Strengths: Fun, interesting and easy to understand. Can be read in short bursts.
Weaknesses: Some topics I would have liked to know more (but there is an excellent bibliography).
Why I read it: Christmas present
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Rating: 8 out of 10
Dr Karl (as he is affectionately known in Australia, as one of our living treasures) is one of those blokes who know everything, are passionate about their subject and can actually teach it to the lay person. I’ve picked up a couple of his books at the library and am always amazed on just how exciting he makes science seem. (Which it is. But I’m a geek amongst geek. I couldn’t even get my colleagues interested in some of the topics Dr Karl discusses. I bet if he had spoken to them, they would all be Googling it and buying him a beer. But I digress).
50 Shades of Grey Matter shouldn’t be disregarded as yet another blatant cash-in on the more notorious Fifty Shades (although Dr Karl does sex it up, tongue in cheek in his acknowledgements). This contains some hard-core research (i.e. highly respected journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine) on a number of interesting topics from children, marshmallows and delayed gratification to how to effectively treat hiccups. Popeye and his spinach eating also rate a chapter. The topics range from biology (both human and animal), medicine, physics, chemistry, computing and astronomy – but they’re written in such a fresh and interesting way that it’s hard not to be excited by your new found knowledge. The text is supported by some drawings – not of the scientific type, more just in case you want to skip to the page with Popeye.
This book was a perfect one to sit down with post-Christmas and dip and out of. You can read one chapter at a time (they’re only about five to seven pages) or read continuously, then sprout all your new knowledge at the dinner table. Both adults and teenagers would enjoy this book, particularly if they enjoying reading about the hows and whys of the world.
(Just in case you’re wondering – there is absolutely no mention of Christian Grey in this book. There could be mention of binding materials though. It’s interesting to see that some people are mistaking this book for one of the risqué ‘grey’ books! )