Scientific curiosities

The science magpie
Simon Flynn
Icon Books
2012 | 288pp | £12.99
ISBN 9781848314160
Reviewed by Mary Badcock

For anyone who likes science and is a fan of Schott’s original miscellany, this book is a must. It is full of quirky, interesting scientific facts and anecdotes from across science and its history. Have you ever wondered how the term ‘scientist’ came into being – or how long it took to be adopted?

The book provides a nice balance between helpful explanations of complex concepts and funny stories. It covers everything from whether hell is exo- or endothermic and Charles Darwins’ pro and cons of marriage, to the basics of binary code, the laws of thermodynamics and the Mpemba effect. The latter is particularly pertinent at the moment given the competition launched by the RSC over the summer, challenging anyone to come up with a possible explanation to explain the phenomenon (you can currently vote for your favourite).

Last but not least, the book has its artistic moments too, with a few scientific poems and songs included along the way.

Quite frankly, I loved this book. It’s great fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Don’t worry if your science is a little rusty and you can’t quite remember Newton’s three laws or the structure of a cell – Flynn has helpfully supplied a ‘back to school’ appendix which briefly recaps some of the facts. This really helps to widen the appeal of this book to the broadest possible audience.

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