- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (1 Nov. 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 (63 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 341,630 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Science Magpie: A hoard of fascinating facts, stories, poems, diagrams and jokes, plucked from science and its history (Icon Magpie) Hardcover – 1 Nov 2012
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'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
'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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is an amazing book. I had just read The Nature Magpie, which I found very disappointing - just scratched the surface and the compiler's own obsessions with Otters,... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Cassandra
My science loving son found this book boring. Not enough actual information and a lot of not very funny science jokes. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Amily
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... Read more
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 on 12 Jan. 2014 by Emily Nash
This is what I would describe as a toilet book. You really only want to dip into this from time to time. Read morePublished on 3 Jan. 2014 by Colin Murtagh
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