What If?

More correctly titled “you die horribly and it probably involves plasma”, this light hearted and fun read explores serious answers to silly scientific questions. The footnotes are definitely the best bit. A really enjoyable read.

What If? Book Cover What If?
Randall Munroe
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September 2, 2014

The creator of the incredibly popular webcomic xkcd presents his heavily researched answers to his fans' oddest questions, including “What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel pool?” and “Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?”

Bad Pharma

Another excellent book by Ben Goldacre. In this book he argues that modern medicine is terribly corrupted by the commercial forces that act largely unchecked in the marketplace — studies which don’t make a new drug look good go missing; new drugs are compared only against placebo and not against the current best treatment; doctors are routinely bribed with travel, training and small perks. Overall I’m left feeling like things haven’t improved much since this book was published, given that these behaviors still seem common.

The book does offer concrete actions that we could take to fix things, but I don’t see many of these happening any time soon, which is a worrying place to be. Overall, a disturbing but important read.

Bad Pharma Book Cover Bad Pharma
Ben Goldacre
Clinical trials

"Medicine is broken. While patients trust that their drugs are safe and regulated, and doctors attempt to prescribe the most effective cures, the global pharmaceutical industry is a 600 million dollar business rife with corruption and greed" -- Blurb.

Bad Science

I’ve been trying to read one non-fiction book a month recently, and this is the one for January. This book is simply excellent and I’m glad I read it. It is clearly written, entertaining, and easy to understand. Yet it covers complex issues about how mis-reporting of medicine result in people dying. It covers statistical errors, dodgy marketing, and self serving journalism. An excellent book that I am now going to force my wife to read.

[isbn: 0865479186;9780865479180]

Why Can’t Elephants Jump?

This is another fun book from New Scientist’s Last Word column and I enjoyed it. A good read, and I actually learnt some stuff (some of it possibly true) along the way.

Why Can't Elephants Jump? Book Cover Why Can't Elephants Jump?
New Scientist
Profile Books
October 7, 2010

Well, why not? Is it because elephants are too large or heavy (after all, they say hippos and rhinos can play hopscotch)? Or is it because their knees face the wrong way? Or do they just wait until no one's looking? Read this brilliant new compilation to find out. This is popular science at its most absorbing and enjoyable. That is why the previous titles in the New Scientist series have been international bestsellers and sold over two million copies between them. Like Does Anything Eat Wasps? (2005), Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? (2006) and Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? (2008), this is another wonderful collection of wise, witty and often surprising answers to a staggering range of science questions, from 'why is frozen milk yellow?' to 'what's the storage capacity of the human brain in gigabytes?'.

Why do men fall asleep after sex?

This is the second medical trivia book by The Leyner and Goldberg duo. The first was Why do men have nipples, which I read in June. This book suffers from the same flaws as the first — its light weight and doesn’t take itself very seriously. That means that often they avoid answering serious questions, and just make a twee joke instead. It also has those annoying IM transcripts, which appear to just be a way to fill up space.

Then again, I did finish the book, so it can’t have been the worst book I have ever read.

Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex? Book Cover Why Do Men Fall Asleep After Sex?
Mark Leyner, Billy Goldberg,
Health & Fitness
Three Rivers Press (CA)

The authors of Why Do Men Have Nipples? continues their hilarious look at the world of health with an all-new compilation of zany questions about unmentionable body parts, bodily functions, embarrassing body oddities, and more. Original. 300,000 first printing.

Why do men have nipples?

This book is pretty light weight. The font is big, and there is lots of “chrome” on the pages, which conspire to make a book which would probably be only 100 pages in a normal font more like 200 pages. The book also suffers from trying a little too hard to be funny, with numerous interruptions for the authors to tell you how terribly clever they are. Its annoying quite quickly. The answers also aren’t as detailed and believable as those found to similar questions in “Why don’t penguin’s feet freeze? (and 114 other questions)“, the New Scientist book I just finished reading. I’d say go with the New Scientist book if you’re buying something, but read this if you’re given it.

Why Do Men Have Nipples? Book Cover Why Do Men Have Nipples?
Mark Leyner, Billy Goldberg,
Three Rivers Press (CA)

Setting the record straight on folk remedies, traditional cures, and medical myths, an entertaining but informative medical reference furnishes informative answers to such questions as Do microwaves cause cancer?, Is sperm nutritious?, Is it bad to crack your knuckles?, and more. Original. 35,000 first printing.

Why don’t penguin’s feet freeze? (and 114 other questions)

This book was really fun. Its a collection of 115 questions sent into New Scientist magazine, and the answers provided by other readers. Sometimes the answers and sarcastic or funny, and sometimes they are incredibly detailed. I found this book really interesting to read, and I certainly picked up some trivial to annoy my wife along the way. Excellent.

Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? Book Cover Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?
New Scientist
Simon and Schuster
June 5, 2007

Presents excerpts from the "Last Word" column of the British magazine New Scientist, providing answers to a series of unique questions about various aspects of science.