Skip to main content

What does the Moon Smell Like? – Eva Everything ***

Trivia is ever-popular and this book combines science and trivia in a quiz-like format, written by the exotically named presenter of Discovery Channel’s Brain Café, Eva Everything. There are lots of fun science facts, put across in 151 quizzes which range from a single question to a handful on topics ranging from Einstein’s brain to mad scientists. Each question has four possible answers and, as you might guess, wherever possible, the real answer is not the most obvious one.
This isn’t a bad book by any means, but it’s difficult to know quite what to do with it. It’s not easy to read through, in part because of the idiotic decision to print the answer pages upside down. It’s idiotic because they’re always on the back of the question page, so you can never accidentally see the answer until you’re ready anyway – and it just makes the book almost impossible to read through for pleasure. On the other hand, only the desperate geeks are really going to use this as an actual ‘Please sir, please! I know the answer!’ quiz.
To make matters worse, I found the subjects often a relatively little interest. Maybe they were chosen just because the answers were strange, but I don’t really care that much about the founding of Mercedes cars or when astronauts played ball on the Moon (well that was worth a few billions dollars, then).
In the end, this feels like a good idea that hasn’t quite worked in practice. However, don’t despair. Good gift books are hard to come by, and the advantage of a gift book is you don’t actually have to try to read it, just to have something that sounds intriguing, which this book does. Genuinely would make a good gift, but I probably wouldn’t buy it for myself.
Oh, and the answer to the book’s title? Apparently burned gunpowder according to astronauts, but nothing much at all back here on Earth.
Paperback:  
Review by Jo Reed

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Tale of Seven Scientists - Eric Scerri ***

Scientists sometimes tell us we're in a post-philosophy world. For example, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in The Grand Design bluntly say that that philosophy is 'dead' - no longer required, as science can do its job far better. However, other scientists recognise the benefits of philosophy, particularly when it is applied to their own discipline. One such is Eric Scerri, probably the world's greatest expert on the periodic table, who in this challenging book sets out to modify the philosophical models of scientific progress.

I ought to say straight away that A Tale of Seven Scientists sits somewhere on the cusp between popular science and a heavy duty academic title. For reasons that will become clear, I could only give it three stars if rating it as popular science, but it deserves more if we don't worry too much about it being widely accessible.

One minor problem with accessibility is that I've never read a book that took so long to get started. First t…

Four Way Interview - Tom Cabot

Tom Cabot is a London-based book editor and designer with a background in experimental psychology, natural science and graphic design. He founded the London-based packaging company, Ketchup, and has produced and illustrated many books for the British Film Institute, Penguin and the Royal Institute of British Architects. Tom has held a lifelong passion to explain science graphically and inclusively ... ever since being blown away by Ray and Charles Eames’ Powers of Ten at an early age. His first book is Eureka, an infographic guide to science.

Why infographics?
For me infographics provided a way to present heavy-lifting science in an alluring and playful, but ultimately illuminating, way. And I love visualising data and making it as attractive as the ideas are.  The novelty of the presentation hopefully gets the reader to look afresh. I love the idea of luring in readers who might normally be put off by drier, more monotone science – people who left science behind at 16. I wanted the boo…

Einstein's Greatest Mistake - David Bodanis ****

Books on Einstein and his work are not exactly thin on the ground. There's even been more than one book before with a title centring on Einstein's mistake or mistakes. So to make a new title worthwhile it has do something different - and David Bodanis certainly achieves this with Einstein's Greatest Mistake. If I'm honest, the book isn't the greatest on the science or the history - but what it does superbly is tell a story. The question we have to answer is why that justifies considering this to be a good book.
I would compare Einstein's Greatest Mistake with the movie Lincoln -  it is, in effect, a biopic in book form with all the glory and flaws that can bring. Compared with a good biography, a biopic will distort the truth and emphasise parts of the story that aren't significant because they make for a good screen scene. But I would much rather someone watched the movie than never found out anything about Lincoln - and similarly I'd much rather someon…