Books : reviews

Donald E. Simanek, John C. Holden.
Science Askew: a light-hearted look at the scientific world.
IoP. 2002

rating : 4.5 : passes the time
review : 11 April 2010

This is a collection of spoofs and other humorous pieces about science, somewhat in the style of A Random Walk in Science, but unfortunately not as good.

The authors say how hard it is to track down the author of a quotations, and discuss the earlier origins of Newton's "shoulders of giants", adding their own amusing embellishment:

p.xii. If I have seen further than others it is by standing on the shoulders of others who stood upon the shoulders of giants---and using binoculars.

Because of this, many of the quotations they give are not fully attributed (author only, without source) -- it is hard, I know -- but I think they could have done a bit better.

There are a few classic pieces, such as the call for banning DHMO. there are some newer pieces, particularly about computers. I rather liked some definitions, including: "DESIGN: What you regret not doing later on.".

The bit I laughed most at was nursery rhymes written in a scientific style, including:

p302. A female of the species Homo sapiens was the possessor of a small immature ruminant of the genus Ovis, the outermost covering of which reflected all wavelengths of visible light with a luminosity equal to that mass of naturally occurring microscopically crystalline water. Regardless of the translational pathway chosen by the Homo sapiens, the probability was 1 that the aforementioned ruminent [sic] would select the same pathway.

Although I think the "Ozymandias by Shelley reviewed as a scientific paper" in More Random Walks in Science is possibly the ultimate in this style.

However, apart from a few highlights such as these, I wasn't that thrilled by the contents. Mildly amusing, in parts -- but then, humour is very much in the eye of the beholder.