Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science

by Natalie Angier
When Natalie Angier offers you a whirligig tour, that's exactly what you get. Angier's writing style is playful and sparkling, and she seems to genuinely enjoy every aspect of science. Unlike Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, Angier's book is less about the wacky geniuses throughout the history of science, and more about what we know now, or rather, what we should know. She asked leading scientists what basic scientific knowlege no one should leave home without, and then uses her whirligig wit to take you along for the ride. Admittedly, there were sections where I started to feel my attention slipping (chemistry, anyone?), but all in all, the tone is light and full of startling and memorable examples. For instance, did you know that, though the cells making up our bodies are too small to see with the naked eye, some cells are so large that you could enjoy a single one for breakfast? Over-easy?

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