know...
This book is a bit like Schott's Miscellany, as it brings together a wide range of facts (and some amusing bits!) from science - including physics, chemistry and biology. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mark Shackelford
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing science miscellany
I've always been a sucker for these "miscellany"-style books full of seemingly random pieces of trivia. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Paul Fillery
3.0 out of 5 stars A good present for Godsons and Nephews
This is the sort of book to give as a present a Godson or nephew when you don't want to get them the next computer came or an amazon voucher! Read more
Published 14 months ago by artemisrhi
3.0 out of 5 stars A little lightweight
But still fascinating with many interesting stories. I found the poetry
irritating perhaps because I love poetry! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. David Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars For the details person in your life!
My husband is know amongst his colleagues as 'details' he can remember the most mundane of facts and takes great pleasure reciting them at appropriate ( and inappropriate) moments,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by FLB
3.0 out of 5 stars A nice idea, but a little lightweight
I like the intent of this short collection; I'm all for the promotion of science as something fun and fascinating, rather than the stuff of dusty textbooks that many of us will... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Russell Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars A good `browsing' book for those who enjoy things scientific
I have a technical mind and enjoy finding out nuggets of information such as those in this book. While many are entertaining as well as informative I also found that some were not... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Whatchamacallit
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