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The Science Magpie: A Hoard of Fascinating Facts, Stories, Poems, Diagrams and Jokes, Plucked from Science and Its History

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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 in your kitchen. Skip through time with Darwin’s note on the pros and c 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 in your kitchen. Skip through time with Darwin’s note on the pros and cons of marriage, take part in an 1858 Cambridge exam, meet the African schoolboy with a scientific puzzle named after him and much more.


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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 in your kitchen. Skip through time with Darwin’s note on the pros and c 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 in your kitchen. Skip through time with Darwin’s note on the pros and cons of marriage, take part in an 1858 Cambridge exam, meet the African schoolboy with a scientific puzzle named after him and much more.

30 review for The Science Magpie: A Hoard of Fascinating Facts, Stories, Poems, Diagrams and Jokes, Plucked from Science and Its History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rizowana

    This is a collection of short passages on everything about mathematics - from the origins of Algebra to a rap about the Hadron Collider. For someone who happens to be mortally petrified of anything to do with math, it is a huge feat to get me to enjoy a subject I positively dread. I would recommend it to both amateurs in this field (like me) and experts who wouldn't mind a few laughs. This is a collection of short passages on everything about mathematics - from the origins of Algebra to a rap about the Hadron Collider. For someone who happens to be mortally petrified of anything to do with math, it is a huge feat to get me to enjoy a subject I positively dread. I would recommend it to both amateurs in this field (like me) and experts who wouldn't mind a few laughs.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    I loved this eclectic little mix of all sorts of snippets of science, scientific principles with the odd joke and poem thrown in for good measure. It was such a mix up and collection of all sorts of fields and disciplines, it definitely kept me engaged and the turnover of information was so quick, it didn’t give me a chance to get bored! This book included all sorts of the little things that normally get skipped out of popular science books, and I not only learnt a fair bit but also fleshed out I loved this eclectic little mix of all sorts of snippets of science, scientific principles with the odd joke and poem thrown in for good measure. It was such a mix up and collection of all sorts of fields and disciplines, it definitely kept me engaged and the turnover of information was so quick, it didn’t give me a chance to get bored! This book included all sorts of the little things that normally get skipped out of popular science books, and I not only learnt a fair bit but also fleshed out some of the things I already knew with add ons of extra information. It’s easy to read and entertaining too, and I’m not embarrassed to say I totally repeated some of the jokes too although as to whether they laughed is debatable (I did!). I also loved the addition of the fusion of science and poems, which is something I hadn’t really read before and actually really enjoyed reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beth (bibliobeth)

    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 a 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! Please see my full review at http://www.bibliobeth.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian Clegg

    I have a list of popular science book ideas that I occasionally revisit – things I quite fancy writing in the future. Now I have to cross one of them off the list, because Simon Flynn has written it for me. My list describes it as a popular science version of Schott’s Miscellany, but Flynn has called it by the (to me, rather clumsy) title The Science Magpie. At least, that’s what I assume it is, because I have to confess, I’ve never read Schott’s Miscellany, so I don’t know what it contains – I m I have a list of popular science book ideas that I occasionally revisit – things I quite fancy writing in the future. Now I have to cross one of them off the list, because Simon Flynn has written it for me. My list describes it as a popular science version of Schott’s Miscellany, but Flynn has called it by the (to me, rather clumsy) title The Science Magpie. At least, that’s what I assume it is, because I have to confess, I’ve never read Schott’s Miscellany, so I don’t know what it contains – I merely assume it’s this kind of kaleidoscopic mix of all manner of facts, from the quite interesting to the downright weird. It’s the sort of book you can imagine Stephen Fry curling up with of an evening before hosting QI. Inevitably in such an inspired hotch-potch there will always be some entries that inspire more than most. I loved, for instance, real molecules with silly names, the 1858 Cambridge University exam questions and the curly snail periodic table. Other parts are more ‘Hmm’ moments, like a whole page of digits of pi, while still others simply get a little dull. Often this is a transcription of a historical document – I have fallen for this one myself. They fascinate if you are researching the particular topic, but to the general reader they can fall a little flat. The nice thing though is that, even if there’s a topic that doesn’t really grab you, you know that in the next page or two there will be something completely different. There is no order to all this, it is just stuff accumulated at random, like one of those wonderful old fashioned museums where you get a Victorian vacuum cleaner alongside an Egyptian mummy. Delicious. If anyone ought to know what grabs the science reading public’s attention it’s Flynn, who used to be MD of Icon Books and is now training as a science teacher. I know this is going to be a book that will find its way into many science loving people’s present piles. First published on www.popularscience.co.uk and reproduced with permission

  5. 4 out of 5

    Colin Murtagh

    This is what I would describe as a toilet book. You really only want to dip into this from time to time. It brings together a mixture of everything from physics to biology with some engineering thrown in for good measure. It's not entirely pure science though. There's a touch of poetry in there as well. Nothing is too complicated, the author has obviously taken the decision to make this as accessible as he can. If you can follow QI you should be able to follow this. All in highly recommended This is what I would describe as a toilet book. You really only want to dip into this from time to time. It brings together a mixture of everything from physics to biology with some engineering thrown in for good measure. It's not entirely pure science though. There's a touch of poetry in there as well. Nothing is too complicated, the author has obviously taken the decision to make this as accessible as he can. If you can follow QI you should be able to follow this. All in highly recommended

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    While I did enjoy the nature magpie more than this one, it was still a terrific read jam packed with lots of stories, random tidbits and loads of facts and figures. There are still lots of 'ooo-I-didn't-know-that moments and while there may have a little to much math for me it was still fascinating and I'm sure to be coming back to it again and again. While I did enjoy the nature magpie more than this one, it was still a terrific read jam packed with lots of stories, random tidbits and loads of facts and figures. There are still lots of 'ooo-I-didn't-know-that moments and while there may have a little to much math for me it was still fascinating and I'm sure to be coming back to it again and again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Edee Fallon

    I love this book. So insightful without the feeling of reading a science textbook. I will definitely read and reference this book again and again.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek

    It's a good read. A collection of a lot of sciency things both in realm of science and non-science. It's good to see different forms of arts and incidents and facts and stories related to science which aren't necessarily scientific. They are arranged in a proper way, as in one can see variety in the book. It's also suitable for those who don't have a background in science. And for those who have a background in science, it can help them to know a little more or a few unknown stories related to t It's a good read. A collection of a lot of sciency things both in realm of science and non-science. It's good to see different forms of arts and incidents and facts and stories related to science which aren't necessarily scientific. They are arranged in a proper way, as in one can see variety in the book. It's also suitable for those who don't have a background in science. And for those who have a background in science, it can help them to know a little more or a few unknown stories related to the topics they already know from scientific view.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Shayna June

    The best bathroom reader I have ever borrowed from the library. Interesting and easy reading, even when the subject matter is rather dense. The quotes peppered in between stories may be my favourite part.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Michal Paszkiewicz

    Full of facts, poems anecdotes and jokes on science. I didn't like the lack of continuity though and parts lacked accuracy. I didn't quite understand who the target market was either, as the science was fairly basic, but some of the jokes were clearly aimed at adults Full of facts, poems anecdotes and jokes on science. I didn't like the lack of continuity though and parts lacked accuracy. I didn't quite understand who the target market was either, as the science was fairly basic, but some of the jokes were clearly aimed at adults

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Pretty good toilet reading. Would be disappointing if you expected more than that -- it's very shallow, and the humorous bits are weak. But it's readable and conveniently divided into bite-sized segments. Pretty good toilet reading. Would be disappointing if you expected more than that -- it's very shallow, and the humorous bits are weak. But it's readable and conveniently divided into bite-sized segments.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Vinska Andrias

    Definitely flew me back to the college years where all the rocks, physics, reactions, and mathematical philosophy made my mind buzzled. It made me happy and wanted to re-learn everything. Science is so beautiful.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Cartner

    A great book packed with fascinating information and humour!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    A varied collection of science facts, jokes, conundrums, and assorted miscellany. Perfect to have lying around when you want to read something without a plot.

  15. 5 out of 5

    William

    The perfect bathroom reader and no not because the book is crap. On the contrary the short easily digestible chapters make learning about science fun again

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jhuan

    Simply.... very informative, interesting, funny. Definitely meme-able contents.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jayne

    Lots if interesting facts and snippets - some much more so than others. I found myself wanting a bit of order to it - the information seemed to be randomly arranged (but maybe that was part of the point?).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    I absolutely loved this book. Miscellanies like this can be very trying if poorly done, with uninspiring or patronising rehashes of familiar stories, a lot of gee-whizzery and jokes that aren't nearly as funny as they think they are. Simon Flynn has avoided all that and produced a delightful pot-pourri of science-related snippets which, for me, gets the tone exactly right. It is enthusiastic and witty without being gushing or flippant and the sheer variety of stuff here is a delight. Each "articl I absolutely loved this book. Miscellanies like this can be very trying if poorly done, with uninspiring or patronising rehashes of familiar stories, a lot of gee-whizzery and jokes that aren't nearly as funny as they think they are. Simon Flynn has avoided all that and produced a delightful pot-pourri of science-related snippets which, for me, gets the tone exactly right. It is enthusiastic and witty without being gushing or flippant and the sheer variety of stuff here is a delight. Each "article" is brief - the longest are five or six pages, covering things like Galileo's dispute with the Holy See, Darwin's impact or Einstein's ideas about Relativity. If you want a detailed examination of any of these things, this isn't the place to look, but for a really well-written, engaging summary of the important points with the odd interesting aside it's brilliant. For example, Flynn makes sure to mention Milton's visit to Galileo while he was under house arrest as well as giving a excellent summary of Galileo's dispute, complete with a translation of his famous Recantation - and all in four short pages. I have studied all this at university and have actually read quite a lot of Galileo's writing and I still found the section fresh and fascinating. Other bits are so varied it's impossible to give an overall flavour, but they include things like radioactive decay, a spoof of Shelley's Ozymandias, the meaning of the Richter Scale, and so on. There are even some good jokes scattered throughout the book. Some reviewers have criticised the book for having too much literature and not enough hard science, and for jumping from one topic to another in a jumbled way. I think this is the whole point of the book: you never know what is coming next - a spoof analysis of the thermodynamics of Hell, a historical summary, a quirky fact, an explanation of the binary system - and this is a great part of the book's charm for me. The science is always spot on. The explanation of Schrodinger's Cat, for example, which is one of the most misunderstood notions in popular science, is accurate, readable and placed in its proper historical context. The only error I noticed in the whole book was Flynn's assertion that a solar eclipse was important in Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines, when, as my adolescent memory reminded me, it is in fact a lunar eclipse. I think I can forgive him this single slip, and the only other fault I can find is that the book cries out for an index which is sadly lacking, if only so you can find that little bit you wanted to look at again. I recommend this book very warmly - it's a huge pleasure to dip into and, because of it's haphazard structure, has kept me looking at "just one more section" well after I should have gone to sleep. It's neither a reference book nor a serious popular science book. It is a delightful compendium of fairly random bits and pieces by someone with an obvious love of science, and anyone with a curious mind who takes pleasure in scientific oddments as well as important ideas will almost certainly get great pleasure from it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Williams

    The book: The Science Magpie The author: Simon Flynn, who worked in publishing for 15 years following science degrees and is now a newly-qualified science teacher. The subject: "A compelling collection of scientific curiosities", apparently. Why I chose it: I like science, so a miscellany of science facts and anecdotes sounded right up my street. The rating: Two and a half out of five stars What I thought of it: This book was alright, but could have been so much better. I've read a lot of popular sci The book: The Science Magpie The author: Simon Flynn, who worked in publishing for 15 years following science degrees and is now a newly-qualified science teacher. The subject: "A compelling collection of scientific curiosities", apparently. Why I chose it: I like science, so a miscellany of science facts and anecdotes sounded right up my street. The rating: Two and a half out of five stars What I thought of it: This book was alright, but could have been so much better. I've read a lot of popular science books and studied physics at degree level, so very little was new to me and that in itself was disappointing, but I will try to review it from the standpoint of someone for whom it might be a bit more suitable and show why I still wasn't overly impressed. First of all, the book could have done with a bit of organisation. I know it's meant to be an assortment of facts, but even broad sections based on the subjects covered (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) would have been an improvement over having the odd few instances where related articles were placed together, only for the topic to change abruptly. If it were to be truly random, it would probably be a good idea to do away with the long screeds of text and go for a more bite-sized format. Some of the content isn't quite as good as it could be either. The section on the Standard Model breaks a cardinal rule of science communication: don't act like a subject is dull or incredibly difficult, particularly if you are trying to convey it to someone who might already be intimidated by it. It's such a cliché to treat physics as impossible (and, therefore, biology as soft) and it's disappointing to come across it here. Another irritating part was a 1858 Cambridge exam, presented for the reader to try out, but lacking answers. There is a lot of interesting stuff in this book, but it's all rather confused. You should probably only give it a go if you've barely read any popular science and have little science knowledge beyond school, because otherwise not much will be new and you will be disappointed. There is still room out there for a collection of obscure science facts and figures! (Yes, I'm a science hipster. Sue me.) ETA: I forgot to mention the various book lists (such as all the books that have won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books) – I will definitely be using those to populate my "to read" shelf. Just one more thing: Here is perhaps my favourite snippet from the book: the poem "Relativity" by D.H. Lawrence. I like relativity and quantum theories because I don't understand them and they make me feel as if space shifted about like a swan that can't settle, refusing to sit still and be measured; and as if the atom were an impulsive thing always changing its mind.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Moloney King

    This was originally published in http://teachermoloneyking.com This book, just as Aristotle says of nature, operates in the shortest way possible. Simon FLynn conjures a cornucopia of science basics to advanced topics, all glittered with quotes, poems, and intrigue. I devoured this book in one helping. The Science Magpie informs, thrills and divulges information about physics in a venerable fashion for all. Simon Flynn manages to break barriers while building bridges between the lay man’s scientif This was originally published in http://teachermoloneyking.com This book, just as Aristotle says of nature, operates in the shortest way possible. Simon FLynn conjures a cornucopia of science basics to advanced topics, all glittered with quotes, poems, and intrigue. I devoured this book in one helping. The Science Magpie informs, thrills and divulges information about physics in a venerable fashion for all. Simon Flynn manages to break barriers while building bridges between the lay man’s scientific grasp and the experts. We are shown the bond between poetry and science, as Sindney Lainer says,‘The scientific man is merely the minister of poetry. He is cutting down the Western Woods of Time; presently the poetry will come there and make a city and gardens... Scientific facts have never reached their proper functions until they merge into new poetic relations.’ You certainly won’t need to listen to any soundtrack while reading as your own exclamations of, ‘wow’ and ‘hmmmm’ will suffice and will piqué the interest of those around you. Some favourites: Did you know that (according to the Bible, Isaiah 30:26) heaven is hotter than hell. Boiled water freezes quicker that not boiled water – and no one knows why. Thanks to the mitochondrial DNA science can say that all females are descended form the one female – the mitochondrial Eve. Thanks, also, to the Y-chromosome, science can also say that all males are descended from the one male – Y-Adam. The term Quark (in particle physics it’s a classification scheme) came to Murray Gell-Mann from a dream about James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, ‘three quarks for Munster Mark.’ Thanks to NetGalley for the eArc

  21. 5 out of 5

    Filip Sz

    From the very start is grabs you in with a wonderful display of literature, history, and imagery which taken from many notable (often times obscure too [which are all the more interesting) sources. The book made me laugh quite hard and learn quite a lot. The amount of books which I learnt about through reading this book could last me for many years to come. The book last chapter contains quotations from Percy Byshee Shelly. He explains the issues that the world faces and how significant science From the very start is grabs you in with a wonderful display of literature, history, and imagery which taken from many notable (often times obscure too [which are all the more interesting) sources. The book made me laugh quite hard and learn quite a lot. The amount of books which I learnt about through reading this book could last me for many years to come. The book last chapter contains quotations from Percy Byshee Shelly. He explains the issues that the world faces and how significant science is to the progression of society. The book leads up to this last chapter well by showing off how interesting science is and how it affects so many aspects of life. It educates you about parts of science, but what it teaches you most importantly is the value of science. A very enjoyable read, and I highly recommend it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jo Bennie

    This is a great little book that had me learning and laughing from beginning to end, my inner geek is completely sated! Little tasty bites of science, well written but not too basic, speaking about every aspect of science, period table, asteroid earth collison, prime numbers and logic theory, genetics, etymologies of scientific terms and the lyrics to the CERN rap. The short sections make it an ideal book to just pick up and set down inbetween the rest of a busy life, and it's a nice size in the This is a great little book that had me learning and laughing from beginning to end, my inner geek is completely sated! Little tasty bites of science, well written but not too basic, speaking about every aspect of science, period table, asteroid earth collison, prime numbers and logic theory, genetics, etymologies of scientific terms and the lyrics to the CERN rap. The short sections make it an ideal book to just pick up and set down inbetween the rest of a busy life, and it's a nice size in the hand with an elegant white on black linen cover.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Breige

    I enjoyed this, it was a good mix of facts, stories, poems etc. I will admit some of the facts and stories was like revision for my Leaving Cert Chemistry and Physics, felt like being back in school again! However it was still interesting to go back over these and see how much I remembered. There were plenty of other stories and facts I had heard as well and I enjoyed the fact there were things like jokes, poems and diagrams to break everything up and keep it interesting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Johanne

    Very good - some really interesting bits in here - one of the most fascinating was the poet Shelley's predictions for what science might provide. But there is all sorts poems, bits from the internet (is hell exothermic or endothermic) statistics about science scientists etc. A good read for anyone with an interest in science and a basic secondary school grasp of science. Very good - some really interesting bits in here - one of the most fascinating was the poet Shelley's predictions for what science might provide. But there is all sorts poems, bits from the internet (is hell exothermic or endothermic) statistics about science scientists etc. A good read for anyone with an interest in science and a basic secondary school grasp of science.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ewa

    Such cicer cum caule rarely comes out satisfying. Most of essays represent basic level of scientific knowlegde all should already know from school and there's hardly much more. Some really funny anecdotes perhaps for which 2 stars. Suitable for beginners or those who were sleeping during their lessons. Such cicer cum caule rarely comes out satisfying. Most of essays represent basic level of scientific knowlegde all should already know from school and there's hardly much more. Some really funny anecdotes perhaps for which 2 stars. Suitable for beginners or those who were sleeping during their lessons.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alicja

    Entertaining quick read, definitely will get back to it. Simon Flynn presents the variety of interesting subjects from the science world without going much into the detail, some of them caught my attention a bit more and I'm planning to do a research about those. My favorite chapter 'Is Hell exothermic or endothermic?'. If you have a chance read it! Entertaining quick read, definitely will get back to it. Simon Flynn presents the variety of interesting subjects from the science world without going much into the detail, some of them caught my attention a bit more and I'm planning to do a research about those. My favorite chapter 'Is Hell exothermic or endothermic?'. If you have a chance read it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    A brilliant eclectic miscellany with anecdotes, poetry and some straight up facts, not only presents new angles on known people and science but also reminds the non-academic science fans of a few basic terms and concepts. I hadn't realised that I'd forgotten so much of Mathematics. A brilliant eclectic miscellany with anecdotes, poetry and some straight up facts, not only presents new angles on known people and science but also reminds the non-academic science fans of a few basic terms and concepts. I hadn't realised that I'd forgotten so much of Mathematics.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Judie

    I bought this book for Christmas for my kind friend who is interested in science and maths. What a great choice! I loved reading it. It was so colourful with the anecdotes, the poems and diagrams. Not dry, so easy to read and understand even for non English like myself.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Cracking little book with lots of surprises as well as familiar stories. I enjoyed the humourous interpretation of phrases used in research reports and the real molecules with silly names. Lots of great stuff for the science teacher to spice up lessons with.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Piers

    Good fun little collection of scientific bits and bobs, but I particularly enjoyed the way the arts and poetry were occasionally folded in to give a richer context to some of the scientific curios on show. You might learn something, you might not, it won't take up too much of your time. Good fun little collection of scientific bits and bobs, but I particularly enjoyed the way the arts and poetry were occasionally folded in to give a richer context to some of the scientific curios on show. You might learn something, you might not, it won't take up too much of your time.

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