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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 – 4 Oct 2012

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,061 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

Review

'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.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 25 Jan. 2013
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. I. McCulloch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Feb. 2013
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Martin Turner HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 22 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Science Magpie is a fascinating collection of stuff which is interesting, stuff which is fascinating, and stuff which is actually useful.

I used to love reading A Random Walk In Science and More Random Walks in Science. The Science Magpie doesn't quite reach their level of gentle humour mixed with scientific education, but it's by far the best book of scientific trivia I've seen for years.

Here are some examples:

Stuff which is interesting: did you know that American engineers tend to be very conservative, whereas mathematicians tend to be politically liberal? The continuum goes: maths, physics, biology, chemistry, geology, medicine, engineering. Try it on someone you know.

Stuff which is fascinating: there are all kinds of charts here, including an alternative periodic table the 'periodic snail', but it's the chart of temperatures in Kelvin from 0 to 6000 which is fascinating to study*. The chart of thicknesses of objects is only slightly less fascinating

Stuff which is actually useful: you can measure the speed of light with a microwave oven, a bar of chocolate, and a ruler. Ok, this is probably only useful in an educational sense, but this has to be one of the very best science experiments you can do at home with a budding physicist.

Then there are the purely comedic, such as the now famous proof that hell is exothermic, and the earlier proof that heaven is actually hotter than hell. Also, if you lost track of it, is the campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide.
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