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on 14 November 2005
Every year, around Christmas, some book gets a reputation as a popular stocking filler, and I'm rather hoping it will be this one. Readers of 'New Scientist' will be familiar with the last page, 'Last Word' column which offers answers to readers' questions. "Does Anything Eat Wasps?" offers a collection of some of the best of these questions of science and technology.
It's a fascinating and amusing little read. It might equip you with convincing answers to obscure pub quiz questions. It will capture your imagination and stimulate your need to enquire, explore, and understand. What is offered here is a series of intelligent, articulate explanations of a range of phenomena. You look at each question and wonder, "why is that?" Then you read the explanation. It's rational, in retrospect maybe even obvious, but it is a page turner of a read.
This is a wonderful little volume for anyone interested in general knowledge, anyone who watches quiz programmes on the television, or anyone who has a broad interest in science and enquiry. Entertaining, amusing, instructive, and excellent value. And does anything eat wasps? Well, apart from advising you to always check the fruit you're eating … I'll leave that answer to the book.
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on 1 March 2006
I’ve never read New Scientist and I’m not particularly scientific, but I do have a natural curiosity about things and I loved this book.
Apart from the fascinating quirkyness of the questions, what charmed and amused me were the responses. They’re submitted from around the world by all manner of subject matter experts. I was amazed at how people know stuff like the chemical composition of spinach and how willing many of them were to test and experiment on behalf of helping someone else out.
It conjured up visions of eccentric ‘boffins’ doing all sorts of mad things. For example, in response to a question about why frozen gnocchi (Italian dumplings) sink when they should float, one response included, “…as I had some frozen ones at home, I decided to do some rudimentary measurements in my kitchen. Firstly, my frozen gnocchi had a density of 1.1grams/millimetre….” And when considering why Guinness, a black drink, produces a white froth, someone got to work: “I poured myself a Guinness and put a little of the froth in a dish and examined it through a low-powered microscope.”
Given very few of the responses are from professional writers, they are usually very well written, and very amusing. I loved the description of how the best place to fossilize yourself would be in volcanic rock: “You need a rapid burial. I don’t mean a speedy funeral service….but something natural and dramatic – the sort of thing that is preceded by a distant volcanic rumble and an unfinished query along the lines of ‘What was…?’”
In addition to the one about the wasps (great answers), favourite questions included how long you could survive on beer alone, how fat you’d need to be to be bullet proof, how to get bubbles evenly distributed in Aero bars and this musing: “What would be the effect on the Earth if an alien spaceship came along and dragged the moon away?”
All in all fascinating, even for a non-scientist like me. An easy book to dip into, and great know there are people out there who understand really complicated stuff!
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on 31 December 2005
A definite must for all students!
I have to admit that when I got two of this book for christmas I figured that my friends really thought I should read it. As a science teacher this is probably one of the best scientific/factual books I have read in a long time. It isn't just for science nuts out there, it's not a heavy read that switches your brain off and can at times be very amusing. I would recommend this to every parent (or teacher) with children that ask the question "why" alot. There is bound to be a question in there that you have pondered yourself and there are loads of little facts that if nothing else will be useful when doing pub quizzes.
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on 6 November 2006
I bought this book for my daughter & flicked through before wrapping it as you do. Quite frankly I had to buy her another one, then I bought another & another & another...& it goes on! the reason ? I want everyone I know to have a copy to read from cover to cover & then to dip into as I just couldnt put it down, now I've read it so many times I could literally recite it backwards! It is just so FABULOUS & Highly Recommended
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on 16 November 2005
Came across this in my friends bathroom. And it is one of the best books I have ever dipped into, so now everyone is getting it for Christmas. I now know why we have eyebrows! And never having studied science AT ALL, I am amazed it could hold my interest for so long. Fabyfabfab.
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VINE VOICEon 2 February 2006
This was one of those titles that during a recent heavy mornings browsing at a local bookstore arrested attention. Does anything eat wasps? Well? Do they? It is a very clever ploy, a fiendish bit of marketing. How can you see the title, and the joyful looking frog on the front cover and not want to find out. And then they have your attention and hard-earned pennies!
But I am not bitter. Anyone familiar with the New Scientist will be aware of its Last Word section, offering the scientific explanations to those questions that perturb and puzzle. And anyone who enjoys those far too brief words will rejoice at having a whole collection. My only personal issue is the scientific focus, not my own area of expertise, but then it would be churlish if not plain stupid to criticise the New Scientist for being focused on, well, science.
The writers are masters at rendering the complex comprehensible, and take those bedevilling questions and give rational and concise answers that make perfect sense. Even those with a less keen interest in science, like me, find a simple joy in the logic and rationality that makes the scientific world tick.
So if you are one of those people who takes a look at the world around you with a questioning eye, and wonders why the unexplainable have not yet been explained, this erudite and concise collection is for you. If you enjoy Mastermind, University Challenge or Who Wants to be a Millionaire, then again you will find joy here. If you are a viciously competitive pub quiz player then this is compulsory reading, because it is almost certain any question setter worth his salt will be delving in to the book to find devilishly hard questions.
This book is one of those rare finds – an occasional, dipping into read that is worthwhile. It is a perfect addition to a guest bathroom or bedside table. Something that entertains for a few pages, and can be picked up again at any time. In essence it does what it says on the cover – a collection of the columns. But they are such good columns, that the sum product is a worthwhile investment.
If you do enjoy this format, but find the science a little too focused, then you would probably also love the Guardian’s Notes and Queries publications. Both fine reads.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2007
The 'New Scientist' is a weekly magazine, first published in 1956, that covers the recent happenings in the scientific world. In 1994, the magazine launched a new column called "The Last Word" in which its driven by its readers - not all of whom are geeks in white coats. Here, they could not only pose a science-related question, but also provide the answers. "Does Anything Eat Wasps" is a selection of the questions asked and answered over the column's first eleven years, and proved to be one of the UK's surprise hit of the year.

The book is divided into chapters, depending on the focus of the questions selected - our bodies, our planet and 'wierd' weather for example. While the book is informative, it is equally as likely to raise a smile - the overall tone is not that of a difficult, highbrow scientific paper. Some of the questions that are dealt with include : how long can a human being live if their sole source of food or drink is beer ? (One respondant includes in his answer it would be unethical to conduct such an experiment - though I suspect he would have plenty of volunteers). What causes the changes, in terms of colour and consistency, in earwax ? Can it be scientifically proven that your arse looks smaller in black trousers ? And just how far above the Earth's surface would you have to be before a compass stops pointing north ?

An enjoyable and informative book - though it's one I tend to dip into once in a while, rather than reading it from cover to cover.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 December 2006
I only occasionaly get the chance to sit down and read New Scientist, so it was great to catch up with this excellent book. I love the diversity of subjectrs tackled, and the quirky, slightly academic humour.

I kept it in the bathroom and read a few pages whenever having a bath, it was a treasure - I am looking forward to Why Penguins Do Not Freeze which I have just ordered.

If you are curious about the world around you, why Guiness is balck but the bubbles are white, (when they are made of guiness!) then this is the book for you.
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on 21 February 2006
This a book you can read from start to finish or just dip into anywhere, well worth keeping on your bookshelf. If you give it away in an endeavour to educate, then buy yourself another one.
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on 4 December 2006
A worthy entertaining read, you can pick this book up and open at any point and read with interest. Many idiosyncratic questions that interested me and ones I wanted the answers to. I have purchased four as gifts for family. I am not an avid reader of science by no means but have a womanly curiosity about many things and seek out the answers. And yes I have always wondered why Guinness is black and the head always cream, why bruises change colour, why why, why, buy the book it's a worthy purchase
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