In brief: Dr Karl is back, talking about the spectrum of science from space to cancer in easy to read chapters.
The good: Simple to understand for the subjects I’m not an expert in; for the subjects I’m pretty good at, he references back to the primary literature.
The not-so-good: Some things I wanted more of, in more detail.
Why I chose it: Christmas present
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
My rating: 9 out of 10
Dr Karl is a master when it comes to explaining science in a fun and interesting way that can make anyone understand what’s going on. I love receiving his books for Christmas because they’re easy to pick up, but when you’re interrupted to do something mundane like wash the dishes, it’s easy to pick up where you left off. In this book, Dr Karl tackles many scientific subjects, including space and ticks causing meat allergy. (The ticks and meat allergy link was recently covered by a television programme in Australia – whether they were inspired by Dr Karl I can’t say).
But it’s not just planets and space travel that Dr Karl looks at. There are practical and fun things too – does the five second rule when you drop food exist? (I always thought it was 10 seconds, so I’ve been misled). What went on at Bletchley Park during World War II and why is Apple linked to Alan Turing? Why does Amazon sell books for millions of dollars? What is the truth about the paleo diet? Does swearing help with pain relief?
What I love about Dr Karl’s books is that they encourage discussion and to conduct your own scientific experiments. I did look at the most expensive books on Amazon. I did mention to my colleagues over coffee about how much you swear affects the pain relief felt when swearing (I still haven’t found any takers to repeat that experiment). In true geek fashion, I did look up some original articles about the abscopal effect in various cancers. (I would have been happy with a whole book about this, but I understand that would be a limited market – and who knows what price the Amazon bots would set it at!) While the space stuff didn’t interest me as much as the medicine and the plain quirky, I felt that I benefitted from understanding that bit more.
Dr Karl’s writing is easily approachable and would fascinate those interested in science- not just adults, but teenagers as well. No wonder he’s one of Australia’s living treasures!