The Science Magpie – Simon Flynn

Published May 26, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

From the Large Hadron Collider rap to the sins of Isaac Newton, The Science Magpie is a compelling collection of scientific curiosities. Expand your knowledge as you view the history of the Earth on the face of a clock, tremble at the power of the Richter scale, and learn how to measure the speed of light.

Simon Flynn was the publisher at icon Books for many years and is now a qualified science teacher. He has degrees in chemistry and philosophy.

What did I think?:

This book caught my attention when I was at my local library and I couldn’t resist checking it out as in my other life away from blogging, I am actually a (geeky) scientist. On the whole, it was filled with some interesting facts and trivia and I did manage to find out things that I didn’t previously know, which was my aim of reading it, as my speciality is usually biochemistry. Some parts however, I did find a bit hard to get through, and anything involving physics went right over my head I’m afraid! So, just an idea what scientific treats are in this book – we have the Periodic Table, binary, the Richter scale, biological classification, genetics, evolution, threatened and endangered species and a short history of the atom to name a few. But don’t worry, if this all sounds a bit scary, the author makes things a bit lighter with poems and diagrams and even several scientific jokes:

“The moment a bar of gold walked into a pub, the landlord shouted A U, get out!”

Or how about some real molecules with some very funny names? Like ARSOLE – a ring molecule containing arsenic and DIUREA which it should be no surprise to learn that it is used in the fertiliser industry.  If that didn’t really float your boat how about an experiment or two that you can do at home? For example, making your own pH indicator scale that tells you how acid or alkaline a solution is simply by using some red cabbage, a kettle, a pan and some glass jars or bottles. There is also a second experiment that allows you to measure the speed of light using just chocolate, a microwave and a ruler. Sounds fun, right? Or how would you like to compare your intelligence to a fifteen year old taking exams in 1858 with a few example questions. On second thoughts, maybe you don’t want to do this, I was hideously embarrassed.

Lastly, there is a great little Appendix in the back of this book (although I wish it had been larger and included reminders of the physics education I am sorely lacking) and it gives a great little summary on the structure of atoms, the biology of the cell, some basic genetics and explanations of Newton’s laws. In general, I did enjoy this book and am glad I read it and definitely appreciated the lighter side that the author brought to the text, proving that yes, science can be interesting and fun!

Would I recommend it?:


Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art


3 comments on “The Science Magpie – Simon Flynn

  • I loved The Science Magpie, one of the best ‘did you know…’ books I’ve read, and I’ve read dozens on all subjects plus general knowledge.

    Physics and chemistry didn’t really happen for me at school, but I found this very accessible. It hit just the right approach, humorous and informative without being turgid and leaving me skipping pages. Lots of surprising facts too.

    Gave this five stars on a certain major online retail website.

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