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Scientific Feuds - Joel Levy
Member Name: sandemp
Scientific Feuds - Joel Levy
Date: 10/01/11, updated on 10/01/11 (98 review reads)
Advantages: Wide range of topics, a look behind the science
Disadvantages: The text boxes, some high brow language
To be honest, this isn't a book that I would have bought for myself, or even one that I would have asked for as a gift. Instead it is a book sent to me by the publisher, New Holland Publishing, as part of a promotion, in order for me to review it. I must say I was lucky, others that took part in the same 'competition' received books on subjects that they have no interest in, whereas I've always been fascinated by science.
Scientific Feuds (From Galileo To The Human Genome Project) is a fairly large hardback book, coming in at 224 pages including glossary, index and acknowledgements (I don't know where the description above gets 308 pages from). While the majority of science based books take the approach of just telling us the facts, Scientific Feuds takes a look behind the science at the conflicts between scientists and other notable persons and organisations. The book is split into four main chapters, each covering a particular scientific discipline, and then within in each of these chapters there are a varying number of 'cases'. Among the topics discussed are the age of the earth, descent of man and the big bang theory, so aspects of both modern and older sciences are covered.
The language used in the book is reasonably accessible to the lay-person, but there are a few words that may need to be looked up (there is a handy glossary at the back). For me, personally, there were one or two that I had to think about and I like to think of myself as extremely well read. Disappointingly for a science based book that does use some high brow language there are a few glaringly obvious spelling mistakes, possibly not just the authors fault, but these should have been easily picked up on during the editorial stage. The actual format also makes reading through and assimilating facts from the various cases quite difficult. This is down to the text boxes inserted throughout the main text, these are often placed in positions that break the flow of the main story, leading to the reader being forced to jump backwards and forwards through the pages.
The book isn't all bad though, I did enjoy reading the back stories to the scientific discoveries and feuds, and the range of topics covered is quite expansive, meaning that as long as one science discipline or another is your thing, you'll probably find something of interest. I also like the way that each case is presented (bar the text boxes), with there being just the right amount of background for each feud along with how the conflict played out. Many of the cases also feature a useful time-line, which I did refer to on occasion and there are a number of photographs and other pictures, which in most cases enhance the back story. Even those boxes of extra information are interesting, it's just that they're not placed very well. I also found the glossary at the back useful, especially for those few terms that I wasn't quite sure about, this glossary is fairly comprehensive and covers most of the more obscure scientific terms.
My favourite topics within the book include the AC DC debate (not the band) and Galileo VS Pope Urban. These are both topics I already knew something about, but I did learn something as the book 'filled in the gaps' in a way that I, personally, found quite engaging. As the book does cover such a wide range of subjects, there were of course topics that didn't interest and although I did try and read these, it couldn't really catch my interest enough to read about Freud.
I'm finding it hard to make a recommendation, as personally I think there's a very small group of people that would actually enjoy reading this type of book. Yes, I did enjoy reading it, even with the few frustrations, and I liked that I could dip in and out of it at my leisure. But if the reader has no interest in science then I doubt they would appreciate this book, so if bought as a gift then pick your audience carefully. But if you do have more than a passing interest in science then it's not a bad read, in fact it's what I'd call a toilet read as each case is short enough to read while shut in the little girl's (or boy's) room. Thinking about it, this book is probably ideal for those who watch QI, not for the comedy but because they like learning obscure facts. I'm not convinced, however, that it's worth the RRP of £17.99 or even the £13.49 that Amazon are asking for it.
Summary: The scientists get in the ring