Newest Popular Science Reviews

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Review of

A Tattoo on my Brain by Daniel Gibbs with Teresa H Barker

3.5star.jpg Autobiography

Alzheimer's is a disease that slowly wears away your identity and sense of self. I have been directly affected by this cruel disease, as have many. Your memories and personality worn away like a statue over time affected the elements. It seems as if nature wants that final victory over you and your dignity. This is what makes Daniel Gibbs' memoir so admirable. Daniel Gibbs is a neurologist who was diagnosed with Alzheimers and has documented his journey in A Tattoo on my Brain. Full Review

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Review of

The Wisdom of Psychopaths: Lessons in life from Saints, Spies and Serial Killers by Dr Kevin Dutton

4star.jpg Popular Science

'Donald Trump outscores Hitler on psychopathic traits' claims Oxford University researcher.

Until the events of 6 January 2021 that might have surprised, even shocked many readers: now they're probably convinced that they knew it all along. The statement has lost a little of its shock value but it does help us to understand more about the nature of psychopathy. It's too easy to associate psychopathy with the Yorkshire Ripper, Jeffrey Dahmer, Saddam Hussein or Robert Maudsley, the real-life Hannibal Lecter, but the truth is that having psychopathic traits can sometimes be a good thing. Full Review

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Review of

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The title and format of this book might lead you to think that it's either about responsibility - or it's a basic 1-2-3 book for those just starting out on the numbers journey. It isn't: it's a hymn of praise to maths. It's about why maths is so wonderful and how you meet it in everyday life. Full Review

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Review of

The Curious History of Writer's Cramp: Solving an age-old problem by Michael Pritchard

4star.jpg Popular Science

Society is based on speech but civilisation requires the written word.

I came to Michael Pritchard's The Curious History of Writer's Cramp by a rather strange route. I have problems with my hands which orthopaedic surgeons refer to as 'interesting': I prefer the word 'painful' but I have an interest in the way that hands work. An exploration of the history of a problem which has defeated some of the best medical minds for some three-hundred-years seemed liked excellent background reading and so it proved, with the book being as much about the doctors treating the sufferers and the changing medical attitudes as the problem itself. Full Review

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Review of

How Do You Make a Baby? by Anna Fiske and Don Bartlett (translator)

5star.jpg Home and Family

It's more than sixty years since I asked how babies were made. My mother was deeply embarrassed and told me that she'd get me a book about it. A couple of days later I was handed a pamphlet (which delivered nothing more than the basics, in clinical language which had never been used in our house before) and I was told that it wouldn't be discussed any further as it wasn't something which nice people talked about. I knew more, but was little wiser. Thankfully, times have changed. Full Review

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Review of

Slowdown by Danny Dorling

4star.jpg Politics and Society

We are living in a time of rapid change, and we're worried about it. Dorling tells us that the latter is normal, natural and probably good for us. We are designed to worry and with the current state of what we're doing in the world we have much to be worried about. However, over the next three-hundred-and-some pages, if you can follow the arguments, it sets out in scientific detail why either we shouldn't be as worried as we are, or in some cases that we're worrying about the wrong things. Mostly. Because mostly, things are not changing as rapidly as we think they are. In fact, the rate of change in many things is slowing down and the direction of change will in some cases go into reverse. Full Review

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Review of

Emily's Numbers by Joss Langford

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Emily found words useful, but counting was what she loved best. Obviously, you can count anything and there's no limit to how far you can go, but then Emily moved a step further and began counting in twos. She knew all about odd and even numbers. Then she began counting in threes: half of the list were even numbers, but the other half was odd and it was this list of odd numbers which occurred when you counted in threes which she called threeven. (Actually, this confused me a little bit at first as they're a subset of the odd numbers but sound as though they ought to be a subset of the even numbers, but it all worked out well when I really thought about it.) Full Review

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Review of

Apollo by Matt Fitch, Chris Baker and Mike Collins

5star.jpg History

This incredible graphic novel is a love letter to the Moon landings and the passion for the subject drips off every Apollo by Matt Fitch, Chris Baker and Mike Collins. This is a story we know well and because of this, the authors take a few narrative shortcuts knowing that we can fill in the blanks. These shortcuts are the only downside to the book. If you've ever read a comic book adaptation of a film you will be familiar with the slight feeling that there are scenes missing and that dialogue has been trimmed. This is a graphic novel that could easily have been three times as long and still felt too short. Full Review

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Review of

Live Forever Manual: Science, ethics and companies behind the new anti-aging treatments by Adrian Cull

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

For many years now I've (half) joked that I intended to live forever and that so far, it was working out OK. Time has passed though and although I'm a great deal fitter and healthier than most people of my age there were a few nagging health problems which were tipping my life out of balance. It was time to look for a new approach and as so often happens, the reviewing gods brought me the book I needed. Live Forever Manual: Science, ethics and companies behind the new anti-ageing treatments seemed like the answer to my problems - only you get so much more than just 101 tips. Full Review

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Review of

Atomic Habits by James Clear

4.5star.jpg Lifestyle

I've said this before but there are some books that you seek out, some books that you stumble across and some books that drop into your life because you really MUST read them, like, right now! Atomic Habits is in the last category. Full Review

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Review of

Blue Planet II by James Honeyborne and Mark Brownlow

4.5star.jpg Animals and Wildlife

You may well remember when the sticking of a number '2' after a film title was suggesting something of prestige - that the first film had been so good it was fully justified to have something more. That has hardly been proven correct, but it has until recently almost been confined to the cinema - you barely got a TV series worthy of a numbered sequel, and never in the world of non-fiction. If someone has made a nature series about, say, Alaska (and boy aren't there are a lot of those these days) and wants to make another, why she just makes another - nothing would justify the numeral. But some nature programmes do have the prestige, the energy and the heft to demand follow-ups. And after five years in the making, the BBC's Blue Planet series has delivered a second helping. Full Review

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Review of

Speaking Up by Allyson Jule

4star.jpg Popular Science

'Speaking Up' has a fascinating subject matter - how language reflects and shapes our notions of gender. It looks at our use of language in media, education, religion, the workplace and personal relationships. Author Allyson Jule calls on an encyclopedic body of research from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. Reading it, we feel that she has studied everything that has ever been said on gendered linguistics; she references Foucault and the Kardashians with equal rigour. Full Review

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Review of

Ad Astra: An illustrated guide to leaving the planet by Dallas Campbell

5star.jpg Popular Science

So… you want to leave the planet? Before you do you'd better study the whole history of human space flight to get up to speed. That could take a while… if only there was a handy guide that could condense it all down for you. Enter Dallas Campbell with this book: An illustrated guide to leaving the planet. Full Review

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Review of

Sock (Object Lessons) by Kim Adrian

3.5star.jpg Popular Science

The subject of this book has been around for several millennia, and yet my partner's daughter has been employed for several years designing it, or them. It's something I use for about 200 days of every year, at a guess (well, I have my self-diagnosed over-active eccrine glands and other people to think about) – which clearly puts me at the opposite end of the scale to well-known mass-murderer of women, Ted Bundy, who was into stealing credit cards to fund his desire of having a fresh pair every single day. On which subject, the amount of them we create every year could stack to the freaking moon and more. Some idiots buy more than six pairs a year, apparently, which is plain stupid. I'm talking, as you can tell, of the humble sock. Full Review

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Review of

Eye Chart (Object Lessons) by William Germano

4.5star.jpg Popular Science

It's happened to me, and like as not it has or will happen to you, too. I mean the receipt of certain little numerical results, with a positive or negative before them to prove the correction needed to my vision to make me see with the intended clarity and normality. I've had that gizmo that photos the back of my eye to check for diabetes and other problems, I've had different tests to check the pressure inside my eye, and I've come away with glasses I don't need to wear all the time, but certainly benefit from on holiday, or when watching TV or a cinema or theatre production. And above and beyond that I've stared at – and got wrong – the simple, seemingly ageless test, of various letters in various configurations that diminish in size, to prove to the relevant scientist at what stage things get blurry for me. Of course, it's not ageless, but the scientific progress that led to it, the changes other people made to it, and the cultural impact it's had are all on these eye-opening small pages. Full Review

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Review of

Wonders Beyond Numbers: A Brief History of All Things Mathematical by Johnny Ball

5star.jpg Popular Science

Like many people of a certain age, I have fond memories of tuning in to watch Johnny Ball enthusiastically extolling the virtues of maths and science; succeeding where our schoolteachers had failed and actually making these subjects fun. Although decades have passed since those classic TV shows, his latest book proves that he has lost none of his passion and enthusiasm for his subject. Full Review

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Review of

I Contain Multitudes: the microbes within us and a grander view of life by Ed Yong

5star.jpg Popular Science

The world you know is a lie. There is no such thing as good or bad microbes. Sickness and health are all far more complex than we thought. Things designed to save us may kill us and things we think would kill us may save us. Welcome to the modern study of microbes. Full Review

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Review of

Stupendous Science by Rob Beattie and Sam Peet

5star.jpg Popular Science

Education should be fun. We learn best when we are engaged with practical, enjoyable tasks. That's the secret behind the experiments in Stupendous Science. They have the fun element, the 'wow factor,' and most importantly, can be easily replicated with items that are readily available in the home. Each experiment teaches an important scientific concept; essentially teaching through play. Full Review

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Review of

Optical Illusions by Gianni Sarcone and Marie Jo Waeber

5star.jpg Popular Science

I used to work as a library assistant and I remember arriving to work one morning to find all of my fellow librarians crowded around a book, chattering excitedly and...squinting rather oddly. The book was called Magic Eye and promised a magical 3D viewing experience if you looked at the psychedelic pictures in a certain way. For a brief period in the early 90s, the pictures had a sudden spike in popularity, until everyone presumably got eye strain and went back to their everyday lives. Well, good news Magic Eye fans! The pictures are back (albeit only two images), in the engrossing and immersive new book Optical Illusions. Full Review

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