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on 1 June 2010
We're so lucky to live at a time where our knowledge of the universe is so advanced, but to the interested non-specialist with a busy life, science can sometimes seem like a mishmash of theory, fact, claim, jargon and ugly equations. However do not fear, because this book strips things down to the bare essentials of what you need to know.

Very similar in principle to the "50 Ideas You Really Need to Know" series, except this one book has a broader coverage of the whole of science, cut into 7 sections on Macrocosm, Microcosm, Evolution, Mind/Body, Earth, Universe & Knowledge and punctuated by glossaries of key words and short biogs of 7 key men (Einstein, Darwin etc).

Okay so you're not going to get a deep understanding of most of the stuff, but you'll at least be aware of where science is currently at and you'll maybe be inspired to delve further into one of the topics if it strikes an interest. Also don't be put off by the dull front cover, as inside is pure quality, glossy pages, artwork, easy on the eye, and it really does only take 30 seconds for each....old, young, expert, beginner...a must have reference on your shelf, in fact it should be in every school's library.
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As a theoretical physicist I am oftentimes at pains to explain to people what is it that I actually do. Theory is a loaded term, and it has different meaning depending on the context in which it is used. The colloquial meaning suggests little more than an elaborate opinion, oftentimes not easily refutable. However, in the minds of most scientists theories are the most refined sets of principles that have been validated through many quite rigorous scientific means, and have come to dominate whole sections of the ways that we view the world around us.

Anyone with some degree of post-secondary education is probably familiar with at least some of the theories that are covered in this book. Many others could be easily explained with a quick online search. However, sometimes it's useful to have a quick and handy reference that can help us get a more secure footing. This well designed and attractive introductory book does exactly that: it provides a brief reference for 50 theories from various fields and disciplines. These are explained in short 300 word sections, with an accompanying illustrations and several even shorter references. The topics covered include: the wave theory, universal gravitational theory, placebo effect, continental drift, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, natural selection, and many more. The illustrations are done in a mock fifties style and they convey a slight panache for self-irony. The book is printed on a high-quality glossy paper and can almost function as a coffee table book. It makes a nice little reference or can be used as a thoughtful gift.
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on 10 January 2013
I'd guess this book is primarily aimed at people without a scientific background to give them a brief overview of the 50 theories and it definitely does exactly that. I don't fit into what I'm guessing the target audience is as I studied physics at university however I thought I'd get it to remind me of all the things I've forgotten and to give me an overview of the non-physics theories and overall it's been very successful at that. I've marked it down 1 star as I've spotted a factual error in one of the descriptions (and it's not a physics one!), for the 'Out of Africa' theory it states that modern humans don't share any genes with neanderthals however I've read in other places that a small percentage of the dna is common between the 2 indicating an element of interbreeding. I haven't spotted any errors in the physics based theories I've read so far however after spotting that error I'm a bit worried that there may be other errors in the non-physics theories that I don't have the base level of knowledge to be able to spot them.
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on 27 July 2011
You would say that 30seconds for a single science theory subject is more than enough (it's the reason why I bought it) but you'll find out soon that perhaps the book should have been titled 2-minutes theories; it was just too brief. All in all I enjoyed reading it (and learned from it).
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on 28 January 2014
An excellent book containing succinct descriptions of the past and latest theories. I do wonder if those with little scientific background might not understand parts of it. I make only one criticism of this electronic version When seeking information, while reading a chapter, for a further point of clarification or the career of an associated scientist,-I found it very difficult to find my way back to the original page I was reading. I often found that assimilation and appreciation, of what I read, took somewhat more than the 30 second to read it
It is a very good book in the 30 Second Series.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 April 2014
I figured this was the ideal gift for someone at the extreme end of non-scientist. a great deal of care has been taken to make it attractive as it flits across subjects at a fast pace, ideal for someone with no appetite for studying science. I mark it down for two reasons: I agree with Jason's excellent review and I couldn't help noticing the person I gave it to opened it for about 5 minutes then put it in a drawer and went back to Cosmopolitan.
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on 1 June 2013
It seems like a nice idea to have a book with 50 different science theories, and it was a very pleasant read. The trouble I had was that I new the background to a fair few of these already, so the high-level approach didn't further my knowledge on these. It was however useful to get a vague overview of some of the other theories (such as the philosophical ones). It is an interesting read, and it is written in a way that explains some of the more complex theories in a very nice way. It does what the title says it will do, which is good. The only real issue I had was that the pictures didn't transfer well onto the kindle (sometimes the formatting was a bit off) so that's the reason for the four stars, rather than five.
Conclusion: buy this book if you don't have a good knowledge of science as you'll probably know most of the theories anyway. Do buy this book if you want complex scientific theories explained in a nice simple way with some helpful pictures.
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on 18 January 2013
Paul Parsons marshals the thoughts of , two Professors of Physics, and five journalist/academics on topics ranging from the theory of relativity to electromagnetism, atomic theory to quantum mechanics and evolution to the selfish gene (and many more) in the open and informed manner that you would expect from the former editor of the BBC Focus magazine.
Each topic is presented under a general heading and glossary of key terms in the form of a "thirty second theory" supplemented by a "3-second thrash" and a "3-minute thought", the combined effect of which is to plant the germ of knowledge in the reader and awaken (in many cases) the desire to know more.
Informed and evaluative, it is kicked off with an introduction from the President of the Royal Society, an indication of the potential value of the product. Highly recommended!.
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on 30 June 2010
This is a great and fascinating book for those of us that have heard "sciencey stuff" but never took the time to understand it.

Well, reading the book won't make you understand any of the topics in any great detail - but it gives you just enough to get going: Quantum Mechanics is not a complete mystery anymore! It has the one about a cat in a box (Schrodinger's cat), Chaos Theory, Dark Matter and all the other "barmy" stuff you hear about from time to time.

I took it into work and it was a hit with my colleagues - a good pick up and browse. Made us chuckle in "down time"...

Not only does it describe theories in 30 seconds - but also has a "3 second thrash" (a "sound bite" for the impatient) and a "3 minute thought" (for a bit more expansion upon the titular 30 second theory).

Recommended - especially if you want to blag some impressive science!
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on 9 July 2013
An accessible and clearly-expressed insight into fundamental scientific theories - perfect for satisfying the interest and curiosity of the non-scientist. The illustrations aid absorption of the information as do the '3 second thrash' and the '3 minute thought'. The presentation of each theory makes it easy to read and re-read without feeling overwhelmed by detail. Totally recommended!
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