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Can Cows Walk Down Stairs?: Perplexing Questions Answered: The Best Brains Answer the Biggest and Smallest Scientific Questions Hardcover – 22 Sep 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (22 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750937475
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750937474
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.7 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,824,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Paul Heiney is a well-known writer, broadcaster and journalist. He writes features and reviews for 'The Times' and is also the author of several books Among them , 'Pulling Punches', 'Home Farm',two novels and 'The Nuts and Bolts of Life'.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Mr Heiney states in the introduction:

'...I know no more science than I learnt at school and this was just enough to oblige me to spend the rest of my life frustrated that I did not know more...'.

To me, there lies the problem. I like Mr Heiney (insofar as you can like someone you have never met and do not personally know) - he used to be on TV a lot and seems very pleasant. But I like a history book to be written by a historian, a science book by a scientist, and a gardening book by a... you get the idea. When it isn't, you can expect a few rough edges. For example, I felt that I could have explained some of the answers better myself, or that it was not the learning experience that the New Scientist series of books is. That's not what you expect when reading a book.

This book appears to be trying to follow on from the success of the New Scientist series of books e.g. "Do Polar Bears Get Lonely?", "Why Don't Penguins Feet Freeze?" and the superbly titled "How to Fossilise Your Hamster". Those New Scientist books are in a different league in my opinion and I prefer them. I am not saying that this is a bad book - it isn't, and indeed some people will prefer it to the New Scientist series of books. All I would say is that it does not go into the same depth as the New Scientist books, and it isn't part of that series.

To be fair to Mr Heiney, he says that he is simply compiling answers to questions written by others (submitted to Science Line). Nevertheless I feel that the fact that he is not a scientist is reflected in the difference between this book and the New Scientist series of books.
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Format: Paperback
It's a perfectly fun book to dip into and easy enough to read, but there are too many factual errors, evidence of lack of proof-reading and generally simply not answering the questions, for a pedantic scientist to be able to entirely enjoy it.

Examples:

- claiming nettles sting with formic acid

- confusing galaxies with the universe

- claiming the distant planet Sedna is a mere 10 million miles from the Sun

- determining fingernail growth of 0.5mm/week to be 2.16mm/month, ignoring significant figures

Ultimately it mainly does what it says on the tin in terms of its recycling of the source material, but that source material really should have been checked better.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an easy to read book, nice facts and a very good casual read. Would recommend if your looking to read more but don't want to get tied down to a story
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