on 15 December 2010
Why can't elephants jump? is the follow up to last years excellent Do polar bears get lonely. The books follow the same basic premise; questions sent in to the New Scientist ( A scientific magazine) are answered by fellow readers and the best answer(s) got published.
I think the editor of the book has once again done a sterling job in only picking those questions which a) The average joe can understand (including me!) and b) are both interesting and sometimes perplexing before you read the answer. The answers, on a whole, are also highly informative and you really get the feeling that they are not holding back on the science, providing an accurate, and often lucid, response.
However, while a solid 4/5 book, I have two main criticisms. The first one is that often, more than one explanation is given to a question. This would not bother me usually, as it means that the question was probably so difficult and/or interesting, that the editors had to pick out more than one decent answer. BUT, sometimes these answers seem rather different from each other, and apart from the rare exception, no editor comment etc is given to say which is the correct, or more accurate one. The second minor criticism is that while it's great that the answerers can use complex language, often the average reader can get bogged down in scientific process names without consulting a dictionary or just skipping the word. Most people would be able to understand the majority of the book, just a word of warning if you have an inquisitive youngster who wants this book, or others in the series, the language and general prose *WILL* quite often be complex enough for most adults to scratch their heads!
However, for most readers this really is a small issue, and with an amazing breadth of questions, as well as some great answers, I still highly recommend this book as well as well as all its siblings. (There are four books in the series, and judging by the high positions each of them as held on the booksellers list and the endless amount of questions possible for this crazy world, I suspect there will be a few more in the future!)
I have the kindle edition, and for those looking for a cheap book to buy for your kindle, I would recommend it. The paragraphs are very well laid out and the overall structure is perfect, no poor formatting here!
on 18 January 2011
I've read all these books from New Scientist and adore them. They could be so dull and boring, full of sciency stuff that bores the bottom off us all, but instead, with good editing there's some sciency stuff but there's humour too.
They are very interesting too, I've certainly learned a lot by reading them, mainly from Jon Richfield who seems to know the answer to everything...until this edition.
They are not books I would read cover to cover in one or two goes, I tend to dip into them and they make, sorry to say, excellent material for reading in the inner sanctum if you know what I mean.
Hope they produce some more, excellent stuff NS.
on 14 February 2011
This is a lovely little book, full of the kind of popular question that we all ponder from time to time, straight from 'New Scientist'. There are even good questions from children. What I like about the format, is that answers have been contributed by readers of the journal, mostly clearly knowledgeable; sometimes a number of explanations provide additional insights or perspectives. An excellent book for dipping into for short reads.