Monday, 25 August 2008

How to Fossilise Your Hamster – Mick O’Hare ****

After a couple of successful books such as Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze spun off from the Last Words column in New Scientist, editor Mick O’ Hare has now turned to the more practical aspects of the questions there, with a whole range of practical experiments to try using mostly household items, and explaining the science behind them. Just occasionally there’s a ‘no you can’t’ where the suggested experiment is an old wives’ tale, which adds to the fun. For me this works even better than Sean Connolly’s Wholly Irresponsible Experiments, because they are much more varied and more oriented to the adult reader (quite a lot seem to involve alcohol).
As for the title, yes, it does kind of tell you how to turn your hamster into a fossil… but the approach is a bit disappointing as it does involve waiting millions of years. There’s even that most famous of DIY experiments – the Mentos in cola fountain – very satisfying.
The only thing I would say is, enough, thank you. These books have been great but they aren’t really decent popular science books as they don’t have any narrative flow. The approach has been milked to death now – let’s see something different. (Oh, and I’m glad to see the US version spells fossilize correctly – shame on you, New Scientist.)
Paperback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

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