Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed, 13 April 2011
This review is from: Why Does E=mc2? (Paperback)
Having heard so much about Brian Cox and being swayed by the blurb on the cover I was spurred to but this book. I studied physics at University as part of another degree course and have kept up an interest in it and mathematics since, so I am no novice: so although I was able to follow their reasoning I felt that to someone without a background in these subjects it must be quite a struggle. It was certainly not something I could read without giving it my full attention, and I often found that their explanations required re-readings and mental adjustments.
Sometimes I felt that their attempts at dumbing down actually made the subject matter more absruse.

One thing they did very well was the jokey/pallsy dialogue with the reader. This made you feel much less like the stupid reader to their clever professor, and more like the slightly less clever friend in a relationship. However one thing I did find irritating was when they took you to a certain stage of an argument and then said that to go any further would either take to long or would take far too much complicated mathematics/physics so you would just have to take their word that the following was true. Although I am sure no-one doubts their veracity it just seems like an cop out, and if you have to accept a large part of the explanation as a given then what's the point of working out the easy bits? I think it would have been better to have at least presented the complicated calculations even if they meant nothing to us. Also, although I'm sure it was not meant, it comes across as patronising: I'm sure that at least a small number of readers would have been up for the challenge.

Overall I felt it was a less successful attempt at popularizing science than say that adopted by Brian Gribbin, who seems to get the idea across in fewer words and without resorting to as many equations and clever bits. I wondered if this was because of the co-authorship: I am never sure how this works in practice. Do they alternate chapters or do they write sections which are closest to their hearts? Or do they literally sit down and agree the wording of the whole book? It often seems to me that more than one author frequently seems to mean a less successful and readable outcome- as one might expect from something produced from a very small committee!

The book certainly covers some very importance science, and certainly some of it is explained very well, but given Brian Cox's pedigree I think one would be expecting something much more accessible.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 May 2011 17:52:42 BDT
Paul B says:
for someone that went to university, your spelling is awful.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jun 2011 20:12:18 BDT
You might want to begin your sentences with a capital letter Paul. Ignore the troll daisy, good review.

I was concerned this wasn't going to be as accessible as it first looked, so I'll look for an alternative book for an E=mc2 explanation!

Posted on 21 Oct 2011 23:01:42 BDT
David B says:
The problem the authors will have had is how far do you go? I guess explaining such a complex and abstract subject is a bit like decorating your house; you have to be careful how much you do, otherwise you feel compelled to do the whole lot, which is perhaps what you did not first intend. But I suppose they could have put some of the more complex equations in an appendix so people could have a look if they were interested.
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