Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris

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Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Judy Davies
Reviewed by Judy Davies
Summary: Why Icebergs Float is a two hundred page trip around some of the important scientific knowledge that underpins our everyday lives. It achieves its ambition to make science more understandable and interesting for the everyday reader, by grounding each chapter in a discussion of a phenomenon easily observed by any of us. This book is a slow burn and has to be read in small chunks to be really enjoyed.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 220 Date: October 2016
Publisher: UCL Press
ISBN: 9781911307037

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This unusual science textbook is based on the meetings of a science discussion group who raise questions from their everyday life. The group's resident science expert, Andrew Morris, does a sterling job in trying to answer some of their most obscure and challenging issues, which range from the physics of light and electricity to brain chemistry and social anthropology. Each chapter is based around a theme which grows from an observation made by a group member, such as what colour is the blood in the body and why is the tide so far out at Blackpool. This tie-in to the reality of our lives, makes the science more interesting and somehow more useful.

Andrew Morris's ambitious book aims to make scientific concepts simple enough to be understood by the everyday reader. He is hugely successful in this and great at using concrete examples to explain the most abstract of ideas. I wish he had been my science teacher at school. With every new piece of science firmly rooted in our everyday existence, this is not a gimmicky popular science book, but a serious tome which requires avid attention. A lot of information is provided. As a result, I felt I could only read Why Icebergs Float in very small bits. I definitely needed a break after each chapter!

The text in this book is pretty dense and would not appeal to anyone disinterested in science. Although the diagrams help immensely, they are few and far between. Andrew Morris uses a conversational tone and nearly pulls off a smooth transition between relating the topics talked about in the discussion group to the more serious science sections. Somehow the two don't quite gel though and the reader is left with a bit too much science and a smidge too little discussion group detail.

However, I liked the way that problems are looked at from different angles and many varied scientific disciplines are all given an airing. At times the science can become quite complicated and I found myself reading back previous chapters quite a bit. It's the sort of book where a smattering of scientific knowledge is a definite help. Otherwise I think it would be quite easy to give up.

I would definitely re-read this book as although the science was really well explained I was left feeling like I had probably still missed out on a lot of understanding. However, by the end I was beginning to raise my own science-related questions and wishing I had an Andrew Morris alongside me to answer them!

If this sounds appealing then I would also recommend How Puzzles Improve Your Brain: The Surprising Science of the Playful Brain by Richard Restak and Scott Kim.

Buy Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Why Icebergs Float: Exploring Science in Everyday Life by Andrew Morris at Amazon.com.


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The author said:

I just wanted to thank Judy Davies for the fantastic review she has given my book Why Icebergs float: exploring science in everyday life

I don’t know Judy , but she has obviously grasped the point of the book. She understands who it is intended for and what their needs are. I have had reviews from, scientists and popular science writers who quibble about minor facts of detail (sometimes legitimately) but completely miss what it is that interests the ‘person in the street’ and the level at which they want to engage with science.

I applaud Judy’s insight into the book and her refreshing way of expressing it to the wider public. She wishes she had me as her science teacher – I wish there were more people like her, willing to look at science afresh as an adult, whatever their feelings about the subject as they had previously encountered it.