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The Science Magpie: Fascinating facts, stories, poems, diagrams and jokes plucked from science (Icon Magpie) Paperback – 5 Sep 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; Reprint edition (5 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848315996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848315990
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.3 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Simon Flynn's cornucopia of curious facts, anecdotes and quotations ... is sure to entertain and surprise.' -- New Scientist 'For anyone who likes science and is a fan of Schott's original miscellany, this book is a must. It is full of quirky, interesting scientific facts and anecdotes from across science and its history ... Quite frankly, I loved it. It's great fun and doesn't take itself too seriously.' -- Chemistry World '[A] lighthearted dash through science ... offering lots of curiosities that you will be itching to tell those around you.' -- The Biologist 'Simon Flynn's grab-bag of stories from all branches of science exudes enthusiasm, breathing fresh life into a venerable format.' -- Physics World 'This book is a cabinet of scientific curiosities ... [The Science Magpie] will stimulate good topics of conversation for the pub.' -- BBC Focus

Review

'Simon Flynn's cornucopia of curious facts, anecdotes and quotations ... is sure to entertain and surprise.' (New Scientist)

'For anyone who likes science and is a fan of Schott’s original miscellany, this book is a must. It is full of quirky, interesting scientific facts and anecdotes from across science and its history ... Quite frankly, I loved it. It’s great fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.' (Chemistry World)

'[A] lighthearted dash through science ... offering lots of curiosities that you will be itching to tell those around you.' (The Biologist)

'Simon Flynn’s grab-bag of stories from all branches of science exudes enthusiasm, breathing fresh life into a venerable format.' (Physics World)

'This book is a cabinet of scientific curiosities ... [The Science Magpie] will stimulate good topics of conversation for the pub.' (BBC Focus)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't"

I would describe myself as fairly scientifically-illiterate: yes, the joke above made me giggle; yes, I can work out pretty swiftly what dihydrogen monoxide is - but e, laws of thermodynamics, and Einstein?... um, no. And yet I enjoyed this book.

I like that Flynn combines a scientific background with having studied philosophy, and we can sense that intellectual breadth in his approach. Indeed, there's a subtle plea in some of the pieces to precisely heal the cultural divide between `scientists' (a noun only coined, I learned, in 1833 amidst much disgust at the barbaric neologism) and `humanists'.

This isn't simply a collection of scientific `facts', though there are those here too, more a nicely random and eccentric gathering of things that are loosely connected to science in its broadest sense: stories, parodies, poems, mini-biographies and a host of other extracts.

My particular favourite is Babbage's response to Tennyson's lines `Every moment dies a man | Every moment one is born': Babbage, anxious that the maths doesn't work to reflect a constantly growing world population, writes to the poet helpfully suggesting he changes the poem in the next edition to `Every moment dies a man | And one and a sixteenth is born'. He goes on to add with care `the exact figures are 1.167, but something must, of course, be conceded to the laws of metre'!

I liked the chaotic arbitrariness of this collection and the quirky eccentricity of it. So not a book to necessarily read cover to cover, but an excellent one to dip into.
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By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 31 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I absolutely loved this book. Miscellanies like this can be very trying if poorly done, with uninspiring or patronising rehashes of familiar stories, a lot of gee-whizzery and jokes that aren't nearly as funny as they think they are. Simon Flynn has avoided all that and produced a delightful pot-pourri of science-related snippets which, for me, gets the tone exactly right. It is enthusiastic and witty without being gushing or flippant and the sheer variety of stuff here is a delight.

Each "article" is brief - the longest are five or six pages, covering things like Galileo's dispute with the Holy See, Darwin's impact or Einstein's ideas about Relativity. If you want a detailed examination of any of these things, this isn't the place to look, but for a really well-written, engaging summary of the important points with the odd interesting aside it's brilliant. For example, Flynn makes sure to mention Milton's visit to Galileo while he was under house arrest as well as giving a excellent summary of Galileo's dispute, complete with a translation of his famous Recantation - and all in four short pages. I have studied all this at university and have actually read quite a lot of Galileo's writing and I still found the section fresh and fascinating. Other bits are so varied it's impossible to give an overall flavour, but they include things like radioactive decay, a spoof of Shelley's Ozymandias, the meaning of the Richter Scale, and so on. There are even some good jokes scattered throughout the book.

Some other reviewers here have criticised the book for having too much literature and not enough hard science, and for jumping from one topic to another in a jumbled way.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are many 'fascinating science' books on the market; The Science Magpie has to be one of the best. It's not organised subject by subject or chronologically, but is an enthralling lucky dip of facts.

I liked it for the emphasis on the knowledge that isn't commonly known. I had no idea that Leicester Square was once a hub of scientific knowledge, but here it is, carefully chronicled.

There are bang-up-to-date entries with the lyrics of the 'Hadron Collider Rap' as well as Tom Lehrer's famous song 'The Elements'. Literature on science features quite heavily, with some lovely discoveries such as Siv Cedering's 'A Letter from Caroline Herschel (1750-1848).' As well as an excellent Bibliography, there's an interesting list of the best selling science books.

The blurb on this book tells us that the author, Simon Flynn, is currently training to be a science teacher. What wonderful news. With the enthusiasm for his subject that is demonstrated in this book, there are going to be some very fortunate science students out there in the future.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enjoyed the variety of sciences discussed and the idiosyncratic style of the write.
I defy anyone not to hum Modern Major General if they know it, to the chemical table, it works! Great reminder of. stuff we should remember, but usually don't. Along with great anecdotes and information about scientific history and innovation all in all a fun read
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an amazing book. I had just read The Nature Magpie, which I found very disappointing - just scratched the surface and the compiler's own obsessions with Otters, "conservation" in particular became rather obvious and boring. This Magpie collection is in a different class altogether. Sufficiently detailed to satisfy but not too heavy to make me give up - even with the mathematical equations, which I have to admit I skip anyway. OK I still don't understand Schroedinger's cat but I thought that I was very nearly there.... or perhaps not. Quantum theory? Piece of cake the way it is explained here, but please don't test me on it! A great eclectic mix of the just plain amusing and, for me at least, serious concepts. Brilliant list of recommended further reading too. I will definitely re-read this but in the hard copy version as the only reservation I have is that the Kindle version is very poor at reproducing the graphics. I still give it 5 stars and I found it so enjoyable. Highly recommended and on my present list for all those people who won't read fiction.
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