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What Einstein Told His Barber: More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions / Robert L. Wolke. [Paperback]

Robert L. Wolke
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2000
What makes ice cubes cloudy? How do shark attacks make airplanes safer? Can a person traveling in a car at the speed of sound still hear the radio? Moreover, would they want to...?

Do you often find yourself pondering life's little conundrums? Have you ever wondered why the ocean is blue? Or why birds don't get electrocuted when perching on high-voltage power lines? Robert L. Wolke, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and acclaimed author of What Einstein Didn't Know, understands the need to...well, understand. Now he provides more amusing explanations of such everyday phenomena as gravity (If you're in a falling elevator, will jumping at the last instant save your life?) and acoustics (Why does a whip make such a loud cracking noise?), along with amazing facts, belly-up-to-the-bar bets, and mind-blowing reality bites all with his trademark wit and wisdom.

If you shoot a bullet into the air, can it kill somebody when it comes down?

You can find out about all this and more in an astonishing compendium of the proverbial mind-boggling mysteries of the physical world we inhabit.


Arranged in a question-and-answer format and grouped by subject for browsing ease, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER is for anyone who ever pondered such things as why colors fade in sunlight, what happens to the rubber from worn-out tires, what makes red-hot objects glow red, and other scientific curiosities. Perfect for fans of Newton's Apple, Jeopardy!, and The Discovery Channel, WHAT EINSTEIN TOLD HIS BARBER also includes a glossary of important scientific buzz words and a comprehensive index. -->

Frequently Bought Together

What Einstein Told His Barber: More Scientific Answers to Everyday Questions / Robert L. Wolke. + What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained + What Einstein Told His Cook 2: The Sequel v. 2: The Sequel - Further Adventures in Kitchen Science
Price For All Three: 39.31

Buy the selected items together


Product details

  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Random House South Africa (1 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440508797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440508793
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 12.7 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Everything is moving. You may be sitting quietly in your armchair, but you are far from motionless. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scientifically accurate answers explained simply 25 Dec 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A very easy to read, informative work explained for those with a minimal knowledge of science. The author has an excellent sense of humour which adds to the enjoyment of the book. Although aimed at those with a minimal knowledge of science the book is still a great read for those with a substantial knowledge.
Thoroughly recommended.
Why not 5-stars? There are no illustrations and I thought that in a couple of instances a diagram would help.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mostly boring 7 July 2010
Format:Paperback
most stories aka "scientific answers" are rather boring and simple.
could be a good book for kids under 13, except as mentioned in other review - no pictures.
3 stars for a few interesting explanations, for example why people are driving on the left/right.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
212 of 246 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Little Fast a Little Slow 20 Jun 2002
By George Blondin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
What Einstein Told His Barber
by Robert L. Wolke
This book is imaginative and entertaining. It explains in simple terms the hows and whys
of many things we observe often but really don't understand.
His editor has done a fine job with spelling and punctuation, but he needs
someone to check his math:
p13 "In one experiment, out of 500 .30-caliber machine-gun bullets fired
straight upward, only four landed within 10 square feet
(3 square meters) of the gun".
While 10 feet is about 3 meters, 10 square feet is about 1 square meter and would
lie within 22 inches of the gun - not a very safe place to wait.

p26-27 "There is a certain speed called the ESCAPE VELOCITY, 25000 mph,
that an object must achieve to circle the Earth in stable orbit and
not fall down."

Actually the speed needed for circular orbit is less by a factor of
the square root of two, about 18000 mph. On p.121 the author has
astronauts orbiting at the proper speed.
Escape velocity launches an object into a parabolic trajectory which
Escapes (imagine that) the earths gravity and never returns.
p33 (and p.64) Speed of light 186,000 miles per second (3 million kilometers per second)
Oops! That should be 300,000 kilometers per second.
p81 Author computes 621 degrees Fahrenheit to be twice the absolute
temperature of 80F.
This should be 519.7F; but it is only because of sloppy conversion
from Fahrenheit to Celsius and back.
p103 (and p120) "Earth is sailing around the Sun at more than 10,000 mph
(10600 mph on p120)
It is actually about 66,675 mph - higher by a factor of 2 Pi (6.28...).
Apparently he used the distance TO the Sun instead of the distance AROUND
the Sun.
p106 The idea that "astoundingly realistic pictures of the oceans bottoms" are
created from satellite radar scans of the ocean surface which has
been modified by the gravitational effect of peaks and trenches on
the oceans bottom is absurd.
These detailed maps are created from side-scanning SONAR surveys.
p124 "... at the bottom of a ten mile shaft you'd weigh about 0.7% less than
at the surface."
10 miles down you are .25% closer to the center of the earth; the
mass of the sphere beneath you has decreased by about .75%.
Since gravity is proportional to Mass divided by the square of
distance, it has decreased about .25% (.9975^3/.9975^2 = .9975).
Apparently Prof. Wolke forgot about the nearness of you.
p150 Prof. Wolke lists the speed of sound as 740 mph at 0 deg C, 900 mph
at 20 deg C, and 947 mph at 27 deg.
His value at 0 deg is correct, but since speed of sound varies with
the square root of absolute temperature, the other values should be
767 mph and 776 mph.
He is as much as 22% high.
p170 "It isn't very unusual for two full moons to fall in the same month;
it happens about four times a year"
In fact, it is impossible to have more than 2 BLUE moons in a year;
and then they must be in January and March.
Because of the 29.5 day lunar cycle, a blue moon must fall in the
last half day of a 30 day month or the last day and a half of a 31
day month (February is impossible).
4 x .5 + 7 x 1.5 = 12.5 days per year. The chance of
any moon being 'blue' is 12.5 / 365.25 = .0342
There are 365.25 / 29.5 = 12.4 full moons per year.
This comes to .423 blue moons per year or 1 every 2.36 years;
about the same frequency as 4 full moons in one season.
p187 "dissolve a half teaspoon of salt in a half cup (250 milliliters) of
water.
1 liter is more than a quart; so a half liter is more than a pint;
so a quarter liter (250 milliliters) is more than a cup.
In summary, this book was a lot of fun to read, and has some good science
in it; but his numbers should be taken with a grain (0.065 gm) of salt..
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be the New Wiz Kid on the Block! 18 April 2000
By "jvidal9289" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'll bet nobody ever fell asleep in Professor Wolke's chemistry class! With his informal, humorous and chatty style, he truly makes science not only fun but also genuinely easy to understand for even the most scientifically challenged of us. His new book covers the whole universe--literally! Professor Wolke takes you on a vicarious trip to the bottom of our oceans, to the depths of outer space and to many familiar and unfamiliar places in between. On the way you will be amazed (the frigid tile floor and the cozy mat in your bathroom are the same temperature!), entertained (Why are oceans salty?), and educated (it is NOT more humid in the summer time because warm air holds more moisture). And just because this is a fun, "bedside" book, do not for an instant assume that it is somehow not serious or useful because it is both! Here you will learn some very practical applications of science. For example, how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, and vice versa, without complicated formulas; how to eliminate wrinkles from your clothing; how to instantly defog your car's windshield and rear window! This is a book that you will be unable to put down (don't worry--it's not a long read), but one that you won't have to since you'll carry around its unforgettable lessons forever!
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Understand Science Books 4 Feb 2002
By Mad Track - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As the title saids, this book is about answering real life conundrums. There is a lot of "what if" questions that are readily answer. A reader with some background in high school or college physics will enjoy this book. As a student getting a science PhD, I find this book very entertaining to read. It answers questions in understandable English.
Certain things I think can be explained a little better, like why the atmosphere is thinner at higher altitude. Or the difference between static friction and rolling friction. But these are just nicky-picky little things.
Overall, this book is a joy to read. If you are curious about how things in life work or scenarios that you take for granted(like why birds don't get electrocuted standing on wires), you should pick up this book. You'll undoubtebly learn a lot.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely entertaining 23 Dec 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Robert Wolke has come up with a hugely entertaining book in What Einstein Told His Barber. Now, obviously, there's no shortage of "science oddity" books ... which set out to explain the basics of science by taking a lighthearted approach and using the everyday questions we all have (Why is the sky blue? How cold is it in space?) to demonstrate the basics of everything from biology to physics. What sets Wolke's book aside is partially his tone. He approaches the subject with a perfect blend of fact and fancy, filled with funny asides and even a few practical applications for what he's teaching (ranging from "try this at home" experiments to scientific bar bets you can use to win free beers). He's at his best when he's approaching questions that seem blindingly simple (What would the temperature be if it were twice as hot in the room? How much more UV light does an SPF 30 sunscreen block than an SPF 15?) and then explaining why the simple answer just isn't true. Without ever really descending into hand-waving, he explains a wide variety of phenomena in a really enjoyable way. Even though a lot of the questions are ones I knew the answers to (why does a whip crack? If you jump in a falling elevator just before it hits the ground, will you survive?) they were still entertaining and educational. Wolke manages to dig up intriguing little anecdotes and bits of information that I've never encountered in other, similar books. Wolke is a professor emeritus of chemistry, and I suppose all those years of teaching first-year chemistry courses are what give him such an accessible style. And refreshingly, Wolke isn't afraid to say when he doesn't know an answer ... like the never-ending debate over why your shower curtain is pulled in when you turn on the water. But What Einstein Told his Barber isn't without its flaws. While Wolke gently mocks Americans for refusing to accept the metric system, he (accidentally, I have to assume) goes on to make a stupid mistake while converting the speed of light from imperial to metric. The speed of light, of course, is 300 000 km per second, not 3 million -- which is the sort of error that just shouldn't be allowed to get past the proof-reading stage. Still, even after having my blue pencil sharpened by that little gaffe, I have to say I couldn't catch him out on anything else. He also includes the simplest (and easiest) way to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit I've ever seen in print (and I'm not just saying that because it's the way I always do it). This is a book that should appeal to general fans of science writing, as well as inquisitive kids. They'll have a host of questions (many of which they'd probably never considered before) answered, and learn in a way that's really fun and engaging. And so will the rest of us. --Discovery Canada, "Science Today"
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent entertaining education 4 Jun 2001
By andreas27 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book is an easy reading if you have a little flair for natural sciences. Well chosen topics and arrangements. The humor is sometimes entertaining, sometimes odd. The "bar bet" category is redundant (imagine yourself offering a bar bet that it is not cold in outer space - what do you talk about in the pub???). Altogether better than many other competitors (like the series on "imponderables"), because it is a little more advanced, a little more serious, and a little more space devoting to each topic (typically a few pages a topic) .
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