Elliot and Thompson
2012 | 166pp | £11.99 (HB)
Reviewed by Phillip Broadwith
David Bradley subtitles his book ‘why what you thought was right is wrong’. The idea is to examine common misconceptions, old wives’ tales and factoids that are perpetuated in our society in the form of ‘received wisdom’. For example, does drinking a cup of hot tea really cool you down on a warm day, or would you be better off with an ice-cream? Should you really urinate on a jellyfish sting to alleviate the pain, or will you just embarrass yourself?
The book covers a range of topics such as how to choose a strong password, why recycling is not a waste of time, why practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, and even makes a stab at settling the age old argument of whether cats or dogs are more intelligent.
Some of these urban myths require a more thorough debunking than others, while others are given a more light-hearted treatment, but an evidence-based scientific approach is maintained throughout. The result is a book that is easy to dip in and out of, but equally easy to devour in a single sitting, as the fast pace and easy reading style draw you in.
Arguments are presented logically, with compelling clarity and a healthy dose of wit and levity. Sufficient detail is included to convince a lay reader and to remind more scientifically literate readers of what they probably already knew, but may have neglected to apply. Further sources of information drawn from freely available websites are referenced at the end of many sections, so the unconvinced or more curious reader can delve further into individual examples.
Overall, this is an interesting and fun book that should appeal to a broad range of readers, providing information, entertainment and – most useful of all – ammunition to defeat a boasting friend down the pub.