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Natalie Angier

The Canon: The Beautiful Basics of Science

It has long been a cause of concern that many otherwise well educated people have a very poor grasp of the basics of science. Well Natalie Angier has done something about this. In The Canon: The Beautiful Basics of Science, she provides an introduction to science for such people - in her own unique style.

The book starts with an introduction where Angier expresses her dismay at the number of people who feel that science can be left behind when they enter adulthood. This is followed by chapters on probability and on understanding how things are observed and measured at widely differing scales - topics which are vital to an understanding of modern science. Angier then progresses through the sciences, starting with physics an chemistry. There is a chapter on evolutionary biology, where she exposes some of the misinformation spread by creationists, and a chapter on molecular biology which explains the nature of DNA and the workings of the cell. This is followed by a look at geology, and the book concludes with a chapter on astronomy, including the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Angier constantly manages to find witty turns of phrase, which makes the book fun to read - for a while. I did begin to find it a bit irritating after a couple of chapters, so maybe the book is best read a chapter at a time. Overall I would say that the book is a success. Angier has interviewed a large number of scientists for this book, and has managed to produce a concise summary of a large portion of the sciences in a non-technical way.  |  Chronon Critical Points  |  Recent Science Book Reviews