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The Science Magpie: Fascinating Facts, Stories, Poems, Diagrams and Jokes Plucked from Science (Icon Magpie) Paperback – 5 Sep 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; Reprint edition (5 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848315996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848315990
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,401 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.


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius #1 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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3 of 3 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kerrypickle on 6 April 2014
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 By josie82 TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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