11/09/2012 3 Comments
It’s Not Rocket Science by Ben Miller, the slightly shorter half of “Armstrong and Miller” (who looks like Rob Brydon) is a brilliant storm through the main disciplines of science by way of personal anecdote and clever explanation by the author.
He begins by explaining how and why he became a stand-up comic rather than continuing his PhD in “Novel quantum effects in low-temperature quasi-zero dimensional mesoscopic electron systems”. This lets you into the world of Ben Miller who, despite not following it as a career, clearly has a deep love of science. I liked the premise of the author being an ex-scientist who despite not continuing in the field is able to articulate the scientific process, why science is important and his love for science clearly. The start of the book is framed in a way that assumes that his reader is an adult layman who is revisiting the science of their school days. This is kind of a shame, because I thought the language, humour and subject matter and level made this book a really good fit for GCSE students, so I hope they wouldn’t be put off by this assumption.
He moves on to an amusingly just out-of-date foray into the search of the Higgs Boson (recent evidence was found a week or so before the book’s publication). This is followed by lovely tour of the night’s sky that soon had me standing outside for 2 hours with my head facing up and the book in hand for reference. I especially liked the simple star maps that Ben has provided. There are good explanations on life and genetics with simple, hand drawn illustrations and diagrams by the author (with only one error that I noticed: “cell wall” instead of “cell membrane” on an animal cell). Chemistry is tackled by way of a bake off with Gordon Ramsay and space travel and global warming are covered with great skill.
This is the definition of a popular science book, in a similar vein to Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything (but with less words).