Lilliputian Review: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments
With the attention to detail of a historian and the story-telling ability of a novelist, New York Times science writer George Johnson celebrates these groundbreaking experiments and re-creates a time when the world seemed filled with mysterious forces and scientists were in awe of light, electricity, and the human body. Here, we see Galileo staring down gravity, Newton breaking apart light, and Pavlov studying his now famous dogs. This is science in its most creative, hands-on form, when ingenuity of the mind is the most useful tool in the lab and the rewards of a well-considered experiment are on elegant display.
B's Review: This is not science writing for a general audience. After the triumph of Opening Skinner's Box (by Lauren Slater), I was excited to expand upon my limited high-school science education further. Unfortunately, the writing in this book is very dense. Johnson has chosen not to focus on the scientists and simply detail the experiments themselves. I need story with my science but I could have settled for technical detail if there wasn't so much jargon and terminology packed into these pages. I felt no sense of wonder, only general confusion. George Johnson is no Lauren Slater.
That said, this book made me realize that the breadth of our scientific knowledge is quite recent. Did you know that in 1818 steam engines were numerous yet no one understood the natural principles that made them possible? I wish I could now tell you what those principles are - something about work (energy) converted into motion?? See, this is why I got a 4 in my IB chem course (and bio too, sigh).
The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments/ George Johnson / Vintage Paperback / Trade PB, 2009
Posted by B.Kienapple at 9:33 AM