Skip to main content

Armageddon Science – Brian Clegg ***

Initially, I thought that this book might be a lot like one I read a long time ago: Isaac Asimov’s Choice of Catastrophes. However, although Asimov and Clegg overlap very slightly – for example, when Asimov looks at infectious diseases and atomic bombs – Clegg’s whole focus is on how man could bring about the destruction of himself, rather than on how the Earth itself could meet its end. For example, one of Clegg’s most compelling and worrying chapters focuses on how we’re all doing our part to bring about climate change (the term Global Warming was first coined half a dozen years after Asmiov’s book appeared); whilst another looks at information meltdown (Asimov died a year or so before the Internet and the World Wide Web started in any real sense).
There’s another link to Asimov though: A good writer must also be a good investigator – and Clegg is a very good writer – and that’s what is so persuasive about this book: it’s meticulously researched, requiring painstaking inquiry, analysis and detective work, and it’s in Clegg’s metadata, asides, interpositions, excursions – call them what you will – where he adds so much more (and with apparent ease). For example, do you know why the Japanese threw porcelain pots out of their aircraft, or why anti-atoms won’t stay put?
Despite its rather depressing subject matter, I loved this book; and I’m sure you will too.
Hardback:  
Review by Peet Morris
Please note, this title is written by the editor of the Popular Science website. Our review is still an honest opinion – and we could hardly omit the book – but do want to make the connection clear.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dialogues - Clifford Johnson ***

The authors of science books are always trying to find new ways to get the message across to their audiences. In Dialogues, Clifford Johnson combines a very modern technique - the graphic novel or comic strip - with an approach that goes back to Ancient Greece - using a dialogue to add life to what might seem a dry message.

We have seen the comic strip approach trying to put across quite detailed science before in Mysteries of the Quantum Universe. As with that book, Dialogues manages to cover a fair amount of actual physics, but I still feel that the medium just wastes vast acres of page to say very little at all. This is brought home here because quite a lot of the sections of Dialogues start with several pages with no text on at all, just setting up the scenario.

As for using a discussion between two people to put a message across, Johnson makes the point that, for instance, Galileo's very readable masterpiece Two New Sciences is in the form of a dialogue (more accurately a discu…

Liam Drew - Four Way Interview

Liam Drew is a writer and former neurobiologist. he has a PhD in sensory biology from University College, London and spent 12 years researching schizophrenia, pain and the birth of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain. His writing has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Slate and the Guardian. He lives in Kent with his wife and two daughters. His new book is I, Mammal.

Why science?

As hackneyed as it is to say, I think I owe my fascination with science to a great teacher – in my case, Ian West, my A-level biology teacher.  Before sixth form, I had a real passion for the elegance and logic of maths, from which a basic competence at science at school arose.  But I feel like I mainly enjoyed school science in the way a schoolkid enjoys being good at stuff, rather than it being a passion.

Ian was a revelation to me.  He was a stern and divisive character, but I loved the way he taught.  He began every lesson by providing us with a series of observations and fact, then, gradually, between …

Ten Great Ideas About Chance - Persi Diaconis and Brian Skyrms ***

There are few topics that fascinate me as much as chance and probability. It's partly the wonder that mathematics can be applied to something so intangible and also because so often the outcomes of probability are counter-intuitive and we can enjoy the 'Huh?' impact of something that works yet feels so far from common sense.

I think I ought to start by saying what this is isn't. It's definitely not an introductory book - the authors assume that the reader 'has taken a first undergraduate course in probability or statistics'. And though there's an appendix that claims to be a probability tutorial for those who haven't got this background, it's not particularly reader-friendly - in theory I knew everything in the appendix, but I still found parts of it near-impossible to read.

As for the main text, if you pass that first criterion, my suspicion is that, like me, you will find parts utterly fascinating and other parts pretty much incomprehensible. Th…