What If? by Randall Munroe
Finished reading on December 31st, 2014
If you like science mixed with comics,then “What If?” is the book you should find. Written by the XKCD web-comics author Randall Munroe, the book is a compilation of “what if?” questions and answers to them accompanied by some Munroe’s stick-figure comics.
With questions from such varied areas of science as genetics, rocket science, chemistry and astrophysics, there’s something for everyone and the answers are so humorous that even if you might have hated chemistry in high-school or despised anything to do with physics, the book shows that they’re actually harmless and quite interesting if well explained.
The book took me about six hours to read from cover to cover and I was quite sad to reach the last question, as the book certainly leaves you wanting more of that nice proper humorous sciency fun 🙂
My favourite question was one about a bullet as dense as the matter in neutron stars and what would happen if it went through the Earth or was near the ground and also one about draining Earth’s oceans.
If you’ve read it, what was your favourite question/answer?
The Mapmaker’s Wife by Robert Whitaker
Finished reading on December 22nd,2014
This is a book about a scientific expedition to South America in the eighteenth century that ended with one of the scientist being killed at a bullfight and one getting married to a Peruvian girl who later in life travels across the Andes and down the Amazon to reach her husband, whom she hadn’t seen for more than twenty years.
This book is packed with adventures and even a bit of intrigue and politics, as you can read about the difficulties that a French team of scientists had to face – not just because of the rough terrain and high mountains, but also because of bureaucracy and human relations.
I found it a very interesting book to read – you find out more about the method that was used to find out the exact shape of the Earth that was still a subject of discussion in the beginning of eighteenth century, but also about the nature, native people and the colonial rule.
In addition to the scientific expedition you can read about a woman’s struggle to finally meet up with her husband, having to cross a whole continent to do so and face a number of dangers and losses on her way.
I would really recommend reading it if you enjoy survival tales or expedition diaries and also if you’re interested in geodesy or Southern America in the eighteenth century.
Origins by Neil Degrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith
Finished reading on December 3rd, 2014
“Origins” talks about the beginning of everything – from the Big Bang and how the Universe came to being to how galaxies and stars formed, how planets began and how might life have evolved – all that in about three hundred pages filled with rather easy and fascinating writing by Neil Degrasse Tyson and Donald Goldsmith.
The book is well set up and follows a certain logic going from cosmology all the way to astrobiology in the end introducing theories that try to explain how astronomical objects form and evolve and in some cases also inform us about we don’t know yet.
I thought the book went into great detail for example in case of stars and their evolution, not a lot of books would mention how the ages of stars can be determined, but “Origins” did and it did it well, which made me wonder why I hadn’t come across it in some other books before – maybe because it’s a specific method…
I’d really suggest reading it if you haven’t before – it doesn’t require a great understanding of mathematics, but there are a few mentions of Greek letters that might confuse the reader, although they’re explained in the book.
Well worth the time I spend reading it.