Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? by Mick O'Hare

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Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? by Mick O'Hare

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Popular Science questions from the Last Word column in New Scientist magazine - all the questions you wonder why you've never asked before? Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846681301

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Have you ever noticed that just before Christmas the bookshops are swamped with books of trivia? They're usually full of interesting (or otherwise) facts which can be bandied around in the pub or over the dinner party table, promptly to be forgotten by all. Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? is not in this class: it's popular science with a hundred and one intriguing science questions of the type that you might have pondered yourself, or if you haven't, you wonder why not.

Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? was the best seller of 2006 and this book follows in much the same vein, with a look at subjects as diverse as why crown corks on beer bottles always have twenty-one sharp bits, how to make your credit card work when it will no longer swipe and why mosquitoes seem to have a preference for some bodies over others. You get an answer – or sometimes several answers – from people who are knowledgeable (either as professionals or enthusiastic amateurs) about the subject and occasionally you get a debate about the relative merits of the different answers. It's interesting, it's accurate and it's science without the boring bits.

The questions, sent in by readers of New Scientist originally appeared in the Last Word column and this year's selection of questions kept me entertained over several evenings. I was fascinated by the thought that if I went back over thirty generations then my ancestors would total more than the number of people who have ever lived. Do the maths and you'll see that it's true. Talking of longevity, one reader wanted to know how long it would take an average cow to fill the Grand Canyon with milk. Put aside all thoughts of sour milk and the effects of the Colorado River and the answer is about three hundred times the age of the planet.

One question which has intrigued me since I was a child is whether or not a dog knows that it's a dog and there are two excellent answers highlighting the social development of the dog. At the end of it, I was left with the knowledge that whilst one of our dogs might or might not know that she is a dog she definitely knows that I'm staff. As for the eponymous polar bear, there's a fascinating discussion about why some animals live in packs and others are more solitary. It's all wonderful stuff.

If you have a broad interest in what goes on around you then there will be a lot in this book to enlighten you. If you're thinking of buying it as a present then it's something for the intelligent, thinking reader to keep. As there's a comprehensive index it's easy to refer back to questions which interest you.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book interests you then you'll love the 2006 bestseller, Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? or How To Fossilise Your Hamster published in 2007. You might also appreciate Will We Ever Speak Dolphin? by Mick O'Hare and Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris.

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Buy Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? by Mick O'Hare at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? by Mick O'Hare at

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