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The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful…

The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (edition 2007)

by Natalie Angier

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1,203446,658 (3.6)41
Title:The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science
Authors:Natalie Angier
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2007), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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The Canon by Natalie Angier


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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
The goals of The Canon are twofold. A. Describe what leaders in the scientific fields consider to be the basic concepts of their respective disciplines. B. Present the concepts such that the layman without a scientific background will find understandable and entertaining. Perhaps the hidden agenda is to allow parents to bone up on enough current science to help their daughters with their homework or to sound knowledgeable when taking the little tykes to museums of science and technology. Dinosaurs are not covered. Problems: “Understandable” means no math. Arguably this doesn’t do justice to the aesthetics and difficulty of doing science and maybe guts the concept. A number of the LT reviews didn’t like the relentless plays on words and other silliness that accompany the summary/descriptions, but the kids like it, I bet, and probably come across better at bookstore readings. Another book I’m reading, The Hindus, also is a little heavy on the humor (or just heavy humor—see, it’s catching).
The first part is on methodology: How to think scientifically. Probabilities (statistics). Calibration: how to describe the very small and the very large using mathematical notation.
The second part is chapters on Physics. Chemistry. Evolutionary biology. Microbiology. Geology. and Astronomy. In the discipline chapters the methodology chapters are put to use: the focus is on very small things: atomic structure, DNA, cell development, and very large things: planets, stars, galaxies, evolutionary time. The last chapter, Astronomy, via the Big Bang Theory, brings together the infinitesimally small and the very very large universe. The best explanatory work is on DNA and cell structure (a couple of really good pages are in the Geology chapter), but the author also does a good job relating the initial exposition on atomic structure in the Physics chapter to explain specific structures In Chemistry. ( )
  featherbear | Jun 9, 2015 |
A succinct tour of the foundational (key) concepts /theories in the sciences: Scientific Thinking /Method; Probability; Calibration / Scale; Physics; Chemistry; Evolutionary Biology; Molecular Biology; Geology & Astronomy. Angier impresses with her grasp of scientific subjects and her ability to communicate these through both exposition and analogy. Most of the concepts will not be new to interested readers of science books for non-scientists. Writing for a lay audience means utilizing language rather than math to communicate complex ideas. In fact, of course, some science isn't translatable into words. As one scientist interviewed by the author admits, what can be perfectly comprehensible to him mathematically (the age & size of the universe, for example) may still be incomprehensibly mind-boggling personally. My one quibble with Angier, as a writer, is that her use of analogy, which is quite helpful at times, veers too often to the overly glib. She often piles up the wise-cracks, which in the end distract from, rather than serve her purposes. Humor and felicitous analogy aid mightily in any presentation of scientific topics to non-scientists. However, there is a point at which such tools turn into tricks, where a folksy approach becomes too smart alecky for its own good. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
A series of essays outlining what each lay person should know about Math, Physics, Biology, Geology, and Astronomy. Many are very basic, for me anyway, except the Biology one, which I guess I still don't understand very well. I enjoyed it. ( )
  stuart10er | Nov 5, 2013 |
Even if you are educated a in a science, typically you will know one branch of one field in depth and only be familiar with the rest. This book, written for the interested general public, will give you a conceptual introduction to the methods and principles of science in general as well as more in-depth coverage of chemistry, biology, math, physics, geology and astronomy. Fascinating, well written, and educational too! ( )
  ehousewright | Jul 11, 2013 |
Hilarious, wondrous and delightful tour of the sciences. I'm of the considered opinion that this book should replace every single basic intro to science text at the high school & even college level. Angier hits the high points in a genuinely enlightening fashion, and brings humor to marble halls where laughter hasn't rung out in a very long time. Highly recommended. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Natalie Angierprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Overholtzer, RobertDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When the second of her two children turned thirteen, my sister decided that it finally was time to let their membership lapse in two familiar family haunts: the science museum and the zoo.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618242953, Hardcover)

From the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author of Woman, a playful, passionate guide to the science all around us

With the singular intelligence and exuberance that made Woman an international sensation, Natalie Angier takes us on a whirligig tour of the scientific canon. She draws on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists and on her own work as a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the New York Times to create a thoroughly entertaining guide to scientific literacy. Angier's gifts are on full display in The Canon, an ebullient celebration of science that stands to become a classic.

The Canon is vital reading for anyone who wants to understand the great issues of our time -- from stem cells and bird flu to evolution and global warming. And it's for every parent who has ever panicked when a child asked how the earth was formed or what electricity is. Angier's sparkling prose and memorable metaphors bring the science to life, reigniting our own childhood delight in discovering how the world works. "Of course you should know about science," writes Angier, "for the same reason Dr. Seuss counsels his readers to sing with a Ying or play Ring the Gack: These things are fun and fun is good."

The Canon is a joyride through the major scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. Along the way, we learn what is actually happening when our ice cream melts or our coffee gets cold, what our liver cells do when we eat a caramel, why the horse is an example of evolution at work, and how we're all really made of stardust. It's Lewis Carroll meets Lewis Thomas -- a book that will enrapture, inspire, and enlighten.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Award-winning science journalist Angier takes us on a "guided twirligig through the scientific canon." She draws on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists, and her own work as a reporter for the New York Times, to create an entertaining guide to scientific literacy--a joyride through the major scientific disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. It's for anyone who wants to understand the great issues of our time--from stem cells and bird flu to evolution and global warming. It's also one of those rare books that reignites our childhood delight in figuring out how things work: we learn what's actually happening when our ice cream melts or our coffee gets cold, what our liver cells do when we eat a caramel, how the horse shows evolution at work, and that we really are all made of stardust.--From publisher description.… (more)

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