Sunday, December 26, 2010

BOOK: We Need to Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown

We Need to Talk About Kelvin by Marcus Chown, 268 pages

also titled: The Matchbox That Ate a Forty-Ton Truck: What Everyday Things Tell Us About the Universe

Science Book Challenge (finished!)

The book ends with a great quote by Fermi: "Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused. But on a higher level." p216

And that about sums up the experience. The book is divided into 3 sections: What the Everyday World is Telling You about Atoms, What the Everyday World is Telling You about Stars, and What the Everyday World is Telling You about the Universe. The idea is that Chown takes an everyday idea -how you see yourself in the window explains why, ultimately, things happen for no reason, and this can explain much about atoms. It's a neat idea, and I liked the first section , about Atoms, a lot, because it built on the knowledge I already have the most. If you were reading this to learn about science from scratch, I think it might be tough. But for someone with a basic science background, this would be a book to start with.

We live in a quantum universe that large looks un-quantum. p157

I teach non quantum physics in high school, and didn't take a lot of quantum physics in my chemistry degree in university, so while I understand quite a bit, it's been a while.Plus it's been twenty years since I was in school! Theories have changed.  Chown does a great job of keeping things simpler; however, there were sections that confused didn't explain everything I needed. The section About Stars was getting a bit beyond me. But I may have been getting tired. The last section, About the Universe, especially the section ending on Extra Terrestrial life, kept things more readable.

This book will enter my classroom library, with a glossary at the back to explain concepts and terms, easy reference to scientists, and lots of notes and references. It is also full of quotes from poetry and scientists, and contains no formulas. Chown starts with a simple idea, explains in easy terms and then builds from there. As a science book goes, it goes very well. I made the effort to order the book wit the We Need to Talk About Kelvin title which wasn't available in Canada. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shiver was such a great read, I needed to have the better title